Saturday, October 18, 2014

Trip to Kansas City - October 2014

I had planned this trip a couple of months ago to visit my Mom and my sisters Anola (and Peter), Mary, and Louisa.  Given Mom's age it was simply a family visit trip.  However, I arrived the day the Royals beat Baltimore for the fourth straight game and claimed the American League Pennant.  In fact, I was able to watch the last inning with Mom.  She is a life long Royals fan--given her age of 102, that refers to the life of the Royals, not her!

Needless to say, Kansas City is going crazy with celebrations and appreciation for this remarkable team.  Through my son, Brendan, I know the core of the front office including GM Dayton Moore and Director of Player Development, JJ Picollo.  It makes the success even sweeter to know that it has come from hard and smart work by some really good guys.

The day after the win, I along with thousands of others flocked to Dick's to get Royals gear.  I am proudly wearing it back to Rochester for the World Series.  I have had a Royals cap for some time and wore that out here.

An extra treat was the arrival of one of my sons, Sean, who stopped by on his way back to the Bay Area from a week-long work engagement.  Although he has lived in the San Francisco area for almost 20 years, he remains a Royals fan and so picked up some shirts for Julie and their son, Sam.  Probably not a lot of Royals gear available in the Bay Area...yet.

Kansas City has more than 200 public fountains.  The Kansas City Parks Department is responsible for 48 of these.  From now until the last game of the World Series, eight of these are spouting Royal blue water, courtesy of the Royals Baseball Club.  (Read more here.)  I hadn't planned on taking a lot of photos this trip and only brought my small Lumix camera with me,  However, I knew that I had to get photos of all eight.

The iconic J. C. Nichols Fountain on the Country Club Plaza
I ended up getting four of them along with some pretty dramatic shots of Union Station at night with blue illumination.  You can see these photos by clicking here to the Picasa album for the trip.

Unfortunately that is as far as I got because I was involved in an auto accident as I going through downtown to get to the next fountain.  No one was injured thankfully and the driver who failed to obey a stop sign received a citation but my rental car was not driveable and I spent the entire afternoon getting the police report, replacing the rental car and then reporting to my insurance company.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Vermont and Hudson Valley: Headed Home

The salon where the Vanderbilts and their guests would gather for after dinner concerts and conversations
We are actually back home but I thought I would get a brief letter out about our final two days.  On Friday late in the afternoon, we headed north to Albany.  On the way, we just had to stop and tour the Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site, just outside Hyde Park.  The photo above is the salon where guests gathered for piano concerts and conversation.  This home was built by Frederick Vanderbilt who holds the distinction of being the only member of his eight siblings to have died with more money than we received from his parents.  The others were experts at spending the family fortune--Biltmore in North Carolina--is a prime example while Frederick actually engaged in business and finance.  Nonetheless he was also trying to break into New York society controlled by the Astors.  The Vanderbilts were the nouveau riche trying to make it impossible for the "old money" to ignore them.  This country house is a prime example of the life style of the Gilded Age that came to a close with the Great War.
Hudson River and the Catskills in the distance.
The estate is probably one of the oldest continuously cultivated landscape in North America.  The views of the Hudson are spectacular.  This is worth a visit rather than a drive by.

Click here to see the photo album of the Vanderbilt Mansion.

Just before we crossed the Hudson River on the Rip Van Winkle Bridge, we drove up the east bluff and saw the exterior of Olana, the the exotic home and galleries of Frederic Edwin Church.  This property is now a State Historic Site.  It was closed by the time we arrived but the exterior was dynamic in the later afternoon light.

We continued on to Albany where we had booked a room in a downtown B and B:  The Morgan State House Inn.  It was excellent and has a fascinating story behind it.  The house was the home for Alice Morgan Wright (1881-1975), a sculptor who was also one of the founders of the League of Women Voters and the Humane Society.

