Posts Tagged ‘New York’

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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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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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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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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Springwood Estate - Roosevelt Home in Hyde Park


FDR was born in this house, and he’s buried here in the Rose Garden.  Most everyone knows a fair amount about all that happened in between.  It’s the third Roosevelt home we’ve toured since we got the Navion almost two years ago (search “FDR’s Little White House, Georgia” and “Campobello Island, NewBrunswick”) and each place adds some more pieces to the puzzle.  This stop was a trifecta since the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library  and Museum (first presidential library in America – and the only one actually used by a sitting president) are also on the grounds, and Eleanor Roosevelt’s cottage, Val-Kill, is close by.

I always find something new about FDR’s character to admire, new examples of strength, resiliency, or good humor – and something additional to make me want to shake him. Really, could the man not live or go anywhere without his mother?   Touring the family home, imagining Eleanor starting married life here in her mother-in-law’s house, having to spend so much time here throughout the years, always in Sara’s debt, always under her control, with a husband whose loyalties seem always sadly misplaced – well, it made me want to whoop for joy when we got to tour Val-Kill,  Elanor’s sanctuary cottage and after Franklin’s death, her permanent home.

Eleanor really came to life there, through the eyes of our tour guide, who had actually known her, and had dined at Val-Kill with her husband many times while he was researching the history of a group of disadvantaged boys that Eleanor used to invite there.  What a generous, kind and courageous woman she was – in addition to making such a difference in the course of our history.

The Presidential Library and Museum kept us busy for the rest of the day.  As soon as visiting hours were over, we headed back to “Shadows on the Hudson”, the riverfront restaurant in Poughkeepsie where we’d had my birthday dinner the night before on the way back to the campground.  I did a complete repeat – sirloin with cabernet demi-glace and roasted garlic aioli, mashed potatoes,etc. but this time  they brought me a huge piece of chocolate birthday cake with a candle.  That’s definitely more of a surprise when it’s not your birthday.

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Lindenwald - Home of President Martin Van Buren



Olana, Home of Frederic Church


I shouldn’t have labelled them, but I’ll bet you could guess. (BTW, I always use only pictures I’ve personally taken, except for the above of Lindenwald.  I didn’t bring the camera along, and really wanted to compare images of both.  Yay Flickr and people who share.)

Both of their lives left me feeling a little melancholy,  at the end of the day. Which is strange considering what they achieved – one became President of the United States, helped organize the Democratic Party (funny, how much it sounds like the Republican Party of today) –  the other became one of the most important, successful landscape artists in America.  Lindenwald, an existing home, grew and changed to accomodate grown children and grandchildren after Van Buren, a one-term president, long-widowed,  retired there after his second, unsuccessful presidential run.  Olana was built, by Church, on a spectacular site overlooking the Hudson River, a Persian work of art, inspired by his trips to the Middle East. But ultimately, his reign ended too, his painting style fell out of favor, his ability to paint at all was crippled by arthritis, and in his final years, he poured most of his artistic energies into creating and developing different aspects of the house and grounds.

I don’t know which one lived a happier life or more productive life.  I do know which view I covet most.


Church's Landscape


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Make that wet. Very wet.  But it was cool to be able to stay right on the grounds.  And easy to live without power for one night.

And for those of you who don’t know what the BIG-E is – we didn’t-  it’s the Eastern States Exposition,  kind of  like a humongous state fair, sponsored by Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont and New Hampshire. It’s been held in West Springfield, MA, since hoof and mouth disease changed the cattle fair venue from Chicago. Decades ago.

View of the BIG-E Midway, out rain-streaked bedroom window

We’d spent the previous day, hunkered down at a campground within striking distance of the BIG-E.  The weather reports had scared us off, we were prepared for raging winds up to 40-50 miles an hour, flooding, perhaps tornados?  After all our precautions, nothing serious really materialized until early morning – and even then it wasn’t that bad, so we waited a few more hours, then finally  just decided to just go, come hell or high water.

We descended from our Sodom Mountain Campground (yes – actual name) and like Emily (smart daughter-in-law) advised, didn’t look back. We had no problems getting to the BIG-E, or getting our overnight parking space.  The BIG-E parking guys were amazingly cheerful and friendly, totally drenched and standing in mud.  They apologized and said we needed to park up on a dike.  No problem – it was muddy, but looked safer than the parking lot.  And we didn’t even level.

We then became part of a mass of  fair-goers, everyone picking their own entrance route – our choice took us sloshing through mud and water, balancing on log beams, clinging to chain length fences, leaping or jumping here and there, until we finally arrived at Gate 9.

Highlights?  BLUE RIBBON goes to the chick hatching display.  I’ve stood at chick hatching displays for eternities in the past, watching various stages of the process – but this was the first time I saw one egg turn completely into one, wet, bedraggled, exhausted little chick. It took Herculean effort, and was truly awe-inspiring.  SECOND PLACE – a food stand offering both deep-fried butter, and deep-fried jelly beans.  Believe it or not, Dick and I really wanted to try them both (mostly to be able to tell our son and daughter-in-law that we did so) but, we were at the time carrying one big bag from – THIRD PLACE – Storrowtown Tavern, huge helpings of Yankee Pot Roast, Chicken Pie in Puff Pastry, mounds of mashed potatoes and squash, which we couldn’t finish because we ate too much for lunch there earlier in the day,  AND a bag with a gigantic Cream Puff and Chocolate Eclair.  Because someone at the campground that morning had told me we shouldn’t leave without sampling them.

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Wonderful park, lovely sunset. We meet next-door neighbors from Argentina.  They have a European rig. Also a nice couple who are living out of a Sprinter van.

 Lake Erie Sunset

Lake Erie Sunset


Lake Erie sunset

Lake Erie sunset

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