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      07-07-2013, 07:04 PM   #2
Rick F.
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Drives: 2013 BMW 335i cabriolet
Join Date: Jun 2009
Location: Catonsville, MD

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I was able to get a photo of the hotel the next morning, during a short walk around Rhinebeck's historic district. William Traphagen started an inn nearby in the early 1700s. His son, Arent Traphagen, moved the inn into a larger building in 1766, and the Beekman Arms was born—making it the oldest operating hotel in the United States. It's named in honor of local resident Col. Henry Beekman, Jr., who was the grandfather of Robert R. Livingston (one of the five drafters of the Declaration of Independence and the first chancellor of the State of New York), who in turn was the great-great-grandfather of our old friend Ruth Livingston Mills. It was apparently a tight-knit community (although perhaps not up to West Virginia standards in this respect… ).

The 1852 Church of the Messiah was stately looking, but what I really liked was the glimmer of sunshine that lit up the little tree in the front lawn.

The Reformed Church of Rhinebeck dates back to 1731, with construction of the current building by 1808. Although it's not readily apparent from this photograph, two of the church's walls (including the front wall) are made from stone, and the other two (including the side facing the camera) are made of brick. This odd arrangement resulted from the practicality of the Dutch settlers: only some could afford to buy bricks for the new church; the other members donated stones from their fields. Also, it's not every church that has a cannon in its cemetery. It's in honor of the many Revolutinary War soldiers who are buried there. The crude headstone in the second photograph was roughly lettered by hand and dated May 26, 1775.

After a filling breakfast at the inn, I motored off to find the ruins of the old mansion that Jason had told me about. On the way, I happened across a waterfall over Landsman Kill—"kill" being the Dutch name for a stream. I parked at a nearby and apparently abandoned house, which had an intriguing plaque identifying it as "The Gatehouse" and "Building #26." The overgrown dirt path leading uphill from the gatehouse was marked "No Trespassing." As usual, I was sorely tempted, but I had a long way to go to Saratoga, and I still had to be in Falmouth, Cape Cod before the end of the day.

Later research about the mysterious gatehouse led to a most entertaining tale by local historian Nancy Kelly. It's well worth a read, but the gist of it is that the gatehouse guarded the entrance to Linwood Hill, an 1842 Gothic Revival "cottage" that was later the home of one Harrison B. Dyar, Jr. By age 16 (in 1872), Harrison had already started his lifelong study of insects. He received degrees from MIT and Columbia University, and became the Smithsonian Institution's foremost expert on mosquitoes. He married his MIT sweetheart, and the happy couple had a daughter and a son. Later, Harrison married a Smithsonian research assistant, and the new happy couple had three sons. Given the high mortality associated with childbirth in those days, second or even third marriages were not at all uncommon—unless, as in this case, the first wife was still alive, the original couple was still married, and the happy bridegroom used an assumed name…

Nine years later, the existence of two concurrent families came to light, Wife #1 filed for divorce, Harrison lost his job with the Smithsonian, and otherwise all was well. He continued his relaxing pastime of building elaborate, brick-lined tunnels under his house in Washington, DC (including statues and Latin inscriptions for good measure), and he became active in the monotheistic Bahá'í religion and argued forcefully in support of polygamy.

Did I mention that Harrison's father had invented a working telegraph 10 years before Samuel Morse but had to flee the country after being indicted for allegedly using his new device in a bank-fraud scheme? Or that his mother was reputed to be a psychic? I tell you, there is a fascinating story behind every one of the old structures in the entire country! Linwood Hill, incidentally, was demolished in 1910 by its next owner and replaced with the stunning Fox Hollow mansion, which still stands today at the end of the overgrown path that I didn't follow. (Harrison Dyar, Jr. photo courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution; Linwood Hill drawing courtesy of Rhinebeck's Historic Architecture by Nancy V. Kelly.)

Meanwhile, back at the Landsman Kill waterfalls… I first tried getting a photo from the bridge but wasn't altogether satisfied. See the rock outcropping on the left of the first picture? My second attempt was made from that rock, but it wasn't that great, either, since I was concentrating on not falling into the creek!

