MISSION: To visit every state and territory in the U.S. For my mission a visit is greater than a stop over; I wish to explore the natural and cultural environments of these areas. Each of these locations has a story to tell, and I want to find it.

As of February 2018 I have visited all 50 states (and Puerto Rico and 2 island in the US Virgin Islands) at least once.

Friday, August 26, 2016

As American as Baseball and Apple Pie

Cooperstown has been on my bucket list for years.  I always thought it would be a cool place to take my brother.  I thought it was the perfect idea.  I looked into it ... a lot.  But my brother was more into ice hockey than anything else, so this trip was just hanging out there.  And there it sat, as a place on a list of "Weekend Trip Ideas."  I revisited that list every so often and kept putting it off.  It wasn't really a trip I thought I would enjoy on my own and it wasn't one for a "quick get away".  Cooperstown is roughly 6 1/2 hours from DC, which meant I needed at least 4 days to do this trip and see all that there was to see.  Because, once you look into it, Cooperstown is more than the Baseball Hall of Fame.  Finally, this summer, the stars aligned and I was able to finally see this bit of sports history (and so much more).

Honestly though, who are you kidding, you know you are going to Cooperstown for the Hall of Fame.  This is the place that chronicles our national pastime.  It preserves over 200 years of baseball history.  I have heard great things about the museum, and like everyone else, got a glimpse of it from the best sports movie of all time, A League of Their Own (and I say that only slightly as an exaggeration - this movie is a perfect classic). I wanted to visit to see that exhibit itself.  I love baseball, so I was looking forward to seeing some baseball history.   I expected the museum to be filled with facts, figures and tons of baseball stats.  In short, I expected it to be a gigantic baseball card.  And, I could not have been more wrong. 

Babe Ruth
 It was a tribute "For the Love of the Game." We spent an entire day exploring, learning, laughing and playing. It is just an amazing place clearly built with love, respect and admiration of the game and for its place in our culture.  There was deep baseball history, looking back to the storied baseball clubs in New York.  You could learn of the evolutions of rules.  You saw how baseball moved from recreation to sport and understood its place in American History.  It did not shy away from the ugly; there was whole sections on the racial divide (we learned that baseball was integrated before it was segregated). Those that have transcended time had their own sections - Ruth and Aaron!  The Women in Baseball section honored not just those that played in the Women's League, AAGPBL, but notes accomplishments of women breaking barriers on the field in softball and baseball, and in management (and yes, you can see a Rockford Peach and Racine Bell's uniform).  And Latin America's passion for the game was celebrated  in "Viva Baseball." 

Mike Piazza 2016 inductee
Let's Go METS!
Throughout the museum there were interactive opportunities to keep tech-addicted fingers busy... touch screen monitors hosted quizzes and took surveys, wall-sized monitors played many baseball highlights and in one room you could sit and watch "Who's on First" in totality.  There was section that spoke to kids directly, "The Sandlot", that quizzed you of the importance of exercise, commitment, ethics and staying drug free.  If you needed to step back and relax, the theatre was a great place to watch movie clips, and the "Scribes and Mikemen" section celebrated the legacy of our announcers.  And because baseball transcends sports, there was a fine art section showing how baseball has soaked its way into all that represents us. 

Inside the museum, on the first floor are the hallowed halls of the Hall of Fame.  After meandering our way through 3 floors of baseball storytelling, this was honestly a let down.  After all, how much dolling up can you do to a sectioned atrium with alcoves of bronze plaques.  To find the greats you wanted to see you could meander around the decades (of induction, not play time), or consult the wall charts. 
This does not look like
Ken Griffey Jr!
The plaques capture the likeness of the inductee (or tried to - see poor Ken Griffey Jr) and provide a brief bio for why they were worthy.  What I learned quickly is that the museum and the hall are two very distinct places.  You find Pete Rose all over the museum, but he is still not in the hall of fame; likewise Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa are given rightful credit for saving baseball post-strike for their electric home run competition, but they will never be in the Hall.  For all the talk baseball does of reaching across the gender divide, and for near universal recognition that Dottie Schroeder has of being one of the best, the Hall only lists one female (an executive) on its walls. Baseball has struggled with how to reconcile rule breakers and gender barriers.  In my eyes, the 2 portions of the facility need to have a reckoning...

