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Adventure Travel

NY Trip Day 2: West Point and Washington’s Headquarters

This post covers the second day of my trip to downstate New York with Sean in July of 2011. It was written July 15.

After we arrived in Highland Falls and Sean went to work, I took a little walk around the village and snapped some photos of the intriguing architecture.

house
Cool house on Main Street in Highland Falls, NY
red church door
Church with red door in Highland Falls, NY

When I was satisfied with my walk around the block, I had breakfast at Andy’s Restaurant, the place I found yesterday after I’d already eaten at the Dunkin Donuts. I had a lox omelet and it was quite good. The home fries were amazing.

andys restaurant
Andy's Restaurant, Highland Falls, NY
lox omelet with home fries
Lox omelet with home fries, Andy's Restaurant.

After I ate I did a little more walking, then headed to the US Military Academy Visitors Center. I knew from yesterday that it opened at 9, so I was just in time. I wondered what exactly it would have, since there is a separate building for the West Point Museum. I was thinking maybe it just had information on the West Point tour. It turns out there is a whole information center there about training at the US Military Academy. The place seems to be geared towards potential cadets and their parents, but has useful information for anyone. I was most intrigued by the cadet quarters on the upper level, seeing what the beds and desks are like. There’s a room off to the left of that showing all the different uniforms cadets wear, and a theater off to the right showing a twelve-minute introductory video.

cadet quarters
Cadet quarters example, US Military Academy, NY

There was a booth where you could sign up for a tour of West Point, but you could only pay cash and it cost $12, which was more than I had. I left the display area, walking through the entry hall in which a plastic soldier is parachuting from the ceiling, and crossed over to the Visitors Center Gift Shop. This was a disappointment…mostly clothing, and high prices. I didn’t buy anything.

parachuting puppet
Plastic parachutist, West Point Visitors Center

As I was finishing up, many tour groups started arriving. I walked over to the museum, walked back, and walked over to it again, wasting time until it opened at 10:30. After seeing the visitors center I wondered what the museum would house. It turned out to have several displays on multiple floors: history of the Academy, history of warfare, small arms, large arms. There was another display upstairs but I didn’t have time to look at it.

West Point Museum
West Point Museum

I noticed that the Civil War was completely omitted from the history of the Academy exhibit. Gen. Robert E. Lee was one of the Academy’s superintendents, so I was interested to read about any issues that might have come up over that…but it was all blithely and neatly ignored. After I got out of the history of warfare exhibit, I discovered a small alcove that did address the Civil War, though not in the detail I might have wanted. I did appreciate the information right at the mouth of the alcove about causes of the Civil War and the way the two sides basically tried to ignore the slavery issue afterward; the South by claiming the war was really about states’ rights, and the North by just refusing to talk about it anymore. (This is one reason I like modern society and the internet. There is always a place for this sort of discussion.) The introductory text made the point that for the North, it was not about ending slavery, because most Northerners had the same wrong-headed views as the rest of the “civilized” world. For the North, it was about keeping the country whole. The introduction argued, though, that there had been plenty of strife between North and South before that had been resolved, and the only reason the South went so far as to try and secede was because of the Abolitionist movement. This jives with what I learned at the Abraham Lincoln exhibit I saw at the Atlanta History Museum; Lincoln’s equality views were not popular and he basically had to force the issue. Thank goodness he did.

Anyway, after those exhibits I walked through the small and large arms displays. In history of warfare there was a 1/10th scale copy of Fat Man (the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki), but there is a full-size version down in large arms. Having been to Hiroshima’s museum, I was a little underwhelmed by the lack of attention to the effects of the atomic bombs in both exhibits.

There was a Japanese tour group there–I passed them as they were going into the visitors center. I was sort of morbidly curious as to what the tourists’ reactions would be to the atomic bomb displays, but I didn’t see them in the museum.

When I came back out of the sub-basement galleries, I went into the gift shop, where I found a great Academy refrigerator magnet. Yay! While checking out I had to listen to this really obnoxious man discussing the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” with the shop employees. He kept using the phrase “Guess what?” I wanted to say, “Guess what? You’re really annoying!” but I contented myself with a massive eyeroll on my way out the door.

Sean texted me as I stepped outside; he only had to work a half day and was done. We met up in the parking lot, then walked up the street to Park Restaurant and had some great salads for lunch. Seriously, that fruit and grilled chicken salad was one of the best salads I’ve ever eaten. Park Restaurant’s whole menu sounded divine!

fruit and grilled chicken salad
Fruit and grilled chicken salad, Park Restaurant, Highland Falls, NY

After that, we drove through town and the mountains with the top down. I can’t recall if I’d ever ridden in a convertible with the top down before. If I have, it was a very long time ago. I did have the foresight to tie back my hair before we got going. It was a neat experience–I could see a lot more, and I liked all the light. But the sun was beating down on us and it was also too noisy to talk much of the time.

Our hotel is in Fishkill, New York, near Beacon, across the Hudson River from Newburgh. We stopped in Newburgh to take a look at a home that served as Gen. George Washington’s headquarters for a little under a year during the Revolutionary War. The buildings are undergoing renovation, but the grounds are nice, and there is an extraordinary memorial set up to look like a guardhouse/watch tower overlooking the Hudson. It’s huge, made of stone, with four copper gates intricately wrought into patterns with state names and seals. Inside is a larger-than-life statue of Washington, looking out to the river and standing ready to draw his sword. One of the gates is open so you can go in and see him. As you walk away from the stone citadel and turn back, you see Washington’s silhouette standing guard through the open area above the gate.

monument to Washington

bronze

Washington statue

Washington statue

Washington's silhouette
Washington's silhouette

Unfortunately we weren’t able to enter either of the houses on the property; one’s under intense restoration and the other required a cash-only tour. What is with cash-only tours? It’s 2011! But we walked all around them and noted their interesting architectural features and spotted a gravestone, what appeared to be a filled-in well, and a monument to the Minutemen. The grounds are nice, a long field of green grass. The view of the Hudson can be lovely in places, but it’s slightly marred by the telephone wires and metal buildings running along the industrial section of Newburgh’s waterfront.

Washington's headquarters
A last look at Washington's Headquarters.

When we were done there we continued on back to Fishkill, where we made a pit stop at the hotel and then headed out to Friendly’s for ice cream and the bank for quarters to do Sean’s laundry. I wanted to go to the Van Wyck Homestead, which we passed coming back into town, but Sean was all tuckered out and is in fact now curled up on the bed fast asleep, poor thing.

It was a nice day :) What will the weekend bring…?