Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Elephants Pumpkins Sailors and Horns

MeAsWe and I did another road trip with one big change. This time we went via Mini CooperS versus the FJR. MeAsWe has been having problems mounting the pillion and my desire to ride has waned this year. After the completion of my last IBA National Park Tour, it seems, at least for now, I have accomplished all that I dreamed of, on the bike. With well over 150,000 miles since 2005, it was time for a change. With that said some things changed and some things remained the same. Gone was the contest chasing like Smoke Chasing and GLMC annual grand tour. Still intact is the routing via mini destinations, like National Historic Landmarks, staying off the interstates and using the back roads to see stuff and stopping on a dime and turning around to go back for some obscure object.

On Wednesday, 9/11 we took over for a journey with the first overnight at my sister’s house in Toms River. We headed out the Mass Pike, down thru Hartford on I84 and then to Somers NY for the Elephant Hotel, a NHL (National Historic Landmark). Halchaliah Bailey bought an African Elephant, named “Old Bet”, which he planned to use for farm work.  This oddity attracted a lot of attention, so instead of farming, Bailey went on the road showing off “Old Bet”. During the 1830’s the old style circus and Bailey’s attractions formed the modern day circus. Somers is known as the “Cradle of the American Circus”. Old Bet died while on tour and was buried in front of the building.

Elephant Hotel

Now that you know the story, the place I stopped at, as pictured is NOT the Elephant Hotel in Somers, just some other mansion that I thought was the Elephant Hotel. I figured this out when I got home. (Note: pictures are clickable and will enlarge)

Next site was the Van Cortlandt Manor in Corton-On-Hudson, NY. Designated as a NHL in 1961, the house was built on the foundation of an old fort pre-1700’s. It served as a stopover place during the Revolution for Rochambeau, Lafayette, von Steugen and Washington. Initially I had trouble locating the house, because where I had it waypointed (where NPS put it) was not there. A quick question to a local coming out of the package store yielded no results, so I turned to a local citizen coming out of the Post Office and quickly got an answer. She asked me if I was going down there to carve pumpkins, to which I shrugged my shoulders in bewilderment, much like the first person I asked. Grabbed the first picture, walked around the corner and grabbed another one and headed up the driveway. Folks were banging in stakes, hanging pumpkins and getting ready for some kind of festival. Now I understood the pumpkin comment. As I lifted my camera two folks approached me and told me I was not permitted to take any pictures. I explained I was an amateur photographer and history chaser and he answered those are the orders from above. I complied, sort of and headed back to the Mini.

Van Cortlandt Manor

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Passing thru Ossining was a bear with its traffic. Headed over the Tappan Zee Bridge and down the Garden State Parkway.  We are headed for Staten Island for some sites. The last time I was on Staten Island, I was 17, lifeguarding at St Cloud Swim Club and headed for Ohio University at the end of the summer. Me and a couple friends headed over to SI in my father’s 1963 Pontiac Bonneville to purchase beer. The trunk in this car was huge and we filled it with cases of Schlitz. We were having a party at my friends John’s house whose mother was recently divorced and allowed us to drink in the basement. He had a custom 1949 to 1951 Mercury, black with flames on the front fenders and hood. It was so cool.

Well the Garmin routed us right thru Jersey City into Bayonne and crossed the Bayonne Bridge to Staten Island. The traffic was atrocious for next 3 miles or so and probably took us 45 minutes. I turned to MeAsWe and said I am sure glad we are not on the bike. Getting out of the traffic and crossed the Kill Van Kull (the body of water underneath the bridge) we got to pay 13.00 for our aggravation.

The Bayonne Bridge was constructed in 1931 and is the 5th longest steel arch bridge. In 1931 it was the longest in the world. It is 5780 feet long and clears the water below at 150 feet.

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First stop is Sailors’ Snug Harbor, a NHL, was once the home for aged sailors. It opened in 1833 and was the country’s first home for retired merchant seamen. It began with a row of 5 Greek Revival temples like buildings, and is regarded as "the most ambitious moment of the classic revival in the United States".  

Sailor's Snug Harbor

Sailor's Snug Harbor

Sailor's Snug Harbor

Sailor's Snug Harbor

The site also includes a pretty neat fountain with Neptune sitting in the middle as he sits on a shell held up by sea monsters.

Sailor's Snug Harbor

Sailor's Snug Harbor

If you ever find yourself in Staten Island this is worth the stop.

