Saturday, July 30, 2016

Niagara Falls- Maid of the Mist/Casino.

Niagara Falls, NY
July 6th 2016

On Wednesday we packed up and headed west, then veered North to catch a quick glance at the America side of the falls and get on the Maid of the Mist. My mother in law has never been, so on our way to OH. We took a side trip to this enchanting place to explore the beauty with her. She had booked a night locally with plans to enjoy the casino and stop at the Outlets on her way home. We would be heading West to our temporary home at Castaway Bay in Sandusky OH for some new fun.

Remembering a few years back when we stood in line for hours to take our turn on the Maid of the Mist, we planned carefully to break out of our hometown early and arrive just about the time everything opened. We timed it perfectly. Not nearly as many crowds and certainly no lines,

A quick run through the visitor center and a glance off the observation deck before we headed to the elevators that take us down to the awaiting Maid and her many blue rain coats.
Love that we caught a rainbow. Just across the way is Niagara Falls CA where Kelly, Gavin and Matt stayed a few months ago. It all looks different now with the sun shining and the warm day.

The Bridal falls sure are flowing today. Lots of mist rising up over those deadly rocks below. No matter how many times I have viewed this aggressive waterway, I still never seemed to be out of awe. Incredible. 

Of course we have to get outfitted for our WET boat ride. To bad Gavin has such a sour face....

Diane is already for the wetness.
The gulls were in abundance. I don't think I have ever seen so many birds enjoying the summer sun and cooling spray.
Our boat begins with a loud toot! Scared the boogers out of me I must admit. Then we were off heading to the Horse shoe Falls on the Canadian side. To our left we pass the America Falls (Bridal) and the Cave of winds.
and soon we are there caught in the every churning current of the massive falls. Mist was everywhere, there was no escaping the wetness. We were hit so hard, I had to stop taking pictures for fear my (so unloved) camera would be ruined by the water.

Bye Bye falls...

And now the after picture,  Just a little damp. Gavin again with the sour puss face.

Once off the boat we took in some more of the American Falls before heading to the Casino. 

Casino Seneca Niagara.
We didn't come to gamble. (Imagine that). We did come to get Diane settled in and have some lunch.

and a few deserts...What the heck were on vacation right?
We had left our car in the falls parking lot so after some time in the Casino and a full lunch, we walked back to the falls. On our way we stopped at this little park.

The boys enjoyed a giant chess game.

A view of the casino. Mark informed us it is the tallest standing building in NY outside of NYC.
Once we figured out how to pay the parking meter we were soon on our way to the days next destination. Sandusky OH. termed roller coaster capital of the world.
We finally made it.....Castaway Bay.

Pooped but ready for some fun.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Camping for the fourth

KOA Newburgh/NY City
Walkway over the Hudson/West Point
July 1-July 4th 2016

First thing I want to say is The NYC Newburgh KOA is NOT anywhere NEAR NYC. It may be close to it, but its still some distance,  NYC was not why we had come to camp here anyways. but I still wanted to heads anyone who was thinking, close to NYC..well its not, Apparently there is a VERY expensive shuttle service that will take you to NYC from the campground or you can take the train into Grand Central, but it's not like we were viewing the skyscrapers from our cabin or anything like that. You can of course get a great shot of you or your loved ones with the statue of Liberty.
We were really here because we have dogs, no rv...and I waited until the last minute to book for the holiday weekend. Otherwise, there really isn't much here to get excited about. When we camp we need a cabin because Riley is Wily and he will take off at any chance he gets, We also do like to go and do things when we go away that doesn't always allow dogs, Leaving him in a tent while we went somewhere would only result in a destroyed tent and no dog. Plus its awful to leave them like that.
So until we get an RV we find a cabin. Then there comes the difficult part of finding a cabin that will allow you to have a dog in it. So there I was searching for a cabin that will allow dogs a few weeks before a long Holiday weekend. The fourth of July. Only one I could find. (The Jellystone down the street would have been my first choice in the area, but I digress.) 

We left Friday morning and drove the 3+ hours to the Newburgh area. I happened to have lived just south of that at one time in my life. I even went to school in Poughkeepski at Marist college for a bit shortly after my eldest was born. My daughter was born in the Middletown Hospital also fairly close to the area. 
It is a beautiful area and yes we did make the best of it. but there really isn't much that two boys ages 13 and 17 found appealing in the area. 
My first suggestion would have been the Victorian houses of Hyde Park or The Vanderbelt Mansion. I would have even been thrilled to visit FDR and Eleanor's  home (for the second time). We talked about having a meal at the culinary Arts Institute before we left, but otherwise we really had not plans in place and there really was not much more in place to be planned.

Once we arrived...hopeful planning was all we could do. HOPE for it to STOP raining!

