New York

A Tourist in New York City

A Tourist in New York City

I went into to full on tourist mode this weekend in New York City.  There are so many things to do in the Big Apple, and I just never tire of visiting NYC!  It was great to reconnect with my friend Kristin too. Continue reading “A Tourist in New York City”

New York

NYC! Top Parks and Places to See

David and I were supposed to go to NYC for my birthday two weeks ago, but we got snowed into Denver with the cancellation of 800 flights 24 hours before the snow even started. Oh well, what was going to be beautiful 75 degree weekend in NYC a few weeks ago turned into a rainy, damp overcast weekend visit for the Derby Weekend. Continue reading “NYC! Top Parks and Places to See”

New York

A Tribute to 9/11

Worth watching every minute of this video on 9/11. I never thought about evacuating off the island of Manhattan, especially when all roads were cut off and public transportation shutdown. This is the first time I’d seen this type of media coverage on the tragedy.

New York

Visiting NYC in September!

Visiting NYC

Visiting NYC is always entertaining. It’s probably my favorite city in the world, and I like to go every year if I can. Well I suppose I can. I just have to make time for it.  Everyone has 24 hours in a day and can choose how to spend it.  Traveling is important to me as it makes me happy, so I make time for it.

The US Open enticed my mom and I to venture to NYC this weekend. I went to the US Open last year and enjoyed it so much I wanted my mom to go since she is such a big tennis fan. We arrived on Tuesday via uneventful flights (YAY!), though she had a much better taxi driver than I did! Continue reading “Visiting NYC in September!”

New York

A Wonderful Weekend in NYC!!

Boy did we ever have an action packed weekend in NYC…the US Open, a nice dinner, the Book of Mormon, the Cloisters, the Moma, visiting friends, interesting subway rides and more! Continue reading “A Wonderful Weekend in NYC!!”

New York

Day 40 – New York’s Hudson River Valley Part 2

Hudson River Valley, New York (yesterday)

Before I left the house today and enjoyed the headline and picture in the local paper, I walked down to the house where the float was being finished off.  The wheel turned, the scarecrow’s arms moved just as if it was full of straw, and the float was loaded onto the trailer ready to participate in the parade.  Being Saturday, I thought getting off the Island would be easier than getting on across all the bridges on Friday afternoon, but the traffic was horrific.  I think I shared the road with more cars in the last 12 hours than in the last 40 days of my trip.

I made two stops today.  First I went to Tarrytown which is home to several estates, Philipsburg Manor (portrayed in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow), Lyndhurst (“a baronial Gothic Revival home”), and Sunnyside (Washington Irving’s home).  In the spirit of Halloween events were being held at several of the homes.  Philipsburg Manor operates as a haunted house at night…that would have been fun to attend!

I chose to visit Washington Irving’s home.  Washington Irving was the first famous, American author who wrote The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle.  The events of the day at Sunnyside included a magic show, a story-telling time, a spooky walk, scarecrow-making and more.  I toured Irving’s home which he purchased in 1835.  He spent the next several years remodeling the small stone cottage by adding a variety of romantic architecture features to the building including a Spanish tower, an Italian Piazza, and Dutch-stepped gables.

After my visit to Sunnyside, I took the dogs to Manitoga, the home and designed landscape of Russel Wright.  In 1930’s through the 1950’s, Wright was one of the best known designers of home furnishings in America.  He sounds like someone my mom would know.  Wright purchased an 80 acre parcel of land in 1942 that had been damaged by logging and quarrying.  Over the next 30 years, Wright restored the land making the area full of trails to look completely natural.

After our walk through the woods, we headed back to the Walmart where we stayed a few days ago after I stopped for a healthy dinner at Cracker Barrel. ETB

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New York

Day 39 – New York’s Hudson River Valley

Hudson River Valley, New York (2 days ago)

I started the day out touring West Point.  My grandfather briefly attended here until it was determined he had cheated on the vision test by memorizing the eye chart, and he got kicked out.  The military requires excellent vision.  West Point is a self-contained community with its own post office, shopping, grocery and the like.  The tour was fantastic.  We first stopped at the chapel where we could get a glimpse of the back of the barracks where the cadets enjoy fun events in the courtyard as well as walking off their demerits.  Obviously, with very little free time, walking off demerits for five hours at a time is not the most enjoyable for them.  If the cadets rack up over 100 demerits, they join the century club of which two of our presidents were members, Grant and Eisenhower.

