A Travellerspoint blog

West Point Tour - June 22, 2008

Sunday Tim’s brother Mike and family took us on the grand tour of West Point. Mike has been stationed at West Point for about 18 months. He will redeploy to Hawaii in January with a possible tour of duty in Iraq.

The tour started at Ft. Putnam some 500 feet above the Hudson River and overlooks the Academy.

Ft Putnam was used to defend any land attacks on West Point and the other fortifications during the Revolutionary war.


The Hudson River was blocked to prevent ships from sailing up to Albany via a set of chains stretched from Constitution Island to West Point. This was the narrowest part of the Hudson. It was important that the British not gain control of Albany. Also Washington’s headquarters was about 12 miles upstream. Another little known fact is the family that lived on Constitution Island gave the island to West Point . Also the lady wrote the song "Jesus Loves Me" She is buried in the West Point cemetary.

This is part of the actual chain used to barricade the Hudson.

We visited the West Point Museum. The museum contains the largest collection of military history and military warfare. West Point is the oldest Military Service School.


No tour of West Point would be complete without seeing the Academy up close. First stop was the Parade Field. The seats are reserved and a muster is held every Monday plus on special occasions. The public is allowed to view the parade and is allowed in 10 minutes prior to the start to fill any vacant reserved seats.

A view of the dorms from the Parade Field.

This is a closer view of the center of the dorms. Classrooms, etc. are behind the dorms. The Academy has about 4,400 cadets. Our tax dollars at work.

Behind these modern dorms was the original dorm built prior to 1851 and is known as the 1st Division Barracks. Most of the original building was torn down. A portion remains and is mostly a museum of the different cadets that lived in the dorm at different periods in time up through the Viet Nam War. Mike is one of just a handful of people that has his office in this building.

This is the portion that was saved and is mostly a museum.

This is the replica of the room occupied by Gen John J Pershing.

This is a description of the room and time period.

The area around the 1st Division Barracks is where the cadets march discipline Honors.

A statue of General Eisenhower overlooks the Parade Field from the viewpoint of the dorms. He is facing the field with his back to the library. It is said that he did not like the library, but was fond of the troops.

Eisenhower Statue with library in the background.

This was the view that the statue has of the Parade Field. Note the reviewing stands and the seat backs spell out Army Beat Navy. (Sorry Rick)

It is a tradition that when at West Point when you salute an officer you reply “Beat Navy”. (sorry again Rick)

That was our grand tour, condensed version, of West Point. It is always good to have “natives” to take you on tour. They know the little known facts.

Thank You, Mike and MaryJo for a great tour!

Happy Trails!

Posted by popding 16:07 Comments (0)

West Point Area

We have been a little lazy for the past couple of days. Arrived in Newburg, NY Friday. It was a “tough” 50-mile drive. We are staying at a KOA. A bit different from the run of the mill KOA’s. This one is not close to any major highways or any traffic noise. It also has wooded shady sites. It is very nice for a KOA. We selected this KOA due to its closeness to West Point and the airport. We spent Friday catching up on some rest, housekeeping chores and preparing for the arrival of Tim and Kory.

Tim and Kory arriving at Newburg airport.

It is a very small nice airport. It is larger than Gainesville’s airport but smaller than the Orlando-Sanford airport. If you fly here to go to NYC you can catch a bus to the train station then catch the train to Grand Central Station in NYC. It is about a two-hour trip, but may be worth it to avoid the crowds at LaGuardia or JFK.

After their arrival all of us took a tour of George Washington’s Headquarters. General Washington occupied this building during the final 16 ½ months of the Revolutionary war, from 1782 –1783.

Our guide and headquarter building behind.

The stone construction headquarter building was a privately home owned by the Hasbrouck’s. They reluctantly lent it to the army for George’s Headquarters.

Here is a photo of the keystone above the door noting that the house was built in 1750.

It served as the sleeping and living quarters for George and Martha as well as General Washington’s top military staff. The house is located directly on the Hudson River north of WestPoint. West Point was a major fortification for the area. West Point is some 12 miles south and could be seen from the position of this house.

This tower was a major lookout some 100 feet from the house, closer to the river.

A closer view of the tower.

There are spiral staircases in the corners to allow access to the top for the lookouts.

Later in the day we drove to Tim’s brothers family at their house on base at West Point. What a beautiful army base overlooking the Hudson. Tomorrow Mike and MaryJo will take us on a tour of West Point.

Happy Trails!

Posted by popding 11:50 Comments (0)

Maple Syrup Adventure

Thursday June 19, 2008

We started out the day deciding to check out the Catskills and get some New York maple syrup. We studied the local brochures and decided to see a maple syrup bottling operation. It was listed in the Catskills Travel Guide as open all year. It sounded like a nice place up in the Catskills called High Point Mountain Maple Syrup. I loaded the address into our trusty GPS and off we went.

