As I told you on 19 February in “Coming Soon,” a revisit to Dearborn, Michigan, after almost 58 years was on the horizon. In the last post on Detroit I told you I had to devote a page to The Henry Ford (formerly the Henry Ford Museum and originally the Edison Institute). Here it is, mostly images, and not even a fraction of what I saw from 9:30 AM to 5 PM at the museum.

I was surprised upon entering the museum to see such open space. When my Dad and I were there the museum was packed with transportation artifacts.


A typical scene in 1957. My Dad in the bicycle exhibit with a “bone shaker.”


The museum was begun in 1929 with Thomas A. Edison signing his name in concrete. When last here, this was right inside the door as you entered. There is now a video showing the ceremony.

FORD-9Much of what I remember is not there – but then, museums change to meet the times, and I discovered that the museum is more interpretive now, as most museums are.  And that is good (but I do enjoy just seeing collections).

Henry Ford’s Highland Park Plant office had been moved into the office, and I was allowed during my previous visit to sit at his desk on his phone.



Just to the right upon entering is a collection of Presidential vehicles.

Car in which Kennedy was riding when shot

Car in which Kennedy was riding when shot

DRIVING AMERICA was my favorite part. The romance of the road, backroad traveling before the big slab roadways – “shunpiking” before there were pikes to shun.  I love this history, love to attempt to re-experience it, and love to share. I captured images of much of the exhibit – for my memory mainly, but do open the slide show if you wish to read along.




Above is the “map” of this exhibit – click to open to large size.



And, here are the interpretive panels and some exhibits (remember that you can click on any image to enlarge and open a slide show – easier to read the words).

As I mentioned, when a guest of the museum in 1957 I was allowed to touch anything. Here I am at the “wheel” of Ford’s 1902 racer 999 which Barney Oldfield drove. Racing was the way then to get recognition for your autos.


Today I stayed behind the railing.



In the 1950s at our antique car meets, this famous Locomobile racer Number 16 was often there. It won the first Vanderbilt Cup Race in 1908. It was purchased in 1941 by the famous automobile artist Peter Helck.




Part of the “road experience” was the diner.  When on GIANT STEP in 1957, Bert Parks asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up. “Own a diner,” I replied. Well, there is still time. I remember our Friday night shopping journeys from Wilton going either south to Norwalk or north to Danbury. First was a stop at either the MARSAM Diner in Norwalk, or then Ridgefield Diner when going north.  I always had a Western Omelet sandwich.



This was the greatest exhibit – an exploded Model T Ford showing all the parts.  My Dad restored a 1919 Touring Car just like this. I know every piece in a Model T, and in Model As.




Here are a few views from the aviation area:



Replica of the Wright's plane

Replica of the Wright’s plane



So much to show you, but here are a few final high points to hopefully entice you to make your own visit:

Henry Ford's 1896 Quadricycle

Henry Ford’s 1896 Quadricycle

Here is a link to learn more about this vehicle (which on my last visit was in a glass case on the second floor of the entryway).

The actual bus the Rosa Parks was riding when she refused to move to the “rear of the bus.”


And, the view she probably had.



I have a similar Polaroid of these trains. On the left is the 1825 De Witt Clinton, actually a replica (with some original remaining parts) made to exhibit at the 1893 Chicago Columbian World’s Exposition.



My Dad always loved the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile.  I have a couple of his toy ones. This image is for him.


Here is General George Washington’s camp cot and equipment.


And the chair President Lincoln was sitting in at Ford’s Theater when he was shot:


When I visited in 1957, the chair was in the Courthouse in the adjoining Greenfield Village in this glass case.  I was not allowed to sit in it!!! How did the chair get here you ask? I did, so googled. The government took the chair from the theater following the assassination. The family that bought the chair for the theater petitioned to get it back and it was finally returned in the 1920s. They sent it to auction, and in 1929 Henry Ford bought it for $2400.



After 8 1/2 hours at the museum, we had to leave. It was closing. I know I could have spent more time really delving into history.  We next stopped to see the DEARBORN INN were I was a guest in 1957. I had to replicate another image.




And, around the corner is Henry Ford’s home FAIR LANE, now owned by the University of Michigan, and being restored.


Click to read the history plaque.


Lots here, and I hope you got this far.

RAY RECOMMENDS – Visit The Henry Ford, and also Greenfield Village

And, refound in my archives 4 hours after posting this page, and now added for your (really my) enjoyment, are these real tintypes taken in the Photo Studio in Greenfield Village in April of 1957. Tintype images come out in reverse, so the background (lettering) had to be done in reverse. As I recall the home is Henry Ford’s birthplace.





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DETROIT IN FEBRUARY? Actually not too bad 21-25 February 2015



And, I am running hard with Chas who asked me to join him. As with New Orleans (still owe you all that) I am finding it hard to find the time to “tell all” to you. The first full day here (22 February) we opened and closed The Henry Ford, and I will share that day later. Here I will give you our second day, first.

I was last at The Henry Ford Museum (as called then) in April of 1957 when I was a guest of the museum with my Dad. We also were toured through Greenfield Village, and our personal tour continued at the ore boats at the Ford Rouge Plant all the way through to a 1957 Ford Fairlane rolling off the assembly line. “Would you like to pick a new car fresh off the line and buy it now?” our guide, Sally Hume, asked my Dad. Not something we could do at that time.

Deciding to devote a full page later just to The Henry Ford, first I will tour you through Detroit during my second and third full days (23 and 24 February).  DETROIT MUST BE EXPERIENCED. Detroit is a French name meaning “The Strait.” This is the narrowest point of the Detroit River between the Great Lakes Erie and Huron. Forget the bad you have heard about Detroit. The history and culture is fascinating and important, there is much to see and do, wonderful food, and you will not be able to comprehend the current landscape of the city without seeing it.

