- Where We Started: Newburgh, N,Y.
- Where We Ended: Boston, Mass.
- Miles Driven: 401 (19,556 total).
- New States: Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts.
- States Still to Go: 4 (New Jersey, Delaware, Connecticut, Rhode Island)
THE DAY'S HIGHLIGHTS
The FHMA crew awoke Monday still needing to hit eight northeastern states in just two days in order to successfully close out its journey. Knowing that any long stops were thus out of the question, we instead hit a variety of sites in New York, Vermont and New Hampshire before closing the day with a drive-by shooting of Maine.
We awoke in Newburgh, N.Y., a city neither of us had ever been to. We quickly determined that it was also a city we could not wait to get out of. Depressing, tired and dirty, it's obvious Newburgh has seen better days, and one can only hope it'll have better days ahead. But it did have one site we wanted to see: Washington's Headquarters State Historic Site, along the banks of the Hudson River. Newburgh was the headquarters of the Continental Army during a good chunk of the American Revolution, from March 1782 until late 1783. It was in Newburgh that George Washington rejected the proposal that he become king, and also put down a conspiracy organized by officers angry about not being paid. Because of cost reductions mandated by New York State, the building/museum on site was not open on Mondays, though we were free to walk the grounds. We were the only people there.
After leaving Newburgh behind, we crossed the Hudson River and headed north to Hyde Park, N.Y. to visit the Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site, the site of FDR's home, presidential library and grave site. We started at the grave, located in a rose garden on the site.
Because I assumed Joan didn't want to go to the presidential library, I had bought only one ticket. Turns out I was wrong, and she did want to go. But since we'd already walked out onto the site, and were tight on time, she decided to go take the dogs out. This was the first in a series of brain-dead things I did Monday. So off I went to FDR's Presidential Library & Museum. Roosevelt's is the only presidential library that actually opened while the president it honors was still in office. Because time was tight, I had to settle for a 20-minute tour of the museum. It's not a big place, but it's chock full of interesting material, so I got through as much as I could in the time I had. I made it to 1921, when Roosevelt was struck by polio, before I had to leave. Because we have relatives nearby, we'll thankfully get another chance to hit Hyde Park.
Having disposed of presidential greats Washington and Roosevelt, much of the rest of the day ended up focusing on some of our lesser chief executives. The first stop on our "Tour of Forgotten Presidents," was Kinderhook, N.Y., the home of Martin Van Buren. If you don't know Van Buren, try listing all the presidents chronologically from George Washington on. When you get stuck, you've reached Martin Van Buren. Our eighth president, Van Buren is notable only for being the first president who was born an American citizen and for being one of only two people -- Thomas Jefferson was the other -- to serve as Secretary of State, Vice President and President. Earlier this year, C-SPAN ranked the 42 men who, to that point, had served significant time as president. Van Buren ranked 31st on that list. Ironically, he'd been 30th when C-SPAN did the same exercise in 2000, but apparently, the march of history never stops, as he's now been leapfrogged by Benjamin Harrison. Despite Van Buren's low ranking, I love presidential sites, so we stopped anyway. The first stop was the Martin Van Buren National Historic Site, comprised largely of Van Buren's large home, Lindenwald. We lucked out, as Monday was the first day the site was open for the season, but once again, we didn't have time for a tour of the home. Maybe if he'd ranked just a bit higher...
While Hank maintains his dignified pose at Lindenwald, Fred finds something dead and rolls in it. Luckily, whatever it was did not carry the stench of death we experienced on our long ride home last week.
After a quick spin by Kinderhook Cemetery to see Van Buren's grave, we headed through Albany, then bounced to the northwest and into Vermont. The original plan had been to make another stop on our tour of inconsequential presidents: Plymouth, the birthplace of Calvin Coolidge (C-SPAN rank: No. 26). But, since we were behind schedule and didn't want to go that far north, we chose instead to visit Vermont's tallest man-made structure, the Bennington Battle Monument, in Bennington, Vt. The 306-foot-tall monument commemorates the Revolutionary War's Battle of Bennington, which was a crucial victory for the colonists, one that weakened the the army of British General John Burgoyne and led to its eventual surrender at the Battle of Saratoga in 1777. Ironically, much of the Battle of Bennington actually took place 10 miles away, in Walloomsac, N.Y., but the colonial fighters came mostly from New Hampshire, Massachusetts and what would later become Vermont.
From Bennington, we cruised through the Green Mountain National Forest, through Brattleboro, Vt., and across the border into New Hampshire. I'm a big New Hampshire fan, having spent many summer vacations in my youth at Lake Winnipesaukee, so I highly recommend it. But we weren't there long this time around. We passed through Keene, N.H., and right outside town, with night starting to fall, made a stop at Granite Lake to get our mandated photo of the dogs in New Hampshire. It wasn't easy, as the residents around Granite Lake don't seem to want strangers coming around. Finally, after encountering many "No Trespassing" signs and no public beach areas, we found a small patch of land that appeared to be for public use.
