Friday, August 22, 2014

Some rich and some famous

Now that I have your attention, let me first tell you of our stop on the road to getting there, the Battle of Saratoga battlefield, near Albany NY.  We are back in 1777 with the Patriots and the British going head to head here.  Saratoga was a decisive win for the Patriots, so helped to restore faith in their cause. A great part of their victory is due to Col. Tadeusz Kosciuszko, a Polish military engineer working with the Americans.   The visitor center has a 15 min movie about the battle and an audio description of the battle, all quite interesting.  Once you have seen those, it is a self guided auto tour around the battlefield.  Highlights of the battle are well marked and there is plenty of parking available at each of the stops.

Saratoga Battlefield
We press on to Hyde Park NY

First the rich, the Vanderbilts, Frederick and Louise, built a 50 room mansion to use in spring and fall.  In the summer they would be gone to Newport or cruising their yacht.  In the winter they would be in New York City.  This is a modest 50 room mansion, just a little place for entertaining at most 18 of their friends at a time.  Beautiful grounds, with a great garden that is still maintained by volunteers.  Frederick had a crown over his bed!  Louise loved Marie Antoinette, so had a replica of her bedroom made in this mansion.  After Frederick dies, (Louise had died first) the mansion went to a niece of Louise.  In 1940, with the help of a neighbor, she gave the mansion and its original furnishings to the US parks department.
front view of mansion

back porch

closer view of back porch

view of Hudson that would be seen from back porch

Vanderbilt Mansion

Now for the famous, the neighbor who helped the niece give the Vanderbilt mansion to the government, Franklin D. Roosevelt.  By the way, he considered the mansion to be a "big eyesore".
FDR was born in Hyde Park, in the home they called Springwood. He grew up here until at 14 he went away to boarding school.  Later in life he came here to escape the pressures of public live and to start the building of his library.  He was the first president to consider that his papers, mementos etc should be housed where others could later come to study and view them.  He and Eleanor are both buried behind the library.
We both enjoyed seeing a new exhibit at the library, Madeline Albright - Read My Pins.  Many of her pins are on exhibit and how they tell her feelings and goals at world meetings.  Try to catch this traveling exhibit if it comes near you.  It was absolutely fascinating.
During their married years, Eleanor had to deal with a domineering mother-in-law, so found her own retreat, Stone Cottage, in near by Val-Kill.  Together with 3 of her women friends, she also built a small furniture cottage industry site on her property. The plan was to provide retraining for farmers in the area when times were tough. It lasted 10 years, during which time not only furniture, but weaving and pewter projects were made.  Samples of all of these can be seen during your visit. Eleanor had the Val-Kill Industry building modified to become her residence. Her son Elliott seems to have sold or taken most of the original furniture after Eleanor's death.  The National Parks has some original pieces back and continues to search for more.  A painting she had over her fireplace was recently found on Ebay.   You can either drive or take the NPS shuttle to get to Val-Kill.
FDR and Eleanor did not have an easy life together.  He seems to have had a wandering eye, which was not something Eleanor was willing to ignore nor forgive.  There seems to be lots of innuendo about FDR and his cousin Margaret, especially since they built a special place on Roosevelt land, Top Cottage, together.  They built it to be totally wheelchair accessible. To get to Top Cottage you must take the NPS shuttle from the FDR visitor center.
Just to visit the Springwood home, Top Cottage and the library takes a whole day.  Plan another few hours just to visit Val-Kill.  All so interesting and worth the visit.


FDR Library in colonial dutch style that FDR loved

Eleanors residence

Val-Kill cottage industry started here, then converted to her residence

desk behind couch where Eleanor worked
FDR library
Eleanor Roosevelt Val-Kill

We press stop Gettysburg.
Michelle and Fred
Traveling the country so you don't have to!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

The Adirondacks and Family time

Out goal was finally reached, my cousin's house in Upstate New York, just 3 months and a little over 10,00 miles since we left San Antonio.  You'd think we were doing this trip in a cart being pulled by oxen it took so long.  My cousin and I had not seen each other in 40+ years.  It was wonderful to share family stories and see them from our different perspectives. Its like looking at two sides of the same coin, quite funny at times.  We had just a fun time with lots of laughs between all of us.    In addition we met one of her daughters, son in law and a grandson.   We miss them already, so will be back to visit again.

