Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Day 8 ~ Poughkeepsie, NY ~ Hudson River Valley

After a good night's rest we were ready to tackle some more historic houses! We started off at the FDR presidential library and his home (or his mother's home) Springwood.
The library was very interesting. It is the only one where a sitting president actually used it. His mother had saved the dresses he wore as a boy as well has the long blonde curls from his first haircut when he was five. Eleanor's diamonds were on display, too. Of course there was lots of stuff about WWII. Including a recreation of the secret map room FDR had in the basement of the White House. It was modeled after Churchill's War Cabinet bunker.
We toured Springwood, Roosevelt's home. His mother, Sarah, was alive during most of his marriage so until she died it was her home and Eleanor was pretty much a guest in it. Eventually she grew tired of living under her mother-n-law's thumb and she got FDR to agree to let her build a cottage on some of the land.
Val-Kill is the only home Eleanor ever owned. It started out as a cottage industry factory making furniture in the 1920's until during the depression. Then after it was forced to close she turned it in to a home. She and two friends lived there.
The home's contents were sold at auction immediately following her death. Luckily a curator from the library came and photographed ever inch of it before the auction. The National Park Service is now trying to recreate the interior from the photographs. Slowly artifacts are being found and purchased or donated back to the museum.
We had a yummy lunch in Foster's Tavern. We each had one of the specials. I had some yummy beef and Kurt had something good too! Of course we went in search of ice cream and candy after. We weren't disappointed.
After naps and some hot tubbing at the Marriott we headed for the waterfront area. We found a great restaurant called River Station at the foot of the Mid-Hudson Bridge. We sat on the patio people watching, drinking, gorging ourselves and watching the magnificent sunset.

Eleanor's Val-Kill

Sunset over the Hudson

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Day 7 ~ 1287 miles ~ Auburn to Poughkeepsie

We actually managed to get up and going at a decent time today. It appears to be about 250 miles to our next stop. We decided to do most of it on state roads. It seemed it would be more direct and definitely more scenic.

Our last stop in Auburn was at the Harriet Tubman home. Here was another museum that is just getting started. There are loads of historic things in NY so I would imagine that funding is tight. This white house is a home that Tubman ran for aged, destitute blacks. Her home was across the lawn and is in the process of being gutted and restored. Tubman on the advice of Seward purchased this land in Auburn. She had a farm here and planted many apple trees. When she was a slave she had to work in the apple orchards. Even though she was starving she or the other slaves dared not to eat any of the apples. She planted her orchard so that anyone that was hungry could eat. Tubman made scores of trips back to slave country and rescued hundreds including her own family members. A huge price was on her head, but she did it anyway.

Following an hour or so at the Tubman sight we headed east on Hwy 20 through the heart of New York state. It was very hilly and covered in orchards and vineyards. It seemed to take forever to get to Poughkeepsie. Once we turned south we could see many huge old homes along the Hudson River. Our only other tourist stop was at Martin Van Buren's home in Kinderhook. We managed to get a stamp for our passport and in on the last tour of the day. His house was very progressive for its time (mid 1800's). He had running water and to the dismay of his guests, indoor plumbing. Van Buren had a huge built in copper tub and he bathed every day! This was Kurt's favorite home of all those we toured.

Traffic was getting much worse in this part of the state. We came upon an accident that had just occurred minutes before so we got flagged off in a different direction. We ended up driving though the tiny village of Tivoli. It had a very high concentration of what looked like very yummy restaurants. The CIA (Culinary Institute of America) is in Poughkeepsie so lots of chefs start up in the villages surrounding the school. It would have been awesome to have stopped and dined at one of the them but we were exhausted and just wanted to find our hotel.

Once we did find the hotel we ordered in some NY style pizza. I had a shower and a fabulous nap. Once I woke up piping hot pizza was at my door. Fantastic!

Martin Van Buren's Kinderhook

Harriet Tubman Home

Friday, July 27, 2007

Day 6 ~ Auburn NY ~ Finger Lakes Region

Today is our day to explore the Finger Lakes. Auburn is a pretty historic town. It looks pretty run down though. Our first stop of the day was a Willard Chapel. It’s the only existing religious building designed entirely by Louis Comfort Tiffany. They were setting up for a concert so we couldn’t do the tour and movie. The chandeliers were astounding. The docent here was well meaning but overly attentive as well. We made our escape when she latched on to some unsuspecting couple from Indiana.

