Sunday, July 29, 2018

Connecticut - East Haddam

East Haddam

Hudson River
On June 25, 2018, we drove to East Haddam, CT. It was a beautiful drive across mountains and rivers. We have been in Connecticut before but not in the southern portion of it.
Wolf's Den Campground was home for a week. It is a large campground with a mix of cabins, tent sites and RV sites. Better than half of it is permanent sites, all kept up well.

There are lots of activities for kids, a large pool, playground, putt-putt golf and more. The overnight sites are grass with a small rectangle of cement to park your RV on. We were in Site 43 which was level and wider than normal, it had a picnic table and a fire ring. There was only electric and water hookups with a grey tank disposal. This was new to us so another learning experience. See tip for more info. Laundry and bathrooms were clean. WiFi was good and Verizon signal was okay. We paid $40.00 a night with our Passport America discount and their weekly rate.
This was also a first for us, the backpack on this lady had a huge parrot in it. The bird was talking and singing up a storm. Nancy tried catching up with her but Mielikki was doing her business and there was no rushing her. Just for fun, Google Parrot Backpacks, you will be amazed at how many choices there are - who knew?

The theme of this stop seemed to be castles. We visited two of them.
First up was Gillette Castle. It was built by William Hooker Gillette, actor, director, playwright and inventor. He is most famous for his portrayal of "Sherlock Holmes". He is the one who gave Sherlock his hat, pipe and spy glass. There are guides through out the house, but you can wander at your own pace.

The castle is located on the southern most end of the chain of hills called Seven Sisters. Gillette, named his estate The Seventh Sister. He designed the castle and most of its contents personally. The house is built of local fieldstone supported by a steel framework. It took 25 men five years to complete the main structure, from 1914-1919. It took many more years to complete all the details which were done by local craftsmen. Even the walls, awnings and train station are made of fieldstone.

The house is filled with beautiful woodwork. It is all hand-hewn southern white oak.
There are Built-In Couches, the one outside of the study has heaters built in underneath it to keep you toasty warm. Can you imagine curling up with a good book and a cup of tea?

The Great Room has a beautiful stone table and fireplace along with another built in couch. It was hard to take pictures with the spot lights and light coming in the windows.

There are Forty-Seven Doors in the home and no two are exactly the same.

Even the Light Switches are unique and hand carved.

The Stairways are a mix of stone and wood, there is a hidden staircase and doorway that Gillette used if he wanted to come and go and not be seen by anyone, or if he wanted to make a grand entrance into the great hall.

Today there is of course an automatic sprinkler system in case of fire, but back when this was built there was no such thing. Gillette designed his own Fire Protection System.

L: cone that the cord was wrapped around
R: steel water tank
On the top floor of the castle is a steel water tank that was attached to a series of hoses downstairs. The tank filled with rain water. In the event of a fire, the hoses could be activated with a pull-chord on the second floor that was wrapped around a wooden cone hanging from the ceiling. Luckily, it was never needed. 

Even the Windows have hand carved latches and the views are pretty spectacular. Once again Les and Mielikki were waiting on Nancy. Can you see them in the bottom right picture? We of course couldn't take the dog in so they wandered the grounds while Nancy toured the house.

Gillette's Bedroom was much smaller than expected but filled with everything he needed. Built in closets and cupboards. In the corner over his bed is a special light switch that he designed, it allowed him to turn off the lights without getting out of bed.

Gillette was quite the inventor, in fact he made most of his money from his inventions for the stage and theater. He not only used his talents inside the house, but outside as well. He built a three mile long, narrow gauge railroad track and the Steam Engine to run on it.

Second was Castle Craig, in Meriden, CT. It is not really a castle or even the ruins of one, but that is what it is called. It is a stone observation tower that was given to the city by Walter Hubbard, a successful Meriden business man.
The tower was built with native trap rock by local stone masons in 1900. It stands on the East Peak in Hubbard Park at an elevation of 976-feet. It is 32-feet high and 58-feet around. Stairs inside the tower take you to the top. On a clear day you can catch a glimpse of New Haven, CT to the south and the foot hills of the Berkshires in Massachusetts to the north.
On this day we could see the Sleeping Giant Mountain Range (bottom left picture). Or, at least Les could as Nancy got to the top of the stairs and turned around and went right back down!

