Posts Tagged ‘Fall 2012 Trip’

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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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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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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St. Ann’s Church, Lenox

We start the day with Mass at beautiful St. Ann’s Church in Lenox. No, I didn’t take this photo during any of that – but swiped from their generous web-site. I did want to remember the ceiling and angels, dimly seen here.

Next, we head to The Mount, Edith Wharton’s home.  She designed it, and decorated it and created all the gardens. In addition, it takes my breath away to think that she was the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize, the first woman to receive an honorary degree from Yale, and the first woman elevated to full membership in the American Academy of Arts and Letters.  She wrote 40 books in 40 years!

Edith Wharton’s Bedroom, where most of her writing took place

Edith Wharton’s Library, with many of her books



















Dining Room, with place set for Henry James

View from the Mount


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On Friday, September 28, it’s raining.  It’s a bit cold.  We use it an excuse to forego sightseeing and cozy in for a day of reading, cards, crossword puzzles – and trip planning.  Ha, we do a lot of the former and very little of the latter.  We warm up our steak dinners from the Old Forge Restaurant (sans tap beer) that we’ve visited twice now, and have delicious apple cider doughnuts for dessert.  So many things to love about fall!

Museum of the Gilded Age, Ventford Hall

Saturday, we’re ready for history and touring, and head to Ventford Hall, “Museum of the Gilded Age”.

Sadly,  we didn’t actually learn much (anything?) about the Gilded Age here. Nothing particularly historically significant seemed to have happened in this house, other than that some people who owned it at one time (J. P. Morgan’s sister and her husband ) had a lot of money. I have no problem with that, in fact I paid my admission hoping to hear all about what made the age “gilded” – stories about excesses, parties, travel, whatever the lifestyle was that caused the coinage of the phrase. Instead, this is more a tour of a partially completed restoration project, consisting of rooms on the first floor in various states of the renovation process (the second floor was recently closed because it’s not handicapped accessible?) with photographs showing what bad repair each room was in before the house became a “Museum” .  The billiard room housed an exhibition of dolls, showcasing  a history of fashion – the  costumes were exquisite. But that wasn’t what we came to see. Unfortunately, I’d have to say that the most interesting thing I learned on the tour was that Ventford Hall played the part of the orphanage in the movie, Cider House Rules.

Norman Rockwell’s Studio

For the same admission price ($15 apiece) we had a marvelous afternoon at the Norman Rockwell Museum. Spectacular grounds and museum gallery, with the bonus of being able to see his favorite and last studio, moved from Stockbridge to this site. Wonderful presentations by knowledgeable docents. But the real kick is seeing so many original Norman Rockwell paintings up close, with great written commentary, explaining the history and context of the work, people who posed for it, etc.   I begin to recognize the same faces over and over –  with different expressions, of course, but it becomes a fun challenge to identify faces of his family. And then, there are his themes.

Freedom of Speech

Freedom from Want

In my  heart, I want Norman Rockwell’s world to be the real one. Simple, kind,  and patriotic.  Inclusive, respectful,  and always doing the right thing.

The Problem We All Live With

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Stone House Museum – Home of Robert Frost, Bennington, VT

Extensive exhibit on Frost family history, and wonderful room dedicated to the poem, “Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening”.  Robert Frost wrote it on the dining room table here, on a hot June morning in 1922!  Interesting analysis and fun parodies line the walls.

And we never did make any decisions about what road/path to take on the hiking trail, since we were warned by the woman who sold us our tickets that there were too many Lyme disease-spreading ticks out there.

So, on to the highly acclaimed art museum, The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute (The Clark) in Williamstown. Our favorite part was a result of their limited exhibition space due to current renovation – a room chock-full of amazing paintings, practically floor-to-ceiling, salon-style, so that when you first walk in, it’s hard to focus. And then to get your breath! There’s George Washington by Gilbert Stuart, and oh, my goodness,  a Remington, Renoir, Degas, Homer, the list goes on and on – all hanging in close proximity, so many different periods and styles – it’s a delicious painting smorgasbord!  To add to the fun, there are free iPads with earbuds available, so that you can choose any painting and get more description, in text, audio, or video.

For dessert we went to the Williams College Museum of Art  (free) – a fine collection, with an innovative and interesting presentation, on a beautiful campus.

Williams College Museum of Art

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Lunch at Mrs. Coolidge’s Family Home, Wilder House

He was born here.  As VP, he was sworn in as President of the United States here , (in the middle of the night, by his father, a notary public, when President Harding died) he had his summer White House here, above the general store, he attended church here – all of these places still exist in one of the most beautiful settings, and amazingly preserved “presidential sites” we’ve ever seen. True to form, we start with lunch, in his wife’s family home.  The cheese in my grilled Vermont cheddar sandwich was made,  a few feet up the road at the family- owned cheese Factory , recently brought up to our current factory standards, where you can both tour it as a museum and see cheese being made. In addition to all of the amazingly preserved village, there’s an excellent small museum. I enjoyed stepping up to a podium, and asking a virtual Calvin Coolidge about all kinds of things. Dick shied away, thinking he had to make up his own questions.  There was a teleprompter!  For visitors to the museum, though, not President Coolidge.  Times change, in so many ways.

Calvin Coolidge was born in this bed, in this room

Coolidge Home – across street from birthplace, where he lived as a boy, and was sworn in as President of the United States

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Franklin Pierce Homestead

We had a fabulous tour guide, with a great sense of humor and wonderful, historical anecdotes.  We learn that this place was built by Franklin’s father, as both a Tavern and an Inn, and a home for the Pierce family.  Young Franklin evidently grew up with a lot of drinking, wild behavior, and lots of  discussions, political and otherwise, with many interesting literary and political figures of the times.  We started in the middle of her tour, and ended up with another docent, who was also very knowledgable, answering our questions about a few of the more political aspects of Pierce’s presidency.  NOT the way to do it, if you want continuity, though. We go back to our campsite and discuss it all, over a campfire.

Campsite 22, Mile Away Camp

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View from the Cottage

We closed up the Maine cottage.  Dried tears on the way to Boothbay Harbor, where we had to go pick up a sweater I’d left at the  GREAT Carousel Dinner Theatre the week before.  Further solace from a Gifford’s Ice Cream take-out, next door to the theatre and I’ll just remind myself, right here, to order  Maine Maple Walnut again next year.

On to York ME, where we’d intended to spend one night at an ocean-front campsite, to catch our breath. Set up our chairs along the ocean’s edge, opened a bottle of wine – and found we had no power.  Wound up driving into Portsmouth, NH to a Home Depot, where Dick repaired a power cord in the parking lot.

So, of course, we had to stay another night.  Took a couple of beautiful walks down the coast, and had dinner and breakfast at a nearby restaurant.

Libby’s Oceanside Camp, York, ME

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