Friday, September 5, 1986
I picked up Kyle and Erich, then fish and chips from Carrie’s to arrive home by 16:30 when we expected Kent. He was delayed at work and got home at 17:00. We ate and packed the car to leave at 17:30. Drove up RI-146/MA-146 to the Mass Turnpike. Once the Turnpike entered NY, we paid the $2.60 toll and turned north on the Taconic State Parkway after paying 25¢ to leave I-87/NY Thruway. Followed NY-199 east to NY-308 south, then mistakenly took NY-9G south instead of waiting for US-9. At East Park we took County 41 one mile east to Hyde Park and US-9. The radar detector was very effective on this trip. We found the Dutch Patroon Motel south of Hyde Park and checked in. We had difficulty finding our room, and I went back in for re-direction. After we unpacked, we went across the street to Dairy Queen for ice cream.
At the motel we had a “suite” of two rooms and a bath, and two walk-in closets. Old cottage-type rickety pine furniture circa 1960. The boys had twin beds in the back room, and there was a double bed and cot in the front room; all this for $50/night. Kent didn’t think it was up to AAA standards.
Saturday, September 6, 1986
We went across the street to Burger King for breakfast. Kyle had stomach cramps the night before and felt funny this morning, so he just nibbled at breakfast. We drove over to West Point, taking US-9 to Poughkeepsie, then I-90 to the Newburgh Bridge and US-9W to NY-218 that took us around Storm King above the Hudson River. The clouds were low over the mountain. We passed Lee Gate to enter Washington Gate at West Point, passing the laundry, hospital, and officers’ quarters. Passed the Catholic Chapel of the Most Holy Trinity (1900) that was built in Norman Gothic style after St Ethelreda Carthusian Abbey Church in London, England. This church seemed like it should be smaller.
The new Eisenhower Hall (1974) loomed below. We rounded Trophy Point with Revolutionary War relics and the Battle Monument (1897, designed by Stanford White), then stopped at the Kosciuszko Monument (1828, statue by D Borja added in 1913) to see some Civil War cannon.
|Tadeusz Kościuszko Monument|
|West Point view of mountains|
A football booster banner exclaimed: ”Slam Dunk Syracuse.” Found a statue of Gen Thayer (1883), who was the father of the Military Academy. Erich had to use the restroom and fortunately one was found. We walked past the gym, and kept finding our way blocked by signs saying “Admittance by West Point Personnel Only.” So no barracks or academics for us. Back at the car, the boys bounced a basketball in the parking lot, which was the roof of the Thayer Academic Building. Their juice boxes attracted bees! I wandered around the parking lot to add to the list of state license plates we saw.
Finally the museum opened, and admission was free. Saw a model of the Hudson steamboat Mary Powell, and passed the gift shop. It seems they are planning on moving the museum to the former Ladycliffe College Academic Building. Passed through a gallery of military art into rooms showing uniforms, insignia, bounty, toy soldier panoramas, Indian headdresses and peace pipes, and weapons: lances, swords, rifles, and rocket launchers from all areas and all eras. Saw Herman Goering’s dagger, the samurai sword of Tomoyuki Yamashita (a general of the Japanese Imperial Army), Il Duce’s black hat, etc. Downstairs were further exhibits including Frank Borman’s spacesuit; he had attended West Point. Also a WWI tank and numerable other military artifacts. Interesting and just long enough.
We left to drive farther through the grounds, passing an MP with a speed radar. We stopped to see a line of antique and near-antique cars in great condition.
Passed the Thayer Hotel (1925-1926) at the Thayer Gate, and circled around to find the Cadet Chapel (1910, designed by Bertram Goodhue, Ralph Adams Cram, and Frank Ferguson in Gothic revival style) up on the hill, where we had a great view down on campus. Went inside to see the many stained glass windows in a myriad of colors showing a whole bunch of personae from the Bible and sainthood. Also saw the extensive controls for the organ, one of the largest in the world with 18,000 pipes from the size of smaller than a lead pencil to 32 feet long and weighing 500 pounds. Whew!
We drove out Thayer Gate and took US-9W north to the Mid-Hudson Bridge at Poughkeepsie, then US-9 to our Burger King for lunch. Kyle was okay for this meal. On the way up on US-9, we passed the Culinary Institute of America (CIA!) on wonderful grounds with the typical Hudson Valley Gothic building, formerly a Jesuit seminary.
It turned into a delightful sunny day with puffy white clouds. We went to the hotel to let the boys play basketball. Unfortunately the swimming pool didn’t have the filter turned on, and since Erich was tired of basketball, he complained he had nothing to do.
