Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Saratoga National Historic Park: Saratoga, NY

On our last half-day with Blake, we set out early for Saratoga National Historic Park.  Blake hasn't been there, it isn't far away and we can spend some time on photography, something we all enjoy.

People on sodium restricted diets take note...bring your own water because you can't drink out of the water fountain.

We pay inside at the gift shop and consider additional birthday presents for Blake.  
Ultimately, we passed on the hat.

Saratoga is an important battle in the Revolutionary war.  An American victory in 1777 forced a major British army to surrender here.  There are several displays inside, including a movie that we don't see because we have limited time and want to leave some to check out the park grounds which promise to be substantial.

We browse the inside fairly quickly - again due to our limited time.  There is quite a bit to see and we could have easily spent a whole day here.

This lighted miniature shows the movement of troops.

These dioramas make me want to go home and play in my art studio making miniature scenes.

Another miniature scene.  War seems a lot nicer at this scale.

For anyone out there that is a  Benedict Arnold fan - if there is such a thing - they have a sizable display dedicated to him here.

They have some period costumes for kids to try on so....

Of course we tried them on.

All of this is making me want to go home and watch The Patriot.

I will not share the inappropriate thing Blake did with this mannequin before I could recover from my shock,  close my mouth and take a picture.

Moving outside we find ourselves going in separate directions to take different photos.  Blake is interested in the cannon, David in the majestic landscape and me in the headstones behind the visitor center.

David has always liked to photograph landscapes and he is in luck here since there are some really pretty views.  We don't walk the grounds since they are very spread out and we are so limited on time but rather we move the car from major site to major site.  Each of these has a board with information and a button you can push to hear a narrated account of the importance of that particular site.

It is very quiet and peaceful here.  We see people walking, running and biking through the park and I can imagine if I lived here, this would be somewhere I would enjoy coming for the same reasons.  It is so serene that it is very hard to imagine that cannons and guns were fired and people died horrible deaths right on that field there behind the guy going by on his bike.

The white post with the blue top is one of many showing the American Line.

In other parts of the park there are red ones marking the British Line.  

This is the only building still standing in the park.  All of the homes and other buildings are gone now and simply have a sign telling you what was once there and why it was important.

This house was used as an officer's quarters during the war.  There is a park ranger outside and he seems happy enough to have someone to talk to, even if very briefly.  On a beautiful day like this one, I think he must have one of the best jobs in the world.  Sit on the porch alone and read your book until someone happens by.  Recite your script, answer questions.  Go back to your book.

My boys, shooting more pictures and watching for the huge bird overhead.  I say it is an eagle, David is skeptical.  I think he hopes to get a picture to prove me wrong.

At one time, I was on the only one in the family interested in photography.  Now both of the boys are.  Blake is getting creative here.  I feel so proud.

David's turn to get creative.

We had good last half-day with our boy.

Even if he is a big doofus.

On the way back, we have a beautiful sunset welcoming us.  This is a short turn-around for me.  We return on Sunday night and I will fly to Pittsburgh on Monday afternoon.

This is the only good part of flying.

The trip back to Dallas is uneventful until we get to the shuttle that will take us back to our car.  It is almost at capacity.  David, being a chivalrous type of guy, offers to stand so two women can get on the bus.  Only the shuttle driver can't allow you to stand.

So he has to sit in this "seat" which isn't actually a seat.  Everyone on the bus is laughing at him (you can't laugh with someone who is sticking their tongue out at you).  Still, I am proud of him for giving up his real seat and keeping the two ladies from having to wait.  I think they are grateful too.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Roadtripping with Blake: Malta to Cooperstown, NY

The day we go to Cooperstown is a rainy grey day.  My favorite, especially if it is also chilly out (it wasn't on this day).  I think these are good days for photography since the light and clouds can add interest to your photos.  Blake wanted a camera for his birthday so that's what we got him.

Normally we don't spend that kind of money for a birthday gift but we do more than usual for the 16th, 18th  and 21st for our kids.  (None of those birthday presents involved automobiles.)