Marilyn with Stella
We learned a lot of her story from a chance encounter with Stella who has lived in an adjacent apartment house for the last 50 years.  She worked as a nurse at a nearby hospital and lived here so she could walk athrough Washington Park to work.  She is 92 and a little hard of hearing--something she told us--but otherwise very spry.  She told us about Alice whom she knew.  She said that she took in all sorts of dogs and cats--on a short term basis-- almost as a shelter to keep them from facing other alternatives.  Stella said that walking by the mansion you could see dogs and cats at the windows looking down at you.

Empire Capital Plaza on a rainy Saturday morning.
Saturday turned out to be rainy and chilly unlike the warm and sunny days we had been experiencing all week.  We spent the day visiting the New York State Museum.  We barely got through a quarter of the exhibits.  The 9/11 exhibit was very moving.  We got to see video of first responders who barely escaped with their lives as well see up close some of the structural steel from the towers.

By Sunday morning the rain had passed and the clouds had departed.  We headed home and arrived in time for me to see the Kansas City Royals sweep the Los Angels Angels, the team with the best regular season record in baseball.  Go Royals!

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Vermont and Hudson Valley - Days Four and Five: Hyde Park

We spent Thursday and most of Friday in Hyde Park visiting the Roosevelt sites, CIA and other interesting places.  After watching most of the Ken Burn's "The Roosevelts:  An Intimate History." it was especially meaningful to visit Springwood, the family home, the Presidential Library and Museum, and Val Kill, a site dedicated to Eleanor.  The library had been constructed and dedicated early in FDR's third term, making it not only the first presidential library but the only one to have been used by a sitting president.  Everything has been maintained as it was.  The land, the library, and Springwood were turned over to the U.S. within a year of FDR's death.

Those fries are truffle fries.
After all that history, we needed food and so took a break from the museum to visit the Culinary Institute of America, just two miles down the road.  CIA has been here since the early 1970's which it purchased the main building and grounds from the New York Province of the Society of Jesus which had developed the site as a seminary, St. Andrew-on-the-Hudson.  The beautiful main chapel is now used as a student dining hall.  They have preserved all the art and beautiful Tiffany windows.  We ate in the Apple Bakery & Cafe.  You can see how delicious it looked and the consumption delivered on that promise.

After that late lunch, we joined a tour of CIA led by one of the students.  Unfortunately no inside photography was allowed but it was truly worthwhile and we highly recommend it to anyone who visits here for the food.  It is a "behind the scene" tour of various kitchens with a lot of inside scoop on food and its preparation.  By the way, when someone asked Erica, our guide, what one cooking tool she thought everyone should have, she answered, "A Chinois."  To which everyone responded, "Huh?"  Go look it up.

Click here to view the album of FDR and CIA photos.

Living room in Eleanor's residence:  Val Kill
The next day we returned to the Roosevelts.  We completed our tour of the museum and then went to Val Kill, the home that Eleanor created out of the factory that housed Val Kill Industries.  This tour was very informative and focused on Eleanor and the contributions which she made before, during, and especially after FDR's presidency.

Our next stop was Top Cottage, the getaway about four miles from Springwater where FDR said he got away from the maddening crowd.  He never sayed overnight there but it was designed so that he could entertain guests without help from others, something that was impossible at the big house, Springwater.  He designed it so that he could use his wheelchair to move around and interact easily with his guests.  The porch was especially important because it was here that important informal conversations took place.  As you look at the video below, think about the fact that this was the view that FDR and Churchill had as they talked about the Manhattan project taking responsibility for Britain's Tube Alloys project.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Vermont and Hudson Valley - Day Two: Trapp, Ben & Jerry's, and a waterfall

Anthony, their girls, Kathy and Marilyn at Emily's bridge
Our second day in Stowe began with a continuation of the ghost tour of the night before.  One of the stories was about a young girl, Emily, who jumped/fell from a bridge when her lover didn't show for their elopement.  She is buried in the Stowe Cemetery and has been the subject of a number of ghost stories.  So we had to go to the bridge just to check it out.  We met a wonderful young family from Australia, Anthony and Kathy and their two daughters.  They were near the end of their three week vacation here in the U. S.