You've all heard the expression "keeping up with the Joneses," I'm sure. It originated in a small community southwest of Rhinebeck when Elizabeth Schermerhorn Jones built a magnificent brick Norman mansion in 1853, which she named Wyndclyffe. Inspired by Ms. Jones' home, neighbors were soon busily having their own mansions built, to "keep up." Ms. Jones' niece was the Pulitzer Prize-winning author Edith Jones Wharton, who visited frequently as a child but seems not to have liked the place all that much. Although she used Wyndclyffe as the setting for "The Willows" in her book Hudson River Bracketed, she also characterized it as "a monstrosity." In her autobiography, Mrs. Wharton wrote, "The effect of terror produced by [Wyndclyffe] was no doubt due to what seemed to me its intolerable ugliness. … I can still remember hating everything at [Wyndclyffe]… and from the first I was obscurely conscious of a queer resemblance between the granite exterior of Aunt Elizabeth and her grimly comfortable house…"

Well! My task, however, was not to critique Wyndclyffe but to find it. With Jason's directions in mind, I managed to locate it on the first try. It's surrounded by tall trees, with only portions visible through their gaps.

Like Halcyon Hall, it was surrounded by a fence. I managed to get this photo of the back of the mansion by holding the camera over top of the fence.

In searching for a better vantage spot, I scrambled up a bank and discovered a hole cut neatly right through the fence. I would never take advantage of such a tempting opportunity of course, unless a much better photo depended on it… I will leave to your imagination the means by which I achieved this last shot. It's a wonderful old mansion, but its days are clearly numbered. Over the last 50 years, it's sold for as much as $85,000 (1971) and as little as $1.00 (1953). It has deteriorated badly, and sizable portions have collapsed altogether.

The following photos of the ruins in 1979 are courtesy of the Library of Congress, as is the architectural drawing above. Compare the front of the mansion in 1979 with my photograph above; somewhere along the way, the porch on the left has disappeared altogether.

These interior photos show the central hall, the staircase off of the hallway, the library, and the first-floor parlor and whatever was above it.

I left Wyndclyffe both reluctantly and hastily, and continued on to the Wilderstein Mansion, which is open to the public—although not on the day of my visit, unfortunately. It was named after a rock with Native American petroglyphs found on the property ("wilderstein' meaning "wild stone" in German). It was built in 1852 by Thomas and Catherine Suckley in the Italianate style and remodeled in the Queen Anne style by their son in 1888. The last of the Suckleys to live there was Margaret (Daisy) Suckley, who died in the mansion in 1991 at the age of 100. Daisy, and her long affair with her sixth cousin Franklin D. Roosevelt, were the subject of the 2012 movie Hyde Park on Hudson, starring Laura Linney and Bill Murray. This is as close as I could get for a photo, absent a more compelling excuse for wandering right up to the house…

I went through the village of Rhinecliff for a quick look, discovering in the process that there are a number of lighthouses on the Hudson River. This one is the Rondout Creek Leading Light, near Kingston, NY. It replaced an earlier lighthouse near this spot in 1915, with the prior 1867 structure collapsing altogether in 1950.

I also learned that the Rhinecliff-Kingston railroad station is here, with Amtrak service to Penn Station in New York City. At non-peak hours, the wide access road makes a heckuva skateboard ramp. This fellow was doing a good 20 mph; at the far end of the parking lot, he would jump vertically off the board, begin running in mid-air, and then attempt to "hit the ground running." He was quite good at the "hit the ground" part. Fortunately, he always hopped right back up for another go.

For reasons I couldn't fathom, the RoadRunner route took me on a long detour away from the Hudson and right across Ashokan ("place of fish") Reservoir. I knew that it was New York City's deepest source of drinking water, at as much as 190 feet deep, but it didn't sound all that interesting. The lake was filled in 1912 to 1914, becoming the largest reservoir in the world at that time—much to the disgust of the roughly 1,000 residents whose homes, farms, quarries, and other properties were seized through eminent domain proceedings. At full capacity, it holds 122.9 billion gallons of water.

