August 4, 1999 - Day 54 - Elmsford to Millbrook, New York
72.6 miles - 15.2 mph average - 3741 total miles - 36.5 mph max speed
A word of thanks to my wife, Lois, for her research on the wife of Washington Augustus Roebling. It's on the Message Board, and is enlightening in a couple of ways. One, as a history teacher, I had never heard of her and her contribution to the construction of the bridge, and Two, as a sociology teacher I had never heard of her and her contribution to the construction of the bridge.
And a word of advice to travelers: If you have to stay in N.Y., get at least a 50 mile radius between you and the city before bedding down for the night. My motel last night was seedy, I saw rats under the dumpster in the parking lot, the clerks seemed shifty, and I just found myself feeling uncomfortable, like something bad could happen. It didn't.
This morning I ate breakfast next to the motel because I HAD to. Same feeling. Felt better the farther north I moved.
Maybe the whole "creeps" thing was because Sleepy Hollow was just five miles north. Washington Irving may have had the same uneasy feeling.
The Majestic Hudson River
As I said yesterday, I took Broadway right out of the city. It becomes Rte. 9 and goes all the way to Albany, and is known as the Old Albany Post Road, because its original purpose was mail delivery between the capital and NYC.
Up around Peekskill (those Dutch names again), this view presents itself. For sheer majesty, no river I crossed surpasses the Hudson. When I was a kid, my grandfather took us all on a trip to New York City and we went on the "Hudson DayLiner", a virtual ship, all the way up to West Point and back again. This is one deep-water river.
For two days I've been reading in the NY papers about fires flaring up all over the place due to the dry conditions. This one (this is actually just a small piece of it) is on Bear Mountain, on the west side of the Hudson River, near Peekskill. It has been burning for days.
Route 99 intersected a great modern American trail north of Peekskill. The AT runs along the crest of the Appalachians from Georgia to Vermont. You can read more about it on the 'Trails' page.
My bike tried to turn to go up the trail, but I wouldn't let it. Business to attend to.
You haven't seen too many county signs lately. Here's why. Matt informed me awhile ago that we were going to run out of server space and would need to enlarge. I just did so yesterday, but in the meantime, Matt's been conserving space in whatever way possible. That's why the Pennsylvania and eastward 'Info Maps' county reports aren't online yet. And that's why I've been mum on the student county reports since Ohio. My fault.
We're now enlarged, so we can do whatever the heck we want. You want an actual size picture of the Empire State Building?? Take care of it, Matt.
Anyway, I HAD to include this county, because it's the county my grandparent's farm was in. My dad being a minister meant he accumulated weeks of vacation each year which he took in lump sum. We'd drive to the farm and spend three or four weeks there playing in the barn, picking raspberries to sell in Millbrook, taking walks, making mudpies, hoping to drive the tractor, going swimming in town, and all the other things kids do on a farm. It was as idyllic as it gets for kids. Dad always said Dutchess County was among the most beautiful in the country. I couldn't disagree.
You think the McDonald's people are ok with this alliance?
A little farther up Route 9, these three hitchhikers stuck their thumbs out as I was passing by, so I pulled over to pick them up.
Appalachian Trail hikers
And met three great kids. The picture says it all.
Meet (left to right) HungaDunga, Overzealous and Taken.
I know, I know, they've been on the trail too long. "Taken" is really Amity Clifford. "Overzealous" is really Michael Robichaud, and "HungaDunga" is Michael's younger brother (14) and I can't remember his first name.
And these are their trail names, given by the others as their trail personalities emerged between Georgia and here.
That's right, folks. These kids have hiked the AT all the way from Georgia. They're hitching a ride up a little ways to try to catch up with some friends. Can you imagine the impact of this experience on soon-to-be 9th grader "HungaDunga" Robichaud? He's going to go back to school and his friends will all say "Cool, dude, nice hike" and they won't have a clue as to what he really accomplished. And he won't be able to even begin to explain it to them.
'Overzealous' and 'HungaDunga' both seemed to fit (HungaDunga is actually perfect), but "taken"?? I wasn't sure I should ask, but of course I did.
And Amity said, "it's because I'm taken" and she showed me the engagement ring that Michael had given her on the trail.