One day we ventured up to Springfield, MA. It is home to one of the two Massachusetts, Peter "Wolf" Toth Indians, the other one will be in an upcoming blog from the Boston area. "Omiskanoagwiak" was carved in 1984. He was the 40th statue on the "Trail of The Whispering Giants". He stands 15-feet tall and is carved from a pine tree.

We went to the Springfield Cemetery to search out a headstone shaped like a house. The Titus Family Monument seems a fitting memorial to a successful, Victorian real estate man. The 6-foot high, two story family home is made from solid marble. It is also a monument to his three wives: Louise, Mary and Pamela. Even the small markers are shaped like houses.

This was also our first exposure to Brownstone Headstones. This hardy stone was readily available from the East Longmeadow quarry. In fact they have outlasted some of the marble stones.
While driving to a nearby car show, we happened upon the Longmeadow Cemetery which had even more of these headstones. Most of them have faces carved into them. Many with wings.
A few have Winged Skulls, many think this was from the Puritans. The "death head" was initially a non-religious symbol used to denote a buried corpse, as Puritans didn't believe in using religious symbols on graves. It can also mean a dead persons journey is not over. After shedding their physical form, they are flying away to another realm. Over time the skull was replaced with faces, some with crowns. The sayings are certainly a reminder of the times, the women were remembered as "daughter of", "wife of", "consort of", or "relict of". "Relict" is a woman left behind by the death of her husband. We've come along way baby!

The Scythe symbolizes death's tool to cut down the flower of life. The sand in the Hour Glass has slipped to the bottom, Time is Supreme.

Classic Car shows are always fun. We planned our trip to Springfield, MA so we could attend this one hosted by Little Sisters of the Poor in Enfield, CT, which is just at the border. There were about 50 cars. This one was extra fun as there was a guy with a Ford Bronco, mid 70's and he is the original owner. Our son-in-law Steve is rebuilding his Grandfathers Bronco, a major undertaking. We shared pictures of Steve's progress and this guy was extremely impressed.

We visited Hartford, CT on a Sunday which makes getting around town and taking pictures a whole lot easier. The Capitol Building is absolutely gorgeous. This Victorian Gothic beauty opened in 1878.

The Lego Twain stands outside the gift shop. 
 Mark Twain and Harriet Beecher Stowe were neighbors in Hartford.
Mark Twain and his family lived here from 1874 to 1891. Many of his best-known works were written here including The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Prince and the Pauper. In 1891 after poor financial investments left them financially unstable. Twain, his wife Olivia and one daughter Clara traveled to Europe so he could lecture and earn money to pay off their debts. Susy and Jean, their other two daughters stayed behind in Hartford, and Susy died of spinal meningitis in August of 1896 before they could be reunited. They could not bring themselves to reside in the house after this tragedy and spent most of their remaining years abroad.

Harriet Beecher Stowe lived in this house for the last 23 years of her life. Pogunuc People (1878) was one of the works she published while living here. Uncle Tom's Cabin was published much earlier (the house she lived in then will be in an upcoming blog). She also embarked on two world wide lecture tours while living here. She passed away in her bedroom with several of her children, her sister and other family members at her side. After her death the property was sold out of the family. In 1924 her grandniece, Katharine Seymour Day bought the property and also acquired the neighboring Mark Twain House and saved it from development in 1929. She turned both into museums.

Roadside Oddiites of course took us in every direction.
Cheshire, CT
Norwich, CT 

We found two Muffler Men. One in Cheshire, CT, holding a flag. The other is in Norwich, CT, and dressed like a cowboy.

The Traffic Control Tower in Meriden, CT is a survivor of the early days of highway chaos. It was built in 1925 and controlled traffic at a busy downtown intersection for nearly 42 years.
All four sides have a strange configuration of red, amber and green lights. These were controlled by the operator who climbed into the tower from a ladder. When the boring lights of today were installed, the city moved the tower to its current location to preserve this little piece of history.

Wild Bills Nostalgia Center in Middletown, CT was on our way to Hartford, CT, It is appropriately named because this place is wild!

The buildings are all painted with a variety of murals and the grounds are filled with an assortment of sculptures.