The scenery was just breathtaking, driving the windy hilly back roads through the Catskills. However, the real the adventure part was about to start.

This was the only sign we saw other than no trespassing signs on this lonely narrow road.

Upon arrival I wasn’t sure Kathy was going to get out of the car. We expected a building and store.

I walked up to the door of what looked like a habitable place and introduced myself to Bud Eckert and asked if he had any maple syrup for sale. He said yep, sure do.

Bud and I waiting on Kathy to emerge from the safety of the car after making sure her cell phone would work just in case she needed to call for help.

I learned that Bud, age 73, has been making maple syrup since he was 11. I asked if we could take pictures and he said sure.

Collection pails.

This is the processing plant with the main piece of equipment, an evaporator. It runs on oil, but Bud says it is getting too expensive and he may go back to firing it on wood.

The upper galvanized tank is where Bud pumps the raw sap into for feed into the evaporator.

Bud explaining to me how the syrup comes into the evaporator from the outside tank and goes through the evaporator. He then draws off the finished product from the brass valve in the foreground on the left one day and from the one on the right the next day to reverse the flow and make sure everything gets mixed well.

Well, Bud makes about 150 to 200 gallons a year of finished bottled syrup.

He stated that it takes 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup from the sap at the beginning of the season February 1. Near the end of the season in late March or early April, it could take as much as 45 to 47 gallons to make one gallon. The later syrup is also darker.

Bud and I leaving the processing plant.
We ended up buying a quart from Bud. He claims to have the cheapest prices around. He sells a gallon for $56 while stores sell it for $67 a gallon. He sells every weekend at the flea market in Woodstock.

To say the least this was a very interesting side trip, but a great down home tour of a maple processing facility.

On the way back to the RV we decided to visit another open house that was built during the Gilded Age. We stopped at Wilderstein. All of the folks named their estates. It sounded better to say lets visit Wilderstein rather than lets visit the Suckley’s.

Sign noting this is a preservation.

View from the parking lot.

View of tower which faces the Hudson River.

The history of Wilderstein begins in 1852 with Thomas Holy Suckley's purchase of the river front site, then a sheep meadow of the adjacent late 18th-century estate, Wildercliff. Suckley's fortune had been secured through the family export trade and real estate investments. He was a descendant of the Beekman and Livingston families whose estate houses were prominent landmarks in this region of the Hudson River Valley from the 17th through the late 19th centuries.

Thomas Suckley and his wife Catherine Murray Bowne wanted a building site endowed with striking natural features. The landscape setting for Wilderstein fulfilled this criteria by virtue of its varied terrain and the scenic views it afforded of the river and distant mountains - the vistas framed by tall cedars and evergreens.

This is a view of the Hudson from the porch of the house.

This is the covered carriage entrance to the house.

Suckley named the property "Wilderstein" (wild man's stone) in reference to a nearby Indian petroglyph, an allusive reminder of a cultural heritage that preceded European settlements in the region.

There are 36 stained glass windows in the house The above is one of them. The fashionably appointed interiors were designed by the New York City decorator, Joseph Burr Tiffany.

Through 1991 three generations of Suckleys occupied Wilderstein, amassing personal and ancestral effects that attest to the lively social history of the estate, its family and their relationship to the Hudson Valley. The books, letters, photographs, furniture, paintings, art objects and china - some ordinary and some exquisite - are intriguing to the scholar and the casual visitor alike.

The last resident of Wilderstein was Margaret (Daisy) Suckley. A cousin and confidante of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Miss Suckley traveled extensively with FDR during his presidency, gave him his famous black Scottish terrier Fala, and helped to establish his library in Hyde Park. THE TRUE STORY OF FALA, written by Miss Suckley, describes Fala’s life as the presidential dog. Miss Suckley was with FDR when he was fatally stricken at Warm Springs, Georgia in 1945. She died at Wilderstein in 1991, in her 100th year. The letters they exchanged during their friendship, discovered in a black battered suitcase at Wilderstein, provide one of the best resources for understanding the private side of Roosevelt’s life during his presidency. They have been edited by Geoffrey C. Ward in his book CLOSEST COMPANION.

If you ever get to this area I would highly recommend visiting Wilderstein as well as FDR’s Springwood and Vanderbilt’s Hyde Park. There are about a dozen estates that have been preserved. We didn’t get to visit them all but may return someday.

These estates includes some of the finest examples of several historic styles of architecture, landscaping, and interiors, from the early Federal period to the numerous revival styles of the late 19th and early 20th century. It is our great fortune that many of these estates have been meticulously restored and lovingly maintained to recreate each home's historical and cultural significance, as well as personal character. The estates along the river recreate a history not only of the Hudson Valley, but of the United States.

That was our last day here, it turned out to be a very interesting one.
Tomorrow we drive south about 50 miles to Newburg just outside West Point.

