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Archive for October, 2012

Dreamsville, U.S.A

We’ve gone back in time.  We’re at Denison depot, during WW II,  trains are passing through here, full of soldiers, and one woman sees that they are tired and lonely and hungry – and a super canteen is born. The number of servicemen who passed through here, receiving a cup of coffee, sandwich, a cookie or donut, is amazing, but their memories are about so much more – the touch of a hand, a smile, the citizens who turned out, at all hours, to greet their train, and let them know they were loved and their service appreciated. This Canteen grew so big and served so many that the Salvation Army was asked to step in – organizing the operation to serve even more serviceman efficiently.

This place is magical, with wonderfully restored railroad cars re-creating, not only the Canteen Era, with big band and jazz music, but cars representing railroad travel of the time, from the nitty gritty of how RR’s operated to the Pullman Bunk, Hobo trees with signage, and a rare WW II Military Hospital Car (one of only 6 left in the country). There’s so much to see and appreciate, but one simple exhibit stands out.  It contains a sandwich wrapper.  The soldier that was fed here, carried it into war with him, brought it back, when he survived his tour of duty, and 50 years later, brought it back to this museum. The perfect tribute to this wonderful Canteen and museum.

God Bless all who served our country and continue to serve us still. And the wonderful women on the home front – who found their way to serve as well!

Dennison Railroad Depot Museum, Dreamsville, U.S.A.

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We have these days in the RV life where we drive lots of miles,  and then stay in a kind of crummy  campground. Not that people aren’t nice – it’s just that there isn’t a beautiful, or even particularly pleasant view, let alone a feeling of privacy. Just makes the next one that is special more appreciated.  So, we have one of those days and move on!

McKinley Library, Niles, OH

Next stop is Niles, Ohio, birthplace of President McKinley. Not a lot to see, but a small exhibit in a lovely library.  We walk to the birthplace home down the street, which is closed.  But, it’s always nice to visit a past president on the night of a presidential election debate. We watch the debate at a KOA, with pizza delivery! We had a fire too. And a totally terrifying moment for me.  I’m sitting alone by the fire, in the dark. I hear a rustling in the nearby valley – and something, I have no idea what – rushes up the hill towards me and the fire.  It hits my leg and goes in back of my chair.  It bumps up against the back of my chair, higher and higher.   I’m picturing a skunk, a racoon, something rabid?   I call out to Dick, but in a low voice.  I don’t scream, I think whatever it is might jump up in back of me and bite if I make any loud noise. Dick finally comes out of with a flashlight.  And we see a cat. A rather small grey cat.  And this cat continues to terrorize us at our campsite, bumping and shoving, jumping up onto our laps with his little, sharp claws digging into our flesh, our chairs.  We put out a little plate of hot dog pieces and he/she eats it up but still wants to butt us and knock us over, get on our laps and chairs.  The sad thing is that all having a cat around the campfire did for me, was make me miss Taylor all the more.

McKinley Monument, Canton OH

The next day we drive to Canton and the McKinley Monument, where McKinley and his family are interred, and the McKinley Presidential Library and Museum. It’s a wonderful museum, with a McKinley Gallery – I’m amazed at how little I know about this assassinated U.S.President – a Street of Shops, recreating the late 1800’s, and a lot of interesting Stark county history, from canal building and the civil war to a Timken bearing (as in ball bearing) ride – kind of like a mini Tilt-a-Whirl that I actually get Dick to operate with me! We enjoy the museum for several hours, including a delicious lunch break at the nearby Kennedy barbecue restaurant.  Then, we head back to the same campsite for another fire and another visit from our intrepid feline friend.

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Clermont, home of R. Livingston(s)

It’s hard to keep all the Livingstons straight ( in fact, our tour guide hands us a complex family tree in the entryway, knowing in advance we’re all going to be confused) but the two most famous are Robert R. Livingston who administered the oath of office to George Washington and helped draft the Declaration of Independence and – ha, easily differentiated – Robert R. Livingston, the co-inventor of the steamboat with Robert Fulton. The name of that steamboat?  The Clermont.

We see a lot of beautiful scenery, driving in the Hudson River Valley.