There is a Haunted House, which seems to actually be an old record store. It was closed when we were there.
Inside the main store is just as crazy, you can hardly get through the aisles. Check out the link above to see all the unique things they have.

The Two Wrasslin' Cats is our kind of place. Their sign welcoming EVERYONE was our first clue. Once inside we were greeted like old friends. We stopped here twice, the first time was just for coffee to go, and the next morning we stopped for breakfast. The decor is an eclectic assortment of cat "stuff". Our table had the sleeping kitty and the "Carmen Miranda" cat lamp.

Painted Rocks are a big thing in this area. We found the Snake Rock and an Eagle Rock in Marlborough, CT. There were a number of others in the area that we didn't get to. The cool Arrow Lake Sign was in East Hampton, CT.

The Frog Bridge is in Willmantic, CT and crosses the Willmantic River. Frogs and thread spools don't seem to go together but in this case they do. The frogs are in honor of the "Battle of the Frogs" which took place in 1754. On a hot summer night, people were roused from their sleep by " a shrieking, clattering thunderous roar" unlike anything they had ever heard. No one was sure what was happening, could it be an Indian attack? Most panicked, some ran through the streets ready for battle, others prayed. Some went in search of the noise, but could not find anything. The next morning they found the source of the noise, a pond that was now just a puddle was surrounded by scores of dead bullfrogs. It was thought that the frogs fought to the death in some weird battle. The spools represent the textile industry that thrived here for years.

Lego's, Cows and Whales. The Giant Lego's sit at the entrance to an industrial park in Enfield, CT, where Lego has an office. The Super Cow has landed on the roof of the Guida's Dairy in New Britain, CT and Conny (short for Connecticut) rests outside The Children's Museum in Hartford, CT. 

On our last night in town we went grocery shopping in Haddam, CT and there was a Car Show in the parking lot, this one was a bit smaller than the first one but still fun to wander. We also discovered the Shady Habit Brewing Company tucked back behind the grocery store. Yummy beer and good conversation with some locals.

Up next is the Boston, MA area and a visit to the JFK Library and Museum.

Till we meet again...

Happy Trails to You!

Tips and things we learn along the way. 
~ Grey water disposal
As stated above this campground only had hookups for emptying our grey water tanks, not one for both grey and black water.
This was the first time we have encountered this. We have had sites with no black or grey water hookups but not one with just grey.

Once we started setting up we discovered we didn't have the right type of hose, luckily the office sold them so Les went and bought one. He came back and then discovered he needed a special connection to attach it to the RV. So back to the office he went to purchase that.

It would have been helpful if they had asked if he had one when he bought the hose! Or better yet, ask if we had what we needed when we checked in. But anyways, once we had all the correct parts it was an easy hook up to the RV, simply screwing the cap in place and then dropping the open end of the hose into the disposal pipe.

So no one else has the problems we did --
You need a grey flushing hose, the color of the hose is actually grey. You do not want to use any hose that you use for fresh water. The difference in the color of the hose keeps you from getting the two mixed up.
You also need a Termination Cap with Hose Connect. This is sometimes called a Grey Water Drain Adapter. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

New York - Wurtsboro


We headed north to New York on June 18, 2018. Catskills Adventure Resort, just north of Wurtsboro, NY was home for a week. It is a large campground with sites on both sides of Mt. Vernon Road. The majority of the campground is permanent sites. They are all kept up very well, most with beautiful landscaping. There is plenty to do as they have a large pool, playground, horseshoes, a stocked pond with canoes and planned activities. The onsite restaurant serves breakfast on Saturday and Sunday mornings and there is an adult lounge for happy hour.

The overnight sites are in an open field and all back ins. The sites are grass and very wide. They have a picnic table and a fire ring. Our site was plenty long enough for us with lots of room to store our tow-dolly. The WiFi was an extra $14.95 for the week and worked pretty well most of the time. We had no Verizon service in the park. The laundry and bathrooms were clean. We paid $48.71 a night with the WiFi added in, and no discount.

The FDR Presidential Library and Museum was America's first presidential library, and the only one used by a sitting president. FDR designed it himself and it opened in 1941 on the grounds of the Roosevelt estate, Springwood, in Hyde Park, NY.
We had to cross that! 
It was only 43 miles away, but having to cross a mountain made the trip over an hour. It was a beautiful drive so we didn't mind.

