Thursday, February 18, 2010

Gem Farms Buffalo, Castleton, NY

Gem Farms is located in Castleton, NY.  It is just a 10 minute drive from downtown Albany believe it or not. When you visit this place. You drive through a residential neighborhood, cross a little bridge and the view opens up to fields covered with Buffalo! It's very unexpected and adds to the experience.

Silly me. I must not have payed close enough attention to American history. I thought that Buffalo were all but extinct, but they are back and happily residing in the Capital District area.

I spent a good period of time in my life as a semi-vegetarian I did not eat beef or pork or lamb for at least 10 years. It was a personal choice. And, although I still basically stick to that, I do eat red meat from time to time. (pork and lamb are still off the list unless I get tricked into eating it.)

Anyway, I stuck to my meal plan and didn't buy any buffalo meat. The time between locking eyes with these guys and eating would be a little too close for comfort. But, I brought my brother in law with me and he stocked up on Buffalo steak and burgers. I politely declined when he tried them. His report was that they were fabulous. It is apparently much better for you than the regular steaks and a cleaner taste.

I have to get off this topic. I feel a little queasy thinking about it but I wanted you to know its available and part of how they make their living. You can't blame them for that! And lots of people stop regularly to stock up. To each his own I guess. I'd rather take pictures and have a salad later.

When I first approached, one large Buffalo promptly turned around and lifted his tail and "went to the bathroom" to put it politely. I said, "Well that is a fine how do you do, now turn around so I can take a proper picture!

Next is a picture of an adorable yougen. I don't know if it was a boy or girl, but what a cute face.

Following those are some shots of the field and the little store that is on the farm. The lady inside was sweet and told us all about the farm. She was so nice, I felt guilty for not buying more. I did buy a little buffalo pin that will give me memories of my trip. Enjoy.

Friday, February 12, 2010

F is for Fantasy Flights Hot Air Balloon Rides! Middletown, NY

Fantasy Flights is located in Middletown NY.  Let me start by saying this was one of the best things I ever did.  I had to talk a friend into it and she was a trooper to come with me. Especially since she had to get to my house by 2 AM so we could get to Middletown before sunrise. I remember after, she said, "I'm so glad I went, you really do the best things."

When I set out to do this blog, I planned on doing the pictures as I went along. This one post is an exception. This was a few years back and I am using old pictures. I wasn't sure if a new flight would give me what I captured on this trip, in fact, I'm sure it wouldn't. When you scroll down and see the pictures, you will know what I mean. The views are like a painter's canvas. I captured it once and its doubtful that I will ever get pictures like this again.

Anyway, my friend arrived at my house at 2 am and we set out in the dark for a long drive to Middletown.  It was fall, and the air was wet and it was dark when we pulled into this field.  It's always daunting when you don't know what to expect, but you have to forge through your fear to get to the good stuff.

When we got there, we went into a big hanger.  What I remember most was a lady who brought her husband. He was blindfolded and wondering where the heck he was. It was his birthday and she got him a Hot Air Balloon ride for a gift.  As they started inflating the Balloon she took the blindfold off and he was stunned.

The first group went up in the Balloon and we followed in a van. After a while, their flight was about to land in someone's yard. The guy with us in the van had to run to the front door, get permission from the resident to land and then sent the message to the pilot that all was ok. When they landed, we all switched places. We got into the Balloon and took off while they got into the van and followed. When we took off it was so quiet and smooth.  The pilot has us shut our eyes for 30 seconds or so.  There was no feeling of movement, but when we opened our eyes we were way, way, way up!   It was the strangest sensation.  And, it wasn't a bit scary.

We got back to the hanger and had champagne and cake to celebrate that one person's birthday which was great. We made a few new friends.

We went out to breakfast on the way home. It was a full day and not even 10 am yet! If I remember right, I think we hit Hyde park on the way home. Life is to be lived, squish as much you can into one day.

It was a great day!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

E is for Egg, Empire State Plaza and the Egg

The Egg is a very unusual building that sits on northeast corner of the Empire State Plaza in Albany, the Capital of New York State. It was designed by Wallace Harrison and built between 1966 and 1978 under engineer Peter A. Steinborn. Shaped like a real egg, the Fox affiliate, WXXA-TV, advertised their airing of The Simpsons with a billboard showing a giant Homer Simpson reaching for The Egg and saying, “Mmm… concrete egg..."

