Nickeled and Dimed
We checked out of the hotel and passed the Saratoga Raceways on the way out of the always-packed Saratoga Springs downtown. We saw a few horses being groomed and ridden, but no races were slated, so we just looked around to see what we could see from the streets.
Our first stop of the day was a little ways from Saratoga Springs at the Saratoga Battlefield. Despite being one of the most influential battles in the history of the world, the Saratoga Battlefield is not as well-traveled or built-up as, say, Gettysburg is. Nevertheless, the visitor center is well done, despite the clear lack of funding. It was also fairly well-traveled, which is surprising considering that the only access is on secondary roads with utterly frivolous hairpin turns.
The two battles in September and October of 1777 marked the turning point of the Revolution and thus of world history. British forces occupied New York City and Québec, and were preparing to come down Lake Champlain and the Hudson River to cut off the revolutionaries, who were mostly confined to New England.
The beginning of this strategy worked, as the British captured a series of small forts, including Ticonderoga. In order to stop the advance, the American forces rallied near Saratoga, at a natural choke point along the Hudson called Bemis Heights. Sitting on the choice of going down the river and getting slaughtered by American forces or trying to beat the Americans on Bemis Heights, British General John "Gentleman Johnny" Burgoyne chose to attack.
The September battle was somewhat of a stalemate, with the Americans still on Bemis Heights. The British dug in, and the second battle on October 7th ended with the Americans routing the British. This got France on board with the revolutionary cause, declaring war on Britain.
We drove around the battlefield and got a sense of the terrain, which is remarkably well-preserved. The visitor center even had one of the original cannon used at the battle.
The most interesting thing about the battle - and, in fact, Fort Ticonderoga as well - is that Benedict Arnold, commonly known only as a traitor, was incredibly influential. Had he not married a Loyalist half his age and attempted to surrender West Point to the British, he'd be considered one of the greatest American heroes. As it is, without Arnold's heroism at influential points, the Revolution could just as easily have been a failure. As one of the volunteers put it, "we'd be looking at Arnold's face on the one-dollar bill."
It took us nearly three hours to complete the driving tour, including our many stops to walk around and see things. We pulled onto the road and found ourselves to be incredibly low on gas - which made sense, considering that we hadn't gotten any since we stopped in rural Québec.
My mom took much longer than expected getting snacks and drinks inside, so I went in to find her at the counter, 75 cents short. I procured three quarters from the car and gave them to the man behind the counter.
This was not to be the last fun we'd have with loose change.
We got onto I-87 and rolled on through Albany, where we lost a considerable amount of traffic and entered the toll road, where we spotted a few deer along the side of the road. I'd forgotten this about New York toll roads - you pick up a ticket on the way in, and then turn in the ticket wherever you exit, with the exit number corresponding to a particular toll amount. Thus, the state can tax individuals who use more of the road.
With the toll for our exit at $2.70, my mom and I rummaged for change, and we ended up paying the $2.70 almost exclusively in nickels, which took the lady at the toll booth nearly a full minute to count out. Her parting words to us were "hey, next time - use pennies!" - although her words were nearly incomprehensible through her laughter.
Now driving a slightly lighter car, we arrived at our hotel at 4:30 and checked in, getting to our room and immediately looking up local places to eat in Kingston. We couldn't find the place that we originally wanted to go - the girl at the front desk confused the place we'd looked at with a different place on the other side of town, and our stupid little GPS is now officially on its last legs, getting all turned around, spinning in circles even when we were at a complete stop. We eventually saw a sign for a grill up in a mall, which we pulled into.
It was a bit of a sports-bar kind of place, but it wasn't all that loud. The server was entertained by my order of extra blue cheese on my blue cheese burger and the fact that a lemon seed had perched itself right on the end of my straw after a particularly difficult sip. If I hadn't taken as long of a sip, it would have slipped back down the straw, but if I'd gone just a millisecond longer, it would have gone into my mouth.
Tomorrow: the FDR Presidential Library at Hyde Park, with the aim of getting as far south as Pennsylvania.