Once I drove there, I saw the wisdom of the author's route. It was scenic to beat the band. In particular, my visit had been preceded by several days of heavy rains, and Ashokan Reservoir was running well over capacity. It made for quite a sight at the Olivebridge Dam and spillway, where the water was cascading in every direction.

In the interest of ensuring clean water, swimming in the reservoir is strictly prohibited. Fishing is okay, if you can obtain a permit. I guess a substantial annual supply of fish poop is not considered a problem. The Spillway Road has been closed since 2001 to prevent terrorism, but the Reservoir Road remains open. Access to the road and bridge are strictly limited, as indicated in this photo.

The Reservoir Road bridge is quite a sight, although access to the lake shore is also strictly limited. With all the restrictions, limitations, and snooty permit requirements, one might be a bit tempted to piddle spitefully into the reservoir. I of course chose not to sully the fishes' natural habitat.

Oh, here's a Mountain Laurel picture, just for Jody!

And a photo of the 1857 Old School Baptist Meeting House, just for Cathy and Kim!

And the Dutch Reformed Church, just to demonstrate that I actually made it to Woodstock, NY! (The famous 1969 music festival was going to be held in Woodstock, but it actually took place nearly 60 miles away when Woodstock would not issue a permit to the organizers.) The church was built in 1805 and moved to its current spot in 1844.

The Ulster & Delaware Railroad operated in this part of New York starting back in 1868. With the growth in Catskill Mountain resorts, the railroad's business exploded, and this station in Phoenicia was handling 675,000 passengers a year. The line went bankrupt in 1932, thanks to the Depression, and was bought by the New York Central Railroad. Operations ceased for good in 1976, and the Empire State Railway Museum later purchased the Phoenicia Station and used it for Summer and Fall scenic train excursions. Then came Hurricane Irene in 2011, which flooded Esopus Creek and severely damaged the station and tracks. I hope the museum and its tracks are able to return to service some day.

I stopped in Tannersville only long enough to get a photo of this building, which I believe was once a boarding house. Note the third-story façade.

Kaaterskill Creek has carved a narrow, winding gorge through the Catskill Mountains, creating a number of dramatic waterfalls in the process. One of these, Bastion Falls, immediately borders Route 23a. I had to forgo a photo, unfortunately, since (i) there was no place to pull over on the very narrow road, and (ii) someone had unwisely chosen to drive a honking big tractor-trailer up the mountain in the other lane. I saw him approaching the hairpin at the falls, and I stopped well short to give him plenty of room to negotiate the turn. He still came within inches of knocking the left front fender right off my Z4! Here are an old postcard and Andrew Stockwell's beautiful photo of the 70-foot-high waterfall.

What I failed to realize was that an even more formidable waterfall was another 0.4 mile up the mountain—namely Kaaterskill Falls, probably the most scenic and best-known waterfall in all of New York. It's not an exaggeration to suggest that the popularity of Kaaterskill Falls led directly to the development of the Catskills into a major resort area. Prior to about 1815, most of Colonial America considered this area to be entirely unsafe, as portrayed by the famous painting "The Death of Jane McRea." Subsequently, two things happened to change opinions. First, in 1819 Washington Irving described Kaaterskill Falls in his popular story Rip Van Winkle, which is set in this area. And second, in 1826 Thomas Cole's dramatic paintings of the waterfall and surrounding area encouraged many people to travel to the Catskills to view the 260-foot-high waterfall. Before long, guest houses, restaurants, railroads, and the rest of the area's resort infrastructure sprang up to handle the flood of tourists.

In nearby Palenville, I found the stately Rowena Memorial School. It was built in 1899 in honor of Lysander Lawrence's deceased wife, Rowena. He paid for its construction, but soon thereafter the town's population became divided over the school's maintenance costs—to the point that a proposal to demolish the building received serious consideration! The school was replaced in 1977 with a larger building that merged several districts, and Rowena School became a library through 1986. It has been occupied somewhat sporadically since then, with significant deterioration.