After hanging around Saratoga Springs for a bit waiting for the bar that Blake left his debit card at to open, we finally get on the road to Cooperstown and the Baseball Hall of Fame around lunch.  David and Blake think this is going to an all day thing - checking out the Hall.  But both are also feeling laid back and happy today so they indulge me when I want to pull over to shoot photos.

This happens really often, I see a lot of things I would like to take pictures of.  I try to temper my desire to stop every quarter mile.  David has gotten better over the years at not getting all whiney and impatient when i want to stop and sometimes even actively encourages me to stop.  Why not, he points out on this day?  We have the whole day.

So we stop both on the way there and on the way back.  We all get out and take pictures.  Blake tries to learn how to use his new toy and I try to show him some things about aperture and shutter speed.  Here are some of my photos from that day:

On the way back from Cooperstown we pass Glimmerglass State Park.  I comment that I would like to go through and see if there is anything interesting in there and David convinces me to turn around and go back.

Right away we find a covered bridge.  Not just any covered bridge, the Hyde Hall covered bridge.  This bridge, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, is the oldest existing covered bridge in the United States.  It was restored in 1967 by the state of New York.

There's David squatting to take a photo from the other side.  At least I hope that's what he is doing.

The bridge from another bridge.

In the very back of the park we find Hyde Hall, a National Historic Landmark.  Tours of this building are available but in the continuing story of my life, not while we are here.

We see wildlife in the park too.  As we leave the covered bridge and on the way out, there is a family of deer grazing near the playground and "beach" area.  I put beach in quotes because this is a lake, not the ocean so I think they use the term beach loosely.  The beach is also closed now for the winter.

We see a beaver, my first to ever see in person.  We actually see two, or maybe the same one twice, but they are too fast to photograph.  This started a whole thing about beavers, and not in a good way either. 

As usual when I travel with others, I write down (or make David type in my phone when I am driving) my favorite one-liners, most of these this time - but not all - are courtesy of Blake.
  • That makes me want to flamenco dance.
  • My farts smell like burning trash?
  • We ain't old, I can't eat at 4 o'clock!
  • Beaver are usually camera shy.
  • Did y'all put deodorant in the car?
  • BYOB:  Bring your own beaver
  • I'm still immature, but in a different way.
  • It's comfortable, yet stimulating.
  • I just drooled on the table.
  • If you do it, let me get my camera out first.
  • Did you see that cow scratching itself on that tree?
  • That was the Madonna, not an angel dumbass.
  • I'd be a pretty hot English guy.
  • You know what I've noticed has become a lot more mainstream lately?  Porn.
That last one came up when no one was even talking.  Blake just suddenly pops off with that from the backseat.  Maybe porn is mainstream for 21 year old boys in the Navy but it isn't mainstream for most 40-something grandmothers.  Blake's best comment came when we returned to the bar in Saratoga to retrieve his debit card.

We decided to stay and have something to eat - and more beer for the boys.  After this toast to their time together Blake said, "Can we kiss now, that was a pretty intimate moment right there."

Luckily David wasn't in the process of drinking his beer or he might have snorted it through his nose.  This happened before because of something inappropriate someone said while playing Catchphrase at home (I am sure it was Blake).  It is interesting to note that when you shoot beer out of your nose, it will foam.  A lot.  Me, Blake and Amanda (our oldest daughter who was also home when this happened) laughed so much we cried.  Rumor has it that I might have even wet myself a little but that can't be proven.  David didn't laugh.  He was sick the rest of the day. 

I made David spit iced tea all over our middle child Miranda during dinner once too.  I think he is getting smarter about refraining from actively drinking while Blake and I are talking.

The City Tavern offers a lot of different kinds of beer.

The boys try a couple they are unfamiliar with to varying degrees of success.  Once nice thing they do here is allow you to sample a small amount (about 2 oz) before you commit.