The second full day we began our experience at the Rouge River Plant where Ford pickup trucks are currently assembled by 6,000 employees.  By 1928, the complex was the world’s largest industrial center, and over 100,000 workers entered the plant daily.

View of the Rouge River Plant from the observation roof.

View of the Rouge River Plant from the observation roof.

The tour starts with two multimedia experiences, then a view of the 2,000 acres from a rooftop, and a catwalk tour above the moving assembly line (no pictures allowed).  At the conclusion you get to see some of the most famous vehicles that have been produced here.

Representative "famous" cars made in the Rouge River Plant

Representative “famous” cars made in the Rouge River Plant

Remember my “galleries” may be opened into larger slide shows:

What you hear most about Detroit are the abandoned homes, commercial buildings and factories. Detroit is a large land area, and so much land is vacant. The destruction (both from the 1967 riots, Devil’s Night, and plain old walking away from it) is everywhere, even in “downtown.” So, here a just a few of the images I took.

This is the iconic view of abandonment – the Michigan Central Station train station




And more abandonment, which is everywhere. Of amazing note are all the vacant lots and blocks.

“Midtown” was being developed in the 1920s, but now is mainly vacant blocks. The Hotel Eddystone  (and the Park Avenue Hotel to the left) had been surrounded by city, but “a combination of factors -including the 1967 riot; the introduction of the freeway system; white flight; businesses moving to the suburbs; and increase in blight and crime – bled Detroit of its population and its tax base. Office towers went dark. Hotels closed up shop. Detroit, simply put, became a city of fewer people – and people with lower incomes.”


Also protected by historic designation, and sadly deteriorating alone is The Lee Plaza




What we found fascinating in driving around was that there are a few pockets of lovely homes somewhat untouched in just a few block square areas.. These were the homes of the automobile barons, and upper management. Homes that are now valued at $500,000 or less for up to 8,000 square feet (over 8 million plus for sure in Westchester County) would back up to problem streets with values of $10,000 plus (or less for burned out frames). Of particular fame is the Boston-Edison historic blocks where Henry Ford lived from 1908 to 1915.

Henry Ford's home from 1908 to 1915.

Henry Ford’s home from 1908 to 1915.

Click image to read history:


You may know my love for “old cars.” My Dad had me first drive a 1919 Model T Ford – not something people of my age did. And my first car was a 1929 Model A Ford Roadster.  And after about 7 Model As, LADY RAB – a 1931 Tudor Sedan is in my stable.  My Dad’s favorite treasure was his 1910 Model T Touring Car.  What a treat it was to be able to get into the building where the Model T was born, and Ford had his first factory from 1904 to 1910 – The Ford Piquette Avenue Plant. 

FORD PIQUETTE AVENUE PLANT - Birthplace of the Model T Ford.

FORD PIQUETTE AVENUE PLANT – Birthplace of the Model T Ford.

Click to enlarge to read history:




The museum's prize - a 1909 Model T Ford Touring Car - Just like my Dad's 1910

The museum’s prize – a 1909 Model T Ford Touring Car – Just like my Dad’s 1910



Where do you go from the “holy grail?”  To the Highland Park plant, of course, where production of the Model T went into high swing. Production continued here until the late 1920s when the Rouge River plant came into full swing.

The south side of the Highland Avenue Plant. This entrance opens to the interior where the iconic images and videos were taken with tons of Model Ts rolling out.

The south side of the Highland Avenue Plant. This entrance opens to the interior where the iconic images and videos were taken with tons of Model Ts rolling out.

Since 2011 part of the complex has been used to store archives and artifacts for The Henry Ford.  I cannot even imagine the collection of cars and transportation items inside since I did not see any of the bicycles or boats from my 1957 visit to the museum.

We started Tuesday at the Detroit Historical Museum. I don’t know whether to recommend you start your visit to Detroit there, or after a few days as we did.  Several of the permanent exhibits provide exceptional history and culture.  Start with the Gallery of Culture, where the 20th century is detailed by decade.

Gallery of Culture in the Detroit Historical Museum

Gallery of Culture in the Detroit Historical Museum

I also enjoyed the Streets of Old Detroit, Frontiers to Factories (200 years of history), and America’s Motor City (kind of weak). A temporary exhibit on Detroit’s restaurants and speakeasies was up my alley, and provided us ideas for that evening’s repast.

We then began touring neighborhoods heading about 3 miles from downtown where the new center city was developing in the 1920s. Fortunately there was a parking space and I convinced Chas to park so we could see the interior of The Fisher Building.  The Fisher family (“Body by Fisher”) put 29% of the building’s cost into art and decoration, and it shows. It puts The Empire State Building to shame in my opinion, and should be visited. First click to read this plaque in larger view, then come back to see the slideshow of the interior. I hope to get back someday for a tour and to see the Fisher Theater.


For 75 cents you can ride the Detroit People Mover – an elevated railway – around downtown. And we did.  I felt like a kid on a NYC Subway traveling with my grandmother back in the 1950s.



Chas and I were the only ones aboard the two car train.


One night we were not hungry so got beers and burgers in a unique and “seedy” little bar across the street from the hotel.  Open 24 hours we would not have stayed if it were not for the entertaining conversation with the “bar keep,” Tara (yes there is another one) who was simply filling in.  The short order cook encouraged me to add my name to the wall. Then he went back to sleep with his head on the bar.


Another night we had a fantastic meal in Greektown at the Redsmoke Barbecue 


We could have settled with just this fantastic appetizer – Loaded Brisket Fries Golden crisp steak fries, tender beef brisket, cheddar sauce drizzled, bits of green onion and a side of sour cream.  As a result we split a Combo Dinner.


And, at the “Out on the Town” Drinking and Dinner exhibit at the Detroit Historical Museum we decided to give Foran’s Grand Trunk Pub a go — it was great. Get the meatloaf dinner, and look at the interior shots on their website – nothing has changed.