When FDR donated his papers to the Library he set a precedent for public ownership of presidential papers. This library became the model for the nation's presidential library system, now part of the National Archives.
In the Museum you can explore exhibits about the lives of the Roosevelts, the Great Depression, the New Deal and World War II.

Nancy's brother Bob, had polio as a child and has struggled with the after effects his whole life, thankfully he was never paralyzed but walking has always been difficult. But he never let it stop him, he owned his own business and built and installed custom cabinets! So it was pretty inspiring to hear the tale of FDR's fight with polio and all he did to maintain an active life and keep the public thinking he was strong and fit, which of course is what he was. He was paralyzed from the waist down but he learned to walk after the polio by supporting himself with two arm crutches and thrusting his shoulders forward to propel his body.
In the pictures that show him standing he is always holding onto someones arm or a table or podium.
His son was quoted as saying he always had bruises on his arm from his fathers strong grip. He had tremendous upper body strength. He would walk the full length of the driveway everyday that he was at Springwood.

He accomplished many things and made tremendous improvements to the country.

As you walk through the Museum, you get a glimpse of what life was like for the majority of Americans who were struggling through the depression and the war.

There are a number of videos to watch that describe what was happening in the country at the time. Some displays show the improvements of the time as well, like the development of TV. Well, we guess you could argue whether that was an improvement or not!

Once again there were moments of frustration as you are reminded that we just keep fighting the same battles over and over again and never seem to learn.

"The test of our progress in not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little."

FDR's vision was a world founded on four essential human freedoms. 

Eleanor Roosevelt not only shared FDR's thoughts on helping people, she had many progressive ideas of her own. She had a cottage, Val-Kill, just a few miles from the Roosevelt estate that she used as her escape and where she hosted many gatherings to discuss controversial issues of the time. Labor leaders, World leaders, United Nations colleagues were just some who visited there. It became her main home after FDR passed away. You can tour it as well, it is the only National Historic dedicated to a first lady.

She traveled world wide while FDR was in office, to meet with people of all walks of life. She championed for social programs and civil rights. Val-Kill Industries, which she owned with a few friends, trained out-of-work rural people in traditional crafts and was a prototype for many national New Deal projects.
After FDR passed away she thought she was done with politics as well, but that was not the case. She continued to fight for the under dog and to inspire others to do the same.

 J. Edgar Hoover, who was the head of the FBI at the time was suspicious of her political activities and associates. He was especially concerned with her involvement in civil rights and civil liberties.

The FBI had a complete file cabinet of information on her. It is one of the largest files ever compiled by the agency on an individual. The file began in 1924 and continued until her death in 1962. Much of it is unsubstantiated gossip and 90% of it concerns her civil rights work.

Springwood is where Franklin was born and grew up. It was his "Camp David" while in office. It is run by the National Parks Service.
L: Front of house - the two wings were added on in 1915~~~ Back of house
The tour includes the main level and the second level where the bedrooms are and is guided by a Park Ranger. You are free to wander each level and explore at your own pace. There is an elevator to the second floor. The third level where the children slept is closed off to the tour.

You enter into the main foyer which is decorated with many photos and nautical items. FDR loved to build and collect model ships. He also collected many other things including stamps, he had one of the largest collections of his time. The storage area of the Library is filled with 100's of boats, art sculptures and paintings.
To the left of the front door is a cabinet filled with stuffed birds, some of which FDR did himself as a young boy. His father insisted that anything he hunted he had to taxidermy himself. That is until his mother discovered all the dangerous chemicals he was using, from then on the birds were done professionally. In front of the cabinet is a statue of FDR done by Prince Paul Troubetzkoy in 1911.

The house tour includes stories of Roosevelt's mother, Sara, who lived with them. She loved to entertain and always got photos of anyone who visited. The piano in the Sitting Room is covered in photographs of the rich and famous.

To the left of the sitting room is the Snuggery, which is what Sara called the room. She paid bills, planned the day and ate her breakfast in this room. It is also where the radio was and the TV was installed in here. Sara wanted to invest in the new technology of television but FDR advised against it because he thought it would never catch on!