Christina von Trapp, Maria's grand daughter.
After that we headed toward Mount Mansfield but the clouds obscured most of the high peaks so we diverted to the Trapp Family Lodgee.  We explored the grounds and then went on a tour of the lodge with all sorts of stories about the family including some time with Maria's grand daughter who is transitioning to the leadership of the corporation.  She was delightful and we learned a lot.  Some we already knew and some was new information.  After lunch at a brew house and deli on the property, we explored a pond and woods before heading off for Moss Glenn Falls.

Along the way, we saw a number of striking scenes including classic New England church with steeple, creeks, waterfalls, and plenty of fall color.  Then on our way to tour the Ben & Jerry's factory, we had to stop by Happy Moon Chocolates where we met Rebecca who left a ten year career as a lawyer to become a chocolatier.  This is a classic Vermont story where quality of life trumps money.  Very refreshing.

However, we needed to make our way to Ben & Jerry's.  While I knew that it was located in Vermont, I swear to God I had no idea it was right outside Stowe and that we would go right by it on our way in.  Honest.  After a factory tour and not one but two samples, we headed back to Stowe to find some where to eat.  We seem to be eating quite a little bit!

The next day we left and headed down to the Hudson Valley and Hyde Park,  However we drove through Washington County New York and stopped at the Washington County Historical Society in Ft. Edward.  I have traced my great grandfather Platt to Washington County and wanted to see what additional information I might be able to turn up.  I will need to return when I can spend a couple of days since this turns out to be an historically rich area.

You can see the photos of our final day in Stowe and the journey to Hyde Park by clicking here.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Vermont and the Hudson Valley - Day One: Travel to Stowe VT

A luxury car to go with a luxury woman.
We are off on a week long vacation to Vermont and the Hudson Valley.  We have lucked out and hit the peak of color in Vermont around Stowe and the weather has been temperate and rain-thought not cloud-free.  We are traveling in comfort in Marilyn's new-to-her Cadillac SRX.  She got a great deal on this four year old beauty with only 17,000 miles.  I don't think I have parked it straight within parking lines yet giving rise, I am sure, to comments about old people driving big cars.  But are quite enjoying it!  By the way, for those concerned, I have more than offset her carbon footprint with my Ford C-Max hybrid.

New York in the background as we head to Vermont
We decided to use the free for three months OnStar navigation as we left the Thruway and ventured into Adirondack Park on our way to Stowe VT.  Unlike our phone navigation, we couldn't or didn't know how to see the list of directions, so we just followed instructions which at one point seemed to be leading us astray with road signs about a ferry.  But as we arrived in Essex NY, we saw the ferry port with a ferry approaching.  After a 20 minute ride, we were in Vermont and on our way.

We needed to stop for lunch and turned around so we could ate at a local eatery named for our dog, Archie...well it reminded us of him anyway.

We continued on to Stowe.  Once we left an Interstate and got on VT 100 for the last 20 miles, we passed the Ben & Jerry's ice cream plant with its famous tours.  Honest to God, I knew it was in Vermont but I had no idea it was just outside Stowe.  Honest.  More about that later.

We arrived at Auberge de Stowe before check in so we decided to head into the village to get the lay of the land and check in at the Visiters' Center.  It is a charming village with a quite interesting history as we learned later that night.  We could see the hills around us in all their autumn glory.

After some investigation, we decided on a spot for dinner as well as our evening activity, a ghost and history lantern tour of Stowe.  We started at 8 and it last almost till 9:30.  We learned a lot about the various ghost stories of Stowe but also a lot about the history.  Most interesting to me is the fact that more than 20 structures in the village today were moved from their original locations in the village.  Talk about Yankee frugality!