Coming soon – a post devoted to The Henry Ford – mainly images; and, yes Barbara, there is still NOLA to come.

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In 1957 I was a star of GIANT STEP, a TV Quiz program hosted by Bert Parks.  One of my prizes was a trip to the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan with my Dad.  Soon to be re-explored.

A younger me and my Dad in the Museum (I could touch anything)


The letter which sent me the picture above. I cannot find the professional picture of me driving Ford’s 999 Racer, but I have a Polaroid. Note what they thought of me. (click to enlarge)


The Newsletter announcing my upcoming visit


And, the detail.  Note the “z” by mistake, and Larry should be Bert


A snap of me on TV in 1957


And, following my visit with Julie and grandchildren to Grand Central Station last month, I cannot wait to get back to explore the terminal and the city.  Here I am on a visit a few years ago, and my interview on the upper level for the evening news (TV studios were in GCT).  You know I am not shy, and love an audience, even if unseen



Above is the note I typed at that time and affixed to the back of the photo.

So…..stayed tuned for great adventures to come in 2015.

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A 21 HOUR RESPITE – 16-17 February 2015

For school break, David, Mari and Alex rented a condo at Killington for several days skiing. They usually stay with me and take day trips to the various ski areas nearby, but they wanted an extended stay to hit the slopes early each day.  “Come up and visit,” David had asked, and I did. But the snow and cold delayed their arrival, and I was behind in work due to my delay returning from New Orleans (still owe you a detailed report on that).

On Monday I had gotten enough things checked off my list to feel comfortable to head up. I left about 2 PM.  And, if you know the Vermont landscape you realize that I had to pass Plymouth Notch, Calvin Coolidge’s homestead, and as you may know, one of my favorite spots to drive to.  Two miles off the route — but you know I went, and here is what I saw.

“Downtown” – note the old gas pump is covered up in front of the general store.


Calvin’s homestead and where he was sworn in as our 30th President.


Union Christian Church (1840) – click to enlarge – too bad that pole was in the way


Another view of the church looking back to the general store. Calvin was born in the brown building adjoining the store. (this image can also be enlarged, as may all those below)


The old “tea room” (now offices) opposite the country store and small post office.


And below are the early tourist cabins.  Secret Service stayed in them when Plymouth Notch served as the summer White House.


And, then I got to Killington and the warmth of this fire. We headed to the lodge for drinks, David and Alex swam while Mari made dinner (David forget to tell me to bring a suit). And then we visited before the fire and turned in.  I headed home at about 9:20 this morning as they were preparing for skiing.  A perfect visit with “the kids.”


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And to make matters worse, I have been “snowed in” in New Orleans.  Yes, snowed in having to endure 70 degree temperatures because the northeast is again “closed.”  But there are stories to tell, and hopefully within a week my life will be back to normal (never – ha, ha) and I can fill you in.  Let me just say that a quick trip with friends has been extended due to snow miles away, and we have to suffer the heat and sun.  More to come, but to tempt you to “stay tuned:”


Costume Convention - the "excuse" for being here

Costume Convention – the “excuse” for being here

And, then there were parades a week before we thought they were (they extend for weeks we learned)




And, there were museums (throw me in those buildings)


And the food !!!!  COMMANDER’S PALACE – A must before you die !!!


Just my appetizer:

Foie Gras “Du Monde”
Black skillet seared Hudson Valley foie gras over a Ponchatoula strawberry beignet with toasted hazelnuts, warm sugarcane syrup and foie gras infused café au lait


And, then tonight at Irene’s in the French Quarter (recommended by a book email customer) — one of my best meals ever, just after the Commander’s Palace and Chesterfield Inn last month.


More to come, but give me time — having too much fun to sit back and write.

Bye, catch you soon, love, RAY


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Yesterday I planned to go to the Amherst Railway Society Railroad Hobby Show at the Big-E in Springfield, Massachusetts, but the weather was iffy, so I stayed home and researched and wrote various articles all day instead. At one point I emailed Rob and said, “if I go to the show on Sunday, what time do I have to be back to meet you for dinner?”  “I’ll go with you to the show tomorrow,” he replied.  And that is what we did.

As we got on I-91 we realized that with the Robbie Burns dinner at 6PM, if we waited to

I love this stairwell at the entrance to the Springfield Armory

I love this stairwell at the entrance to the Springfield Armory

have lunch after the train show we would not be hungry.  Rob suggested several places to eat downtown Springfield, but settling on Student Prince in Springfield, we had about an hour to do something else.  “We can stop at a few antique shops on US 5,” I said. “Wait, have you seen the Springfield Armory?”  The Armory it was, so off we continued to Exit 7.  You may remember my “Day Off” last April when I first visited the Springfield Armory.  We arrived and entered, and Rob was impressed.  We got to see the introductory video and quickly looked at the Daniel Shay Rebellion exhibit (his protest stormed the Armory on this date, January 25, 1787).  I realized that I need to visit again a third time, and learn more about Daniel Shay.



It was then time to get to the Student Prince Restaurant so we would still have time at the train show. Serving German Food and Beer since 1935, the Student Prince is on the site of the original fort in Springfield erected in 1660, and where the settlers took refuge during an Indian attack October 5, 1675.  Worth a stop!

The Student Prince is said to have the largest Stein collection in the world - ROAD TRIP SCOTT

The Student Prince is said to have the largest Stein collection in the world – ROAD TRIP SCOTT


And, my “Wurst” meal:


We got to the Big E for the train show about 1 PM.  I had never been to the grounds before — and was shocked!  We both were overwhelmed by the crowds.  And, upon entering the first building we found out that there were four buildings with over 500 exhibitors.  Thus we quickly became “train dead” (a form of “brain dead”) in a very short time, and realized that it is good to do some things once, but then “some things you don’t have to repeat.”  Of course, that is unless you can take grandchildren to see such an extravaganza (hint, Julie, David).  At any rate, here is the view of what we faced as we walked in, and then a slide show to tempt Nikhil and Alex at some future date.