Palenville, incidentally, claims to be the home of Rip Van Winkle—illustrated here by N.C. Wyeth—and who am I to argue? In fact, I'd been planning to stay overnight at the Rip Van Winkle Motor Lodge (really!), but I was concerned that I might oversleep…

Approaching the town of Catskill, I spotted the 1860 David Van Gelder Octagonal House behind some trees and down a steep incline. After some exploring, I located its driveway only to discover that the view of the house is largely blocked by trees. Octagonal houses were briefly popular in the mid-1800s after being espoused by a noted phrenologist. (Really, you can't make these things up.)

Remember Thomas Cole, whose paintings helped popularize the Catskill Mountains? He so liked the area that he moved into Cedar Grove (an 1815 house in Catskill, NY), married local girl Maria Bartow, and founded the American naturalist art movement known as the Hudson River School. He built two studios, which, following his death, became a center for the movement's artists. Cedar Grove is now better known as the Thomas Cole House, having been purchased by the Greene County Historical Society in 1998 to prevent its demolition. A full restoration followed, and the house opened to the public in 2001.

Although many artists followed the landscape style pioneered by Thomas Cole, he had only one formal student. Frederic Edwin Church was from a wealthy family and became very well known in his own right, often referred to as "the Michelangelo of American art." His paintings proved very lucrative, and in 1870-1872 he built the Persian-styled, mountaintop estate known as Olana. Later in life, as arthritis reduced his ability to paint, Frederic Church turned his grounds into a living landscape, comparable to the gardens of Frederick Law Olmsted.

Did you happen to notice the painter working at his easel in the lower right corner of the photo of Olana? He was from Brazil, and his fellow art students had long-since finished their landscapes and departed. This gentleman had chosen to paint the entire Hudson River scene, rather than just a small portion, and he had been struggling all day to capture the subtle shades of green. Let's hear it for perfectionism! And let's hope that he caught his plane back to Brazil on time the next morning!

From Olana, I hustled the Z4 north along the eastern bank of the Hudson, crossing back over to the western side at Troy, north of Albany. It was time to get to Saratoga, but I had one more important stop to make on the way. Cohoes, NY has a long history of industry and transportation, including the Eric Canal and the Mohawk River to supply power. Harmony Mills was the largest textile mill in the world in 1872. Today, its main building has been converted to luxury "loft" apartments.

But my real reason for visiting here was to see Cohoes Falls. The original Native American name for the falls translates to "place of the falling canoe," which was apt given the drop of 90 feet. It was here that the Mohawk Indians founded the Iroquois League of Nations, joining together the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca, and Tuscarora nations.

Cohoes Falls is wider than, and about the same height as, the American Falls at Niagra. Compared to Niagra's Horseshoe Falls, however, Cohoes is half as wide and half as high. Still, it's an incredible sight, especially following several days of heavy rainfall. This photo was taken from the south, near the hydroelectric power plant.

Upstream, a short hike across the power plant's intake canal leads to a closer vantage point. The flow of the water created a nice cooling mist plus a deafening roar—so much so that it was hard to hold a conversation even at close range. Surprisingly, during the summer months the flow of water over the falls is negligible, in significant part due to the diversion of the Mohawk for the power plant and canal.

After admiring Cohoes Falls, it was time to make another mad dash, this time to Saratoga Springs. This area is justifiably famous for the pivotal Battle of Saratoga in 1777, but that wasn't why I was heading there. Nor was I trying to make the horse races at the famous Saratoga Springs racetrack or to visit the hot springs and geysers. No, I had a much more important destination in mind: The Saratoga Automobile Museum. It opened in 2002, in the plant formerly used for bottling Saratoga Springs mineral water, and quickly developed a reputation as a world-class car museum.

As good luck would have it, the museum's featured exhibit during May to early November is "BMW: The Ultimate Driving Machine." It includes 11 vintage and more modern automobiles, together with 11 classic motorcycles (plus a current S1000RR). The BMW automobiles ranged from the famous (and priceless) Andy Warhol M1 "art car," which finished sixth overall at the 1979 24 Hours of Le Mans, to a miniscule Isetta "bubble car."