view of the Hudson river in the Adirondacks

We have learned that this is all second growth trees in the Adirondacks.  The forest were cut down and replanted.  The Adirondack Park is 40% private land and the rest state owned.  There is an on going debate between the private land owners and the state because all the land is regulated by the state.  Learned a lot about this when we visited the Adirondack Museum which is about 1.5hour drive from here.  This area reminds us a lot of Washington state, with its trees, small towns, lakes, rivers and streams.
The Hudson River starts up here, nothing like the Hudson we see by NYC.
We also learned that the Indians did not live here year round due to the cold weather.  They would come in the spring and summer for hunting and fishing. Tourism became a big industry for this area in the late 1880s.  It is still big today, but there seems to be a reluctance to cater to the tourist.  Lots of the residences are summer homes, with very few folks being year round.

fungus in the Adirondacks

view from museum cafe

Adirondack Museum

This is not cell phone country, unless you happen to be in town and then you still have to find a good spot to get your cell to work. We had cell service when at the various museums or at a restaurant.  Verizon never came up here to check " can you hear me now?". Landlines are still very important up here.  That can also be problematic when lines go down during the winter,as it does snow and freeze.  We have been spotting areas of fall colored trees already.  When it gets cold up here the ground freezes, so burials are delayed.  As Rich says they have "Funeral Festival time" starting in early May, when burials happen again.  See, it really is another world.....

We are right next to Fort Ticonderoga, so spent a day visiting the Fort, which was built in 1755 by the French and called Fort Carillon. In 1775 Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold ( he was a Patriot then) capture the fort to protect the waterways during the Revolution.  This was the first Revolutionary victory.
Eventually the Fort was no longer strategically needed and fell into ruin.  The locals started using the cut stones of the fort to build their homes.  In around 1840 the Pell family of New York and Canada buy the fort and start some of the restoration.  Various family members continued to restore the Fort until the 1950s.  The Fort is managed by the non profit Fort Ticonderoga Association.  It is a lively place to visit.  We saw soldiers representing the Fourth Pennsylvania Battalion in 1776 doing a musket firing demonstration.  I did manage to get a good picture even though I jumped when the guns were fired! We heard soldiers performing fife and drum music while marching along one of the walls, saw a cobbler making new shoes for the soldiers.  What is really interesting is that each year the staff take on a new "persona" and have new stories to tell visitors.  Next year the focus will be 1755 and the French-Canadians in and around the Fort. We also went to Mt. Defiance which is a hill behind the Fort and learned how it was a strategic location during the battles fought here.

view of Fort (lower middle) from Mt Defiance

our history "teacher"

Fort Ticonderoga
Vermont is just a hop skip away, so we went to check out the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum in Vergennes Vermont.  Chock full of antique boats to see here, as well as a whole section on nautical archeology since there are many boats under water from Revolution on.  There was a whole display of the Lake Champlain involvement during the War of 1812.  This place is a bit tricky to find, but worth the effort.  The Village of Vergennes was very pretty and provided us with a good early dinner.

seen outside museum

around town

Lake Champlain Maritime Museum
Vergennes Vermont history

Stephen A Douglas was born in Brandon Vermont.  As we all remember from our history lessons, Douglas ran for President against Abraham Lincoln in 1860.  So we went to see the house, but unfortunately, it was locked up even though it was open hours.  Hey, its a small town, so they handle these things the way they want.  It was a very cute town and we loved it because it had a french bakery ( the real deal) and a French restaurant that smelled wonderful.  We were able to bring dessert back to cousins house from there.

Stephen A Douglas
Brandon Vermont

Heading home from Brandon we stopped at the New England Maple Museum to see how we get maple syrup from the trees.  This was a small mom/pop type museum that was full of pictures, equipment and stories about the process of getting maple syrup.  Very interesting and well worth the stop since Fred was able to buy a gallon of maple syrup for cheap.  Looking forward to the french toast and pancakes we will be having this winter.....

old spouts

a real Maple syrup lover

Maple Museum

Well we leave the Adirondacks for now, knowing we will be back again.  Time to head to Hyde Park to continue following the Roosevelt family.  This time it's Franklin and Eleanor.
Stay tuned,
Michelle and Fred
Traveling the country so you don't have to!

The road to Cooperstown

 A little over an hour outside of Buffalo we stopped in Jamestown, the birth place of Lucille Ball.   Signs were indicating that this was the "Center for Comedy".  Turns out there is a museum with lots of artifacts for both Lucy and Desi, provided in large part by their children.  Jamestown Desilu Studios has exact replicas of the Lucy and Desi TV apartment.  Lots of pictures and video to check out.  Each year there is a weekend celebration for her birthday, with well known folks attending.  This year the big guest will be Jay Leno.  Bet it's a fun time.

