After rolling through nearby Bard College and looking at some of their freaky architecture, we headed up to the FDR Presidential Library at Hyde Park - but first, we needed some lunch. We stopped at 2:00 at Eveready Diner, a fairly new construction made to look like the ultimate '50s diner.
We later found out that they were on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives - one of the few places to have been featured multiple times. The menu was massive and included some very non-diner-like fair, such as a gyro, which my mom had. My reuben was beyond excellent, and my dad's roast was, to quote him, "succulent."
You know it's good when he talks about it coherently.
Having eaten, we got to the Library. We walked through the visitor's center to the library, where we poked around for a few moments to get a feel for the layout before doubling back to the visitor center, where a tour of the house at Hyde Park began.
The knowledgeable ranger gave a thorough rundown of the house, which has been preserved, and told a few stories that ranged from hilarious to spooky. The funniest was the account of King George on his visit to the house and his encounter with a collection of Revolutionary- and War of 1812-era cartoons that adorned a section of the wall. The King looked at it for about ten minutes, then turned to Roosevelt and said "your collection has some pieces that mine doesn't have."
Another funny story surrounded one of the few pictures that depicts Joseph Stalin smiling. While at the Yalta Conference, ready to pose for pictures, FDR was flanked by Stalin and Churchill. But to FDR, getting the Soviet agelast to break his façade was tantamount to a personal challenge. So the President whispered to Churchill that he was about to make Stalin smile. Leaning over to the mustachioed dictator, FDR whispered "I don't trust Churchill," leading to a rare grin from Stalin.
The spooky story was regarding a sculpture of Roosevelt, portraying him from the waist up only, and in a chair. While both of these could be explained fairly logically, given Roosevelt's handicapped status, the artist sculpted it a full decade before FDR contracted polio, saying then that he saw the future President as "someone who just didn't really have any use for legs."
The furniture in the house is all original, and includes artifacts such as the bed FDR was born in, the cloak he wore in the famous picture from the Yalta Conference, the chair he always sat in to await the results of elections, and one of his original wheelchairs, cobbled together from an old chair and bicycle parts. As a dabbler in architecture, Roosevelt designed parts of the house and its many eventual additions.
Back at the library, we were able to walk through at a rather brisk pace, as we're already all familiar with the history of FDR during the WWII years. However, all the information on his early life was new, as was some of the information regarding his prewar presidency.
The best part of the library was FDR's desk - fully preserved, with all of the artifacts arranged as they'd appeared when he died, and including his collection of ceramic pigs, which only the people close to him knew much about.
We exited the library as it was closing, and then exited through the visitor's center before it closed. With no reservations and a willingness to get as far down the road as we felt was safe, we went a little farther south to the village of Wappingers Falls, home of the Hudson Valley Renegades of the short-season New York-Penn League. Their opening day was last Monday, and we had to park on quite literally the very edge of the parking lot, as the game had started a little earlier and was currently in the fourth inning.
This was after we cobbled together five dollars in quarters to pay for parking, for we had used up our last dollar bills. With the promise that everything in the ballpark took credit, we got some tickets and entered the park.
Of course, our first stop was to acquire a pennant, only to be told that you could not purchase a pennant within the bare-bones confines of the team store, but could find one being sold on one of the carts that were rolling periodically around the concourse.
We looked, but with no description of what the thing looked like, we didn't know what we were looking for in the crowd, so we went up to a young lady also selling a few bits of merchandise behind a long table. While she had pennants, they weren't for sale (for some reason), and then again mentioned the carts ... only this time she pointed and said "there's one over there now."
I wasn't around to hear the last of the conversation, as I bolted through a gap in the crowd, came to a stop in front of the shocked guy that was pushing the cart, and asked, with great urgency, if he sold pennants.
He pulled out one and said that it was five dollars.
We weren't even sure if we had five whole dollars in the car, much less on our person. As we explained the situation, he gave us the pennant and said that we could pay for it inside the team store.
But the story doesn't end there, for the only person who could operate the machine to check out a non-team store item had gone outside. I worked against the grain and quickly explained what was going on, and she came inside. Triumphantly, we thanked them for their time and headed to our seats.
The score was 0-0 when we entered and was 0-0 when we left, mostly due to the idiotic baserunning of one player, who was responsible for two of the three outs in the inning. We left during the seventh-inning stretch in order to get away from the crowd, but not before seeing some of the most sadistic and bizarre between-innings games.
We've experienced games around the country and seen many a crazy promotion, from fans racing to put on a frozen t-shirt in St. Paul to fans rushing to build themselves into a gigantic hamburger ... also in St. Paul. These were for certain the weirdest games, which featured a spiteful host berating a woman for not knowing the lines from famous female movie characters, the same spiteful host moderating a bizarrely morphed game of blackjack where the loser ended up getting a pie tossed in his face, and a race wherein three teams of teenagers put disks between their legs, waddled over to a bucket, sat down, and tried to work the disks up and into the bucket without the use of their hands.
It was exactly as bizarre at it sounds like.
With all of that out of the way, we rolled on up the road and pulled into a gas station to call the hotline to find out where rooms were available. Once we had one, we hit the road ... but the road we were on was a toll road. Without an accurate way of assessing the coins we've lugged four thousand miles, we could only estimate what we could see, which was about six dollars. With no way of knowing what the cost would be at our eventual exit, we hoped for the best ... although a line from C.W. McCall's "Convoy" undoubtedly rang through our heads: "We crashed the gate doing ninety-eight/Sayin 'Let them truckers roll'."
Fortunately there was no need to do ninety-eight or crash any gates, as we were able to pay the toll using the change we had, with plenty to spare. We approached New York City but peeled off about twenty miles out, getting into New Jersey ... somewhere. Unlike most states, they don't put up "welcome to New Jersey" signs. We knew we were in New Jersey nonetheless, and we got to our hotel a little after 9:00.
While none of us were particularly hungry, we also knew that we'd done a lot of walking around and we hadn't eaten since 2:00, so we ate at the hotel. It was average food, and the real fun was with the waitress, who brought out a pitcher of lemonade after we'd all been through a refill or two. Faced with this challenge, we all pitched in. I, for one, was more thirsty than hungry, and I preferred the lemonade over the quasi-calamari, which was about 86% breading when all was said and done.
Our key lime pie dessert was augmented by a second, on-the-house slice - a surprise from our bubbly waitress. This marks the third time on this trip that we've gotten a free dessert augmentation.
Tomorrow: we try to get as far south as possible. It's too long of a drive to get home, but our plan is to make our final day as short as possible.