Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A few days in New York

May 31, 2011 from Croton Point Park at Croton-on-Hudson, NY
We’ve spent a few days in the Empire State so that we could go see our first grandson, Oscar, who is now nine months old.
Oscar May 28, 2011 010
We got to see him at Christmas and how he has changed in five months.  He is a happy and active child with lots of charm.
Oscar is the first-born child for our son, Jamison and daughter-in-law, Jane.  They live in the Hamilton Heights neighborhood of Harlem, NY and commute daily into Manhattan where Jamison is an associate editor at Grove/Atlantic, Inc.  http://www.groveatlantic.com/  and Jane is on the staff of the American Museum of Natural History http://www.amnh.org/ .
These two young adults stay slim with a lot of walking, including the 64 steps up to their apartment.  Speaking of walking, both days that we were in New York we took long walks around the neighborhood and were amazed at the amount of parks, community gardens and well-tended kiddie playgrounds and athletic fields we saw.  We even went past a permanent carousel in the park.
Oscar May 28, 2011 068
The carousel is located in Riverbank State Park alongside of the Hudson River.
We also strolled past this work-in-progress on the complete rehabilitation of the only known residence of Alexander Hamilton -- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_Hamilton The site is officially named Hamilton Grange National Memorial, Manhattan Sites, NY, NY.
More NYC.Oscar 010

The park we are in is about 50 miles north of Manhattan.  To get into the city we drove 2 miles to the Metra North train station at Croton-on-Hudson where we could park all day for a reasonable price and got half-prices senior tickets for a very fast and very comfortable commuter rail line trip into the city.  We caught an express train both days so each one way commute was about 35 minutes.  From the train station it was a $12 or $13 cab ride to the kids apartment.
How many of you remember a scene like this from your working days:
Oscar May 28, 2011 004
We sure don’t miss those trains.
Today we drove 30 miles north to Monroe, NY to stock up on groceries at Walmart and to check out a possible “escape route” from the area.  Because this is mountainous country with many winding roads we wanted to check out this route.  As it turns out, it will work for us.  Bonus:  our Illinois Tollway I-Pass works on the EZ-Pass system in the northeast and New England states. Sure beats fumbling for the wallet.
We got this view of the Hudson River which flows right past our park.
More NYC.Oscar 029
And here is a picture of where we are parked.
Thursday we head for Maine.
Stay tuned.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Monticello and Michie Tavern

Tuesday, May 24 --from Charlottesville, VA
We arrived in the rolling hills of north central Virginia yesterday afternoon and it is  truly beautiful countryside.
Monticello 034
Today we went to see Monticello.  It is not to be missed.  As you all know the land was Jefferson’s boyhood home and as an adult he built a remarkable home on the top of a low mountain that today -– some two hundred and forty-some odd years later -- stands as a shrine to our third president.
We took one of the paid guided tours. You simply could not get an appreciation for all of the history there without a tour.  As a matter of fact, you can’t see the inside of Monticello without a ticket.  And that is good because no tax funds are used to restore or maintain the nearly 3,000 acres of the plantation’s gardens and buildings.
Monticello 001
An abundance of flowers on the path to the visitors center.
The entire estate is one of the most impressive historical sites we have seen in our two years of travel.  The visitors center complex is so tastefully done and not at all commercial.  No junk in the gift shops, no cigarette butts, no trash anywhere -- just beautiful grounds and buildings that are  exemplary in every respect.
Rather than recite a bunch of historical data I’ll let the pictures and brief captions show you what we saw.
Monticello 028
Monticello from the west lawn.
Monticello 005
Thomas Jefferson designed the University of Virginia and from his north terrace he could see the construction of The Rotunda at the University of Virginia which he designed to be the architectural and academic heart of his community of scholars, or what he termed the "academical village."
Monticello 007
Another view of the house.  There are hundreds of magnificent old trees on the property and not one of them dates back to the time of Jefferson.
Monticello 029
Archeological research is constantly being done on the estate.  Here a group of volunteer scholars search for remnants of the original pathways around the grounds.
Monticello 036
Vegetable gardens occupy a stretch of terraced land 1000 feet long by 80 feet wide.   Even today as was done more than 200 years ago, fresh vegetables are used in food preparation for guests.  Only now the fed guests are visitors who pay to dine in the cafĂ© at the visitors center.
Along the north and south sides of his home but below grade so as not to detract from the visual beauty of the home, Jefferson designed a series of rooms that he termed “dependencies.”  These rooms housed stables, the kitchen, smoke house, wine storage, beer and cider brewing and more.
Monticello 014
Wine cellar
Monticello 016
This dumbwaiter in the wine cellar is directly below the dining room.
Monticello 015
The wrought iron back of the 2.5 inch thick door to the wine cellar. Theft was a common occurrence on the plantation and keys to food and beverage storage were closely guarded.
Monticello 022
I could not get a photo showing the entire kitchen as it was constantly filled with visitors.  But in the section at the lower left-hand edge of the photo is a row of 7 or 8  charcoal fires in grated cast-iron openings that could be regulated more precisely than a roaring fireplace.  French cuisine was regularly served to the Jeffersons and guests.
Monticello 013
The privy.
Monticello 033
A fresh air vent for the privy located at least 500 feet from the house.
Monticello 012
This cistern-like structure was used to hold ice cut from a nearby river.  As soon as ice reached a thickness of one inch, slabs were cut and stored inside this cylindrical structure.  Among the many uses of ice at Monticello was the making of ice cream.
Monticello 040
Our 3rd president is buried in a location of his choice on the grounds of Monticello.  The grave is maintained by the Jefferson family  and to this day family members may be buried there.  Of all his many notable achievements Jefferson chose just these three to be engraved on his tombstone: “Author of the Declaration of American Independence, of the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom, and Father of the University of Virginia.”
Monticello 047
Following our visit to Monticello we drove to nearby Michie Tavern (circa 1784) where we had one of the best meals in ages.  Then we took a short walk on the tavern grounds and visited this charming old log cabin made of original growth Chestnut that had only recently been moved to the tavern and now houses a gift shop (nothing from China).