But my day was made complete at the Central Massachusetts Steam, Gas & Machinery Association exhibit.  “My grandson and I were watching a movie about Penn Station last week,” I started, “and in talking about steam locomotives they mentioned a Sand Dome.  What is that?” They told me, and you can see it in the “toy” locomotive below (that is what prompted my question).  The dome holds sand on top of the boiler to keep it dry, and high for gravity. A lever is pulled and the sand is released down tubes to the rails to improve traction in wet or icy conditions.  Hope that fast fact made your day too.

Small "toy" steam engine from an early amusement park. Note SAND DOME.

Small “toy” steam engine from an early amusement park. Note SAND DOME.

Cutting the HAGGIS

Cutting the HAGGIS


We arrived back in town before 5PM, time to get ready for the Robert Burns Dinner at Burdick’s. Such dinners are held around the world on this date, his birthday.  Five courses, each with an appropriate Scotch — and, fortunately I have but a short walk home.




And, here are the courses following the Scotch Broth above:

So, I consider this day’s outing worthy of a short post with lots of images to share.  And now it is onto the next adventure(s).  Night, as always, yours, RAY

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My goodness, it has been over two months since I have reported some “shunpiking” and adventures.  But, as you know, November and December I devote to my production of A CHRISTMAS CAROL, and now I am happy to report that in seven seasons we have raised over $24,000 for local area food shelves.

I have some aggressive international travel ideas for 2015, but the best way to start the year is to visit my daughter, Julie, her husband, Dave, but most importantly grandchildren, Nikhil (6), Devi (4), and Vijay (going on 2).  I think this will be more images than words, and remember I write for myself, but also I want to preserve the images to look at in my old age in another 20 or 30 years.

Now, it is about a four hour trip to my daughter’s home in New Jersey, but why would I ever want to drive directly somewhere? On this excursion I took 6 1/2 hours to get to her home, and 8 hours to get home.  Actually, that is really fast time for my “shunpiking.”

Heading out on Friday, 16 January, my destination (en route) was Cold Spring, New York.

Parked on the street in Cold Spring, NY

Parked on the street in Cold Spring, NY

I cheated heading down I-91 to I-84 and then US 9 to NY 301 into Cold Spring. Often, when my shop was in Connecticut, Cathy and I would head there to search for books, jewelry and antiques and enjoy lunch out.  It had been awhile since I had last visited, and I wanted to see what was up.  This visit I found the way to get across the railroad tracks down to the Hudson River.




This view is across the Hudson River towards Storm Mountain, and West Point would be a tad to the south (left in image).


And this looks past the gazebo across the tracks to the village.


Then I discovered the historic Foundry Dock with history dating way back.

Nest I headed south on 9D first passing Boscobel in Garrison, NY, which we visited maybe 15 years ago – definitely worth a revisit.  But what was amazing was heading south on this route with the leaves off the trees giving great views of the Hudson River (Rob, take note of this route for future West Point visits). Fortunately, I took a quick right turn into the river village of Garrison – amazing and worthy of the turn to see.

Garrison, NY looking across the Hudson River to West Point

Garrison, NY looking across the Hudson River to West Point

Bear Mountain Bridge heading west.

Bear Mountain Bridge heading west.

Continuing along I crossed the Bear Mountain Bridge (now 90 years old).  Every passing I remember in the early 1950s when my Dad would tell me to look to the cove to the south of the bridge at the Liberty Ships mothballed there. It was an impressive sight.  At the traffic circle I decided to head south aJAB-9 short distance to the Bear Mountain Inn, which was recently restored for its 100th birthday this year. We visited there once or twice to eat, and I remember picnicking there in the 1950s with my 5th grade teacher, Jim Burke, and his fiancé Miss Forney, who had been my 4th grade teacher) and Jeff Meyer when we were on our way to check out Museum Village in Monroe, NY.  I will have to go again – in fact, there is a ton of stuff I have to do along the Hudson River in this area.

Bear Mountain Inn

Bear Mountain Inn

An inviting dining room, albeit empty this time of year.

An inviting dining room, albeit empty this time of year.

I then headed across US 6 to I-87 then I-287 to get to my daughter’s home in northern New Jersey – I arrived at 4.  Friday night was just grand playing with the kids. Julie’s husband, Dave, got in from work after 8, we played some more, got the kids tucked in, and then discussed plans for the weekend.

I had no agenda other than to “hang-out” but I knew that they enjoy taking the kids out on weekends to various educational venues.  The weather did not sound good for Sunday (and in fact a bad ice storm did keep everyone in on Sunday).  Dave suggested going into the city (New York City that is) and head to the Children’s Museum of Manhattan on 83rd Street.  But we were also talking trains (Nikhil loves trains, and you know I do too), and I mentioned that having recently seen a documentary on the old Pennsylvania Station I was longing to again see Grand Central Station on 42nd Street.  I could not remember when I was last there – but it has been decades.  As a pre-teen and early teenager I would take the train from Wilton (by myself, and dressed in jacket and tie – those were the days) for a day in the city.  I would walk and explore. Favorite thing was to take the subway to the Staten Island Ferry, ride for a nickel to Staten Island, and sneak back onto the Ferry without paying for the return trip.  And, then I would walk back up Manhattan.  Don’t think youngsters can do the same thing these days at that age.

Well, I have stories about my time in Grand Central Station – interviewed for a TV news program, soup at the counter in the original Oyster Bar, etc.  It struck me that I have to start spending a couple nights a year in the city (taking the train there, of course) and explore Grand Central and traipse around (anyone want to join me?).  Dave suggested that

Julie and kids heading to Grand Central Terminal

Julie and kids heading to Grand Central Terminal

he drop us off at Grand Central and that he and Vijay head up to the children’s museum while Julie, Nikhil, Devi and I explore the terminal, the gallery museum there, eat, and then take the subway north.  A great plan.