The chapel, technically a cathedral, but called a chapel in the military, is home to the largest pipe organ in a religious building in the world.  The pipes all range in size anywhere between a pencil and over 30 feet.  Inside the chapel, the hymnals are placed in measured alignment and flags from different times of the United States hang overhead.  In addition, a row, marked with a candle always sits empty no matter how many church goers are in attendance as it honors those missing in action.

After visiting the chapel, we stopped at the most photographed place at West Point, the point with the view of the Hudson River.  Next to this point, a statue inscribed with civil war leaders’ names stands in the middle of a ring of  granite balls sided by canons inscribed with the names of the significant civil war battles.  Another ring of cannons surrounding the monument are buried downward into the ground as a symbol to never fight among ourselves again as graduates of West Point were fighting each other in the war.

One item at West Point that I have never seen was solar power trash compacting trash cans…our government dollars at work?!?  I had to take a picture of it just because I was so surprised by it.  For anyone interested in weaponry, the museum at the visitor’s center is worth a visit…full of all sorts of spears, knifes, guns, all the way up to cases for atomic bombs and small tanks.

After my tour of West Point, the dogs and I took a walk at Bear Mountain State Park along with what seemed like a Japanese photography class.  We walked around a lake and up the Appalachian Trail about half way to the summit to which we had previously driven.  Fall foliage surrounded the sometimes steep, rocky trail, while geese floated peacefully in the lake.  Soon I headed toward Long Island.

My cousin Danny and his wife Allison hooked me up for an evening at their house in Long Island.  I met Liam here, an Irish Merchant Ship Captain who just got his European Flying License.  He is looking to meet the US FAA regulations as well.  He went into the City for the night while Danny, Allison, and I went to an Irish Pub in the neighborhood to watch the Rangers beat the Yankees! That was fun in a New York Bar.  After the Rangers win, we stopped to check on their daughter Claire’s Sophomore class float they were working on for homecoming tomorrow.  The theme was Wizard of Oz and the float was great.  I’m curious to know if they won. ETB

websites:  http://nysparks.state.ny.us/parks/13/details.aspx, www.usma.edu/visiting.asp

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New York, Vermont

Day 20 – Lake Champlain Loop and the Adirondacks

Lake Champlain – Vermont/New York

So, I didn’t watch the sunset with Kord, as he was putting his kids down, but I did get a picture or two.  It wasn’t the best view for a sunset anyway.  We did end up sitting by the campfire until late.  He’s an ex tennis pro, who coached tennis at William and Mary.  The women’s tennis team was 8th in the country.  He has written an unpublished children’s book about Ollie the Camel and Goat the Sheep.   At one point he was planning on running for Congress on the Republican ticket, but I didn’t get the details on that.

Today I finished the southwestern part of the loop around Lake Champlain.  I drove through Port Henry, Westport, and Essex.  Not too much to report there.  I was planning on stopping in Essex at one of the “harbor’s charming cafes” for coffee, but I didn’t see one.  There were about 5 buildings and a ferry.  Perhaps I missed something.  I continued on to Willsboro Point.

Willsboro Point  is home to New York State’s first fish ladder that “affords migrating salmon a chance to overleap Willsboro Dam”.  I think I arrived after their travels for spawning season…I didn’t see any salmon.  None the less, I wanted to see a fish ladder as I don’t recall ever seeing one.

I had some extra time on my hands because none of the planned stops took very long, so I drove back to Lake Placid.  I spent part of the afternoon in the deli charging my computer and adding onto my maps.  I have succeeded in shorting out the 12 volt battery system in the back of the van, so I don’t have a charging mechanism unless I camp on electric.  Vermont’s state parks don’t seem to have electric.  After a chicken sandwich, Scout, Petey, and I went for a hike in the High Peaks Wilderness area near Lake Placid.