It was a busy day.  Tomorrow we head north to Harrisburg PA.
Stay tuned.

If you would like to receive an e-mail notification of when I post a blog, send me your e-mail address and I will add you to the list.  Your notification would be received as a blind carbon, so your address will not be seen by others. 

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Tybee Island, GA

We spent most of the last two days getting to and from Tybee Island and enjoying some of what it has to offer. 
We went there Friday to check it out and as we were getting ready to pay our lunch bill our waiter asked us if we were going to take part in the World's Largest Water Fight that would shut down the main street from 6:00 to 9:00 pm.

Our waiter was a young man and I thought he might be exaggerating a bit when he said that thousands of people all armed with squirt guns would take part.  But at 1:30  (4 and 1/2 hours before the fun begins) people were already setting up.  We saw a pick up truck parked on the main drag on which the owner had lined the cargo bed with heavy plastic and filled the bed with water. 

water tank
This guy is carrying a huge water supply. (Photo above and below courtesy of Kate Stratman)
look out
Here an unsuspecting dry pedestrian is about to get very wet.
We returned to Tybee to meet up with Kate and Rocky Stratman.  Kate has been a friend of Sandy’s for close to 40 years.  After dinner we drove our friends back to their hotel and all of the dust and pollen on our car was blasted away by “friendly fire”.
Saturday morning returning from our walk I came across this Corn Snake.  Non-venomous and very pretty. Look carefully in the center of the photo. At the time I took the photo I thought the snake might be poisonous so I did not want to get too close.
Skidaway 008
The park trail we walked Friday morning took us deep in the woods where we came across what remains of this moonshine still.  No samples.
Skidaway 001
We went back to Tybee Island this afternoon to take a tour of Fort Pulaski and then to have an early dinner with Kate and Rocky.
Rocky and Kate on the boardwalk.

We got lucky on our visit to Fort Pulaski as they were firing cannons today.  The park rangers warned and instructed us to fully cover our ears as the sound of the cannon going off would be really loud.  It was.
more tybee 006
This cannon was the latest technology during the Civil War.  The inside of the barrel has a spiral groove which causes the shell to rotate thereby increasing accuracy.  This 30 pound shell contained gunpowder and could travel more than two miles.
The fort has a great 20 minute educational film in the Visitors Center that was well worth the time.
We learned that the fort took 30 years to build and about 30 minutes of Union Civil War cannon technology to breach the seven foot thick walls.
more tybee 013
We had a great time.  Tomorrow we begin our slow journey north.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Georgia on My Mind

From Skidaway Island State Park near Savannah, Georgia.

We finally got out of Ocala, FL but not without buying a few groceries for a dental surgeon and a general dentist.  Sandy and I have appointments for follow-up visits and procedures that begin in November and won't end until March or April of 2012.  We'll get these done in Ocala rather than elsewhere because we can't start the implant process until November. Besides,  Florida is a lot warmer in winter than a lot of other states.  And I guess that makes us real "snowbirds."

Skidaway State Park is a favorite of seasoned RVers and we can see why.  The park is huge and the RV sites are spacious.  There are beautiful walking trails, cool breezes and quiet nights. 

We've done some neat things in the past few days.  First we drove to the old part of Savannah (well I guess most of it is really old) to take a guided tour and walk around and see some of the squares for which Savannah is so well known and to look at the beautiful old homes.  

The next day we drove to Beaufort, SC  and again visited the historic residential section of the town.  We walked around, had a nice lunch and more than once raved at the beauty of these antebellum homes. 

This one is for sale. Below is a typical street in the historic district.

Today we drove to Hilton Head Island, SC to visit Joe Distelheim and his lovely wife, Dottie.  Joe and I were journalism majors at Northern Illinois University.  In my senior year (1962), Joe was sports editor and I was news editor.  Joe later became editor-in-chief in his senior year (1964).  It is notable that the student newspaper, The Northern Star, earned national acclaim while both of us were on the staff.  Joe gets more of the credit than I do.

And here are the four of us:  Sandy, me, Joe and Dottie.

After some sightseeing on the island, we visited one of Joe and Dottie's favorite walking paths and took these two photos.  

Tomorrow we visit Tybee Island to catch up with more friends.

Stay tuned.