A quick tour of the terminal,




then we went to the train exhibit before having lunch in the “new” food area. Here is Nikhil as he and I started exploring the exhibit.


Remember, you can click on any image to open a slideshow:



Taking the subway — entertainment all along the way – musical and then some:



And, at the Children’s Museum of Manhattan:

Nikhil and Devi inside the intestine watching the video of how we swallow

Nikhil and Devi inside the intestine watching the video of how we swallow

Future driver, Vijay.  Will he want BLACK BEAUTY or BLUE BELLE?

Future driver, Vijay. Will he want BLACK BEAUTY or BLUE BELLE?

DOLL Devi at play with the roller coaster experiment.

DOLL Devi at play with the roller coaster experiment.

A very full day was Saturday in the city.  Sunday as I mentioned was horrible outside with ice, but warm and comfy inside playing with and enjoying the kids.  Monday was more of the same, but the two older ones had a playdate at 10AM, so Dave and I headed out with Vijay to a play area at a mall.  Lunch followed at home with Julie, and sadly full of tears I left at 2PM on Monday, January 19th.

My plan was to have dinner, of course, at The Red Lion Inn, but I decided that I had to “fill in the map” and explore US 202 from New Jersey to the Bear Mountain Bridge.  I got off Exit 66 on I-287, and before crossing into Suffern, New York, I gassed up for $1.89 — remember that – Jersey gas is cheap.

JAB-27I can report that you do not need to explore this slow way of getting back to the Hudson River.  Nothing to see, but I did enjoy stopping briefly at the Stony Point Battlefield a real treasure for the folks living nearby.  The last few miles along the Hudson were fantastic, again particularly with the leaves off, but you can always experience that driving south from Bear Mountain Park, and turn back around.  Crossing the bridge I went south to Peekskill which is much changed from when I drove over in my 1929 Model A Ford Roadster in about 1964 to trade wheels with Walt Levino.  I felt I should have brought my passport and brushed up on my Spanish.

Looking north up the Hudson to the bridge and cove where the Liberty Ships were mothballed

Looking north up the Hudson to the bridge and cove where the Liberty Ships were mothballed

Heading east back across the Bear Mountain Bridge

Heading east back across the Bear Mountain Bridge

But it was getting dark, so back to US 9, I-84 exiting north on the Taconic State Parkway, and then to my home away from home – the RLI.  And here is another log of images from my favorite spot.

Entrance to The Red Lion Inn - 19 January 2015

Entrance to The Red Lion Inn – 19 January 2015


Just getting started for travels in 2015 – and this was a great start.  Thank you Dave and Julie.  And, you all “stay tuned.”  As always, yours, RAY

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Well, actually I had help, and it did not take too much convincing.  Rob asked me to join him in visiting his parents grave at West Point, “and we could stop at the Red Lion Inn on the way home,” he added.  Sorry Mimsy, again there last night, but no time to get your invitation in the mail.

We met at 7AM for breakfast at Murray’s along with his wife Barbara and sister-in-law Lynne.  When done he said, “go home and pack a bag, who knows we may not make it home.”  So, I did. Guess he has been reading too much SHUNPIKING WITH RAY, and understands what it is all about.

Well, almost. When heading to your furthest point to then head home it is forgivable to cheat and take the Pike(s). So, down I-91 to I-84, cross the Hudson River, and then pick up 9W south.  Crossing over Storm Mountain we entered a back gate close to the cemetery (we are both card carrying members).

A view of part of the West Point Military Academy Cemetery.

A view of part of the West Point Military Academy Cemetery.

After touring the cemetery, Rob gave me a great tour of West Point.  I had only been to the military academy three times before (early 50s as a Cub Scout, 1970s with my grandmother and boys, and to get a ID card renewal in the late 90s) but never had seen so much of the grounds.

We spent the most time touring Trophy Point which was the original site of the West Point Hotel, but more importantly the strategic bend in the Hudson River.  It was this spot that the chain was placed across the river to prevent the British from sailing up the Hudson to cut off New England from the rest of the country during the American Revolution.  The chain never had to be tested.

Part of the chain that protected the Hudson River during the American Revolution

Part of the chain that protected the Hudson River during the American Revolution

This wall along Trophy Point along with many historical plaques was Rob’s Dad’s, Class of 1938, 40th anniversary gift to the Academy.

Trophy Point - West Point Military Academy

Trophy Point – West Point Military Academy


Somehow when I converted this video to a smaller file size to upload it lost some clarity. But you will get the point of the majesty of this area.

Adjoining is the monument to (note) The War of the Rebellion.


Lobby of the Thayer Hotel

Lobby of the Thayer Hotel

We then had lunch at the Thayer Hotel overlooking the Hudson. Management and renovations have been taken over by a private concern in the past five years.  Fifteen years ago when thinking of staying there I heard bad things, but believe that is no longer the case.  Access to the public has been made easier without having to enter the post — so give it a try (enter from the south)

Rob wanted to share the chapel because of its beauty, and the campaign flags.  There was a wedding going on, and the anxious “wedding planner” shooed us out as the bride was about to go down the aisle.

The Chapel at West Point with campaign flags

The Chapel at West Point with campaign flags

Next on Rob’s list (yes I can be a willing, compliant companion) was his traditional stop WP-9at the Millbrook Winery in Millbrook, New York.   He yelled out, “look at this on my phone!”  Again, I had been at the winery about 15 years ago; but, Remember in February of this year (you had better) that I stumbled upon Shunpike Road – check my February post for more images? Well, here we were at the other end with the winery just off Shunpike Road.




You have seen wineries, but not this light before.


Upon leaving, at the stop sign I jumped out to get a picture.


No, not the Mustang. I told you I am out of my Mustang phase. Enjoyed my 1966 Hardtop and 1965 Convertible in the 1980s.  Remember, I am now on a quest for a 1964 Corvette (leads to a purchase rewarded).  Rob said he saw the driver turn around frightened when I jumped out running up.  Hey, anything for the right photo – of the sign, silly.