I chose a popular hike, judging by the cars.  I think it was called Cascade Falls Trail.  It was a 2.4 mile trail, so we just planned to walk for an hour.  I have finally figured out the trails in the Adirondacks are on waterfall beds that are active in the spring when the snow melts, but dry in the summer and fall unless of course it’s been raining.  I watched some people sink four inches into the mud.  Scout, Petey, and I maneuvered gingerly over the rocks, trying to avoid the mud at all costs.

I met Eric and Patty from Saratoga here.  Eric had an app that updated him on sports, so I got the run down…Rangers in first place…Cowboys didn’t play…the Jets are 3-1…Yankees and Tampa Bay were tied for the lead in their division…forgot to ask about the Giants.  Of course they didn’t like the Cowboys.  I asked what the media thought of Bill Parcells in New York, and they said he was loved.  I wish he were still the coach for the Cowboys…he built the team…I gave them 3 years to fall apart once he left.  I hope I’m wrong!  Patty took a handful of pictures…I’m looking forward to seeing them.

It was a nice little walk.  We turned around and crossed back over Lake Champlain via ferry.  It’s weird to see the picture of your car on the GPS in the middle of the lake!  I met up with Kord again.  He knew of a private campground on the river not far from the direction I was heading in the morning.  He cooked me chicken and mushroom ravioli!  I plan on meeting up with him tomorrow night too. ETB

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Mountain Goat Keychain thumbnail

New York, Vermont

Day 18 – Lake Champlain Loop

What a surprise…I awoke to rain, albeit a sprinkle relative to the last 24 hours.  My plan today was to complete a portion of the Lake Champlain Loop, driving from Whiteface Mountain all the way to the Canadian/New York/Vermont border and then south through some of Vermont’s islands in the lake.

I breifly stopped by Whiteface Mountain to see about taking the gondola ride.  I really wanted an overhead view of Lake Placid.  The chalkboard at the desk claimed a temparature of 46 degrees and visibility of 100 feet.  While visibility of 100 feet would have been nice for some of my SCUBA diving trips, it wasn’t enough to entice me to the top of the mountain.  Instead, I took a picture of the falls nearby the ski center and navigated to my next stop, Ausable Chasm.

Aside from it being down right COLD and RAINY, the chasm was awesome.  Instead of taking a “tour of nature”, I just took pictures from the roadside bridge and again, just looking down stopped me in my tracks.  The canyon’s sandstone walls are between 100 and 200 feet high, and the river, especially with all the rain, raged beneath the bridge almost creating a whirlpool.  Ausable Chasm was one of America’s first tourist attractions, and I can see why…a magnificent site.

I continued on to Plattsburgh and decided to take advantage of the light sprinkle and take a walk.  The weathermen predicted that the rain would clear out by the afternoon, but if they are anything like the weathermen in Texas, my migraine plagued head can determine the pressure systems better than they can.  Thus ye of little faith who also tried being optimistic to no avail yesterday, settled for a city walk with the mutts.  First, we stopped at the obelisk across from city hall that commemorates the last major naval battle during the War of 1812 – a victory for the American fleet.  According to Reader’s Digest, the obelisk is a tribute to Commodore Thomas Macdonough’s imagination, who “using a cat’s cradle of anchors and winches, was able to pivot his ships completely around in order to deliver double broadside to the British fleet.”

Being in the public finance arena for twelve years, I couldn’t help but take a picture of the city hall since it was right across the street.  I spent so much time in buildings like these, once even in lock down mode when it was thought a shooter was in a building, that I had to at least commemorate one municipal building.  I have seen some neat city halls driving through all these towns, too.  Before I left Plattsburg, I enjoyed a coffee at the local coffee shop, Koffee Kats and provisioned VANilla with meals for the next week at Price Chopper.  I was beginning to think I was at Luby’s Cafeteria for the blue hair special.  The man in line behind me determined that it was the first of the month and everyone had received his/her social security or unemployment check. As I left the store, I was suprised to see a parking spot reserved for customers with children right next to the handicap…that’s kind of nice.  A bigger surprise was to pass by a Kmart.  I thought they went out of business…I guess just in Texas.