I asked HungaDunga how that was for him ("You go on ahead - we'll be along in a bit"), but he seemed more than fine with it. In fact, he seemed more than fine with just about anything. I liked this kid a lot. He gave off huge positive energy vibes. He will be (and probably is) a massive chick magnet.
I hit the road again with about 25 miles to Millbrook. At Fishkill (that's right), I cut off of Rte. 9 and over to Rte. 82. Tailwind was strong, temperatures in the low 80's, and I rode today with my shirt off since I saw on CBS 'Good Morning' that suncscreen doesn't do anything anyway.
The miles rolled.
Just outside of Millbrook I was met on the road by my shirt-tail cousin, AnnaBelle Secor and her husband, Bob. They knew I wanted to ride up to the farm just the way we always used to, but they had made arrangements for a newspaper interview with a reporter for the Millbrook 'Round Table'.
So I followed them into Millbrook...
Welcome to Millbrook
...and met the nicest reception committee on the corner by Kading's Corner News Store. On the left is the reporter, and I'm embarrassed that I don't remember her name. It's not my style.
Next to her is Jim Kading, who has run this store on this corner for 52 years. He's retiring this year, but I'll tell you right now that "retire" is not a word that fits this man. Jim is the kind of person that every community wants, but few have. He is openly enthusiastic in a very genuine way. You can tell he just loves life, and especially loves his town.
Next to Jim is his wooden Indian, and a couple of other friends who were passing by.
And on the right side of the picture are Bob and Annabelle.
We spent almost an hour there on the corner talking.
But I had ten more miles to ride before the day was done. I had to go past the farm.
When I was a kid, this sign always meant that we were almost there, whether we had come from California or from Pennsylvania.
The Shunpike was named because it was built as a way of avoiding a toll road. I've seen the name in other places in the East. But to us our grandparent's farm was always "The Shunpike" - there was only one.
The mile up the Shunpike to the farm was always the longest mile of my life. I always thought each corner would be the last and the familiar fields would open up and the farm, with its friendly openness, well-tended fields and its 103 acres of possibilities would be right there.
I was always wrong. It was always three more corners away, and I would learn a little more about the virtue of patience.
But finally, we WOULD round that last curve and...
This picture will come as a powerful shock to any member of my family. It will be their first view of the far and its brand new stockade fence.
When my grandfather died in 1963, the property was sold out of the family (for the first time since near the Revolutionary War, there was no property ownership in this area). That owner, a Mr. John Brown, just sold the property again this year.
And the fence just went up.
Pursuant to my visit, Annabelle called the new owners and found them to be delightful people. The reason for the fence?...
Where was THIS when I was a kid?
In addition, there are apparently several children, and traffic, while sparse, does fly on the Shunpike.
The new owners were away, but told Annabelle that I would have free access to the property. I thank them very much for that.
Pretty much as we remember it
This view of the farm would be pretty much as we remember it. My grandfather made a good living from his Brooklyn flooring business, but his heart was always on the farm. He only went to the big city because it was clear by the late 1890's (in many ways like the 1990's) that he would be the first Hall in generations who absolutely could NOT make a living farming.
In the early 40's, he sold his flooring business to Rosalie, spurred partly by wartime gas rationing that made it impossible for him to travel back and forth to NYC from the farm, and partly by the fact that farms offered unlimited food, which he liked.
Can you picture this house without the front porch, without the shed dormers, without the garage and without the back addition? Pretty much a plain box, huh. That's what he had grown up in.
And this is what he created when he retired. It was a labor of love and who were all these extra bedrooms for? For his grandchildren, who were just in the process of being born.
Bob and Annabelle Secor
My Uncle Hal informed Annabelle about my trip back in May. I got the neatest email from the distant cousin I had never met, inviting me to stay with them when I came through Dutchess County. And here I am.
We had a lovely evening. Bob and Annabelle took me out to dinner with their daughter, son-in-law and grandson. We had an excellent meal at the Stagecoach Inn in Stanford(ville).
I'm sleeping in tomorrow, and then doing some exploring around the area before I leave. I want to say more about the farm.
I hope to be in Hartford, Connecticut tomorrow night, well into Massachusetts by Friday night, and then...The Atlantic Ocean on Saturday. I'm looking forward to my swim. Hope the surfs up.
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