And so we went to FDR’s home. It only cost $1.50 each to enter and that included the Vanderbilt Mansion.
|FDR complex ticket|
In the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Library and Museum were rooms devoted to each of FDR and his wife, Eleanor, telling of families and early life. They were actually fifth cousins. Other rooms explained the Presidency and had his White House desk, and chronologued his public life with letters, manuscripts, and photos. There was his study, and downstairs was an exhibit of America at Sea; apparently the Roosevelts were in shipping or ships. On the other side were his iceboats and Phaeton automobile with hand controls, and a sampling of gifts from admirers. We then wandered past the apple trees towards the house, but first stopped at their marble gravestone in the rose garden.
Then to the icehouse and through the very nice stables. This house is where FDR was born and raised, and where he later lived during summers when in the White House. We peeked through a window to see his office called the Summer White House. We entered the house where the foyer was the most ornate room. A little pamphlet was our guide, and we read how many famous personages had visited here. The Main Hall had the heavy Italian furniture, but the rest of the house seemed tastefully furnished. We noted the old television in the Snuggery (FDR’s mother’s sitting room). The so-called Dresden room had a grand piano. We climbed the stairs to the second floor and noted the door to the elevator that FDR used. We peeked into the many bedrooms, including his boyhood and birthing rooms, rooms of distinguished guests, and in the new wing, FDR’s bedroom with a dressing room where his simple wheelchair was displayed. There was also the paraphernalia of his famous dog, Fala, the Scottie. Next door was Eleanor’s room, and then a room where his mother last lived.
We left via an outside stairway from the second floor and walked around the back of the house. There was a porch on each of three sides. The kids had had it, having energy only for basketball, so we drove back to the motel.
I went by myself to the Vanderbilt Mansion (1896-1899, designed by McKim, Mead & White in American Beaux-Arts style), which is now a National Park. I presented my ticket for the 16:40 tour. While waiting I walked around to see the small exhibits in The Pavilion, which had been the temporary home while the main mansion was being built for Frederick W Vanderbilt, grandson of “Commodore” Cornelius Vanderbilt. Mrs. F W Vanderbilt was a party giver, but also a great philanthropist and her husband, too, also gave much to society. I found a couple postcards, and a park ranger fellow took them asking where I was from and didn’t believe me. Then he asked what my husband did, and I said I don’t have one, and he got flustered and screwed up the total cost of two postcards! I went out to photograph the mansion and the great view of the Hudson River. As I headed back to join the tour, the guide intercepted me to ask how long I was in the area and to say he was glad I was joining his tour and to forgive him for staring at me. What is wrong with men these days?!
He began the tour by talking about the Hudson River: 315 miles long, unless you count the 1,000-mile current to Bermuda. The deepest point is 216 feet at West Point and the widest point at 3.5 miles is at the Tappan Zee. Dutch on the west bank, French Huguenot and German on the east. Once the river contained 10-foot, 200 pound sturgeon and the Dutch began a caviar business.
Next we got the family tree of the Vanderbilts, including their respective homes. This Vanderbilt mansion is relatively small with 54 rooms where the Biltmore in Asheville, NC has 54 bathrooms! As part of the deal, the architectural firm included some tables designed by Stanford White. The house was typical of the Gilded Age. The central foyer had marble imported from Italy and a second story skylight. Once we entered, we were free to roam and peek into the rooms, but the guide collared me to show off a Japanese bowl in the dining room. He then gave me his thumbnail autobiography: poor/no money, in Vietnam flying helicopters, shot down, stayed 12 years to earn money, returned to US to buy ski slope in Hunter and I could come ski for free. I managed to edge away to be able to check out all the rooms. Even though so ornate, it seemed somehow more manageable in smaller rooms. There were many tapestries. We were then allowed upstairs and I kept myself in a crowd to look into the bedrooms. Mr’s was red plush, and Mrs’ was French, with a railing around the bed to keep merchants at a distance. The bathroom had brass fixtures and purple glassware (cups, bowls, etc.). Other rooms were less ornate. We then went down the servants’ stairs and peeked in the upper butler’s pantry with great woodwork. In the basement we saw the dumb waiter, and the neat hall to the former servants’ quarters. Peeked in the kitchen and the very nice servants’ dining room. We were let go, and the guide walked along with me asking if I was going to see the grounds and he’d accompany me. I then decided to leave and asked him the time, which led him to explain his watch didn’t work but he wore it because his wrist was white under it, and yet his tan made him look black. He said he had some Indian blood, and how he flies planes to keep his license, commutes 90 miles to this job that is like a hobby in the summer since he likes history, he teaches skiing in the winter, has been in a couple movies: one as a state trooper that is opening in New York City. He and his friends have a magazine and he writes ghost stories, did a research article on the difference between black and white women that he also presented at Seneca Falls, etc., etc., etc. He wanted to know if I was coming back and to send him a postcard (he gave me his address),
and I was the first woman he talked to since his mother died sixteen months ago. I had to make my excuses and made a beeline for the car. As I drove away there were more great views of the Hudson River.