We tried to play some cards under the awning but it was coming down so hard that eventually we were getting wet doing that. Next we moved into the cabin.
Again I do not like to complain to much, but our two room cabin SOUNDS absolutely precious and yes the porch with swing was a bonus...but it was tiny, had no bathroom or anything else for that matter (sink/fridge/stove) and we paid RESORT prices. It also leaked.
Watching the rain pool around the cabin porch.
There was a river in our front area.
But SOON the rain ceased and now we could go explore our home away from home for the next few days.
The fishing hole. This might not be what it is called but I think the name is appropriate.
This sparked my interest and I was pretty stoked I would have something to consume in my cabin later.
Bummer it was only DRY. It was while I was tasting that I learned of the NYC shuttle runs. Apparently these do not run on Holiday weekends and only if they get enough interested people to go. The other patrons who were tasting had reported the only reason they had picked this campground was because of the shuttle to NYC. They were quite disappointed. I suggested they take the train in.
The boys enjoyed some giant checkers before the RAINS came back and we were stuck in the cabin again. I must say I am very grateful we were not in tents.
The dogs enjoyed every bit of the adventure. Rain or shine. Mark and I took the dogs to the "doggie park" located within the campgrounds and we were very disappointed. The area was overgrown and smelled like sewage. Even Riley wanted to get out of there.

Rain long gone, The boys paid a $7- fee for a 1/2 ride on the banana bikes.

and they were off.....
For the most of Friday. We dominated the campground. There were very few people, but the rain and wetness still loomed over everything making some of the activities lack potential invitation.  The Jumpy pillow was consumed with water.
Day one ended with more RAIN, UNO playing and pizza ordered from one of the few still in operation pizza places in the area. Beds were comfy (This is unusual in these types of rentals) and we all slept well.

Day 2:
Mark and I were up with the sun. Dogs walked and discussion had about the days plans before one of the Campground HIGHLIGHTS::: FREE PANCAKES!!!  and the sun was shinning!!!

I made eggs and we all had a nice breakfast under the sunny skies in the big outdoors.
The campground like most KOA's offered several weekend activities. Gavin had shown an interest in the tye dye shirts later that afternoon so we decided to do our adventure running in the morning. All children in the camp veto'd going with Mark and I and the dogs to the Walkway over the Hudson.

The walkway over the Hudson was a short drive from the campsite in the Poukeepskie area. First over the Newburgh Beacon bridge (which we drove over) and into the town of Poukeepskie, NY. Also in this area is the off ramp to Hyde Park, FDR's house, a children's museum and the culinary Institute.
The Walkway over the Hudson has two parking areas, One owned by the park and one off the st. Pay to park up top, Free off the road. I am all about supporting the cause but I am also cheep,( don't worry I purchased some items from the small free standing store to offer my support.) So we went and found a spot off the road and walked up the embankment.
Right at the top of the embankment we saw this talented fellow riding a unicycle. He did a few turns when asked if he was willing to pose for a picture.
The walkway is totally free to walk and open most of the day hours. They were actually offering tickets for the fireworks later that evening. (These were not Free) I bet it would be amazing, but we skipped the intent of returning. Dogs are allowed as well. They have doggie dishes filled with H2O on the ends of the bridge and warn of the heat from the concrete on little paws. It does get hot up there, but we were so early in the day we were pretty safe.

The walkway bridge is actually the remains of a once active railroad line destroyed in 1974 by fires.

These cute little gates have cut out designs. Walkers, runner and bikers. I would feel uncomfortable riding my bike over this simply because there so many people and really no where else to go when one is riding. Generally people would alert with a "on your right." as they approached, but I am sure I would end up hitting someone. Some areas became quite crowded. The walk was a perfect method of transportation I thought.
The trail leads along a paved path in the woods. Along the walkway are food vendors, picnic tables and a small shop hosted by member of the Walkway over the Hudson society. Those manning the shop from my encounter are VERY passionate about their mission. (Taken from the internet from the walkway over the Hudson website)

Once off the shaded walkway you soon enter onto the bridge itself,  Past tree's homes and roadways you gradually make your way upward towards the center of the bridge.
It is quite a unique experience hovering over the trees and neighboring yards. I would imagine not liking the "attraction" like feeling in my own back yard, and apparently others felt the same way as there were some areas screened off with great big green mesh traps preventing any views. Crossing over the busy roads running even along the river looked surreal and tiny down below. More like a model then a real place.
The bridge we had driven over to get to this bridge. I questioned why Fake Suri had taken us to this side of the walkway as it appears you can enter from either side.
These cars look so far away..
If you would like there is an elevator that can take you to the park below. Although we did not go down. I was excited to see that this was the backside of the Children's museum that Gavin and I had gone to many years ago. That would have been a nice day trip a walk across the Hudson followed by a picnic lunch and some museum fun to finish up the day. The museum is called the Mid-Hudson Children's museum and although it has been some years since I had gone, I recall we had a great time.
These sea doo's look so tiny in comparison to the sprawling bridge.
Right in the center. Walking on water. The views were amazing. We couldn't of had a better day for this walk. Sun shining, breeze off the water and views for miles.