The Seward House was next on the list. There was some filming going on there as well as a meeting of some sort so the gift shop and visitor’s center was inaccessible. This huge home is almost entirely intact. Seward’s (of Seward’s Folly fame) grandson gave the building and contents over to the Park service. There is a painting of a daughter-in-law wearing a lavender dress from the 1860’s. They have the painting AND the dress! I didn’t realize that Seward worked with the Underground Railroad nor that there was an attempted assassination on him the same night as Lincoln (though I think I knew that at one time).

For lunch we decided to drive over to Skaneateles (skinny-atlas). It’s a beautiful town on one of the Finger Lakes. It was crowded with very chi-chi New York women. Very casual yet expensively dressed ladies. Lots of the men had tassels on their shoes. This is a money kind of area. The town is old old. Very federal and Victorian at the same time. We ate right on the water at the Bluewater Grill. I had a fantastic bowl of lobster bisque followed by something else that was yummy. Kurt had baked scrod. It was delicious, too. We stopped at a candy store on our way back to the car. WE bought fudge, truffles, and taffy. I was disappointed in the candy. It wasn’t that good for as nice as the shoppe looked.

We went back to Auburn and checked into our new and much improved hotel. The towels were better, the beds were better, and the internet worked. Heaven! After a brief rest we drove the 20 miles back west to Seneca Falls to go to the Women’s Rights National Historic Park www.nps.gov/wori. It is on the site of the first women’s national convention that was held in 1848. Only the walls and part of the roof remain of the Wesleyan (go Methodists!) Chapel where the gather was held. The museum next door is interesting, interactive and I thought poorly organized. It seemed crammed full of information about women, their struggles, and what’s happened since 1848 but there was no flow or cohesion to the information and exhibits. The gift shop was great though!

Seneca Falls also has the Erie Canal running through it as well as Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s home. We looked briefly at each of them and did our usual miss the turn around and do it again routine. Many of the miles we are putting on the car is when we are trying to get turned around from having gotten turned around!

I consulted the map and saw that Aurora, NY was nearby. Now I’m an Aurora, IA girl! We had to go. The founder of Aurora, IA was from Aurora, NY. The NY version is a picturesque village on the lake. We stopped at the post office and took my picture. I shot some other pictures of the town too thinking someone at home might be interested. We found a soda fountain/coffee shoppe. I went in hoping to get a postcard of something. The girls behind the counter asked why we were in town. When I told them the one exclaimed, "Well there’s nothing here". I told her she was wrong; she should see my Aurora and compare! We had a scrumptious piece of banana caramel cheesecake and were on our way.

I hate to go the same way twice so we took off on county roads on our way back to the hotel. It was very scenic. NY state is very small farm and orchard orientated. I think the Finger lake region is considered the Catskills. There are lots of trees, lots of fields, and lots of bucolic countryside. People around here say "bucolic" a lot. Weird.

We got back to our hotel in time for tipple time. We quaffed some wine and got advice on where to eat from the all blonde and boobs girl handing out the drinks. We went to Curley’s for dinner. It’s an Italian place. It was right on the river and also across from the prison. We sat on the patio which overlooked a wooded area. As we were dining I noticed some people in blue uniforms with radios and side arms poking around in the trees and pointing at the river. Keep in mind this river is shallow and looks more like creek. They’ve been 6 or 8 weeks without rain here though. Pretty soon another guy in uniform shows up. This one is wearing a white dress shirt. He must be higher up. By the time we get done with dinner there are police cars, fire trucks, and 8-10 personnel milling around. I’m thinking Prison Break! Kurt wouldn’t let me get my picture in front of the prison but I did persuaded him to drive by it 2x so I could take pictures out the window! As a side note for book club a few months back we read the good wife. The main characters’ husband was convicted of murder and spent time in Auburn. We also passed a road sign pointing to Attica at some point.

We spent the remainder of the evening at a laundry mat. As we waited we played two games of scrabble. We sat on the bench out front. The weather was nice. We are pretty, wild party people!