From Granite Lake, we made a couple of quick stops in the Granite State. First, in Hillsborough, we visited the Franklin Pierce Homestead, the childhood home of our 14th president (C-SPAN ranking: 40, saved from last place only by the incompetence of James Buchanan and Andrew Johnson). Then, in Concord, we stopped to see the New Hampshire State House. After an excellent dinner at the famous Red Arrow Diner in Manchester, N.H., we headed for Maine.
By the time we arrived in Maine, it was near 11pm, and we'd had a long day. We love Maine, and spent a lot of time in the state -- especially at the beautiful Acadia National Park -- back in 2003. But, in 2009, it was truly a token stop. We wanted our Maine photo op to be right on the Atlantic Ocean, so we explored the coast until we found a cool spot in York, Me. The problem was lighting; we just couldn't shed enough light on our subjects to get a good photo. But since a photo of a canine from every state in required, here's the best we could do.
We were fried by this time, so we briefly considered putting down in Portland for the evening. We even started checking into hotels, and found that the only Choice Hotel in Portland that took dogs was also where Mohammed Atta and another 9/11 hijacker had stayed at on September 10, 2001. That creepy detail -- and the fact that going to Portland would have pushed us another 45 minutes north -- led us to change our minds. Instead, we headed south to Boston, where we prepared ourselves mentally and physically for the last day of FHMA.
- Fatigue is starting to take hold, as both Joan and I seem to be experiencing cognitive issues. A few examples:
- Early in the day, Joan asked me what we were planning to do at the "LBJ library." I corrected her, telling her we were going to the FDR Library. A little while later, she asked again about the "LBJ Library." Assuring her we didn't have time for a drive to Austin, Tex., I once again corrected her. That didn't stop her from asking about "LBJ" a third time.
- A few hours later, when we stopped at the Kinderhook Cemetery to see Martin Van Buren's grave, I drove past the cemetery once, and wondered aloud why there wasn't a more prominent marker for Van Buren's grave. After another pass, I whined even louder. Joan looked at me, shook her head and pointed at the huge sign in front of me, one shaped like an arrow, that said, "This Way to Grave Site of Martin Van Buren." Joan looked at me, and said, "My husband is an idiot." I responded by muttering something about going to see "LBJ's" grave.
- In the early evening, soon after we filled up the tank In Wilmington, Vt., I fell into a panic when I could not find my beloved BlackBerry. I looked at all the places I normally keep my BlackBerry in the car: in the cup holder, in the change tray, next to the gear shift, in the pocket on the driver's side of the car. No luck. I checked all my jacket pockets and my pants pockets. Deciding this was an emergency of great proportions, I pulled over and got out to see whether it had slipped under or in between the car seats. Nothing. In a panic, I was about to get back in the car and go back to the gas station when I finally spotted the BlackBerry. It was sitting comfortably in that thing we call a belt cradle. Which was on my belt. This idiotic move -- combined with my graveyard blindness and not buying Joan a ticket for the FDR Library -- gave me an insurmountable 3 to 1 lead on the day. Joan decided to protect her lead by sleeping through the rest of Vermont and most of New Hampshire.
- Our feet never hit the ground in Troy, N.Y., as we did our typical 45mph tour of that city. But we were intrigued by its welcome sign, which proclaimed Troy as "The Home of Uncle Sam." This required some investigating. Turns out that, according to local legend, back when Troy served as a key supply line for U.S. troops in the War of 1812, a local butcher named Samuel Wilson supplied the troops with meat. The barrels that contained this meat were stamped "U.S." for "United States," but happy troops commented that the initials on the barrels meant they were coming from "Uncle Sam." Troy has since claimed to be the home of "Uncle Sam." In 1961, Congress issued a resolution that seemed to confirm that Wilson had indeed been the inspiration for the term "Uncle Sam."
- On the gorgeous town square in Keene, N.H., there's a sign stenciled on the side of one of the buildings alongside the square. It's an advertisement for Parrish Shoes. It's a great location for an ad. If Parrish Shoes actually existed, that is. The sign is actually left over from the Robin Williams film "Jumanji," which was filmed largely in Keene. (Hat tip to FHMA reader and Keene native Mark Fitzhenry for this item)
- One site we planned to see but had to skip in order to stay on schedule was the Brigham Young Memorial in Whitingham, Vt. Young was born in Whitingham in 1801, and while the future leader of the Mormon Church and the founder of Salt Lake City didn't spend much of his life in Vermont, I admit to being surprised to find he'd been born there. On the other hand, I guess it's obvious he wasn't born in Utah since, you know, Lewis and Clark didn't even start the nation's first cross-country trip with a dog until 1803. (By the way, those wimps didn't even blog).
- Sign of the Day #1 :
I'm not sure which part of this makes me laugh hardest. The fact they misspelled "governor" or the fact this flawed sign was created by the state education department. I checked to be sure, and can't find any evidence that "govenor" was ever used as an acceptable spelling. Then again, Van Buren's only been dead for 147 years, so maybe this change request is still working its way through the New York State bureaucracy. Let me tell you, though, this crap would not stand in Springfield, Ill.