Taking a break. 

A long view of the river as it makes its way, ever flowing.
We make it to the far end and begin our walk back. It really is quite a hike for our dogs and there is no relief from the sun. Best if we made our way back,
Goodbye Hudson river....for now. We will meet again,

Back at the campsite

 We had some very tired puppys.

 A late lunch and a signature meal for camping. Traditionally I made a quick dinner on our first camping evening of Spegehettos. It's kind of an expected. Either in the can or in a big pot atop a big campfire. We did not have this meal yesterday due to the rain. Today it was not over the fire, but it still tasted delish.

Bellies full and nearing tye dye time, the boys and I made our way to the main tent for some afternoon crafts. $10- for the shirts. I 'm not sure if you could have tye dyed for free if you brought your own shirt to do it with,
The boys began with their shirts smushed and swirled, ruberbaned and ready for the dying dip.
Red white and blue colors...well sort of.
They turned out to be more pink and aqua. Thats okay they are still cool!!!
When we got back to our campsite we found we had new neighbors. In fact the whole place had exceeded in neighbors....I'm not sure but there has to be some rule about the maximum # of people per camp site. Some of these sites hosted a small village. The set up's were incredible. (Wish I took a picture.) There were some sites with 4-5 tents on them. Tarps that sprawled across the trees encompassing the entire designated camp space. Bouncy houses inflated at some. Voices were heard everywhere....and all in another language. Music blared and people spoke above that. Goodbye calm peaceful wooded area.
I longed and encouraged the boys to go to the pool as the afternoon heat was setting in, but there were so many people in the pool...all I could think about was all those kids who forget a pool is best with out the "P". There really was NO room in the pool to move around or enjoy. And they have two pools. Instead I broke into the alcohol, pulled out my Outlander book and attempted to relax.
The boys headed up to the rental site to get the banana bikes for a second time, while I waved at the fire truck riders as it strolled by.

Yep....Noise or not, I was not going to be deterred from having a relaxing time.

I got a few videos of the family on the bikes. 

Can you hear the music?  Our noisy neighbors were all very friendly and even brought over a plate of homemade guacamole and chips. This may have been a peace offering for the noise. 
The music continued well into the night. Around 11pm I heard someone (a campground staff) warn that this had been the third and final request to turn the music down or they would be asked to leave. The music ceased, but they continued to talk well into the nighttime. 
The music and loud voices were one thing, but a near brawl is another. I don't know what the argument was about but I was drawn away from my reading when I heard yelling from across the way. (Not my neighbors). Two young men were yelling profanities at each other and greeted in a standoff. 
I am such a drama Queen....I had to stop and watch what would happen next. Fists were drawn, yelling continued. No one took a punch and there was no break out of the WWF, but certainly something I have never seen while camping with my family or any camping experience ever.  

Before long it was dinner time. Mark pulled out the "FREE" grill from Turning Stone (a free gift from the casino...I use the term FREE lightly.) and we cooked up some hot dogs and burgers.

Relaxing at the cabin.

After dinner the campgrounds offered a concert. I wish I could remember their name. They were pretty good and one of the weekend highlights.

The music they played was from Pink Floyd, Led Zepplin, The Doors and even a little Hendrix.
Some of my absolute favorites. I took a video clip, but I seem to forget that the camera picks up my singing too. I sound horrific. If you care to hear...

I think the boys even enjoyed the music. This classic rock as it is often called seems to keep people. The Doors, Led Zepplin and Floyd were popular years before I knew what music was all about, and their music continues to be enjoyed by the younger generation.

Even Riley seemed impressed.