Seneca Falls

Skaenateles - Lady of the Lake Church

Aurora IA girl in Aurora, NY

Been There

Done that. Won't do it again.

Kurt and I ate for the first (and most likely last) time at the New Isle of Capri buffet tonite. Blech.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Day 5 ~ Niagara, ON to Auburn, NY

So far we've put 938 miles on the car.

Today is our last day in Niagara Falls. Should we go down and see it again? We decided against it with all the people and traffic. After another chatty breakfast we packed up and headed out. WE still had our pass to the butterfly conservatory. We weren’t that interested, but we’d already paid for it and we’d get there just as it opened so we decided to stop. It was FANTASTIC! Herds and herds (what do butterflies travel in?) of gorgeous multicolored butterflies of all sizes. Blue, green, hot pink, orange, yellow. Gorgeous! We spent probably an hour and I shot tons of pictures. Since it was early it wasn’t that hot, either.

Our entry back into the states was as simple as our entry into Canada. It was kind of disappointing. I was hoping for more stringent security. So far on this trip there hasn’t been any security of any sort. No x-ray machines, no purse searches. Nothing. Not at all like when we were in D.C. or Chicago.

We made our thru downtown Buffalo, NY. We bought this National Park Service passport so we were working on another stamp. We stopped at a tiny but nice museum in the house where Teddy Roosevelt was inaugurated after McKinley was assassinated. You can tell it’s run by volunteers and that it’s in the beginning stages of museum-hood, but it was nice.

It was back in the car to go to a Frank Lloyd Wright home on Lake Erie. It was designed for the Martins who also have a house in Buffalo (closed on Tuesday) so we were only visiting their ‘country’ home, Graycliffe. The drive along the lake was grim, but very pretty once we go out of the former industrial zones. The house is open by tour only and we were early. We decided to drive around and find somewhere to each lunch. We drove and drove and drove. Evidently you eat at home in these parts. We crossed a double railroad crossing. We got to the no man’s land in between the two crossings when the lights flashed on and the bars dropped. TRAPPED! We decided to raid the cooler and make some sandwiches. Disappointing, but cheap.

Graycliffe is on a spectacular piece of land towering above Lake Erie. Wright designed it so one line of the drive is on the summer solstice line while in the other direction, on a clear day, the mists of Niagara falls is visible. The property is currently being restored. It’s in pretty sad shape really. In the 1930’s it was sold to some Hungarian Priests and was only reacquired in the late 1990’s. We had the doozy of all long-winded docents on this tour. The 75 minute tour took almost 2 excruciating hours. I’m really all for the self guided tour!

Hot, and tired we climbed back into the car. We were still almost as far away from Auburn as when we left Niagara Falls. Driving into the Finger Lakes region was very pretty. The last of the Mohicans was starting to pick up speed so it wasn’t a bad drive. Our Super8 was a block from the prison. It was nasty. Kurt says he hopes to never stay in another Super8 again. I found us a different hotel for the next night.

Auburn Prison


Teddy Roosevelt Inagural Site


Niagara Falls Collage

Day 4 ~ Niagara Falls

We like to stay in B&B’s but one of the hazards (some say charm) is the innkeeper. The one where we stayed was super chatty, super inquisitive, and really in love with the sound of her own voice. I can’t hack that much yakking in the morning. I can barely hack morning itself.
After breakfast we walked down the hill to the Falls. The roar got louder the closer we got. We bought an Adventure Pass which gave us access to the Maid of the Mist, Journey Behind the Falls, White Water Walk, the Butterfly Conservatory, and unlimited access to the People-Mover (the bus to all the sites).

We didn’t get in line for the Maid of the Mist until after 10 a.m. I’m glad we weren’t any later as the line was starting to get long. They handed us our blue disposable rain coats and sent us down the elevators. The raincoats were surprisingly effective. It was in the 90’s so it was freaking hot wearing them. The Maid was packed full of people from all over the world. We managed to get two spots on the top near the rail in the back. The Maid chugged against the current. We got right up near the American Falls. The mist was incredible. The wind coming off the Falls whipped all around us. I can’t imagine how it must have been to discover the Falls. We got so close to the Horseshoe Falls that we were in the mist. We couldn’t see anything except water. My loving sister offered me a hundred bucks to go over the Falls in a barrel. Dad said he’d chip in $100 too. Letting them keep there money was the right decision!

