Friday, September 11, 2015

August 16-17: Battlefields and Boneheads

With Nat and I both working, our departure from Metro Detroit was delayed until early evening. Normally, dinner would be on somewhere down the road on the corner of Excitement and High Expectations.  All vacations should include those things, right?  Instead, we were so delayed, we opted to just have dinner in Woodhaven. Oh boy.  After a few hours of driving, we fell short of our pre-launch goal of Erie, Pennsylvania and secured lodging in some town in northeastern Ohio. It was so exciting, I did not even put the name in my trip notes….

Rising early, we hit the road.  Pennsylvania was a blip on our buggy GPS and it was on to the Empire State.  It should be worth noting, by the way, that New York, grand as it is, sits somewhere in the Paleozoic times of road management. Would you believe me if I told you that one cannot pay a toll road fee with a credit card? Go ahead. Ask me how I know.  Instead, you have multiple options after you fill out papers. One option is that you are expected to call them within 7 days and pay…wait for it……..with a credit card.  I am not making this up.

By 3pm (a little behind schedule from our estimates) we had arrived at our first official vacation destination: Saratoga National Historic Park. 

Suggesting that there was a Battle of Saratoga is a bit misleading. It was more like the Battles of Saratoga.  September 17th, 1777 saw what we can call the first battle.  In short, it was nasty and bloody as one would expect for a Revolutionary War engagement.  The evening saw the British holding the field of battle, known to locals as the farm belonging to John Freeman.  A series of clever decisions and defensive postures basically prevented the British from re-positioning themselves.  They could not advance or retreat. It was decided to wait for reinforcements. 

By October 7th, the situation had deteriorated for the British.  An American attack on the Great Redoubt and Breymann Redoubt (basically two small, hastily constructed forts) ended with the British retreating north.  Pre-traitorous Benedict Arnold was considered a hero and within days the Brits had surrendered. 

The repercussions were worldwide.  The fledgling American army had defeated a world power.  The French opted to side with the Americans and declare war on England.  The Spanish and Dutch did the same. Before long, Britain was engaged in what could be considered a world war as they had colonies across the globe.    Historians think of Gettysburg as the turning point for the Civil War.  They also view Saratoga in the same mindset.  Some, in fact, view it as one of the greatest and most impactful battles in world history. Ever.

For Natalie and I, we found it quite hot with temps pushing (or maybe even exceeding) 90 degrees. The tour loop took us to various locations of the,um…battlefields.  The Eastern Bluebird (common on battlefields in the East in my opinion) were everywhere. 

Natalie noted how peaceful and pleasant the battlefield was for visitors.  She couldn’t be more correct.  I have been to dozens of places where hell was unleashed for a few days and yet they always revert to calm before too long.  Saratoga was no different.  Wildflowers, birds and breezes can’t be beat.  The closest thing to hell for us was when I almost stepped on a Monarch caterpillar trudging across the path.  Natalie would have killed me. 

Departing the battlefield, it was time for dinner.  With the town of Saratoga just up the street, it became apparent that Natalie was in for a hell all her own – I can now identify old homes. 

Yup, what once would have been “Wow, look at that house…” is now “Woah! That is one cool lookin’ Italianate!  See those windows? And the boxy look?  How about that cupola?  But…oh, see,….that round tower on the corner? Not original. They clearly added that later in an attempt to keep up with the Joneses down the street in that late 19th Century Queen Anne.  You can tell cuz that’s the one with…….” 

Fortunately, she was cool with it all. She enjoyed it.  Otherwise I might been another bloody casualty in eastern New York. 

Dinner was at Druthers in downtown Saratoga. With centuries old buildings looking like they were built last week and with active restorations underway (I believe that building on the main drag will be a hotel), historic preservation is in full swing and clearly has been for a quite a while.  

The pizza was all fine and good as were the beers: Brevity Wit, Druthers Amber, Fist of Karma, Scottish Style 80, and the South Weizen.  While all were fine (3’s out of 5), the Gose (pronounced Goes-uh) was a first for me in terms of style.  It is a sour, salty beer. Eh. A “3”,  as well.

Camping was at Moreau State Park. The heat the quite uncomfortable.  That may have contributed to what may be known to future generations as the site of the Saratoga Massacre.  The National Park Service may interpret it in the future.

Campground quiet hours were to begin at 10pm. The folks in the site next to us did not get that memo. The drinking and yelling and firewood splitting continued until well past midnight.  With no campground host on site, options were limited.  Confronting drunk campers is usually ill-advised.  A call to the office at 3am (I’m not kidding) suggested a call to local police if needed. 

It was not needed.

Before I could say anything, Natalie leapt from the tent, carried the hand axe that I use to pound tent stakes and proceeded to confront the partiers.  The screams of terror as she hacked them to pieces are sounds I will have to live with forever. Even in the campfire light, I could see the blood of the stupid and disrespectful dripping from the trees…

Okay, it didn’t happen that way.

She did call the police about the time the partying was dying down.  The revelers went to bed about 4am (or passed out). No police arrived. No hatchet mutilations.

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