Happy Trails

Posted by popding 17:33 Comments (2)

Visit to open houses

Before leaving the Utica area we again visited with Uncle Newman, and he was able to help us identify several people on some old home movies. He also, at the age of 93, entertained us with his marvelous musical talent by playing his organ.

We left Utica after lunch on Tuesday and travelled to the Hudson Valley area about 75 miles north of the Big Apple. Our campground although not a state park, is a private park out in the country. No close stores or restaurants etc, really out in the country.

The weather has been on the cool side. We have changed from shorts to jeans and had the heat on last night. It was 57 at daybreak and only warmed to the low 60’s along with some rain.

Wednesday we went on an open house tour. The first place was FDR’s boyhood and adult life home on the Hudson River in the Hyde Park area. While President, guests at the house included the King and Queen of England and Winston Churchill to name a few.

FDR’s home.

This is also where adjacent to the house he built his Presidential Library. This is the only Presidential Library that a sitting President has used, and he actually gave some of his fireside chats from this library. After his death, his will stipulated that the house, library, and grounds were to be donated to the National Park Service.

Rose garden

FDR and Eleanor are buried in the rose garden adjacent to the house.

Burial plot of FDR and Eleanor.

One room on the first floor is where he signed papers authorizing the Manhattan Project after receiving a convincing letter from Albert Einstein. Einstein briefed FDR on the current technology of atomic energy, and said that the US should prove the theories before the Germans had a chance to create an atomic bomb and use it against us.

The next open house just down the street was Hyde Park itself.



This was the spring and fall home for Frederick and Louise Vanderbilt. He turned his $10 million dollar inheritance into more than $70 million at his death. They did this by buying railroads, the most extensive of which was the New York Central and the centerpiece Grand Central Station in NYC.

A view of the Hudson River from Hyde Park.

Hyde Park was just down the street from FDR’s mansion and FDR, while President, convinced Fredrick’s niece, who had inherited the property, to donate it to the National park Service. It is the only Vanderbilt mansion of which there were many built by Fredericks’ brothers that was donated to the National Park Service. The one Vanderbilt mansion most of us are familiar with is the Biltmore in Asheville.

That was our day visiting open houses. We think Hyde Park at 50,000 square feet is a bit large for us.

Posted by popding 19:43 Comments (0)

Nostalgia Continues

Monday June 16, 2008

Today was another fun packed day strolling down memory lane. My cousin Judy and her husband Fetch came by to visit us at the RV, and then we went to visit with her dad, my Uncle Newman. He is the Uncle that I had lost touch with and thought he was deceased, but here he is at 93 and still driving.

My Uncle Newman at age 93, still sharp as a tack. Hope I got some of his genes.

My uncle had an airplane for years and I had heard stories that when my dad was building the house my uncle would fly over and dive bomb the house. At least that is what his ex wife told me the other day. He claims today that he may have “buzzed” it a few times. He was always the one looking for speed and a thrill from flying his plane to driving his motorcycles. My cousin Jim is the same way, fast cars, bikes and boats. He has a “speed” boat that has one big engine. He claims he has done 125mph in it and I believe him.

Later in the day Kathy and I took a short drive to the beach where my family would go swimming in the summer. It was called Sylvan Beach on Oneida Lake, about 20 miles from our house.

Here I am in front of the sign for Sylvan Beach

I told Kathy that they had a nice beach and an amusement park, but I doubted that the park was still there. Well another surprise as I strolled down memory lane.

I am sure this is the very same roller coaster that I rode as a kid. At least up close it looks like it has been there more than 50 years, probably 75 or more!

I am also sure that these are the very same kiddie rides that I rode on. Sylvan Beach was THE place to go in the summer.

The area has some very nice lake houses and boat docks and also some places that have been here for 100 years. All in all it was very quaint and brought back good memories.

This is the ole swimming hole.

Oneida Lake is the largest lake entirely within New York (79.8 square miles). It serves as one of the links in the Erie Canal. It empties into the Oneida River which flows into the Oswego River which in turn flows into Lake Ontario. It is named for the Oneida tribe of the Iroquois who live in the area. While not included as one of the Finger Lakes, it is sometimes referred to as their "thumb".
The current lake is about 21 miles long and about 5 miles wide with an average depth of 22 feet . The shoreline is about 55 miles. It truly is a beautiful lake.

This is a view of the lake.

All in all it was another good day. We enjoyed riding some of the back roads and the views of the farms. It is a very pretty area in the summer, but they can keep their winters.

Tomorrow we travel about 150 miles to the Catskill area where we will spend the next few days.

Let us know if you are enjoying the blog.

Happy Trails

PS The new GPS is working out well and Kathy is much happier with my shortcuts. We had some rain today and things have cooled down a little. The current temperature at 8:45pm is a very pleasant 67 degrees.

Posted by popding 17:59 Comments (0)

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