We had a fast food lunch before our time for the Journey came around.

After the Maid we went to do the Journey behind the Falls. It was so incredible! Looking at the Falls from behind the Falls wasn’t anything too great, but going out on the the viewing platform was something else! The platform puts you only 25’ above the river bed. It’s at the base of the Horseshoe Falls. I’ve never had so much water in my eyes ever! I don’t I’ve had that much water in them swimming with my eyes open!

The Journey was terribly crowded. We decided not to do the cave of the Winds. 1) It’s on the US side and the line to cross the bridge was hours long 2) Kurt found out the cave is no longer there and 3) I tend to trip up and down stairs when they are dry and not next to a raging river.

Following this adventure we had a beer and sandwich at a restaurant at the top of the Falls. Watching the water as it approaches the Falls is pretty awesome, too. It was now the middle of the afternoon. We took the People Mover up River road and went to the White Water Walk (we’d paid for it after all). It’s a board walk down in the Niagara Gorge that goes along a stretch of river that has class 6 white water. The water is so dangerous, shooting the rapids is illegal and if you live, results in a $5,000 fine.

I was dying of heat at this point. Kurt was pretty hot too. We were both super stinky. We caught the bus and had it drop us off uphill from our B&B. Showers and naps followed. Nothing beats a shower after a full day of sightseeing.

For dinner we went to the Falls View Sheraton. Rooms there are way over $200. It’s above the Falls. The view from the restaurant was amazing. The restaurant was elegant, the food was fantastic. We’re there until close to sunset. We saw our first rainbows refracted in the mist. It was a great way to end the day.

Our room at the lodge accessed the garden. We sat outside in the cooling air, played scrabble and relaxed. We both slept well that night.

Day 3 ~ Detroit to Niagara

We didn’t get out of Detroit until after 10 am. That makes me crazy when it’s a driving travel day. Welcome to Canada! I had the not so brilliant idea of driving along a scenic route along the lake. It took forever to go a short distance. Ontario is very farm oriented. There were gigantic green houses everywhere. I’ve never seen anything like it. The landscape and towns reminded me of the San Joaquin Valley in CA. We saw fields and fields of onions and tobacco, vineyards, orchards, wheat, and the shortest corn I’ve ever seen! It was such a contrast. In Iowa there was corn that was probably 8 feet high and starting to tassel while here there is 2 foot corn that is fully tasseled!

I bought some Ontario cherries at a fruit stand. They are sweet and juicy and deep reddish purple. The blueberries are fantastic, too.

We had lunch in the town of Erieau. It’s on Lake Erie (which is very cold, too). The lake had waves and white caps when we waded at the beach. Molly and Oj’s is where we dined. It was dark with a supper club atmosphere. We had a basket of chewy and crusty flax bread with sweet cream butter while we waited for our lunches. Our dinners came with soup so we both upgraded to the clam chowder. It was fantastic! I had a lemon pepper battered perch and Kurt had blackened rainbow trout. We were too full for dessert.

It was already mid-afternoon so we decided to forgo the scenic route and get our tushies to Niagara Falls. Evidently, Mapquest hates Canada (according to our B&B hostess); the directions I got put us in Niagara-on-the-lake which is lovely, but 20km from our destination.

We’re staying at the Eastwood Tourist lodge. We have a large room with a fireplace, a king size bed and a garden patio. We’re about 1 mile down (well uphill) from the Falls overlooking the Niagara Gorge. We can hear the Falls from here and see the Rainbow Bridge.

Once we got settled we drove down to see the Falls. UNBELIEVABLE!!! It’s truly incredible. We could see that without even getting out of the car. We drove up to the Cliffton area of town and had dinner at a great (cheap) little family restaurant. Then we rode the Skywheel. I hate shit like that so me getting on it was pretty amazing. I was squeezing the blood out of Kurt’s had though. It was awesome getting a bird’s eye view of the Falls. After our ride we drove down to the Falls and found some parking. We watched the light of the Falls while we waited for the fireworks. The city puts on a fireworks show every Wednesday, Friday and Sunday during the summer. The show was short, but spectacular. Tomorrow we will do all the Falls tours.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007


I've created a Flickr account for my photos from the trip. I wonder if it works. It's free for you to view. I haven't figured out how to make a sidebar link on the blog yet, though. Enjoy!