I looked for eating places along US-9. Back at the motel, Kent and Erich were asleep and Kyle was tired. The toilet was backed up, so I went at the restaurant next door when we went for dinner at The Coppola. We ordered the child’s ravioli for Kyle, the child’s macheroni for Erich with sausage, eggplant parmigiana for me and veal for Kent that came with escarole soup and salads, and side orders of gnocchi. It was all very good, but Kyle didn’t like his. He didn’t even want to eat bread or breadsticks. He finally decided he was nauseous and he was also hot. Kent took him back to the motel. Erich and I finished eating and got Kent’s meal to go. I paid the bill and Erich got the after dinner mints. It was hot inside the room, so Kent and Kyle were sitting outside. We watched Kent eat, then played Uno until bedtime. After the kids were in bed, Kent went to visit with Al S and his family.
Sunday, September 7, 1986
We left to drive around the smaller town of Rhinecliff right on the water’s edge, with a train station taking up a third of the town. We returned in a drizzle to Rhinebeck to the Village Green, a square surrounded by apartments. We parked to read and I decided to take an antihistamine for my aching sinuses. We left the square at 12:45 to arrive at Valeur at 13:00. Guests were asked to arrive by 13:30, so we were early enough. We hiked down to the bluffs to view the Hudson and a caterpillar, and for all the boys to relieve themselves.
We went into the manor house at 13:30 and Al was there to greet the guests. I used the restroom that was a real bathroom with a tub. The rooms were set up as salons in probably post-Victorian style. We got drinks: Perrier or coffee, then joined the others in a large tent in the back. Lovely floral arrangements on tables; a large anemone chrysanthemum in the center surrounded by small iris spiking out and lemon grass rising above them all. A band was playing café music as the place began filling up for the 14:00 wedding. We managed to get chairs.
An Episcopalian minister arrived, then Al’s stepsons-to-be escorted the mothers to their seats. Al and his best man arrived, then a little music before the step-daughter-to-be preceded her mother, the bride. Donna was elegant in a satin sheen gown with a perky hat. This ceremony seemed to be a semi-Mass, and was very nice. Al and Donna were pronounced husband and wife and they walked out as a couple. The guests bunched up after them, and we sat a while before joining the reception line. We introduced ourselves to Donna’s parents, then congratulated Al and Donna. Next were the maid of honor, Kathy, and the step-daughter, then Al’s mother and the three step-sons.
We got drinks and went to check out the hors d’oeuvres tables. The central one was laden with vegetables with two tiers of whole ones arranged like a cornucopia/horn of plenty with cauliflowers, peppers, and squash, and Brussel sprouts were strewn on the tables. Two flat baskets held carrots and potatoes, with celery and peppers, etc. The munchie trays had carrot sticks, zucchini strips, pepper strips, and lots of what looked like uncooked French fries (which was jicama, a crisp sweet fruit). Dips were placed in hollowed out pepper- or zucchini-halves. At one end was the cheese table with Muenster, cheddar and Swiss chunks arranged with raspberries, strawberry halves, diagonally-sliced peaches, and a brie en croute. There were also crackers and grapes, and melon balls. The hot hors d’oeuvres table had sweet rolls and raisin bread, stuffed lamb, and lemon sautéed reformed lobster clawlettes. Shared a cheese plate with Kent and had a hot hors d’oeuvres plate. The dancing began and Kent suggested we take a walk! We explored the rooms upstairs, also set up as salons except one was a conference room with modern lime-green chairs. We could see that the bride and groom had their dressing rooms up here. We went back to the food tables to munch.
Began saying goodbye to Al’s family, Donna, and finally Al who walked us to the car. Kent changed pants and shortly after 16:00 we were on the road again. Didn’t stop (except at red lights, stop signs, toll booths) until we got gas just off the Mass Turnpike. Home by 20:00 and ordered dinner from Caserta’s (pepperoni pizza and a Wimpy Skippy).