We then followed US 44 over to Lakeville, Connecticut, passing though another favorite – Millerton, New York. And from the Lakeville / Salisbury area we continued north on Route 41 towards Great Barrington.  Upon crossing the Massachusetts border into Sheffield, Rob and I simultaneously exclaimed, “Wow, look at that!”  We got a few hundred yards past, and agreed – stop and go back.

STAGECOACH TAVERN, Sheffield, Massachusetts

STAGECOACH TAVERN, Sheffield, Massachusetts

Heading south in the past on Route 41 I have missed this, but going north the STAGECOACH TAVERN just jumps out at you.  We went to the door, “still setting up, open in 20 minutes,” we were told.  We saw the menu posted outside – a fascinating selection of specialty drinks. We looked at each other – The Red Lion Inn was the next planned stop.  “But we are here, and it looks great,” we agreed, and walked around the WP-13grounds and into the adjoining lodge.  And, of course I made some selections from the Tourist Information booth outside.  Once we got in we were thrilled.  We sat at the bar, had yummy specialty drinks (I would tell you, but you know my memory, and they did not list the drinks on their website) and also the Curry Dusted Fried Chickpeas (that was on website – not in my memory).

RAY RECOMMENDS —- make a stop at, and have dinner at the STAGECOACH TAVERN on Rt. 41 in Sheffield, Massachusetts.




And then we arrived at The Red Lion Inn.  Packed – hey, a weekend.  And I told Rob I was pleased to see young families – have to get the young ones hooked and appreciating a finer way of life.  Dining Room host recognized me and we chatted. We could not get a table in the Tavern until 9PM (it was now about 6PM) and were too full still to try to get into the Dining Room.  So, we headed downstairs to the the Lion’s Den.  I had only been there once before in 18 years. Very enjoyable, a nice reasonable pub menu, and a different crowd enjoying the Den from the separate entrance.  But from inside the Inn you can take the stairs down from the Tavern.


Enjoying our selections, I then toured Rob around the Inn, and said good bye to the host. We then shot home on the “pikes” – a full day – but a great day.  Been home now for about 13 hours. Itchy – what is next?

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The RLI feels as much like home for me as home does. I had two nights in a row before A CHRISTMAS CAROL begins negating three day adventures.  I struggled, and struggled with where to go, and what to do.  Maine was a contender, but this time of year most small museums and attractions are closed.  Then it struck me – just go to The Red Lion Inn.  So, off I headed Tuesday shortly after voting with basically no plans. But you know that if I simply follow the front of the car, adventures unfold.  And, as my time evolved these two days I still cannot believe that after almost 20 years of serious exploring in the Berkshires (and over 50 since I first camped here) I am still uncovering new sights, things to do, and fantastic back roads and scenery.

I left with only one thought in mind.  There are two routes crossing Massachusetts west of the Connecticut River that I am not familiar with.  So, head west on Route 23, and back east on Route 57 when heading home. Tuesday I exited I-91 to pick up US 202 to head to Westfield (not been there). Then west on US 20 out of Westfield until MA 23 begins.  Only been on the western most part of 23, so now was the time. And, it is now imperative to “shun the Mass. Pike” since they recently (well 1-2 years ago) began charging a toll from I-91 to the NY border.

Westfield is worth a drive through with its well-kept early 20th century commercial

You never know who you will see on a back road.

You never know who you will see on a back road.

architecture.  US Route 20 always a joy (love it in NY state – have traveled most of it in the past two years, hopefully you read about). In the literature that I just picked up (you know that I collect all travel literature, file it in categories, and actually read it) I learned that US Route 20 is America’s Longest Highway at 3,365 miles from Boston to Newport, Oregon, and there is a Historic US Route 20 Association.  Another – very long – trip that now must be accomplished.

Beginning at the eastern terminus of Route 23 I found it scenic, hilly, and enjoyable as it basically paralleled the Mass Pike (easy to see often with leaves off).  Not much along the way, Otis being the main town. I was getting a tad hungry, and often will find nice deli eats in small old general stores. As I entered Monterey, there was the Monterey General Store.


A quick turn to park, and to my pleasant surprise it was a delight inside — and a salmon,

Lunch !!!

Lunch !!!

capers, cream cheese sandwich worth driving back for.

Arriving in Great Barrington I turned north on my favorite US Route 7 and got my room key a tad after 3PM.  Then my routine of hanging clothes, assembling reading material and planting myself in my spots on the porch and then in the lobby in front of the fireplace.  Change to coat and tie for 7PM dinner, followed by reclaiming my spot in front of the fire. And with heavy eyelids, eventually retreat upstairs enjoying ancient antique filled hallways along the way.

Wednesday – no plans other than a Levi’s jeans and Jockey underwear run at the Lee (MA)

Details on Santarrella - click to enlarge

Details on Santarrella – click to enlarge

Premium Outlets Mall at Exit 2 of the Mass Pike. On the way to the shopping however I sidetracked to Tyringham. About 18 years ago Cathy and I stumbled into this architectural oddity – Santarrella.


Around the bend is Tyringham Cobble, a fascinating geological spot with hiking etc.  The properties owned by the Massachusetts Trustees of Reservations are worth learning about and exploring.


I then followed a road over the mountain (more fantastic views into the valley with leaves gone), and am thrilled that my GPS system in WAZE has learned my type of road.

My Kind of Road - no matter what wheels I am in.

My Kind of Road – no matter what wheels I am in.

My shopping was focused (only necessities) and I got two pairs of jeans, and loaded up on underwear (do so about every 3 years).  Had just gotten a coupon book in mail with an additional 20% off starting the 5th, and if you buy two packages of same item it is 40% off outlet price.  So, 6 changes of each, plus some flannel PJs, and what I “saved” was more than what I spent.