Monday, July 23, 2007

Meet Francis

Meet Francis. He's a 6 week old sheltie boy. He's sweet, fluffy, and likes to explore. He smells like a barn (hay, dirt, animals) but in a good way. I love him already!


RAGBRAI arrives on Thursday. I've cleaned the kids' rooms, vaccuumed and flipped the mattresses, cleaned the bathroom, set out fresh towels and washed the bed linens. I'm now hot and tired. I saw a load of porta potties head into the park. The city is repainting the lines on the street...coincidence? I think not!

I bought some foamcore to make a sign to welcome our riders. Hopefully, it will help them find us. I'm going to make some muffins. That will probably be the extent of my hostess with the mostest-ing.

Niagara Falls at Night

Indiana Sand Dunes

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Reading Harry Potter

I'll be back later!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

We're Home

We're home. 12 hours in the car yesterday. 7 hours today. We don't like each other much at the moment, but we had a fun trip.

Exhausted. Plus I have another 3 hours in the car tomorrow as my mom and I have tickets to SPAMALOT in the Capital city. Ugh.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


I'm truly obsessed. I used to love to shop on vacation and pick up all kinds of tacky souvenirs. For, I'd say the last 13 years, I've been over it. I'd rather buy 1 significant souvenir like a piece of potter, jewelry or something similar. EXCEPT for postcards. I'm still completely obsessed with postcards. I've probably bought 50 or 60 this trip. Yet, we didn't go anywhere that I could buy ones in Mystic or when we crossed Massachusetts (and 2 states to my tally - I think I only have 8 to go!). I buy them to keep. I buy them to send. I buy them to use in scrapbooking. So I might have to buy 3 of one view! I have yet to find a postcard of Utica.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Eastward Ho - Day 2

We got a bit of a late start heading out of Geneseo. Kurt says I’m a different person when I’m on vacation, since I want to get up and go where usually I prefer to laze around. If we've got miles to cover, I want to get on the road!
Our first stop was at the National Sand Dunes Park on the Indiana shore’s of Lake Michigan. I’ve always wanted to stop and see them when I’ve been on my way east, but I’ve never been able to spare the time. We hit the gift shop first and got information. We also picked up a really neat National Parks passport book. The dune’s parks were incredibly busy. Many of them were closed because the parking was full. We weren’t able to get to the beach that had been recommended to us, but we did make it to see Mt. Baldy. This is a live dune that is growing and shifting and threatening to take over the parking lot and potty area. Mt Baldy is blocked off in an effort to save her, so we walked around, up and through the woods to descend to the beach. It was gorgeous. Lake Michigan is very very blue and very very cold! We waded a bit then headed back over the dune and had a picnic lunch on the road.
Michigan is full of fruit orchards and deer from what we could see. Kurt napped quite a bit, but did manage to come awake in time to see a sign for an Air Zoo and space museum in Kalamazoo. We spent a few hours there. Kurt was more into than I was (of course). Yet, it was interesting. They had all kinds of planes and space craft. The walls were covered with realistic murals. The Air Zoo also has air themed rides such as a hot air balloon and little planes for kids. For bigger kids there is a space shuttle going to the International Space station as well as flight simulator for an F-14 tomcat (think TOP GUN). I sat those out but Kurt had a great time doing nose dives and barrel rolls. The zoo also features a WWII aircraft hangar and a simulated bombing run of a B-17 bombing run of Nazi Germany. It was 3-D and the true story narrated by the sole survivor. I did go on that one. It was really meaningful because of what’s going on now, and also because my Great Uncle Glenn went down in one of those during the war.
We only had about 45 min to go thru the second building which featured more space stuff. I looked everything over quickly then waited for Kurt outside where there was some fresh air. The Air Zoo is much like the National Air and Space museum in D.C., but I thought it was much better because it isn’t so stinking crowded! However, their moon rock in encased in glass, where you can touch the one in D.C.
We were at the Air Zoo until it closed then we got back on the road. We had a super yummy supper at a Bob Evans. You can never go wrong with a hot turkey sandwich!
We decided to drive to Detroit. Kurt was sleeping when we got into town. We ended up getting into an argument about where to find a hotel. We had a lovely (and thankfully) short tour of the burned out, abandoned, boarded up and still being inhabited section of the city. We quickly got back on the freeway and headed for the museum and downtown district. I hadn’t made a hotel reservation because I wasn’t sure how far we’d get. We ended up in a very expensive Courtyard by Marriott. I only got a room because there was a cancellation just as I inquired. The woman who checked in before me almost came unglued. She’d been trying to get a second room for months. We just happened to decide to spend the night in Detroit while the 98th annual NAACP convention was there, along with a Tigers game and an airshow. The room was nice, the hot tub was cold, and the bed was soft. Plus I should be getting bonus Marriott rewards!