I Love Lucy - Desi Museum

On to our campground, just outside of Cooperstown itself.  Had been a tough drive getting there since we had had hard rain and wind most of the drive from Buffalo.  Was warm and sunny when we arrived here.   Decided since it was late afternoon and too late to do much, that it was time for laundry.  Amazing how you can't escape the laundry, no matter where you are.

Next day we head off to spend the day in the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.  Our camp host had given us info about where in town to park for $10 all day.  Not too tough to find, since Cooperstown is small with lots of people visiting and not much in the way of parking.
The Hall of Fame is amazing with lots and lots of real artifacts, not copies.  Starts with  showing the history of baseball, including pictures of Pharaohs playing some sort of ball and stick game.  There is lots of info and displays about the Hall of Fame guys of course, but also about minor leagues, negro leagues and women in baseball.  It is a full day or more, with something here for everyone interested in baseball.  The day we went it was open till 9pm, so we were able to take a break and leave to get a snack close by.
Cooperstown has many shops to buy souvenirs and every style of tshirt you may want. There are also shops with authentic autographed baseball mementos.

Doubleday ball

Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

Cooperstown is a small historic town located at the bottom of Lake Otsego.  The area is very scenic and has some wonderful historic houses to visit. Just outside of town we went to tour Hyde Hall.  It was built by George Clarke, 1768-1835, on land that had been given to his great grandfather, prior to the Revolution.  The great grandfather, also named George Clarke, had been the colonial administrator for King George.  Five generations of Clarkes lived in the hall.  In 1963 the State of New York acquired Hyde Hall, but was not able to do much with maintaining it.  It is now in the process of getting refurbished with some state and private money.  Some of the rooms have been redone with some original pieces and some of the period, while other rooms still need lots of work.  There were just 7 of us on the one hour tour, so it was almost like having a private tour.  Quite fascinating.

view of Lake Ostego from side porch

Hyde Hall

Exploring the area, we found ourselves in Cherry Vally.  There is a museum set up in one of the historic homes, which tells lots about the area.  Not one but two British/Indian massacres took place here leading up to the Revolution. The cemetery honors those who fell.  It has the oldest bank west of the Hudson, which is still in use.  A building that was once a foundry, then a baseball factory in now a small theatre.  While looking at the building a member of the local Arts Council stopped to tell us about a small string quartet which would be playing in a few nights.  She encouraged us to attend, since it was only $10 a piece and we "couldn't beat the price".
Off to visit another historic home, the Herkimer homestead.  Brigadier General Nicholas Herkimer fought in the Battle of Oriskany in 1777, one of the deadliest early Revolutionary battles.  Patriots were trying to end the siege of Fort Stanwix when they were attacked by Loyalists and several Indian tribes. Herkimer died at home of wounds suffered during the battle.  He had been a well to do farmer and trader along the river so was able to build a large house  along the Mohawk River. There are a few original pieces of furniture, but most were of the period.

Herkimer homestead,_New_York

After our tour, we headed into the town of Herkimer for a bite to eat.  Saturday afternoon and shops were closed up tight.  Only thing open was either a small diner or the Chinese restaurant. We opted for the diner and enjoyed some good burgers.,_New_York

That night it rained really hard, 2.5 inches.  The ground under us had been wet from all the previous rain in the area.  Fred had a real struggle getting Mr B out of the campsite.  We dug a trench with the back tire.  We were beginning to think we might not make it on out own and would need to camp host to pull us out with his tractor.

made a deep rut in the ground trying to get out of site after  2" rain one night

We did go back to Cherry Valley for the musical evening.  Ticket taker was now trying to make us pay $20 each, though no prices were posted anywhere.  It was finally agreed that since Arts Council person had told us a price, they would agree to it.  Building was HOT and stuffy, no fans, no AC and the music was only ok.  We left during intermission, we had had enough and decided to head back to campground before it got too dark.  Oh well, that was it for our small village entertainment!
Last day in the area was spent at the Farm Museum, where they have the "Cardif Giant".  Supposedly a farmer found this petrified mummy in his field. It was a hoax played on the American public, which many still believed even once the truth was revealed.  We can be gullible and it was proven!

Farmers Museum
Cardiff Giant

We press stop Hague/Ticonderoga where my cousin and husband live.
Michelle and Fred
Traveling the country so you don't have to!