Monday, April 27, 2009

On Alexandria Bay, NY...

Sunday morning we awoke at varying times. My first time up out of bed was at about 0430hrs. It was bloody freezing in the room. I looked at the doorway and could see a strip of light filtering in from the outside, illuminating the gigantic crevice between the door and the doorframe. Hmmm... That explained where all the cold, damp air was coming from. But why the no heat? As it turns out 'the noise of the fan was bothersome' to my better half, so she had gotten up previously and simply shut off the heat to the room.

A better man might have woke her up to ask her what she had been thinking... Me? I opted to crawl back into the sack, after standing by the heater for a bit to thaw out. After a while, I believe I might have gotten back to sleep. Slowly, the room began drying out and warming up again. Our innkeeper at the front desk had assured me there would be coffee on by 0730hrs, the previous evening as I signed in. By that time, we were moving about, trying to decide as to whether to get up yet. I wanted a shower before we headed out to find food. Why is it that a bed never feels as comfortable, as it does right before you get up? I have yet to figure that one out. I got up and showered, feeling pretty happy we had made that stop at the Target store in Watertown.

By the time I was done, I felt great again. And I smelled pretty good too, thanks to ol' Karl Lagerfeld. I stopped by the front desk, really feeling the drop in temperature since yesterday. It was overcast and breezy, feeling pretty much like 5 or 6 degrees tops. Br-rrrr!!! I asked our innkeeper for some ideas regarding breakfast. He and his wife recommended a couple of places like the North Star (Just outside the village's entrance gateway) and the Kountry Kottage Restaurant on Route 12. Both sounded as though they would meet the requirements for a nummy breakfast.

We decided on a little drive out in the country, to try the Kountry Kottage. Their breakfast was great and so was their coffee, which they did their absolute best to keep filled to the brim. You have a choice of toast made from homemade bread (go for it...) and remarkably enough, they serve up biscuits and gravy as well. That gravy by the way, is actual sausage gravy too... Nom...Nom...Nom... This is normally a Southern dish, so to find it this far North is a treat.

Their hash browns are made fresh from real shredded spuds and when you order 'sausages', you'll get sausage meat patties, which are delicious! We paid $8.00 each and it was worth every last red cent. I ordered three eggs, easy-over, with sausages, hash browns and homemade toast. My wife ordered an omelet with some hash browns and homemade toast as well.

We returned to Alex Bay and parked downtown on James Street, by the 'touristy' shops we had spied the previous morning. By now they were open and we browsed to our heart's content. One shop in particular was just brimming with all types of pirate regalia. The Gift Zone (located right next to Good Dog Charlie's), was loaded down with all manner of souvenirs, pirate statuettes, hats, swords, eyepatches, pirate beads, pendants, posters, jewellery boxes, wall hangings, ballcaps, the list is endless. The store clerk was friendly and well-informed as to the circus of events which transpired every summer in Alex Bay.

June is the month of their 3rd Annual Bike Rally. The Thousand Islands River Run, as it's known, will take place on June 26-28 this year. Their official website below will provide all the particulars. I for one, plan to attend!

In August from the 7th to the 16th, they hold Bill Johnston's Pirate Days. To quote their esteemed Chamber of Commerce: "The following is a list of our 10 days filled with family fun and special events. Our sword-fighting group, known as the 'Tales from Remikreh,' will be performing throughout the Village streets and at various Route 12 locations. Be sure to stop by and visit the Entertainment tent for a list of activities planned for that day. Also visit our life size chessboard at the Entertainment Tent all week to see if you have a worthy opponent. Enjoy!

Bill Johnston was a renegade after the patriots war, who blew up the British steamer, Sir Robert Peel, hid among the 1000 Islands, and was hunted by both U.S. and Canadian authorities. The annual Bill Johnston's Pirates Days celebration commemorates some of his exploits. Fill your senses with the sound and spectacle when pirate ships attack the village from the St. Lawrence River, as the brave villagers try to stave them off. The air is filled with smoke and the sound of musket fire and cannon, and eventually the villagers succumb as the pirates invade the town. After the mayor turns over the key to the village to the invading marauders, everyone becomes a pirate.