Beautiful Autumn Scenery

And we get back to our Saugerties KOA campsite in time to cook hot dogs and s’mores before watching the Packers beat Houston.  Go Pack!

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Mill’s Mansion

We take TWO tours of this site – we never do that.  Why?  We knew that there was a “Titanic Tour” at 3 PM – but since we were told that every tour covered that aspect of the house, we went on the 2:00 tour.  Our guide  was very informative and  responsive to questions, but suggested we tag along on the Titanic Tour that was just starting as we finished his tour, to learn more.  So, we toured the whole house again. It’s always a different  tour, with a new docent, so  we do learn more about the Gilded Age, and the owners of this mansion, who had tickets for an upcoming voyage on the Titanic, and how many of the rooms here resemble what the Titanic tried to emulate for their moneyed passengers.  I was curious about  the Edith Wharton connection, after reading that this mansion was a model for an estate in House of Mirth.  True or not, I was interested in how this site offered a glimpse into the world she lived in and wrote about. And what an amazing world/house it is!  During the tour, we learn that her aunt had a mansion nearby, that has fallen into ruin. There’s no map or guide to it, but we decide to be detectives and after about an hour of wandering, searching on my iPhone for articles about Wyndclyffe, we finally take a fortuitous turn and drive right by the ruins. So much for keeping up with the Joneses. (We have learned that phrase originated with this family. )

Ruins of Wyndclyffe, Edith Wharton’s Aunt’s Home

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We tour West Point on our way back up the Hudson.  Amazing site and history.

West Point Campus

View of the Hudson from West Point

We stay at a KOA near Kingston for three nights (which is where it turns out I spent my 62nd birthday, two years ago, NOT where I reported it in a previous post – does it help any that both Dick and I had it wrong? Nah.)  We tour Kingston, the Hudson River Maritime Museum in the lower Roundout Historic District, and in the upper Kingston Stockade area, the Senate House State Historic Site –  the home that became the meeting place of the first New York State Senate. We  eat  Italian in the lower Roundout Landing area a couple nights in a row, with some nice walks down the river.

New Paltz, NY

We also day-trip to New Paltz for a guided tour of the french Huguenot settlement there, a cluster of stone homes built in the early 1700’s.  After viewing several home interiors, we drive to the nearby village of Hurley, where we take a self-guided walking tour of another Huguenot village.

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Old Dutch Church

October 8 – We walk the atmospheric Sleepy Hollow Cemetery on a gloomy, rainy day. Snapped this photo a few days previously while we were touring  across the street. This is the church and cemetery that inspired Washington Irving’s Legend of Sleepy Hollow.  Beyond the Dutch Cemetery, the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery has all kinds of famous people to visit – Washington Irving, Andrew Carnegie, Samuel Gompers, Elizabeth Arden, Leona Helmsley, and so many other souls, famous or not.  It’s a wonderful, hilly and wooded cemetery to walk.

Washington Irving’s Grave

Sleepy Hollow Cemetery

Andrew Carnegie’s Gravesite

There’s also a reconstruction of the Headless Horseman Bridge, which used to be near the Old Dutch Church.

Headless Horseman Bridge (not original)

We stay at Croton Point County Park for an entire week, partly to be sure that we have a nice place to stay during Columbus Day Weekend, which can be crazy – and there’s a lot to see in the area.  A very hyped event,  The Blaze, starts Columbus Day Weekend, so we buy advance tickets for Monday night, our last night in the area.  I would like to rave, but have to admit, as pretty and interesting as it was to see so many scenes with lit pumpkins, I grew a little tired of moving along in lines of people taking pictures (ha, me too, although nowhere near as many) and dare I say it, a bit bored?  Plus, we found out that some of the more elaborate arrangements, although hand-carved, are not real pumpkins, but just re-assembled year after year.  I kind of regretted not going to the scare-fest, Horseman’s Hollow (although I probably would have had a heart-attack), or a reading of  The Legend of Sleepy Hollow in the old Dutch Church.  Sorry, Blaze.