- Sign of the Day #2: Spotted near Kinderhook, N.Y...
I understand that this isn't someone running for mayor or senator or president, but would this sign really inspire you to vote for this guy for the school board? I did a little research, and found the Brunswick Central School District site that listed the statements of the four candidates for school board. You may notice that the election was held the day after we were there, and because I like to tie up loose ends wherever I can, I'm happy to tell you that Mr. Matthews was indeed elected to the board. One can only imagine the campaign signs of those who didn't win.
- Random iPod shuffle song of the day: "What Does Your Soul Look Like? (Part 4)" by DJ Shadow. This song is a pretty representative piece from the always interesting DJ Shadow, an artist who remains hard to classify. I've heard his music called "instrumental hip hop," which doesn't sound quite right to me. I'd say "trip hop" -- a combination of the hip hop and electronic genres -- is a better fit. DJ Shadow's debut album, "Endtroducing" holds the distinction of being the first album comprised completely of samples from other albums, and yet still was named one of the 100 best albums of all time by TIME in 2006.
- Here's the Day 14 report on our A-to-Z iPod Exploration:
- First Song of the Day: "Daytime Dilemma (Dangers of Love)," by The Ramones.
Last Song of the Day: "Die Hard the Hunter," by Def Leppard.
- Best Songs: "Dazed and Confused," by Led Zeppelin; "Dead Man Walking," by Bruce Springsteen; "Deathly," by Aimee Mann; "Deep Blue Day," by Brian Eno; "Desafinado," by Stan Getz & Charlie Byrd.
- Pleasant Surprises: "Dayvan Cowboy," by Boards of Canada; "Dead Dog on Asphalt," by Adrian Belew; "Dead Finks Don't Talk," by Brian Eno; "Dead Sun," by Moby; "Deep Forbidden Lake," by Neil Young; "Des Etoiles Electroniques," by Stereolab; "Desert Song," by Stanley Clarke; "Desolation Row," by Bob Dylan; "Detour," by Duane Eddy; "Diamond Diary," by Tangerine Dream.
- Guilty Pleasures: "December '63 (Oh What a Night)," by Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons; "The Devil Went Down to Georgia," by The Charlie Daniels Band.
- Bad Songs by Good Artists: "Desire," by U2; "Desperado," by The Eagles (though it was hilarious when used as a "Seinfeld" plot point); "Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes," by Paul Simon.
- Great Rediscoveries: "Dear Prudence," by The Beatles; "Dearest," by Buddy Holly; "Death Is a Star," by The Clash; "Death of a Disco Dancer," by The Smiths; "Destroyer," by The Kinks.
- First Song of the Day: "Daytime Dilemma (Dangers of Love)," by The Ramones.
- Lunch: Eveready Diner, Hyde Park, N.Y.: We decided that, being in New York, we needed to find a good old New York diner. We lucked out when we encountered the Eveready, which is one of the area's best-known diners. We learned a long time ago that multiple positive reviews posted inside a restaurant's front door don't mean much, but in this case, they were dead on. Joan had onion soup and a Greek salad. I decided to go French, so I got French onion soup, French dip and French fries. Magnifique. After we dropped off our francs at the register, it was back to the highway. Jim Nutrition Rating: 1.5 stars (out of 5). Restaurant Rating: 4 stars (out of 5).
- Dinner: Red Arrow Diner, Manchester, N.H.: This legendary diner has been visited by just about every presidential candidate in recent memory, and is also a favorite of actor Adam Sandler, who grew up in Manchester. Each booth carries a small plaque that marks which famous people once sat there. Joan's side of the booth had once been occupied by the Barenaked Ladies (or at least two of them), and my side by Hillary Clinton. We agreed that these visits probably did not occur simultaneously. As for the food, it was good, though of limited availability. Joan asked for sweet potato fries. They were out. I asked for mashed potatoes. Out. So I opted for mac and cheese to go with my burger, and Joan had grilled cheese and homemade potato chips. The food was good, though not amazing, but it's the ambiance of the place that really hit us. The service was wonderful, it's cool-looking little diner and the history of the place is evident everywhere you look. Jim Nutrition Rating: 1 star (out of 5). Restaurant Rating: 4 stars (out of 5). I may run for president just so I can come back.
- Comfort Inn, Boston, Mass.: We didn't finish strong on the hotel front, whiffing for the second straight night. The good news: The wireless worked at this hotel. But it was in a shady part of Boston, as evidenced by the 2-inch-thick bulletproof glass between the customers and the clerk. Let's be honest, when you see that kind of protection, you know it's there for a reason. The place was also dirty. It wasn't a complete disaster, like the Quality Inn in Newburgh, but it wasn't a particularly great way to close out our hotel experiences. I predicted we'd hear a gunshot at some point in the night, and was pleasantly surprised to be wrong. Hotel rating: 2 stars (out of 5).
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