There is more to Cooperstown and the surrounding area than just the Hall of Fame.  If you can force yourself to leave the building, you can walk 2 blocks to one of the most pristine lakes in the entire country, Lake Otsego.  A glacial lake, it is surrounded my mountains and dense, thick forest.  There are only a few public access points for the lake, but you need to find one and get out there.  You can take the Glimmerglass Queen out on the water for a 1 hour easy ride out to about the middle of the lake; stay outside, because not only are the views simply spectacular and the air fresh, but the boat is not air-conditioned.  You can also take some kayaks (our choice), canoes, or paddle boards out, giving you a more personal connection to the water.  Here you can look at the water at eye level, catch some fish jumping out of the water at random moments (no carp in this lake), or some birds soaring around.  We were only out on the kayaks for an hour, I could have done that for much longer...
sadly we were only able to get on the water for a short while because mother nature continues her vacation torture plan - such extreme storms settled over the area for our trip, its a wonder we got on the water at all.  While on the Glimmerglass Queen, we were soaked as a storm barreling down the lake overtook us on the return (and we walked blocks to our car in it); driving around we were constantly rerouted for downed/lightening struck trees.  It was unfortunate since we both wanted me water time... alas, we promise another time.  Maybe I can bribe Mother Nature?!?!?

Rain didn't spoil the trip since there was so much to see and do in the area.  We made our way through the Wax Museum ... while it was definitely not Madam Trousseau's it got a few of them close (enough).  It was a small place, and not very pricey - so while we made fun of it the entire trip, I would say its worth it to go and see the attempt. 

While Cooperstown is a small village, it has a seriously impressive
art museum at the Fenimore.  There are world class exhibits on Native American Art and American Folk Art.  The museum, housed in a historic lakefront mansion, looks over the water and hosts some great gardens (so we hear).  I was excited to visit for the collection of early Ansel Adams works on exhibit and for the collection of French Bohemian pieces by Henri Dc Toulouse- Lautrec.  (you know his work, think menus and stock art at mid-priced French restaurants).   And since Cooperstown is also home to the Glimmerglass Festival, the museum housed a room of artwork made for the Festival's Opera's. This was some serious stuff for a small village... but with the draws that Cooperstown brings in, the museum must get some real traffic from those looking for a baseball break.

About an hour outside Cooperstown, is the town of Norwich and home to the Northeast Classic Car Museum.  And trust me, this is not just any old warehouse of old cars.  It was easily one of the finest collections we had ever seen.  The way
the museum chose to display them painted a picture and told a story.  Cars were grouped into eras, and each era was described to you in historical facts, music, and clothing... signs at each car not only gave facts, but also pointed out interesting features.  So instead of walking down aisle and aisle of cars, looking like a dealership - this museum told a story of the automobile evolution.  So, for the boyfriend, we was excited to see some truly rare classics, and for me, I learned something new... a win, win! 

The Cooperstown Village Visitor's Center recommended that we visit Hyde Hall, in Glimmerglass State Park, before we leave. The park is one of the only public access points to the lake, is home to the only covered bridges in the area and boosts the protection of one of the finest examples of the neoclassical country house in the United States.  Hyde Hall represents an extraordinary vision of 19th-century Anglo-American culture and the establishment of vast agricultural estates in the early years of the American republic; it was built by George Clarke (1768-1835) and was home to the Clarke family for 5 generations.  Honestly, at first glance, it really is a boring large limestone mansion built in 5 stages overlooking the north end of the lake.  But, looks can be deceiving.  The inside is stunning with 2 grand rooms that erase the boring façade from your memory. 
The dining room and sitting rooms are 2 of the largest rooms built in any home and encompass virtually the entire first floor of that section of the home.  We took a tour, the only way to see inside this masterpiece, and got to see renovation in progress.  The Hall was saved from destruction, after decades of neglect, and now needs much TLC to bring it back to the height of its glory (while making it safe).  Our tour guide was not only spun tales of yore, but spoke of problems of vandalism.  Sadly, nothing is sacred.

As we left the Hall and the Park, driving down county 31, one last time, we both agreed that we need to come back to this area in the fall.  The colors must be astounding.  Locals tell us that we are correct (and that the crowds are much less of an issue AND hotel rates drops a bit AND to pack some sweaters.)  The waters of the Lake with the colors of the endless forests surrounding the area must make for something truly inspiring.  So, back on my "to see" list Cooperstown goes... ack, I was so close to knocking another one off!  So close...


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