It has not been an easy part of my trip. I had hoped to stay at a Passport America campground just south of Cooperstown. After driving through buckets of rain, hail, and lightening to get there, I discovered that there is no aircard signal anywhere in the area. None. Zip. Zero. The park I had reservations at did have wifi but you have to sit outside their office to use it which is not terribly comfortable or useful for 9 hours a night while working. They have a repeater but it isn’t currently working. I stayed one night in a soft wet grassy area then had to seek out other arrangements. It’s a good thing I have a 4×4 truck to get out of there. Getting out of the wet grass and going up the steep dirt driveway back out to the road wasn’t easy.
I found another park with wifi all through it within a couple miles of Cooperstown and still affordable. Unfortunately, it also had no aircard signal and their wifi had gone down during the storm but they had not noticed until I pointed it out. After several hours of trying to get it back online with the installer out of the country and his on-call buddies not answering their phones, I had to move on again.
I finally ended up in Herkimer, NY in the Herkimer Diamond Mine Resort KOA. It is more expensive than the others but it does have full working wifi with plenty of repeaters as KOAs often do. It is right across the street from a diamond mine where you can try your hand at mining for a unique experience and it is next to a large creek where tubing is quite popular. I took advantage of their ice cream socials while I was there and wasn’t going to miss out on free s’mores at the campfire either. The staff were friendly and two nice workampers invited me over to their campfire as well. I played a bit of bingo too.
The first chance I got, I headed for Cooperstown. I first stopped at the Farmer’s Museum to see many buildings and tools representing our farming past. I saw the Cardiff Giant, a huge hoax played upon the world. I learned about the history of ice cream. Did you know Ben and Jerry got their start with a $5 mail order course on ice cream making? I got to ride a carousel that was specially built over 20 years by local artisans. The spinning pod on it is a lot of fun. They have a tent of old fashioned games setup and a tent where I milked a cow. No kidding.
This is the land of James Fenimore Cooper, the writer. The Fenimore Art Museum is nearby. I’m sure it is quite lovely but I had baseball on my mind that day so I was off to downtown Cooperstown. Leave an entire day open for seeing the Hall of Fame, Doubleday Field, and shopping. Tip: check out geocaches before leaving home. There is an easy one at Doubleday Field and more in the area.
The museum tour starts on the second floor with a wonderful 13 minute media extravaganza that will have you remembering the long evenings of summer when we played baseball in the street until long after the lamps were lit and Mom was calling. They chose the inspiring scene from “The Natural” where Robert Redford hits a homer into the stadium lights to lead off. The wonderful upbeat music from Bull Durham will get your heart racing and the smell of grass in your nostrils later in the presentation.
The museum is laid out in a timeline. Babe Ruth got a whole section to himself. There is a section on the black baseball leagues and breaking the barriers. There is a section that looks like a locker room for baseball today. Bats, balls, gloves, shoes, and uniforms abound. Info on important moments in history reside on the walls. You can view footage of them, see bloopers, and watch the famous Abbott and Costello routine “Whos on First”.
A section is dedicated to the women in baseball. It is interesting that women were in it from the beginning until some idiots decided to kick us out then let us in then kick us out. A case of a little girl in 1972 forced them into letting girls play Little League. Unfortunately, the girl was too old by the time she won but it helped other girls. There is a nice video made with director Penny Marshall available. “A League of Their Own” began as a documentary that was sent to her. She realized that if she had never heard of the AAGPBL (All American Girls Professional Baseball League), then others likely hadn’t either and a movie should be created to tell the story. Some of the girls still come now and then to sign autographs and remember the glory days.
The third floor is dedicated to bygone baseball parks and the business of baseball. The home plate from Ebbetts Field is there as well as part of the first exploding scoreboard. Extreme fans are also honored there.
The first floor contains the plaques of the Hall of Fame inductees and a room dedicated to baseball movies. Heh, I know them all.
Still not enough baseball? Go over to Doubleday Field and take in a game. This week numerous Little League teams are playing in tournament. There was supposed to be a game between the Cubs and the Padres but it was rained out.
Shopping is a big thing in Cooperstown. Souvenir stores are everywhere. Bat makers hawk engraved bats while others have baseball cards, autographed photos, hats, jerseys, Tshirts, etc. I noticed only one shop contained women’s baseball memorabilia and souvenirs though I did find a cool magnet for the girls in the Hall of Fame museum shop. I also found the lightening bolt patch from “The Natural” in the other store with the girls memorabilia. Wonder Boy. Bring lots of money because memorabilia is not cheap and the food around there is even more expensive. Avoid the All American Cafe. The food is so-so and they take cash only which you won’t find out until they present the bill. An ATM is next door but it will cost you an extra $3! Look for the yogurt cone shop. Yummy!
I went to the Baseball Hall of Fame on 2 different days due to time constraints. The second day I got in free rather than having to pay another $11. I had stopped at The Tepee gift shop on Hwy. 20 in Cherry Valley before going back. The Tepee has been in travel guides and TV shows as an example of true Americana. The owners are wonderfully nice people with a very nice assortment of items such as indian jewelry, mocasins, cedar boxes, etc. Pete makes one heck of a great spicy chili I hear. The store is a huge tepee representation. Whirligigs turn in the wind all around it. The view to the north is magnificent. There is also a geocache planted on the property. That was enough to get me there. They were so nice to me that they handed me a free ticket to the Hall of Fame that they just happened to have when they heard I was going there.
After The Tepee, I stopped in at Hyde Hall in Glimmerglass State Park for a tour of a very old limestone mansion. It is nice to see how the other half lives or lived. Elegant would be the word for it. The mansion was abandoned after WWII due to the cost of upkeep until the state purchased it and began restoring it. I can’t imagine trying to heat a huge stone home with 50 rooms as well as 18 foot ceilings and doors. It has its own chapel and is built around an enclosed courtyard. Weddings and baptisms are still held there. Being rich did not guarantee a perfect life for the Clarke family who built and owned it though. After they received word in Europe that their son had died in a car accident, they rushed to get home on the first ship out. The Whitestar Line had a new ship going out on its first voyage. They booked passage on the Titanic. Mother and daughter survived. Father died.
While staying at the KOA, my cat got sick. I had to run her into the vet’s office nearby. They fixed her up very quickly with some shots, etc. and she is much happier now. My vet back home faxed her medical records to the vet here which helped. Since I was already up for the day, I also hit up Walmart for the oil change my SUV was bugging me for, a haircut I was in dire need of, and groceries. Could have had prescriptions filled there too if needed. Gotta love those Walmarts!
I got a chance to go diamond mining at the Herkimer Diamond Mine across the street from the campground. It definitely was not what I expected. For $10 they give you a small sledge hammer and entrance to an open rock pit. Hard to believe people pay to do prisoner work but the pit was loaded with diamond hunters. You look for porous rocks since crystals grow in cavities in rocks from waist height down and you hammer away to open it and hopefully expose a shiny diamond. Due to the hot sun and lots of bending required, I only mined for an hour but I got the picture of what it is like. Others stay all day. I have heard of someone in Arkansas near a mine who actually makes his living doing this. I didn’t find any in the pit myself but a kid near me found 3 just by looking around and turning over rocks. There is also a sluice nearby which you can use to sift through bags of dirt you can purchase there. Folks were finding bunches of gems and diamonds in the bags. I found 3 myself in a bag so it was well worth it and much easier than breaking rocks. You may also find fossils there. In their museum they have a fossil of a dinosaur head with huge teeth that was found in the Madagascar jungle. It is 1 of only 3 found in the world and in the best condition.
For lots more pics and notes, click here!