The Alexandria Bay Chamber of Commerce, through the hard work of our members; sponsor all of the above events. You are invited to join in the spirit of Pirate Days and dress as a Pirate, Patriot, or Indian when attending any or all of these events. All times are subject to change. Please check the Event Board at the Entertainment Tent or at the Chamber Office at (315) 482-9531.

A band of Sword Fighting Pirates will be available during all 10 days at most events listed for photo opportunities. The Tales from Remikreh group will be throughout the Village so BEWARE! Please see the schedule at the Entertainment Tent for specific locations and times. Photo opportunities always available at Pirate Face Boards located downtown. Check out local merchants for sales of event flags. Most events are free and for the enjoyment of the public."

Now I ask you... if an entire town being taken over by pirates doesn't sound like some kind of fun, then I really don't know what does!

By the way, for those keen on renaissance fairs and pirate events worldwide, check out the website below:

I loaded up on t-shirts, snagged a ballcap and a couple of wall-hangers. One in particular for a cantankerous workmate of mine. The local joke around the office is that he's pretty much of a grouch and he plays along very well. So the sign that stated: "Don't worry, be Crabby", was a natural for him. I also picked up a light windbreaker, which I handed to my honey so she could keep warm as we wandered around town. She had brought a little hoodie, but the low temps and the wind by the water were chilling things off considerably. As we took the van through the sidestreets and up and down hills, we arrived at a look-off. I parked and we went to investigate. There was a huge elevated and covered picnic area, facing the water. There just off to our right side and in plain view, sat Heart Island and Boldt Castle. It was absolutely beautiful, even under an overcast sky.

My eyes were then drawn to my left, by a dark object which captured my attention. It was a small cenotaph, made out of black granite. A memorial to one of the village's own sons, who had laid down his life in the defense of all. I approached slowly, reverently. There atop the memorial, cast in bronze, was a pair of G.I. desert boots. Rising from between them, was an inverted M-4, it's M-9 bayonet planted into imaginary soil. Atop the buttstock of the M-4... a MICH helmet. How often had I seen this image. How often had fellow soldiers mounted this iconic 'homage' to brothers lost in combat? It was at once stark, eloquent and moving. I drew closer to find out more about who this soldier was.

The memorial had been erected to honour the memory of 19 year-old PFC Jack T. Sweet and his brothers of the 10th Mountain Division. He was a native of Alexandria Bay and had served with the 2nd Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment (the Triple Deuces), 1st Brigade Combat Team of the 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), based out of Fort Drum, NY.

He was KIA 08 February 2008 in Jawwalah, Iraq when the Humvee he was driving hit an IED. He was buried in the Barnes Settlement Cemetery a few miles away on Alexandria Central Road, with full military honours. I took a few photographs of this monument, pausing to pay my respects to this young warrior who had given his all. Taking a few steps back, I observed a moment of silence, then offered up a crisp and fitting salute. I remember thinking at the moment, how appropriate the cold wind and overcast skies were. It was the one somber moment on this trip...

We spent another hour or so, poking around here and there, looking at new construction going up by the water's edge (brand new townhouses, one right next to the other and on the 'ground' floor where a garage should be... a boathouse!), for a modest $279,900.00 US. These brand new properties were springing up right beside the Pine Tree Point Resort.

Soon enough, it was time to start thinking about heading back home. Just as we were nearing the left-hand sweeping turn that leads to the 1,000 Island Bridge and Canada, we decided to take an unplanned visit to Dewolf Point, the very last exit off to US territory you can take, along I-81. As we were taking the exit, we passed a crowd of turkey vultures feasting on a fresh deer carcass. It was kind of eerie. As we travelled along slowly (there was no other traffic), we came upon a Dewolf Point State Park by the water. We decided to stop in and have a little walk around, even though the park was not officially open.

After snapping some pictures, we climbed back into the van and headed for home. It rained a gentle mist, on and off as we made our way first to Merrickville for a stop and a stroll through some shops and then home to Orleans. We arrived at about 1800hrs. Plenty of time to rest up and get ready for the coming Monday.

For as much as we did not hit all the spots that we had initially intended, the trip was still a resounding success and left us with the yearning to return to the 1,000 Islands many more times this year. But in the meantime, we are feeling the call of the New England States. Hm-mmmm... we'll have to see what that brings to our travel itinerary...

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