After the rare Ray shopping experience. I followed US20 through Lee and cut over to Lenox.  Never having explored the residential streets in Lenox, I did so – and, HIGHLY RECOMMEND you do also – Amazing.  Continuing out past homes I worked my way back to Tanglewood, and then headed up into the hills for the back roads to Hancock Shaker Village.  Even though open, there was no one there, so I decided to wait for a visit, and turned back to MA 41 to head back to West Stockbridge and then Stockbridge.  But in a short distance was a right turn back to Chatham and New Lebanon, NY.  I turned, and when arriving at NY 22 I turned north towards New Lebanon not recalling being on that stretch of NY 22, and not recalling New Lebanon.

The Lebanon Spring House covering the original structure c1756.

The Lebanon Spring House covering the original structure c1756.

But when I arrived in New Lebanon I did remember the decaying strip where NY 22 and US 20 join. There had been nice antique shops there, but now most all is vacant – only 1970s strip stores remain.  But then I remembered that I had with me the best travel brochure I have ever had, and had just found for the first time on the rack at the Inn (I always scan travel racks and acquire brochures I have not seen before).

Published by the Lebanon Valley Heritage Center, the map (taking up most of one side, and very well done) and historical guide introduced the once-famous Lebanon Spring Spa Resort and the Mt. Lebanon Shaker Village – the first in the country.  HOW HAD I MISSED THESE BEFORE?  I shunpike, but the spa and village are just off the main route.  It was this fantastic brochure that introduced me.  Of course I explored, and have to return.

Spring Water flows at 500 gallons a minutes. You can fill your bottles from this pipe.

Spring Water flows at 500 gallons a minutes. You can fill your bottles from this pipe.

The Indians knew of the healing waters of the spring, but shortly after French and Indian War concluded in 1756 the spa was born, eventually becoming one of the most fashionable spas in the US. I love the old summer resorts and spas, and cannot believe I did not know about this one.

The Spring House, now enclosed, was built over a log-lined pool.  72 degree spring water flows at 500 gallons per minute and when I arrived a lady was filling her water jugs – I later filled my empty water bottles.  The giant sycamore is said to have been planted about 1760.

Cellar hole of the 1794 Columbia Hall spa resort hotel

Cellar hole of the 1794 Columbia Hall spa resort hotel

Columbia Hall was built in 1794, but demolished in 1914.  One of the first and most opulent of the spring’s hotels it had 300 bedrooms for 400 guests and ornate ballrooms. In 1825 the Marquis de Lafayette stayed at the hotel.  Other visitors included: Henry Longfellow, Daniel Webster, Charles, Dickens, and John Quincy Adams.

This building was begun about 1756.  Originally serving as a hotel, it is now an apartment building.  (remember you can click on my images to enlarge them)

The Elm Tree House (circa 1756) now apartments.

The Elm Tree House (circa 1756) now apartments.


I then explored the Cemetery of the Evergreens and this monument to Samuel J. Tilden. A native son, Tilden was a noted crime-busting DA in NYC, then Governor, and lost the Presidency in 1876 by one vote in the electoral college even though he received an overwhelming margin of the popular vote.

The Samuel J. Tilden Monument of the National Register of Historic Places.

The Samuel J. Tilden Monument of the National Register of Historic Places.

NRLI-14But my biggest surprise on the other side of US 20 and NY 22 that I have missed all these years is the Mount Lebanon Shaker community – the first in this country.  Unlike the “restored” Canterbury Shaker Village that I visited in September, and the Hancock Shaker Village that I almost visited on Wednesday, this first in the country is essentially original and unrestored, but in three sections.  Part is a museum, part is now the Darrow School, and another section now is  the Abode of the Message, a Sufi Community.  Lots to explore on a future trip to report to you.



Great Stone Barn - 196 feet by 50 feet - largest in America. Wood destroyed by fie in 1972, now being restored.

Great Stone Barn – 196 feet by 50 feet – largest in America. Wood destroyed by fie in 1972, now being restored.


The unrestored "wash house."

The unrestored “wash house.”

I then headed back to enjoy The Red Lion Inn, settled into my routine in the lobby, change for dinner, and retreat back to the fireplace before turning in.

On my check-out day I stayed laid back – yes, in the lobby in front of the fire.  Late breakfast, then buy a RLI coffee mug in the gift shop, and in tears check out around 11AM.

A rainy day – no problem, I am alive and happy.  The plan, back down US 7 and take Route 23 east out of Great Barrington to pick up Route 57.  At New Marlborough I did jog south to Southfield to see the old Buggy Whip Factory.  For a number of years in the late 1990s when I lived in New Preston, CT, I had several thousand books in the antique mall there — making several thousands of dollars in the process.  Hard to believe it was almost 20 years ago.  Back to Route 57 I can report that there is nothing to get excited about until reaching Route 8 and New Boston.  Route 8 (both in Connecticut and Massachusetts) heads as I recall all the way south in Connecticut, and I have travelled much of it, but need to explore from New Boston to Colebrook, CT.

But I really enjoyed Route 57 from New Boston to I-91 (the eastern terminus).  The road, the views, and the hill towns of New Boston, Tolland, West Granville, and Granville must be experienced for their bucolic village settings and exceptional colonial architecture.


Unique (I think) village green in West Granville, MA.

Unique (I think) village green in West Granville, MA.

But arriving at I-91 I can say I have traversed all of Route 57, and took off north home to begin preparations for A CHRISTMAS CAROL. Yes, it is time for ACC, which may impact my ramblings here, but who knows.

RAY RECOMMENDS – Explore the Berkshires — I am spent the last almost 20 years, and have yet scratched the surface.

