Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Aristocratic Lifestye along the Hudson

It was a good day yesterday! Acadia National Park! Maine lobster for lunch! And then a really great hotel experience in Portsmouth. I remember this Best Western when it was a Holiday Inn many years ago. So it still retains a Holiday Inn-like flavor and there was a really great restaurant attached, The Roundabout Diner and Grill. It had a 50's style decor and served all the great soda fountain specialties in addition to a good menu. I had the best hamburger! Juicy, thick, covered with fresh mushrooms and swiss cheese. And homemade whoopie pies for dessert!

Today my route will take me through Massachusetts to eastern NY where I'll get off the interstate and onto Route 9 in NY, riding along the eastern banks of the Hudson River. Along this route I'll visit the homes of some significant historical figures and ride through NY towns with names familiar to all: Kinderhook, Hyde Park, and Poughkeepsie, before crossing over to the western bank of the Hudson River on the Mid-Hudson Bridge.

First stop, just a few miles south of I-90, was the home of Martin Van Buren. Van Buren, our 8th president and first U.S.-born president, struggled to hold the country together amid growing dissentions over the expanding slavery issues, a lingering recession, and issues with Great Britain, Spain and that upstart little nation, the Republic of Texas. On these political grounds, he failed to win a second term as president. It was at this house in Kinderhook that he struggled with the diplomatic issues of these situations.

From here, I continued down 9 through beautiful farmland. Miles and miles of apple orchards, bearing names like Love Apple Orchard and Hawk Orchards, and passing by many little fruit stands selling fresh berries, cherries, and other produce. Travel along this road was relatively painless as there were very few towns along the way and not much traffic. My fears were unwarranted and it looked like I'd make better time than I thought today.

My next stop was the Vanderbilt Estate, now a national park. Wow! Entry was through a really cool high gate, on a narrow little road through giant trees on the estate grounds. Life was very good for the Vanderbilts! The drive wound around the property and took me right in front of the mansion before diverting me to a parking lot near the visitor center. Impressive! Even the visitor center was housed in a beautiful two-story stone house on the grounds. I took a few moments to enjoy the grounds, but did not take the tour. Another trip, when I'm in comfortable clothes and have more time. In fact this whole area of NY is gorgeous and would make a great destination in itself.

Finally, I got back onto 9 and headed just a few miles further south to the Roosevelt compound, which includes the residence and the presidential library. This is a really large compound! It was originally Franklin Roosevelt's childhood home (imagine being neighbors to the Vanderbilts) and it was enlarged and significantly remodeled in his lifetime. I strolled over to the presidential library and then came upon a really great statue of Eleanor and Franklin behind the visitor center.

I should call this trip the "HOUSE TOUR" because so many of the national parks I've visited on this trip were of famous people's houses. These have all been interesting, and they've been each so different from each other in appearance and in historical significance:
Zane Grey
James Garfield
Van Buren


My last stop of the day before reaching Chambersburg for the night would be Morristown NJ, at Jockey Hollow, Where Washington's troops wintered over in 1780 and 1781. I watched the video and it truly was the nader of the Revolutionary War. Washington's troops were starving and half-naked when they arrived in Jockey Hollow and here they experienced the worse winter in living memory. 24 snow storms, one after the other, left 5-6 feet of snow on the ground. What meager supplies there were could not get into the encampment. Washington hounded Continental Congress to provide food, clothing and money. The state of NJ provided support and supplies that ultimately saved the army. It was a grim and moving documentary. Having just ridden to this location on motorcycle, it was hard to imagine arriving here on foot. It is heavily wooded and very hilly terrain.

Now I could get onto the interstate and point the bike south to Chambersburg for the night.

Tomorrow: I cross the Mason-Dixon Line and gather a few Confederate battle stamps.

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