It is deceiving in its appearance. I remember one of my first memories of the Egg was my brothers' high school graduation. In this particular high school, graduating classes could be as high as 300 to 400 so it's no small venue.

It is also the site of many performances in the past from Arlo Guthrie to John Prine, Henry Rollins, the Zucchini Brothers, Emmylou Harris, the New York City Ballet, PerĂº Negro, Demetri Martin, They Might Be Giants, Porcupine Tree and Hot Tuna. It's a medium size space for such performers but very intimate at the same time. Albany is known for their appreciation of good entertainment and their warm reception, so the stars seem to like performing there.

The base that keeps the Egg standing actually goes down through six stories deep into the Earth. The construction was shaped in a way to reinforce the oblong structure. A heavily reinforced concrete beam that was poured along with the rest of the shell keeps the Egg's weight evenly distributed onto the supporting pedestal and gives it its durability.  Though it looks fragile, its much more durable than its namesake. In other words, its not going to end up on the floor of the plaza with a yoke in the middle and someone saying "Oh, darn it...that was my last egg"

Here are some pictures I took on a cold lunch hour. The people that were leaving the Egg for lunch were from what I surmised, lawyers from the New York City area up for a class or convention. I was amused that they were struck by the Plaza. I heard one say "Boy, Nelson Rockefeller really knew what he was doing when he constructed this place." If you live in Albany, any compliment you can get from a New York City guy is one that is few and far between and very proudly accepted and appreciated. 

Next is a picture of the rest of the plaza. The four agency buildings and the Corning Tower hold many state agencies. The genesis of the plaza can be traced back to Governor Nelson Rockefeller's embarrassment of the condition of Albany when the Princess Beatrix of the Netherlands visited for a celebration of the area's Dutch history. Riding with the princess through a section of the city known by the locals as "the Gut," Rockefeller was embarrassed and later said, "there's no question that the city did not look as I think the Princess thought it was going to" The seed was planted and this was the result.
Although a great accomplishment in the long run, many old neighborhoods were destroyed in the making, including the house where my mother grew up. Families had to relocate as they saw their houses being acquired by eminent domain and subsequently demolished.

My favorite Nelson Rockefeller quote, and I may not get this exactly right, came when a little girl came up to him during a public appearance and asked "What is it like to be rich?" and he replied "It's great, what is it like to be good looking"
Here is a view from the Egg over the highway system that runs along the Hudson River. This area has been busy as of late as they were filming the movie "Salt" with Angelina Jolie here. Some restrictions on movie shooting in Manhattan have forced the production companies to look for alternative sites. We've had a few movies here already this year and a few more lined up. When you see the movie "Salt", and you see highway chase scenes, don't be fooled. That is Albany, not NYC! 
The Capital Building of Albany and a busy afternoon on State street.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Duanesburg Schoharie Area

The Duansburg/Schoharie area is a sleepy place about 35 miles west of Albany. Duansburg was originally known as Duanes's Bush and was then established as Duanesburg in 1765. For a brief period it was combined with Schoharie, NY as the United Districts of Schoharie and Duanesburg on March 24, 1772, It split off again from Schoharie in 1789 and was its own town once again.

Early on, James Duane whom the town was named after, aspired to make Duanesburg the future capital of New York State. It was never to be. Though it never reached that goal, Duanesburg became an important railway center, boasting by 1907 the largest coaling station in the world located in the Village of Delanson.

Duanesburg remains a characteristically rural area.  With the completion of Interstate 88, Duanesburg is called home by many who work in the Albany, Schenectaday and Troy areas.

As you drive through the Duanesburg/Schoharie area, you are surrounded by vast, sleepy fields with horses quietly grazing and scattered farms of all types.  The quiet country roads are dotted with diners and signs boasting fresh eggs and poultry. As I got out of the car to take photographs, the silence was overwhelming.

I came across the Silver Maple Farm and glanced to my right. I passed this next picture but pulled over fast. 

I found two friends waiting for me, and posing for my picture.