Thank you for continuing to follow along, as always, yours, RAY

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URBAN DICTIONARY  “Hopeless Romantic” – “This person is in love with love. They believe in fairy tales and love. … All hopeless romantics are idealists, the sentimental dreamers, the imaginative and the fanciful when you get to know them. … Hopeless Romantics are NOT Hopeless per-say, but very true, caring, and loving people. They are “NOT MADE FOR TODAYS STANDARDS”, sadly. They believe in passion, chivalry, and true love. They have loved sincerely at one point in their life, discovered what love feels like …”

Having been affectionately called a “hopeless romantic” I had to find the definition.  This is a good fit, and descriptive of me.  Having had 13 years of loving love, a believer in chivalry and treating ladies as ladies, and caring deeply for my friends (not to mention enjoying candlelight dinners even by myself) about all I can say is Ray is Ray.

But also you know that I love to write and play with words.  This past week I played some with words on Facebook posts.  But my Facebook “friends” do not necessarily get “Shunpiking with Ray.”  “Hey,” Ray thought, “I can share those writings here.” So, here are some of those other thoughts, but first I will start at the Fort at Number 4 Halloween Eve – a study in candlelight (not on Facebook) — and then backwards through the week to a conclusion.

Of course as Halloween approached, I wandered around town appropriately attired, but changed into a fuller costume when the school children were parading through town.  I passed out candy to the youngsters when they passed COSTUME LADIES. Sorry no images – I was very busy.


HAPPY HALLOWEEN — Not everyone can pull this off with class and style (but I can – and then it becomes elf time). – FACEBOOK CAPTION

HALLOWEEN – not fun “on the common”  Maybe a dozen kids trick or treating age live within a half mile of me, but by 5 PM 300 or 400 kids can be seen around the common, and close to 800 or more will materialize during the evening.  I gave up giving out candy about 8 years ago – would need a second or third job to pay for it all – Halloween is not what it was when I grew up. I got back from Keene Halloween evening about 5:45 as it was getting dark.  All my lights were out, but as I was getting out of the car over 20 kids started running down the drive to the rear door.  “I am only here for two minutes,” I called out.  They retreated. I brought groceries in and started to unpack – lights still all out.  There was pounding at the rear door – never before at the rear.  I decided I had to go to Rogues, Pickpockets and Thieves at the Fort at Number Four before I planned to, just to escape.

Candle-1One of my favorite places to visit since I have lived here, the fort is a replica of the 1752 fortification for the town of Charlestown – Number Four. I have enjoyed many French and Indian War reenactments and Thanksgiving Harvest Dinners, and several of the All Hallows Eve events. But last evening only a dozen or so folks attended, and there was not as much going on as in the past.  The “Doctor” explained that volunteerism is off due to the 18 month closing a few years ago, and many volunteers got involved elsewhere.  But having said that, the fort is always worth a visit, especially for events, and I did enjoy my time there last night.

I attended the witch trial – amazingly the witch was acquitted.


These unsavory characters were in the “store”


The doctor’s tools in candlelight (what did you expect, LCDs?)


and two final candlelight studies (you can always click on them to enlarge you know)



I saw this on Facebook posted by The Red Lion Inn, and had to share. — “Throwback Thursday-1986 Norman Rockwell’s studio was split in two and moved to the Norman Rockwell Museum grounds. RLI on the left.”


You know this is my favorite place, and today they posted this neat image. Of course I recommend visits to The Norman Rockwell Museum, and need I say to The Red Lion Inn. (my suite was on the top floor in the front corner in this image). FACEBOOK CAPTION

October 25th was our cemetery tour, but also The Village School’s SPOOKTACULAR fundraiser.  All day there are hayrides around town, and residents are encouraged to display scarecrows. I helped Barbara (THE Costume Lady – people hesitate when I answer her phone, but I quickly say, “I am the costume guy”) set this fellow in my front yard.


Never know what I am going to do each day, but decided when I got up that I would read Walpole’s best selling book to Alex. Don’t forget the Cemetery Tour today at 3PM.. Come wish the Rev. Henry W. Bellows a happy 200th birthday. FACEBOOK CAPTION

This was my Facebook post on 24 October:

Another romantic evening on my porch (albeit alone). Reading about England’s canals, and preparing for my alter-ego reappearance at the cemetery tomorrow. Almost “too much fun.”




Also on 31 October I teased folks about a big announcement coming on 1 November, and when yesterday came I posted:

This is the day – SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT – I MADE IT!  Yes, it is 1 November and I have yet to turn the heat on.  House is a comfortable 52 degrees.  If I ever turn the heat on, I can turn thermostat down from 61 to 59 without pain.  Hey, we welcome 50s and 60s in the summer.  Ulterior motive?  YES, I am on a quest. I am moving into my Corvette mode – need a classic 60s/70s Vette.  WHY?  Why not. Have not bought a “toy car” in 11 months. Never had a Corvette (been through my Mustang stage). Be fun to see if I can get a fourth car in my two car garage (new junque sits outside).  Or, a friend bought a house this week and said I could have her garage for my toys.  SO – every farthing I save on heat is another farthing for a “new toy car.”  Will let you know if I ever turn the heat on (snow coming tonight), and WHEN I GET MY VETTE! – FACEBOOK CAPTION


And, sadly followed this morning (hard to work my fingers on keyboard) – “I gave in. 48 degrees inside the house. Turned heat on, set thermostat down to 60. And winds really stirring outside.” – FACEBOOK CAPTION

A CHRISTMAS CAROL auditions are the end of this week, and I will be very, very busy through 13 December.  Been struggling about where to take a break after voting Tuesday morning.  Really been struggling about what to do – hard to believe.  Maine came on the radar, but this time of year most small museums, etc. are closed.  I just want to “veg” out and read and write.   And what makes the most sense?  In front of the fire in the lobby of The Red Lion Inn?  Gee, have not been there for two weeks. Will someone please “throw me in that briar patch.”

Enjoy your day, as always, yours, RAY


PS – How do you like my “new” lamp I got Friday?  Receiver is off hook to turn lamp on!

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