At the end of the hall is the Library. There are lots of windows that let in plenty of light and look out over the river, which unlike today, could be seen when FDR lived here. Two of the walls are lined floor to ceiling with bookshelves.

There are four stairs that take you down into the Library. FDR had a removable ramp made so that he could wheel himself in and out of the room.
There are sheets of Plexiglas
 over the ramp and stairs
 that create a platform
into the Library. 
If a visitor came, someone on staff would remove the ramp before bringing them into the Library, where FDR would already be seated.
His wheel chair was custom made to look like a regular chair. When he was seated at a desk it looked like he was just sitting in a chair.

All the bedrooms were on the second floor, including Franklin's. He had an elevator installed, but not an electric one. His was a giant dumbwaiter that he could wheel his chair into and then pull himself up to the 2nd floor. We did say he had incredible upper body strength.

Boyhood room

Franklin's Boyhood Room is set up just like it was when he grew up here. The room that he was born in was recreated after his mother passed away. She had used the furniture in her bedroom in the South wing. Once she passed her room was turned into a guest room.

Birth Room

L: the door from Sara's room ~~ R: the door from FDR'S room
both enter into Eleanor's room. 
It was an interesting arrangement of bedrooms for Franklin, Eleanor and Sara. They were side by side with Eleanor in the middle. There were adjoining doors to all three rooms.
We both had a great relationship with our mother-in-laws but this arrangement seems just a little to close quarters!

FDR's room was chosen for its view. Franklin and Eleanor shared this room until he contracted polio. Then she moved into the room next door.

Hers was the smallest of all three. She had a small day bed and a desk.
 It is said that when FDR was not staying at the house, Eleanor would stay at her cottage just a few miles away.

Sara's room, as stated before was turned into a guest room. While she was living it looked pretty much like the birth room.

At the end of the hall where you turn to go downstairs is a mirror. The Secrect Service used this to keep an eye on the blind hallway. Nancy caught Les lurking in a doorway!

Both Franklin and Eleanor are buried here in the rose gardens. Their beloved Scottish Terrier, Fala is also buried here along with their first dog, Chief, a German Shepard.

FDR's grave is marked with the flag, the dogs are buried in front of the sun dial.

Woodstock, NY has always held a mystical place in our minds. It is a small town with a definite hippy vibe to it. We wandered in and out a few of the shops and art galleries. If you ever want to stay in town the Woodstock Waterfall Hideaway looked like a great place.
Outside one of the galleries is a Habitat for Artists (HFA) shed. HFA sheds are small, temporary studios located in a variety of locations. Some easily visible, others a little more obscure. The idea is to create a connection between artists and communities.

While creating their art, they get to engage with a new audience from that location. The one in Woodstock was all about what inspires you. People could leave their answers tacked to the side of the shed. So, what inspires you? Please let us know by leaving us a comment.

Just outside of Woodstock is the Karma Triyana Tibetan Monastery. Many classes are taught here and it is also a retreat center.

We also found The Big Pink, which is where Bob Dylan lived and his "basement" tapes were recorded. He's come a long ways.

Of course the Woodstock concert was not held here in town, but 50 miles south in Bethel, NY. We visited Yasgur Farm, where it all happened and where they have also held reunion concerts.

The farm is no longer owned by the Yasgur Family, well the majority of it anyways. Miriam Yasgur sold all but 1 sq. feet of it, which will always remain in her family.
There is a Hippy Muffler Man at the front fence of the property.
There is very little sign recognition of the Woodstock Concert. We did discover after the fact that the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts  has a Woodstock Museum in it. It will have to wait for our next time through.

We did find a memorial about a block away from the farm that we thought might be related to the concert. There is no plaque and we can't find any info about it on line. If anyone knows what it is please let us know!

We found a few Roadside Oddities.

The Stone Church, The Chapel of the Holy Name, in Cragsmoor, NY actually came up on the Roadside America website. It is a beautiful church, still holds services and the view is amazing.