They also have a large variety of specialty pizzas, all served on a cutting board.  This is mine.  I asked for a cross between The Greek and The Big Fat Greek.  The Greek had only vegetables, the Big Fat Greek only meat.  I had them give me both.  This pizza has a garlic butter sauce instead of tomato sauce as the base and it was very good.  David's had BBQ sauce instead of tomato and he liked his as well.

We make it out of the bar this time with Blake's debit card and without him vomiting in the parking lot when we get to his apartment.  Tomorrow is our last day and we only have until about noon before we have to drive back to Connecticut to the airport.  We will spend it once again taking photos, this time at Saratoga National Historic Park.  That story next time.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Baseball Hall of Fame: Cooperstown, NY

When we agreed to come visit our son I think he was concerned about how he would entertain us for one whole day and 2 partial days.  Then one afternoon when he and I were on the phone he suddenly yelled, "I know!  Let's go to the Hall of Fame!"

I knew which Hall of Fame he meant since all of us are baseball fans and because Blake lives in New York.  Cooperstown is about 2 hours from where he lives near Albany but we have the whole day and I knew David would like this idea so the plan was set.

If you read the previous story you might remember that the night before was Blake's 21st birthday.  You may also remember that he left his debit card at the bar so after picking him up, we had to wait around for the bar to open.  When they wouldn't give him his card until the safe could be opened after 4, we went on with David and I footing the bill for the day.

It took us nearly 4 hours to get to the Hall of Fame.  Back in Dallas, David wanted to get there early because I think in his mind, we were going to be there all day.  Hours and hours of touring every nook and cranny of the hallowed halls of Cooperstown.  After the delay at the bar and then stopping for food and to take pictures along the way, we didn't arrive until well after lunch.

I expect there to be a big parking lot here.  There isn't.  We are forced to park on a residential street a couple of blocks away after I circled the area a couple of times trying to figure out which building was the Hall of Fame.  It is smaller and less grand on the outside than I expected.  

Blake's missing debit card doesn't matter here, active military always get in free.  Photography is allowed and I am going to show a sample here of what I took, not everything.  If you want to see everything, go to Cooperstown yourself.  Don't make me do all of the work for you.

After paying for David & I, we enter and immediately see the first of many, many, many, many things dedicated to the New York Yankees and the only one that makes any sense to me.  I did notice that a lot of the people here are wearing Yankees gear and I keep thinking to myself, why?  Full Disclosure:  I don't like the Yankees.  And I especially don't like Mark Teixiera.  This has nothing to do with his being a former Ranger either.  It has to do with the way he walks with his butt sticking out.

The displays are split into sections but honestly, I think this does little to help.  There is so much to see it is a little overwhelming.

Some displays are large like this case of old catcher's equipment.  Each piece has a little plaque with information about the item, where it came from, who wore it, how it was made, etc.  You would be here all day if you read every single one.  Something I am hoping the boys won't do.

There were a lot of these cutouts (they guy in the middle is the cutout, the very real David is on the left and Blake is on the right).  The cutouts were on the wall in all manner of poses from this casual leaning-on-my-bat pose to home run trot to the full leg kick of a pitcher.  Some were life-size, some weren't.

As you saw from the sign there are sections dedicated to a theme, like the segregation and then desegregation of baseball.

I didn't realize that before Jackie Robinson - who to my surprise wasn't a key feature of this display - black and white men played on the same teams.  The whole Jackie Robinson Day is such a big thing I assumed it was always segregated before that.  This photo from Findlay, OH shows two black men on the roster.  It wasn't until 1890 that the game was segregated but it stayed that way for a long time.

Having seen A League of Their Own and being a woman who has played amateur men's rules baseball, I was interested to see the Diamond Dreams display on Women in Baseball.  

Where you can see the uniforms that inspired the costumes in the movie.

And the more modern uniforms of Team USA and the Silver Bullets of Colorado who played against men's college and minor league teams from 1994-1997.  Today, women who want to play competitive baseball are largely out of luck.  My boss knew someone in the Texas Rangers front office and I tried to get him to get me an audition as the bullpen catcher but that never materialized.  I like to think it is because he found me too valuable to his own company to let me go.

