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SUBMITTED by Robert Stopper, Lyons (15-May-2012)

Tug Syracuse hard at work
Whether you boat, bike, hike, or ride in a car, you too can be part of the sights and sounds of villages and towns along the Erie Canal. When was the last time you slurped a sauerkraut milkshake, waddled in mashed potatoes, swashbuckled like a pirate, or slid in pumpkin puree? Did you ever try climbing a greased pole, eat-ing a buffalo burger, or chasing a duck with a leaf blower? Have you ever been stopped on a trail by a skunk or porcupine? Have you ever been chased down a trail and been "nipped" by a long-necked irritated crane? When was the last time the stick in front of your bike wheel suddenly moved? Have you ever had your breath taken away as you silently rested along a trailside, and a mother and her two fawns silently and ever-so-carefully passed in front of you?

If music is your love, you can yoddle from a hillside, tap your feet to real, live, blue grass music, rock- and- roll down the middle of a street, kazoo in a parade, or "Dos-si-do" on a tractor in a square dance!

Perhaps your interest is more in boating. As you watch the boats ply the Erie Canal, have you ever wondered about the captain and the people aboard the boat? Where do they come from? Where have they been? What do they do? What have they done? Of all the places in the world, why are they here at this moment in time?

Norm Reynolds from Denver tells Mark Decracker about Kayaking in the Artic as tourists from Florida and Michigan listen

What about the boat itself! How old is it? Was it built or restored by Grandpa? How do the owners get it to shine and glisten even in the moonlight? Was it ever in a movie? Was it ever adrift at sea? Is that really a "looper" flag?

And what about the old abandoned locks! Why do tourists risk the "ouch" of prickers and the hissing of snakes to obtain that perfect photo of a snapping turtle glaring in the sunlight at the bottom of a 100 year old abandoned, mossy canal lock? If a tourist asks you, "Did you ever pretend you were a Hoggee with a ‘Hurry Up Boat’", what would you say? Many tourists are fascinated by the thought of three canals– Clinton’s Ditch, the Enlarged Erie, and the Barge Canal. Does one of them go through your back yard?

San Francisco Yacht Club members photographing Lock E 56

No doubt, the most authentic way to truly experience the Erie Canalway is to "Lock Through" and see what is on the other side of those high gates. The "erie" screeching and clanging of locking gates, the thrashing and frothing of incoming water, the occasional slithering of a shiny snake, and the thought of "dropping down" in-side a lock chamber is sometimes quite scary to the uninitiated.

Wave to the boaters as they pass thru a lock, and if you are fortunate enough to meet them or other tourists, welcome them to the community. Guide them to an eatery or store "just up the street and around the corner" a bit! Walk them to a local mural. Invite them to local festivals. Suggest local historic destinations. Identify local hike and bike trails. Point out a local favorite "blue highway" that leads to the "Middle of Nowhere"! Tell them about the most notorious crook or most famous good guy from your community.

Whether by land or by sea, tourists come and tourists go, but their memories, photos, and—most importantly- first impressions live on forever. Unfortunately, we get only one chance to make a good impression. Why not become a part of that good impression. Become a "somebody"! Get involved! Become a regional cheerleader! If you do, you too will definitely become part of the sights and sounds along the Erie Canal!


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