Sunday morning, July 14. We (Mandi, Paul, and we two-zi) drove from our campground down to Hyde Park, the village that is home to Franklin Roosevelt's home, Springwood. He was born here and is buried here. It was his favorite place to be. His presidential library - he was the first to have one - and a newly refurbished museum are also located here. The museum has many displays and videos that tell the story of the Great Depression and FDR's programs to overcome it. And, they describe his life before the presidency.
I didn't know the story of his polio. He contracted it in 1921, when he was 39 years old and active in NY and national politics - he had been the Democratic candidate for VP in 1920! One evening at the family vacation retreat on Campobello Island in Canada, he complained of chills and fatigue. Two days later he was paralyzed from the waist down. He struggled mightily to cope with and overcome the effects of the disease - Eleanor cited it as his greatest demonstration of courage - and resumed his active political life. He was elected governor of NY in 1928 and of course, President, in 1932.
Our museum tour was cut short by the start of the home tour. I found out later that there were two other floors in the museum that I had not gotten to. So, if you're ever in the area, check it out and send me a report.
We had a good guide for the home tour. Several of his anecdotes pertained to FDR's mother, Sarah Delano. She lived at Springwood with Franklin and Eleanor for many years after her husband's death and pretty well ran things. As a result Eleanor never felt at home there. At one point during FDR's presidency the king and queen of England were en route to Hyde Park for a visit. Franklin had a collection of political cartoons, several of which, critical of England and the royal family, were prominently displayed in the foyer. Mom told Franklin to take them down. Somehow, that didn't happen. The royals arrived. The K espied the cartoons and went over to take a closer look. After a while, he turned to FDR and said, I see you've got a few that I don't have. No offense taken.
Here's a picture of the house.
There are two wings on either end of the house, not shown, that Franklin had added at some point. The upgrade improved the facilities from two bathrooms to 15, or so. The White House-like portico was an FDR addition before he became president, so maybe that was a clue to his ambition.
Oh, look who just came out those doors:
It's Paul and Mandi! The Venable First Couple! (FDR and Eleanor were the Venerable First Couple.)
Here's Roosevelt's grave site, backed by an impressive-looking carriage house.
(Technical detail. I complained earlier about Blogger not uploading pictures. Among the suggested remedies I found, one was to change your browser. I switched from Firefox to Explorer and that took care of the problem.)
After a late lunch we went a short ways up the river to tour the Vanderbilt mansion. This stretch of the Hudson was known as millionaires row because of the estates that lined it - Astors, Vanderbilts, Roosevelts, Rockefellers, ... . The Vanderbilt who built here was Frederick. His mansion is not as grandiose (excessively so, IMHO) as that of his brother, George's, in Ashville, NC - the largest home in America - but it's still pretty impressive.
Here's the exterior of the Vanderbilt home facing the river. Nicely understated.
It's interesting: these homes were generally just occupied by their owners in spring and fall. Hot and humid here today, Monday, as this is written, so summer was not a good time. You've probably seen headlines about the East Coast heat wave right now. Weather news from home, though, is that the summer rainy season is in full swing. That's a relief. The neighbors are still reporting bear sightings, though.
Paul and Mandi headed back to the city on Monday. Because no campground is complete without ants, they left us a couple.
On Wednesday we moved only about 40 miles north to a campground near Earlton, NY, which is only about 15 miles from the site of the very big Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival which occurs, very handily, this weekend. This is another hilltop campground. After we turned off the highway, we started up a hill on a road better than the one once traveled before, but still eerily reminiscent. I sensed tenseness to my right. How do you come up with these campgrounds, Susie asked. I said this is the closest one to Grey Fox. I'd seen pictures and knew we didn't want to camp on the festival site - pictures below. The Earlton Hill campground turned out to be substantially nicer than the previous disaster. Plenty of power for A/C, primarily. It's mostly year-round sites either owned or leased, with just a few slots for traveling-through folks. That seems to be the pattern here: park your camping trailer in one site for the year or season. Visit on weekends and holidays. There are not many transients, like us, and we do not meet many RVs on the roads and highways.
Wednesday afternoon we went looking for the festival site. Turned out not to be as easy as you would think – not very well signed. We stopped and asked directions a couple of times. Finally, at one intersection we’d seen before, Susie said, I see a bunch of cars over there. Let’s look. Lo and behold, we had found the site.