Other competition BMWs included the M3 GT that won the American Le Mans Series GT championship in 2010 and the 3.0 CSL that raced in the American IMSA series in the mid-1970s, including a win at the 24 Hours of Daytona with Peter Gregg and Brian Redman.

The next section of the BMW display featured an awesome collection of vintage BMW motorcycles, including a 1925 R32, which was the first model that BMW ever produced, with its "boxer" engine, shaft drive, and "suicide shifter." Other bikes on display were a 1929 R62, 1931 R16, 1934 R11, 1942 R12, 1955 R25/2, 1969 R60/2 "Polizei," plus the more recent R100RT, K1, and S1000RR. These first two photos show the R25/2 and R62, respectively—I think.

I particularly liked this original, unrestored R12. It was found in a French barn about 18 years ago and has been preserved as is. It started life as a normal civilian BMW, complete with black paint and white pin-striping. At the start of World War II, however, it was commandeered by the military and given a brushed-on coat of green paint. With the passage of time, the original black and white BMW finish is starting to show through.

I was also taken by this R11. As with almost all the other bikes in the exhibit, this one had a current license plate and inspection sticker. It is ridden regularly.

If only one could reach back in time and grab one of these brand-new BMWs, right from the factory…

The 1990 K1 and 2013 S1000RR stood out from the vintage collection. In their own way, they're no less pioneering than the earliest BMWs, showing that BMW Motorrad is continuously experimenting and developing new engineering breakthroughs.

I'd seen one of the pre-war BMW 328 roadsters in a museum in France, some years ago, but I'd never seen two of them in one place! These cars have 2-litre, 6-cylinder engines and can be considered the vintage forerunners of our modern-day Z4's. Each of these examples is worth well over $500,000—particularly the black one. It was originally owned by Baron Huschke von Hanstein, winner of the (scaled back) 1940 Mille Miglia and the legendary director of the Porsche factory racing team in the 1950s and 1960s.

Have you heard of (or seen) a 1988 BMW Z1? Only 8,000 were produced, and just a dozen or so were ever imported into the U.S. They had a number of pioneering features, some of which made their way into other models (e.g., the rear suspension) and others of which didn't (e.g., the slide-down doors).

The 1956-1959 507 roadsters are among the rarest of BMWs, with only 252 produced. The 507 cost far more to build than BMW had planned, and the resulting losses almost forced the company into bankruptcy. The fact that Elvis Presley owned one was apparently not enough to save the model. (He later gave his 507 to Ursula Andress.) The 507 had a very strong influence on the subsequent Z8 roadster, and some of its elements can also be seen in the Z3 and Z4 models.

I had just enough time for a short tour of the upstairs exhibits. These included:
  • "Poison Lil," a 1935 Maserati that raced on the pre-war Grand Prix circuit in Europe, at the 1936-1937 Vanderbilt Cup races in New York, the 1938-1939 Indianapolis 500s (although it failed to qualify), and at the first seven Watkins Glen road races in 1948-1954, leading every one (but winning only two).
  • The Ferrari "Bardahl Special," driven at Indianapolis by Grand Prix World Champion Nino Farina (but failing to qualify).
  • A 1928 Franklin Airman, manufactured in Syracuse, NY for Charles Lindbergh.
  • A 1910 Maxwell, complete with "non-Skid" tire treads.

Best of all, at least for diehard admirers of John Fitch, there was an original Fitch Corvair Sprint. Long before I met John, I drooled over the Car & Driver articles about these cars. This was the first time that I'd ever seen one.

With that, it was after 4:00 PM and time to jump back into the Z4 and drive the 256 miles to Cape Cod, in hopes of arriving in time for dinner with Nancy and our friends. (I made it for dessert.) It had been a wonderful tour—in fact the very best of my Z4 trips to date.

Rick F.

Last edited by Rick F.; 09-23-2015 at 04:02 PM..