You can view a photo album of our first day by clicking here.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Trip to Morgantown WV - Braden's soccer Match

Braden taking a shot in pre-game.  Strong shot against a
lovely sunset sky.
Braden is a freshman student at University High School in Morgantown.  Not only is she on the Girls Varsity Soccer team but she starts at center mid.  It was great to see her play in a night game against the other high school in Morgantown.  She controlled the center of the field and was a major contributor to the 3-1 win.  More important to me was the obvious joy she displayed before, during, and after the game.  She is developing into a lovely young woman with a sense of humor and joy.  Great job, Brendan and Eileen!

The video below contains the announcement of the starting lineup for the Hawks.  It was exciting.  Apparently the seniors on the team had never beaten Morgantown High in a varsity game.  Braden was excited to give them a victory before they graduate.

The video below is a great example of Braden's play.  She wins the ball, then moves it to the middle and passes toward the goal.  She was in control the whole way.  This is a video of a series of still shots.

You can click here to see more photos of the match.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Trip to Morgantown WV - Fort Necessity

Fort Necessity from the location of the 1754 tree line.
Tuesday was a big day.  I did some exploring in the morning and then went to Braden's high school soccer game that night.  In between I went to Brady's football practice.  Brendan lost a temporary crown from a front tooth and had to get to a dentist for repair.  Picked up lunch at a restaurant and went to the model where Eileen was working that day.  Whew!

Anyway, my morning adventures led to Fort Necessity, the site of an 1754 defeat of Virginian and English troops by the French.  This was the second battle of what would be come known in North America as the French Indian War but which Europe knew as the Seven Years War.   It involved most of the great powers of the time and affected Europe, North America, Central America, the West African coast, India, and the Philippines.  It is considered by most historians as the first Global War in modern times.  Deaths have been estimated to be 900,000 to 1,400,000.  It established England as the dominant global power especially in North America.  

Jumonville Glen where the first global war began.
As impressive as that sounds and was, the war actually started in a remote mountain glen in southern Pennsylvania close to the West Virginia border.  In 1754, Lt. Colonel George Washington with a Virginia Regiment entered the area near Chestnut Ridge in Pennsylvania to work on opening up a military road.  When informed by friendly Senecas of the location of a group of 30 French soldiers encamped at the base of bluff, Washington took 40 men and engaged them.  All the French were killed or captured but one escaped and informed the French garrison at Fort Duquesne (modern day Pittsburgh) of the attack.
The storehouse inside the palisade

 Washington was very aware that French would seek revenge for the attack and especially for the brutal killing and scalping of the commander by the Senecas.  He returned to his base camp in Great Meadow and hastily constructed Fort Necessity.  He and 400 men awaited the attack which came on July 3 by 600 French and 100 Indians.

While the circular palisaded fort was constructed according to prevailing military standards, it had two disastrous liabilities.  It was too close to the surrounding woods providing the French dense cover for assaults without exposing themselves.  Second, it was built on the low ground of a marshy meadow.
The earthworks outside the palisade
While excavations were easy, they were subject to dampness and in the heavy and steady rain on the day of the battle they filled with water.  Conditions were dismal and when the French offered terms of surrender, Washington took them and marched out the next day and back to Virginia.  The French burnt the fort to the ground and returned to Fort Duqesne.

A year later as the global war ignited by this battle was well underway, Washington returned to the area as an aide-de-camp to General Edward Braddock who led an English force of 2,400 men with orders to attack the French at Fort Duqesne. The resulting battle was a defeat for the English with Braddock receiving mortal wounds and dying four days later within half a mile of the site of Fort Necessity.  

Memorial to General Edward Braddock
To prevent desecration by the Indians, Washington had Braddock's body buried in the middle of the military road--later known as Braddock's road--and then had the entire army march over that spot to hide its location.  The remains were discovered in 1804 by workmen and the remains were reburied on a knoll at the side of what became The National Road and later U.S. Route 40.