As the evening enveloped the daylight, the fireworks began. Although not a view from the camp, more likely armatures having fun with bangs, it had the dogs FREAKED. Both Riley and Peanut were scared by the noise. Riley wanted to run and hide. Peanut just  had the shakes. Ben offered some comfort. I guess it is a real good thing we hadn't decided to take them to watch the fireworks from the bridge.
Day 3:
Up early for dog walking and pancake ordering. This was one of the best treats of the stray, KOA Newburgh/NYC highs and lows. In the positive the FREE pancakes, friendly staff, clean park, fun diverse activities, private individual showers with plenty of hot water. On the negative; BATHROOMS BATHROOMS BATHROOMS!!!! Our site loop included several cabins lacking bathrooms and even more scattered tent sites. (I am assuming without bathrooms). The ONLY bathroom was also the MAIN bathroom for the resort and activities area. (There may have been a restroom near the pool area, but I never saw one.)
As one could imagine, the bathroom traffic was not only uncomfortable. no one enjoys brushing your teeth and cleaning your face next to a women who clearly has just finished using the toilet awaiting to wash her hands and exit, or the sticky toddler with Popsicle on their hands and face needing a quick rinse, but it was also just a mad house of lines, no toilet paper and downright disgusting. I know the park did it's best to keep the facility clean, but clearly they need at least one more bath house for the size and needs of the park.
By the third day I found an additional bathhouse located near the RV section. (These are RV's most have bathrooms in them.) Although a bit of a hike, I have the entire three stalls to myself and my pick of showers.

After some pancakes and discussion around what or where to go for the day. We decided upon a trip to West Point. Apparently no one was at all interested in a viewing of the Vanderbelt Mansion with me and we found the Culinary Institute was closed, so over ruled we made the 30 minute or so drive to this famous Military school.
Fake Suri gave us directions to an entrance not accessible to the public. There is nothing fun or exciting entering an area that is marked with armed guards, and this was our first encounter.
We back tracked a bit before we entered areas that appeared to be slightly more welcoming. Pass the Thayer hotel and into the gates.
All must show ID. We made it through gate #1, then on to gate #2. Asked why we were there, if we had any fire arms, and Ben had to get out of the car and open the hatch. Pretty serious stuff. Once we were cleared, we headed along the rd cuddled up against the Hudson River on to the campus.
We caught a class walking "single file" over the bridge. By the way it's a Sunday. Not what most campus's would look like.
Amazing building flank the area, This one looks like a stone castle.
We drove all the way to the end where we found a parking lot. This is really NOT a tourist attraction, so no pretty flyers with a map directing us in what direction or a pamphlet telling us of the history. It was pretty much "your on your own." Guards would alert us to where we could or could not go. (we found that out soon enough).  After reading up in Wiki, apparently there is a visitor center and the oldest museum in the United States Army somewhere on the property. We never found either. We did see tour groups lead around the area. (We have never been much for tour guides.) but we made our own trek.
I had been here before many years ago. When I worked at a group home for disabled individuals I had been invited to chaperone my clients in the special Olympics held on this campus. There was a green area with games set up around, a drinks station and a few tents to shield the heat. If I recall I spent most of my day supporting my clients through cheers of encouragement or getting a very long look at those handsome young men in their uniforms who assisted. (I was only about 24 years old. I still looked back then.) Little did I know just how deep rooted in History this place was.  Established in 1801 by President Thomas Jefferson. A military institution was born, it is "the oldest continuously-operating Army post in the United States." (Taken from wiki)
The boys pose with Dwight Eisenhower: He, among other famous military men  is  of the 1900-1915 graduates that were deemed "the class the stars fell on", as so many grew to become general officers.

Below is another such Graduate. George S. Patton. (who am I kidding, if Mark hadn't been there I would have had no idea who this guy was.) Mark did offer up some history about George as we walked the campus. (I think he saw the movie). He was apparently a strong leader but very controversial.
We walked back around the green area, prevented from actually walking into the campus itself, towards the river. A quick stop to try some pull ups. 

Yep.....not happen'n here!
Although Ben did get a few in.
A tall statue stand over looking the river. She seems to resemble PEACE to me not war.
Then there it is the mighty Hudson. Oh so beautiful.

Cannons from yesteryear.
We walk along the groomed path to find this fellow explaining about colonial gun fire.
He was referencing on how the gun was held to prevent burns along the face. (He also announced his gun was left behind-due to security.)
More of the beautiful river. Although the day was hot, it was incredibly pretty.
Bench's lined the walk ways with words like this one below inscribed on them.

A great shot of father and son.

We returned to the car and drove around a bit more. Took a road that narrowed leading us down to the rivers edge and a heli-port, before deciding to make our way back to the entrance. Mark had found a restaurant he was interested in going to;  Patton's Tavern located in the Thayer hotel.
This hotel is pretty amazing.
I take a picture of the interior lobby and the adorned arches.

Pretty or scary? I simply loved the lions that sit in the hotels garden before entering.
The Patton tavern for  lunch.

I have an interesting chicken and waffles combo with a ginger sauce. Notice I said interesting...It was good, but totally our of my norm.

One last look at this incredible view before we head back to the campsite. 

Once back to the cabin. We all considered going to the Pool Party with a DJ and decided against it (Way to Crowded). We also considered going to the movie on the lawn that evening (It would have been a nice relaxing evening.) BUT instead we built up a camp fire and made some s'mores.

Back home tomorrow. Good night!