The Boy and His Boot are in the center of downtown Ellenville. It is one of three that the town has had over the years. The Shanley Hotel in Napanoch, NY is reportedly haunted. The Giant Gnome welcomes you to Kedler's Farm in Kerhonkson, NY.
"Peg Leg" Bates, was born Clayton Bates on October 10, 1907 to sharecroppers in Fountain Inn, SC. At the age of 10 he lost a leg in a farming accident. Prior to that he earned money dancing on street corners

Image from intetnet
His uncle made him a wooden leg and he taught himself how to tap dance on it. He performed all over the world, including for the King and Queen of England in 1936. When he retired he owned and operated the Peg Leg Bates Country Club in Kerhonkson. He was the first black resort owner in Ulster county.

We drove through Irish Corners on our way back from Woodstock. There is not much here other than a cemetery at the St. Charles Borromeo Church that has some pretty headstones and a large Grassy Monster.

From Irish Corners we drove the Scenic Byway to Ellenville. There are a number of overlooks that offer some great views. At one we found a  painted rock from a member of RVing Rocks. A FaceBook group for rock painters who leave them for others to find and keep or re-hide. We re-hid this one in Connecticut. Nancy has painted a few rocks that we have left for others.

Perrine's Covered Bridge was another find on our way back from Woodstock. It is the second oldest covered bridge in New York. It was built in 1844 and crosses the Wallkill River. It is located in Esopus, NY.

Carolyn ~ Nancy ~ Laurelle 
Nancy was so excited to find out that the annual Reiki Retreat, held by the International Center for Reiki Training was just 10-miles away in Ellenville. Nancy worked at the Center in Michigan before we moved to Asheville, NC. She has kept in contact with many of the teachers from the center as well as some of the customers. She popped in and surprised a few of them. It is always so great seeing old friends.
Speaking of Reiki and old friends. We also got to spend a day with Jim Crowley. We met him years ago when he came to Michigan to take a Reiki Master class. We have also kept in touch with him, thank you FaceBook. He came to the campground and spent the day with us just catching up. He used to have an Airedale so of course Mielikki got lots of loving. We forgot to get a picture, but he got one or two of the dog!

Next up East Haddam, CT.

Till we meet again...

Happy Trails to You!

Tips and things we have learned along the way. 
~ Bugs!!!!
We talked of issues with bugs before and while we really don't consider ourselves "campers" in the true sense of camping, we are staying in campgrounds and that means bugs!
Bugs inside and out!
There are as many ways to get rid of bugs as there are bugs! Google it sometime and you could spend hours reading all about it!
~ Traps are the most obvious and easiest - ant traps, roach traps and poison for mice. They come in all shapes and sizes.
We place the ant traps along the walls and inside the cupboards.
Roach traps are under all of our cabinets - we pulled out all the drawers and removed vent covers to put them in those dark hiding places.
Mice pellets are also placed under our cabinets - it is impossible to seal off every opening in a RV!

~ Spray - again there are a number of different types of spray to choose from and pretty sure they all work about the same.

 We did a complete spray along every wall in the entire RV, bumper to bumper, as a precaution and then repeat based on the recommendations on the package.
We also do spot spraying when we start seeing bugs again. Along the edge of the cabinets and behind the vent covers.

If our site has a ton of ants on it when we pull in we spray the tires and the hoses that touch the ground to keep the ants from crawling up. Also around the stairs and doorway.
Borax sprinkled on the ground around the tires is supposed to help with ants and mice as well.
We have a ton of underneath storage outside of our RV, we have placed mice pellets and sprayed for bugs in all of them.
We have a Thermacell Repellent Lantern. The lantern has a cartridge inside that emits a mist and gives you up to 15-feet of bug protection. Easy to use and provides light too.

Natural bug spray for our bodies, yes we use a lot of chemicals in this process but on our skin we go natural. We found ours at a Farmers Market in Delaware - Remarle Natural Skin Care - they make many other items as well. It works great and smells good too!

As stated we are using toxins and chemicals except on our skin. We have tried a number of home remedies and the Borax tip seems to work okay, but most just don't do the trick for us. So we are careful when and how we use them.
The traps are placed in places that Mielikki can't get to, corners, under the couch, under drawers etc. The Pet Poison Control hot line does say that if a dog eats an ant trap it shouldn't hurt them, but you should call your vet right away.
We only spray when we are going to be out of the RV for hours. We take Mielikki outside then spray everything and leave. Once back home we clean the floor, etc to make sure she can't get into any of it.