Along the coastline we headed for Elizabeth Alice Austen’s house, a NHL. She was a photographer and struggling was a nice description of her life, declared a pauper and was admitted to the New York City Farm Colony, Staten Island’s poorhouse. In 1950 her works we rediscovered and earned enough money to move into a private nursing home, and died in 1951.  The house was built in the 1690’s. It sits just on the shore of the NY harbor on the section called the Narrows. One can see the Verrazano Narrows suspension bridge from the property and watch the huge tankers leave for the high seas. Even thou it is located in one of the busiest areas there is a sense of peace and tranquility here.


Austen Elizabeth Alice House

Austen Elizabeth Alice House

Austen Elizabeth Alice House 

Austen Elizabeth Alice House

The Voorlezer’s House is the oldest known schoolhouse in the America, built before 1696. It was designated as a NHL in 1961.  

Voorlezer's House Staten Island

Voorlezer's House Staten Island

We headed for the Conference House located on the southern tip of Staten Island. It also in a NHL and was right near the bridge to cross back over to New Jersey. As we approached the next site, which was clearly marked, we noticed there was inordinate amount of 14 wheelers parked on the streets. We drove around the block and all available parking spots were taken up by the trucks. Something was going on. A second pass around the block, I stopped and asked a local, what the heck is going on. He said they have been filming Boardwalk Empire for the last couple of weeks. Well that clinched our next move, there was no way we were gonna even get close to the place and if we did the picture was going to be filled with booms, wires, cameras and movie stars. Who wants a picture like that? So the Conference House will remain of the list of places to go to.  

It is getting later in the afternoon, I had promised my sister we would arrive at her house by 5:30pm and we have 3 more stops. Either we are gonna have to turn back the clocks in the world to give us more time or cut out some spots. I opted for cutting some locations but only 2. I have been chasing the Holmdel Horn Antennae for 4 years and have ridden to the area at least 2 times, never finding it. This time I used Google maps, with the satellite view to precisely locate it.
We arrived at Alcatel-Lucent property which states we need to stop into the building before proceeding. I see the sign for the antennae that goes up a hill. I start to head for the hill and MeAsWe reminds me about stopping in the office, with a sigh, I do. I told the security person what I wanted and he said ok, but you must go up there and come right back down. I walked out the building and there was one of the researchers entering the building and we got into a conversation. He started with a bunch of tech stuff and I said I just wanted a picture because it is a Landmark. The security guy comes out and then confirms with the researcher if it would be ok if I went up there and the researcher said, by all means.  

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Researchers got me thinking, what they do all day at work. Sit around and talk theory, test a little of this and think, write stuff on the chalk board, in lab books and stare up at the ceiling. Then one day they have an epiphany where it all comes together, just like Fermi pulling out the carbon block at the Columbia University at Pupin Hall and said Ah Ha I knew it would work.

After 4 years I finally captured this baby. It is really quite kewl. It is a radio telescope used in the 1960’s by Bell Laboratories. It was designated as a NHL in 1988 because of its association with Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson, astronomers, who discovered microwave background radiation. It was one of the most important discoveries in cosmology, providing evidence in the “Big Bang” theory for the creation of the universe. How this did that and what microwave radiation is I don’t have a clue, but there was the Holmdel Horn Antennae right in front of me.

The security guy had followed us up there, left and came back. He then said in Jersey sarcasm, what are you rebuilding the thing. If I wasn’t from Jersey, I might have gotten offended. Instead we got into a discussion about what we do, traveling all over the place. He then disclosed after 42 years of marriage, his wife had left him for the boyfriend she was going out with when she started dating him way back when. Go figa. I suggested a motorcycle, which he said he was considering a Sportster. We talked about some other stuff, like his anger at the guy and I said he really has nothing to do with it and if he was going to be angry it should be directed at her. The boyfriend was just an innocent bystander. I am not sure I convinced him of this. Getting late, we thanked him and headed for Toms River.

To see a slideshow of the pictures CLICK HERE



Runner said...

Nice early fall trip!

I'm with you on the riding interest waning. National Park Tours, AMA Grand Tours, rallies...I'm a little burned out. But car trips are another matter! Are you still lovin' that Mini? I'm starting to see more of them on the road. Enjoy your trip.

Puppychow said...

I love old houses and architecture. Are you using a wide-angle lens for those architecture shots?