The Diamond Dreams exhibit was smaller than I expected based on what you see in the movie.  Someone told me that they change these over time and that this one was made smaller several years ago.

This was one of the things my boys really wanted to see.  The locker room.  Each team has a locker with a variety of team items in it.  I think all of us are surprised that the uniform belongs to Michael Young when we expected either Josh Hamilton or Yu Darvish.

David completely missed the display directly across from here that contained Josh Hamilton's bat, something he wanted to see.  Fortunately, Blake knew where it was and took us back.  The way the displays are done can be confusing and it is easy to completely miss things or to get to a hallway and not remember if you went that way or not. 

The variety of things to see - and hear - is huge.  This machine allows you to push a button to hear a particular version of Take Me Out to the Ballgame.

I select Carly Simon.  Does anyone know who Dr. John is?  I don't.

This electronic board shows all kinds of baseball records.  Here you can see it is on Most Home Runs.  My brother and his family are HUGE Yankee fans who would probably take exception to this photo of Alex Rodriguez, a NY Yankee for some time now, as the active career home run leader (through 2011).  He is wearing his Texas Rangers batting helmet.  Don't worry, I want him to take it off too Aaron (Aaron is my brother, not to be confused with Hank Aaron the baseball player who he was not named after although I could imagine him telling people he was).

And while we are on the subject of the Yankees... I finally realized why there were so many people wearing Yankee gear here.  The Hall of Fame is IN NEW YORK.  And yes, there might be a lot of Yankee fans out there but they are also closer to this place than we as Rangers fans are.  And yes, I see that they have the most World Championships.  Good for them.  It isn't my fault that my team has only been around since the 1970's in Texas.  It is my opinion that being a Yankee fan is easy.  They win, they almost always make the playoffs, they spend a lot of money on their team.  You have some reasonable expectation of continued success.  Being a Texas Ranger fan takes real commitment and a lot of heart.  Something I don't think Yankee fans need.

This display was, in my opinion, one of the most interesting.  The World Series rings and medals (before there were rings).  

As you get to the hall were all of the inductee plaques are, you see that it is possible for a New York Yankee (Mickey Mantle) and a Boston Red Sox (Ted Williams) to peacefully coexist...if they are both inanimate wood statues.

Here is Blake next to the plaques which are arranged in chronological order.  The boys seek out a few specific ones but thankfully don't feel obligated to read the details on every one.

Each one provides key stats and information for that player.  I find myself wondering what they will do someday when this hall is full.  And since I don't really need to read any of these, I wander off toward the end of the museum.

Where there is a small display I know David will like.

And I find a display I really like on photography.  The only thing I didn't like about this display (my favorite image was the one here which took 2nd place in 2005) is that this contest is only open to professional photographers.  No amateurs allowed.

For anyone bringing kids along, there is a small play area all the way at the end of the museum.  Blake was too big to play in here so we had to keep him with us the whole time.  I don't think the Hall of Fame is a place for kids between 1 and say 10.  It is too big and not very interactive.  I don't see kids that young really enjoying it and I do see them getting on their dad's nerves.  In fact I did see that more than once.

It was rainy most of the day so I didn't go out to the grounds where there were a few statues.  On the way out I did drive around there so the boys could get out and look.  All-in-all, I think we spent about 2 hours inside.  Not the whole day David expected.  Thankfully.

I wish we could have checked out some of Cooperstown - the city.  The street is lined with primarily baseball related business such as souvenir stores, additional museums and restaurants.  But since it was raining, we decided to head on back (which also turned out to be not a direct trip, more on that and our extra long drive to Cooperstown next time).

Ultimately, I am glad we went but I don't think I would ever go back, even though they change it over time.  I also think I would be less likely to go to other Halls of Fame after having been here.  I enjoy baseball but I guess I don't need to take a pilgrimage to see the used shoes or shirt of some person who didn't even know I existed and probably wouldn't care that I was here if they did know.

Besides, if I want to see some man's clothes laying around, I can do that at home.  Or at Blake's apartment.