This is the tour that almost wasn’t. Tourmaster Bob Barrett, working alone, had health issues this year that delayed his putting the tour together. But with registration help from Belinda Singe, and with improved health, Bob was able to pull it off. We were treated to four fun days with lively companions, pleasant touring roads, interesting destinations, and dry weather in the far west of New York State.
We got to the first interesting destination before the cars came out of the trailers. The Chautauqua Institution has supported programs in the arts, religion, education and recreation since the mid-1800s. The Athenaeum Hotel is an ancient, sprawling, comfortable, lakeside wooden structure that Bob was able to get us into for only $99 a night, a real bargain.
Some folks couldn’t get their one-or two-cylinder car ready in time for the tour, so Bob let them come “modern” (mostly in Model Ts, though one brought a big White touring car) if they provided some sort of help, like schlepping goodies to the hospitality room, or driving people between the hotel and their trailers. Bob himself brought three cylinders, but split them between two cars: a Model F Buick which was his and Jill’s main tour car, and a rear-entrance Packard with one huge (or is it bigly yuge?) cylinder.
I brought a 10-horse Stanley. Tom and Janet Huehn, from Canada, had cancelled out of the tour for lack of a suitable car. Then they showed up anyway, with a Cadillac they had bought the very day before. It hadn’t been driven in years, but it did very well on the tour.
Wednesday, our first day of touring, had us riding across Chautauqua Lake on the cable-drawn, six-car Bemus Point-Stow Ferry. In service since 1811, it normally operates only on weekends now, but Bob had arranged for it to run just for us.
After crossing the lake, we visited the Lawson Boating Heritage Center, which (again) was open on this weekday just for us. There was a good variety of (mostly) wooden boats and early engines. They also give classes and do restorations.
We had a fine lunch at the Village Casino (no longer with gambling), where we enjoyed each other’s company on the terrace overlooking the lake.
In the afternoon we had 20 miles of pleasant, not-overly-challenging roads back to the hotel, in time to enjoy each other’s company again at a pizza party.
Small World Department: Mid-afternoon I randomly pulled into a driveway and asked a man if I could have water for my steam car. He readily agreed (they always do), and asked the usual Stanley questions. First surprise: He had a ’22 T in his garage. I said I had intended to bring my one-lung Cadillac on the tour, but couldn’t due to an accident with it in Canada. Second surprise: He said: “Was that you? I read about it on the Model T website!” HOW many degrees of separation??
Thursday’s tour had hills, but they didn’t seem as steep as the ones on recent 1&2 tours. Maybe being in a steam car changed my perspective; those with alternate opinions should chime in. The morning destination was Panama Rocks, formed when most of North America was an inland sea and subsequently altered by glaciers, earthquakes and other fun stuff. The rocks are amazing. There’s a rugged, mile-long loop trail among them, but you wouldn’t want to walk it at night; there are deep crevasses. Trees grow on top of the rocks and send their roots down the sides to find water.
Lunch was at an Amish home. Good food in gut-busting portions with great pies for dessert.
In the afternoon we visited a small town museum, where local buildings have been moved to a common site and filled with local artifacts. Our banquet was that evening on the Athenaeum terrace, overlooking Chautauqua Lake.
Friday morning was cold and windy and it looked like we might get rain, but we didn’t. The destination was Dunkirk Lighthouse, with its early Fresnel lens, and an adjacent military museum. The lightkeeper’s house has been turned into a museum of the families who lived there. Cute story: a returning WWII vet brought home two parachutes. They were turned into a wedding dress that was used by his bride and, in fairly rapid succession, her three sisters. Someone suggested that leaving a functional ripcord attached would have speeded things up on the wedding nights.
We had an excellent lunch on the porch of a 205-year-old inn; some of us would have welcomed an extra clothing layer to ward off the chill.
The afternoon’s tour was along a ridge with views of Lake Erie on one side and Chautauqua Lake on the other. Or so I was told. I missed it, since my steam car utterly refused to cooperate. Fortunately, host Bob’s son Rob, known to all as Cubby, was riding sweep in an original Model T depot hack. He drove me back to get my trailer. We all met up for dinner in a good seafood restaurant. By the way, Cubby and his father took most of these pictures.
A few folks stayed to enjoy a short Saturday tour to a museum, a winery, and two bronze statues. One statue was of the cartoon dog, Marmaduke, and his creator. The other was of Abraham Lincoln and the little local girl who, according to legend, persuaded him that he’d be more electable if he grew a beard. Jerry Martin and Mike Knaub got lost, and didn’t connect with Cubby, who again was running sweep. At lunch, Bob noticed they were missing, and asked Cubby where they were. The table erupted in chants of: “Cubby lost a car!” Cubby went back to look for them. They had found the route again, which was a Good Thing, because they’d subsequently broken down with timer trouble. Had they broken down off course where Cubby didn’t know where to look, they might still be out there!
Then, even the stragglers went home. And the tour that almost never started, was over. There’s a rumor that Doug and Bev Tomb will be next year’s 1&2 tourmasters in Virginia in September. Will they tour in their Buick or in one of their Chase highwheelers? Come and find out!
Gil Fitzhugh the Elder