Somewhere along my drive between Plattsburgh and Rouses Point, I came across a farm that must have had over 50 John Deere tractors lined up in a row in the field.  It reminded me of the Cadillacs half buried upside down along the side of the road near Amarillo.  By the time I thought to take a picture and got the camera, I had already passed about half of them.  This picture is for Brook.  I worked with him at Southwest Airlines, and he collected models of John Deere tractors.

As I crossed the bridge from New York to Vermont, at Reader’s Digest’s suggestion I looked to the left for a “glimpse of the stone ruins of Fort Montgomery”.  Its nickname is Fort Blunder as it was accidentally built on Canadian soil.  I took a picture while driving, so it’s sort of blurry, but I thought the blunder was worth recording.  How many people can say they accidentally built something in the wrong country!

I think the rain actually stopped…though I still had my windshield wipers going for all the spray.  In my book, it was definitely time for a nature walk.  Scout, Petey, and I took a nature trail and boardwalk that looped through the forest, past a pond, and over marshes at Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge.  In some places, we got to wade through inch deep water.  It continues to baffle me to see purple and yellow wildflowers in a field aside forests of fall colors.  For you Texans out there, can you imagine seeing blue bonnets in October?

I continued on to Isle La Motte, known for St. Anne’s Shrine.  St. Anne’s Shrine is the site of the first white settlement and the first Roman Catholic Mass in Vermont, held in 1666.  The site was very large containing historical markers about the French fort, gardens, and different areas of worship.  Just before I left Isle La Motte, I stopped to pick up a cache…one more state checked off the list.  It was hidden in a tree just off the shore of Lake Champlain.  I didn’t even notice all the ducks hiding in the marshy area until they flew away.  It was clearly a hunters paradise as I stepped over a shotgun shell in search of the cache.

I ended the night at Grand Isle State Park…there were only a few campers…I imagine the forecast wasn’t very enticing.  Ashley, one of the rangers, was very helpful.  I took the obligatory two loops around the grounds, picked site 3 that seemed relatively dry, left my computer with Ashley to charge, and went for my final hike of the day with the mutts.  I mistakenly left my camera behind, but most of the time, I was concentrating on not busting it on the slick boardwalk or taking slight detours as to not wade through small streams running down the path!  At least it wasn’t raining.  This state park got state park of the year and is geared toward camping, though most the sites are non-electric.  I am proud to say, that yesterday I learned how to operate my refrigerator on propane and today I purchased a mobile charger for my computer that works for a few hours before it drains VANilla’s second battery, so now I have a few more camping options.

Praying for no rain…ETB.

Websites: www.fws.gov/refuges, www.ausablechasm.com, www.islelamotte.org, www.saintannesshrine.org, www.vtstateparks.com/htm/grandisle.htm

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blue spring website copy

New York

Day 17 – Adirondack Adventure Part 2

Yesterday’s post – Upstate NY

Today I woke up to rain in Ames. I was so exhausted, I could have slept two more hours and what was the rush in leaving given the weather. I had to get my oil changed (required every 5K miles or I lose my warranty), and I’ve wanted to go to Lake Placid my entire life, so I wanted to give myself some time there. Linda’s friend Staci suggested that I go to Millennium Express Lube in Amsterdam, so Linda led the way. It was so nice of her to direct me, as I probably would have never found it. I was expecting to post Day 16 while waiting to get my oil changed, but when I asked how long it would take, they said 10 minutes…WOW! Mike worked on VANilla. They changed the oil, checked all the fluids, and even let me keep my mutts in the car despite the no pets sign! They were awesome and sent me on my way in record time.

I planned on driving North from Lake George to Lake Placid with a few stops in between. A high school classmate, Alison, who was one of the smartest girls in our grade and who is still extremely active with the school was curious to know how I liked Lake George as she had enjoyed a wonderful vacation with her family there. Unfortunately, I can’t elaborate much on Lake George. The best explanation I can give of Lake George is by the photograph to the right. I barely saw it!! The weather was horrendous all day. At least it gives me an excuse to go back.