T-Rex at the Blaze

The Blaze

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Kykuit

Shuttle busses leave from Philipsburg Manor (which we toured first) for Kykuit, a weekend home for three generations of the Rockefeller family.  It’s set high in the hills, and although the highlight was rumored to be the subterranean art gallery,  my vote goes to the grounds and  vistas.  John D. Rockefeller, Sr. built Kyquit, but there’s quite a juxtaposition between the older, more staid style of the former, and the preference of 3rd generation, Nelson Rockefeller, for modern art and sculpture.  Call me a heathen, but I found the windowless basement rooms full of modern art rather depressing. I’ll stay on the verandah overlooking the Hudson, thank you.

One View from Kykuit

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Phillipsburg Manor, NY

We decide to visit Phillipsburg Manor because we’ve read that it’s going to offer a view into the lives of the slaves that worked this gristmill and farm.  Our tour guide for the manor is really disappointing, taciturn, unresponsive to questions and we feel that we haven’t learned what we might have here, especially in comparison to other well- guided historical sites. It’s a beautiful site, though and it’s fun to walk alongside the free-roaming sheep and other animals.

Since it’s October, the other treat for us, I’m sure not so much for tourists who came to see an unspoiled historic site, was the readying for the Horseman’s Hollow extravaganza, which starts the next night.  There are cemeteries, tents, scary buildings going up all around, and plenty of props, not yet distributed –  Bwahaha…

Horseman’s Hollow preparations

Phillipsburg Manor/ Horseman’s Hollow

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Sunnyside, Washington Irving’s Home, NY

We made reservations at Croton Point Park (an amazing county park which juts out into the Hudson river) for a whole week, because everything’s going to be filled and crazy on this last 3 -day Columbus Day weekend.  We get a super site, off by ourselves from the rest of the campgrounds ( because we’re small?) and then watch the campsites next to us flood in the downpour we have for the first few days. We head out on a drier day to visit Washington Irving’s Sunnyside – it’s small, whimsical, a bit run-down on the outside, but with a lot of wonderful rooms inside to give a view into his world.  He had an amazing view of the Hudson River, now interrupted every once in awhile by a 20th century train.

Celebrated my 64th birthday at Red Hat on the Hudson Restaurant, with a lot of  telephone joking before-hand with Chris and Emily as to the meaning of its name. I  did, coincidentally, wear a light purple blouse, but it was NOT a Red Hat Society (older women wearing red hats and purple)  restaurant.  Almost everybody was younger than us.  Ha- that’s getting easier and easier!

Red Hat on the Hudson, birthday dinner

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Monday, October 1:  Last night, after the sublime experience of Edith Wharton’s home, we pull into a KOA with the express purpose of getting cable in order to watch a Green Bay Packer game. Dick had researched it and the cable TV channel showed that our game would be on. We arrive with thunder rumbling in the distance and rain starting to hit our “roof”.  Dick does a great job of hooking us up quickly, only to find that the channel has switched games on us. Undaunted, we make our cheese dip, and tune in the game on our  Sirius radio. Packers win, but somehow, we don’t feel as jubilant as we should?  Kind of a let-down, we think, expecting to SEE a game with real refs.

We changed our route/sightseeing plans to stay in this KOA to watch the game, so now we have to come up with some alternate plans in the morning.

Locust Grove

Things continue to not work out as we plan for awhile. We make reservations at Mills Norrie State Park, looking forward to touring the Mills Mansion which is on the grounds of the state park, hiking the trails along the Hudson, etc.  On arrival, we find out that the mansion, although the website said would be open on Tuesday, won’t be open until Thursday. Then we find out that the campground, that they assured us had electricity when we made reservations, doesn’t. We feel a little crestfallen, because we saw so many interesting villages and restaurants in the area and were thinking we might stay here for several days, eating and visiting our way through them.

Ah, but it’s the spontaneous RV life, so we decide to head to Locust Grove, home of Samuel Morse, inventor of the telegraph. As is often the case, the family that gives the property to a private organization, is interested in preserving their family history. So the house is not as much about Samuel Morse, as it is the Young family. But there is a lot about Morse in the small museum gallery (we did not know that he was such an accomplished painter!) and references to him, and the architectural changes he made to the home,  as you tour.  We had an excellent tour guide , and an extensive tour for two.

Our home tonight is the same campground that I spent my 62nd birthday in, two years ago. We had hotdogs and s’mores over a beautiful fire!

Hot dogs and S’mores

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