We had tentatively planned that one or both of us could shuttle back and forth between our campground and the festival. I can do 8-12 hrs. of unrelenting bluegrass; Susie can’t. Driving time and parking issues made that option a no-go. Looking at the schedule, we decided I’d come on Friday, Susie might come with me on Saturday; maybe we’d both come again for the Sunday morning gospel set.
I went early on Friday to stake out a good site for my lawn chair. Lawn chair strategery is an important festival skill. Well, the whole hillside was covered with lawn chairs (set up on Thursday, the first day of the festival). The rule here was that you could claim your lawn chair spot on Thursday and leave your chair there all weekend. At Westcliffe, CO, where we generally go in July for their bluegrass festival, you’re supposed to remove your chairs each night, then line up the next morning to grab the best spot you can. Sort of like an Oklahoma land rush. Very democratic. In either case you can sit in an unoccupied lawn chair, but be ready to move, graciously, when the owner shows up. Very civilized.
At Grey Fox there were more rules. Some areas were designated only for ground-sitting and low-rider chairs, some for regular size lawn chairs, some were OK for umbrellas, etc. Way in the back you could put up your own shades. With the anticipated heat already evident, I decided not to try to find a spot out in the open, near the stage. Way back up the hill there were a couple of tents. I got lucky and found an opening in the front row of shaded seats and plopped my chair down.
Here's the view from the tent.
The stage is between those two speaker towers left of center.
After the music started it was apparent that the hundreds, maybe thousands, of chairs out in the open were not going to be occupied. I picked out a chair in a prime location near the stage and sat down. A couple came along and asked if it was OK to sit in other people’s lawn chairs. I said, Sure, I am. I didn’t last long there, though, with the heat. Really miserable, even with a broad-brimmed hat. So, it was back to the tent. Fortunately, the sound system was good. Here's my view.
The stage is left-center, between those two speaker towers.
The band that hosts and helps organize this festival is the same one that hosts the Westcliffe festival – the Dry Branch Fire Squad. The two festivals are just a week apart. About 12 years ago the group leader, Ron Thomason, moved to Westcliffe. Wasn't long before he organized a festival there to raise money for the local clinic. The Westcliffe festival is big, but not Grey Fox size. Westcliffe has a tent large enough to cover most of the audience.
In addition to Dry Branch, I was especially happy to see that a group from Ireland, that I "discovered" at last Fall's bluegrass convention and festival in Nashville, was appearing here. I Draw Slow, they call themselves. Also, the Gibson Brothers who are an upstate NY band that have a lot of recent success in the bluegrass world.
Fortunately, I Draw Slow, on Friday (the day I was there, not when they drive slow) was appearing on one of the satellite stages, tent-covered. It was a great set. They acknowledged that appearing last fall in Nashville had gotten them noticed by the Grey Fox organizers, so here they wer
Back at the main venue, a chap sat down in a lawn chair next to me - in the main stage's covered area. Said, Where's my other chair? I said I don't know. This space was vacant when I got here and placed my chair. Could tell he didn't believe me. His second chair was a couple of rows back. Fortunately, by the time his wife showed up, another settler on our front row had left, taking chair, so he was able to put his chairs side by side.
Then, in mid-afternoon, the sun was hitting the first row, where I sat. There was an open spot just behind me, so I moved my chair there. Unfortunately, as I was setting the chair down, it bumped against the man's hand next to me - but I didn't know it. As I settled in, he was shaking his hand very visibly, showing great pain. I said, Did I hit your hand? Sorry. He just kept shaking his hand and scowling. It wasn't long until I folded my chair and left for the other venues.
Anyhow, after a mere 12 hours on site, the heat and humidity and the bluegrass had me staggering. Decided not to come back on Saturday just to see second sets by the above three groups. Would wait until Sunday and Susie and I would come for Dry Branch's traditional gospel music set. Some people will be amazed that I would skip a day of bluegrass, but there you have it.
For about a couple of weeks we've been skirting the Catskill Mountains. Friday we drove a loop through those mountains. Friday turned out cloudy and cooler, but I had no regrets about taking a day off from Grey Fox bluegrass. Had some CDs. Here are some scenes along the way.
Next week, Massachusetts.
Susie and Rob