There were a few pull offs between Lake George and Fort Ticonderoga, my next visit, so the dogs and I stopped for a brief hike. Reader’s Digest writes, “Deer’s Leap, at the base of steep-sided Tongue Mountain, commands a vista back toward the lake’s (Lake George) southern end”, so I decided to take the Deer Leap Trail. It was going to be too long for us to finish, but just getting out for a walk would be nice. I zipped on my rain jacket and off we went. The trail was similar to a damp creek bed, mostly slick rocks canopied by a variety of trees. I was only able to get one picture before my battery went dead in the camera.

I briefly stopped at Fort Ticonderoga, mostly for the splendid views of “the Vermont shore and the distant peaks of the Green Mountain”. The clouds still hadn’t lifted, thus the Green Mountains and Vermont shore were not in view. Fort Ticonderoga was originally constructed by the French in 1755. It was later captured by the British and so named. During the Revolutionary War in 1775, the fort was taken by the Americans. The attack was led by Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold. The victory was short-lived as the British regained control in 1777. It was one scenic view after the next from Fort Ticonderoga to Lake Placid. Speaking of forts, I forgot to mention last week for my soccer friends, if you decide to visit Fort Niagara, bring a soccer ball – it’s in a park with 20+ soccer fields that from a distance look better than Richland!  And for those of you who enjoy history, there has been a historic marker on average every 10 miles since Niagara Falls – you could take days stopping at all of them.

I pulled off countless times to take photos out the car window…still nasty weather. This part of the drive, despite the weather, was definitely my favorite of the last two days in the finger lake region. The road wound through a deep gorge with ponds, a river, and forest lining the edges. The fall colors and high cliffs were dominating.

At last I arrived at Lake Placid. One of the biggest horse shows in the hunter/jumper industry is here in Lake Placid every summer.

show grounds with ski jumps

I always wanted to ride in it, but logistically, it was not one that we would have ever attended as we spent the summers in Oklahoma, Indiana, Tennessee, and Kentucky. I always imagined what it was like, and I was hoping I’d be able to find the show grounds. Surprisingly, the show grounds were on the main road as I drove in, right across from the Olympic Ski Jump! I stopped in the ski jump area because you could buy a ticket to go to the top, but as I thought, the inclement weather clouded the views (no pun intended). The show grounds, while they weren’t exactly how I pictured them were awesome none the less. I have determined that I am going to come back to the Adirondacks with a better plan in a few years: 1. Stay in or near Lake Placid at a place that provides canoes as this lake region logically caters to boaters, 2. Watch the horse show, 3. Buy an Adirondack Park map so I know the location and length of the trails, 4. Visit neighboring communities – Saranac Lake, White Face Mountain, Keene, and 5. Visit more of the Olympic Center.

At the Olympic Center, I saw the rink where “The Miracle on Ice” occurred, with the USA winning the hockey game. I get chills when I watch movies or documentaries on that. I love the Olympics and admire all the Olympians who train so hard to have a chance once every four years…such dedicated athletes. Obviously a lot of it has changed with professionals being able to participate in most events, but it is still an accomplishment.

I tried stopping at High Falls Gorge just outside Lake Placid before searching for a campground, but they closed at 4:30…I was a few minutes too late. I have to say, it’s a little bit of a pet peeve to me when the most scenic areas get so commercialized with a grand entrance and a fee to walk along a river and see a waterfall, and it’s off limits two hours before sunset! I think that may be why I enjoyed Missouri so much. The springs were so beautiful and you could hike to any of them until dark.

As luck would have it, my campsite was around the bend from High Falls Gorge and by walking down the side of the mountain, Scout, Petey, and I saw some magnificent falls. We also got drenched, but we had hardly been out of VANilla all day! The view of the falls was from a slick rock ledge that made me sick to my stomach and slightly dizzy every time I looked down. Despite having skydived and bungy jumped, I’m not that fond of ledges…I’m afraid I’ll accidentally fall. Holding on to two dogs that are not exactly sure footed didn’t help matters. Regardless, the power of the water was tremendous and the trees growing on the rock ledges were amazing to me. Waterfalls = mesmerizing! The rest of the night we spent drying out. ETB

Websites: www.fort-ticonderoga.org, www.gorp.com/parks-guide/, www.gorp.com/weekend-guide/, www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/, www.lakeplacid.com, www.trails.com,

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