Horses are the easiest thing to photograph. Their beauty can't be erased, even by the most inexperienced photographer. I couldn't go by these guys (or gals) without capturing them.
Two of my favorite places to visit when I am over this way is the Carrot Barn and the Apple Barrel.  Too bad for me, the Carrot Barn was closed up.  It is a great fall and summer place to visit. Its a huge barn full of goodies, and flowers and fresh produce.  I once heard that the mayor of Schoharie ended up on a late night talk show somehow. I think it was Letterman or the Tonight Show but I can't be sure.  I do remember though that the host asked "So what kind of perks do you get being the Mayor of Schoharie?"  And he replied "I don't have to stand in line at the Carrot Barn."

The Apple Barrel is just up the road and I love to go there. It is the neatest little store with all kinds of things from greeting cards, wall pictures, clothing, jams, jellies and any gift you can want to give someone.  But the thing I love about it is the atmosphere. I could just walk around here all day.  The back room that used to be just another room is now a sit down cafe.

Usually by the time I reach this place I'm hungry.  Although all I purchased was one small chocholate covered Oreo cookie (my favorite), the woman behind the counter, whom I presume is the owner, gave me a complimentary Apple Barrel tote bag full of goodies.  I thought that was very generous and I was touched by the gesture.  Then I felt guilty for buying just a cookie, but she didn't seem to mind one bit.

On my way back to Albany, I had one last place to stop in Duansburg.  Its called  The Bear's Steakhouse and is run by a family. The Dad, who I think owns the place walks around greeting the customers. A son, or two work in the restaurant.  Steak is their specialty. It is so good. Make sure and give it a try.
I love this area. Its a great day trip, especially when you want to take it easy. I really didn't want to take it that easy. My goal was to go to Duanesburg Sky Diving. But, you wouldn't believe how hard it is to find a willing soul. I had 3 lined up, but each of them got scared. I don't think of myself as someone who really wants to jump out of a plane, but I vowed that I'd let this blog take me where ever it goes. I promise, before this is over, I will jump out of that plane and it will be posted here. Hmmm...maybe for the letter S for Sky Diving.
Stay tuned!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

C stands for Cars! Saratoga Automobile Museum

A few years ago I walked into this next site, my "C" picture place (for cars) and I fell in love. You know that feeling, when you see someone and your knees feel shaky, the room goes hazy and you are a goner from the start.

But this wasn't a someone, it was a something. It was a stunning white Shelby Mustang with a black interior. I think if I had 100,000 dollars in my pocket I would have tried to buy it. It truly was love at first sight.

So I set out to get a picture of it. As it turns out, the museum turns over its collection and years have passed since I saw that car. On my visit, the museum had The Jack Gillette Corvette Collection on display (until May 2, 2010). It seems I will have to wait to see my long lost love, tbat Shelby Mustang. In any event, I found stunning cars to photograph. By the way, I tracked down a link to the Shelby. Here it is, judge for yourself.  This is not my picture by the way but it is the same car.

The Museum is located in the Saratoga Spa park just up from the Gideon Putnam Hotel.

As I started out on the tour I came across these very nice cars. By the way, I have to give credit to the guide that the museum gave me for some of my descriptions below. So keep that in mind.

A 1975 Corvette Convertible. This would be the last year for a convertible until 1986, Federal regulations were now requiring no-lead fuel and catalytic converters were required, A big-block option was not available, and engine outputs were sharply curtailed.

Next I came to this really cool limited-edition silver and black 78 Pace Car Replica showcased during Corvettes' 25th Anniversary. It was listed at $13,653.21. This Indy Pace car, with its 220-bhp 350 V-8 is a big collectors item.
1957 was to be Corvettes biggest year, due to the Rochester fuel-injected 283-cid small block V-8. Corvette started building on its performance reputation.
This 1960 Corvette was sharp. It is finished in the rare shade of Cascade Green with white covers. Only 140 cars had this shade of green out of 10,261 cars produced in 1960. The interior is black and it has a removable hard top.
I have so many pictures and it is very hard to pick from them for this small post. What is better than ending the Corvette section than a red 59 Corvette.
There are many other cars of interest in the museum but since I want to keep this short, I will give you one more. A car owned by Charles Lindbergh. I saw this car whenever I visited the museum so I think its a mainstay.
I hope you enjoyed the tour of the museum and someday get to see it in person.  At $8 a pop, it really is worth the trip.  Here are some other random pictures to enjoy.