Eastward Ho - Day 1

Day 1 - July 6 -
I was so excited about our trip, I couldn’t wait to leave! I wanted to be able to see some stuff on the way rather than having to rush the 800 + miles to Niagara. I approached Kurt about leaving Friday night and driving part way. He agreed so we set out about 630 p.m. We made it about 20 miles down the road and we had to stop for supper! We pigged out at Pizza Ranch and then resumed our travels eastward. We made it as far as Geneseo, IL where we stayed at a not so cheap yet very cheap Super8. They said they had one room left, so we ended up in a so called suite. It reeked of pot so I called down to the front desk. He said he’d see what he could do. We could have a hot tub suite (more expensive, yet tempting) or a “I’ll give it to you for the same price” room with 3…count ‘em 3…double beds. We took that one. The room was humongous and freezing cold. I loved it! The next morning though, Kurt and I agreed, we are higher class hotel people despite our discount chain budget. The towels were like sand paper!


Iowa is a pretty homogenous state. Most everyone you meet is Christian (or their ancestors were at one point). The east coast not so much. I love the diversity. Kurt and I were having lunch over looking the drawbridge at the S & P Oyster Bar (or company) in Mystic, CT. The two couples at the table next to us were having quite the far ranging conversation. I told Kurt it was like listening to a Woody Allen movie!


New York and the East Coast seems to be for sports fanatics. Baseball mainly. Everywhere we go people are watching baseball, listening to baseball, or discussing baseball. It seems like the entire sportscast on the news is about baseball. Right now we are only 45 min away from Cooperstown (and the baseball hall of fame). We've been past a basketball hall of fame, the boxing hall of fame, the curling hall of fame and one more it seems like. Iowa is not a baseball state. New York apparently is. I could care less.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Happy 4th of July!

Deviled Eggs....a great holiday tradition. The parade is out front at 9 am. People have been putting out chairs since early this morning. We've got a spot saved in case my grandpa comes up. I've got chicken marinating and beans ready to be baked. We have fresh black berries and raspberries to go over vanilla ice cream. I've got the sparklers and the invitation to my parents for a cook out tonight.
Even if you are against the war (like me), please don't forget the soldiers and their families - past and present. Happy Indpenendence Day everyone!!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

RAGBRAI 2 - For those of you who don't know

RAGBRAI is the Register's Annual Great Bike Race Across Iowa. It started out as a small bike ride with a few riders sponsored by the Des Moines Register. Riders start on the western edge of the state dipping their bike tires in the Missouri River. Five days and usually some 400+miles later they end by dipping their tires in the Mighty Mississippi. When it started out the few were just riding for fun and to see the state. Now more than 20,000+ riders from all over the world spend a week in our state. Smalltown organizations make lots of money selling fruit cups, pies, tenderloins and anything else you can imagine! Check it out at http://www.ragbrai.org/


RAGBRAI is coming again. It's always the last full week in July. This year they are overnighting here. Since we will be childless and have lots of extra space we decided to be a host family. I just got our first email. We'll have a group of 3 men from Colorado and it looks like another group of 2 from the Quad Cities. We're only a block away from one of the main areas so it should be crazy. RAGBRAI is always a rockin' good time!