By the summer of 1777, the British armies in North America were looking to fight a decisive battle to isolate New England from the rest of the 13 colonies and put an end to the American Revolution. Under the command of general John Burgoyne, British forces moved down from Canada toward New York while another British army marched north from Philadelphia. The American Continental Army had been retreating from one battle after another, and made a stand at a town along the Hudson River in New York. Through a series of battles beginning in mid-September 1777 , the Continental Army fought the British Army around the town of Saratoga (now called Schuylerville). Although possessing superior numbers, the British soldiers suffered high casualties, in part owing to the American forces holding the high ground above the battlefield. At a numerical disadvantage, American forces sought to wear down the British forces by focusing their fire on British officers, aiming to degrade the command ability of their opponent. By the end of the battles, the British army was outnumbered by a ratio of three to one. Withdrawing into a forest in Saratoga, the British Army, having suffered heavy casualties and lacking supplies and food, surrendered. This battle marked the most significant defeat of the British in the American Revolution, and began to change the direction of the war (via
Over the weekend before Thanksgiving, after visiting with a relative in the Adirondacks in upstate New York, we decided to stop by the battlefield at
Saratoga National Historical Park in Stillwater, New York on our return trip. Before diving into this newest adventure, I also wanted to catch up on a few recent trips that I had not yet been able to chronicle. So pour some coffee, get comfortable, and prepare for a deep dive into some recent travels and updates:
On a chilly, if sunny, morning in mid-November, I filled my arms with Meguiar’s and 3M auto care products and gave the Accord a thorough detailing before the start of winter.
I also gave the interior a thorough cleaning as well. I think the expression is “showroom fresh.” At least… until the snowstorms begin and the carpet gets coated with salt and sand.
For her birthday, I took my wife to WheatonArts, a glass-making museum in Millville, NJ that she had always wanted to visit.
Arriving at WheatonArts on a cold and blustery day, we parked in one of the most unusual lots I have ever seen – it is a complete circle, challenging your parallel parking skills.
Both a museum and an active studio, WheatonArts preserves the long heritage of glass-making in New Jersey. These historic buildings on the site have been converted into gift shops, featuring the works of local artisans.
New Jersey has a long history of glass manufacturing, dating to the first glassmaking factory in 1739 in Millville. The sand from southern New Jersey is prized for its glassmaking properties, and is shipped to factories around the world. We also learned that one of the few programs in the nation for making scientific glass (used in beakers and test tubes, for instance) is in nearby Salem County Community College. This is an example of a Millville Paperweight, named after the local glass workers who would create these elaborate designs during their breaks at glass and bottle factories.
Glass-making was one of the first major industries to take hold in New Jersey. In 1858, a tinsmith from nearby Vineland patented a design for a glass jar with a screw thread top. His name? John Landis Mason, from whom we get the name “Mason Jar.”
This model of the British clipper ship Cutty Sark caught my eye: it is entirely made of glass.
One of the more unique chess sets I have ever seen. This all-glass set, created by the Italian artist Gianni Tosso, is called Catholicism vs. Judaism. It was inspired by the two different religions of his parents.
Meet “Alabaster,” the pet demon of local artist Kimberly Thomas. This was part of a series of works by Kimberly. As I examined her works, I decided that she is the Stephen King of glass-making.
The oven at WheatonArts, in which temperatures reach as high as 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit. It is in use everyday that the museum is open.
The rustic woods surrounding WheatonArts makes for a lovely wedding location. That said, with temperatures only in the mid-30s and a strong wind blowing throughout the day, I am not sure it was the most comfortable day for an outdoor wedding. The reception was fully indoors, however.
Walking around the grounds, we came across this pumpkin patch… which are all glass, and all are made at WheatonArts.
The colors and ornate designs caught my eye. Needless to say, I was very careful when taking these photographs.
Our next destination: Historic Smithville, for shopping and a special birthday dinner.
Historic Smithville, a village for shopping and dining, located about twenty minutes north of Atlantic City.
The most unique aspect of Smithville? Each building is historic, and was brought to Smithville from locations all around the country. This small arcade was once a barbershop and was built in 1847.
The village surrounds a small lake. There are over 60 shops and 7 eateries. The variety of shops was impressive… there was a store for buying ingredients for Italian cuisine, another for Southwestern apparel, a hat store, a store for fans of Philadelphia sports, a soap store, an olive oil store, stores for people who enjoy crafting, a peanut butter store (more on this later), and many more.
The centerpiece of the village is the Smithville Inn. Built in 1787 as a stop for travelers journeying by stagecoach, the Inn is now a well-regarded restaurant.
This tree trunk caught our eye on the way in… it is a sand sculpture.
I ordered the crab cakes with roasted red pepper coulis, jasmine rice, and jalapeño slaw.
My wife ordered the coffee rubbed New York Strip steak, with lyonnaise potatoes and roasted brussel sprouts.
Dessert was this chocolate and vanilla tartufo, coated with a chocolate shell. As good as our meal was, this dessert was simply amazing.
On the way back to the car, we passed this shop: the Smithville Peanut Butter Company. The building is the Strickland House, built in 1836, and brought to Smithville in the 1940s. The peanut butter was amazing. I would strongly recommend the honey roasted peanut butter, but you can have free sample tastes of any peanut butter they stock.
The weekend before Thanksgiving, we ventured up to the snowy Adirondack Mountains before heading home through Saratoga Springs.
Two days before we were scheduled to leave, we had our first snowfall of the year. The storm set records for November snowfalls in many parts of the northeastern United States.
We set off toward the northern reaches of New York on a clear, sunny, and cold Saturday morning.
Once we entered Adirondack Park, the world turned into a beautiful winter scene.
Along the way, we passed this old service station in the town of Old Forge.
Walking toward Fourth Lake, I felt like I was in a snow globe.
Visiting with my wife’s grandmother, we enjoyed the beautiful winter views all around us.
In some ways, not much has changed in the Adirondacks in the last one hundred years. This is a scene that could just as easily have been from 1918 instead of 2018.
Before heading out, we celebrated an early Thanksgiving dinner with my wife’s grandma and one of her grandma’s friends.
The best part of the meal? Dessert, of course! My wife made this delicious pecan pie, including a gluten-free crust from scratch.
My wife’s Grand Cherokee did a great job navigating the snow-covered mountain roads. As one friend remarked, “The Jeep is content in its natural habitat.”
The weather improved by the time we left on Monday… we even saw the sun peek through the clouds!
One quick stop along the way to Saratoga: Oscar’s Adirondack Smokehouse. For over 75 years, this business has been known for making delicious smoked meats and cheese. It is often featured on the Rachael Ray show! We picked up some items for our Thanksgiving dinner.
As I was reading about the Battles of Saratoga on my phone, my wife brought the Jeep to an abrupt halt. She gestured toward the stone marker, several of which line the route to Saratoga.
After several hours of driving, it felt good to get out of the car and walk through the visitors center to learn a little more about this historic site.
These two British cannons were captured by American forces in 1777 during the Battles of Saratoga. Nearly 250 years old, the guns weigh 2,400 pounds… each.
An entire room of the museum was dedicated to Benedict Arnold. A brilliant tactical commander who was one of Washington’s most trusted generals, Arnold is more widely known for joining the British forces in 1780 and leading British soldiers against American forces. His name is almost synonymous with “treason” in our country.
Benedict Arnold was shot in the leg by a musket ball during the Battles of Saratoga. The damage that a musket ball can wreak on the human body is evident here, in this display of what a musket ball can do to a pig’s leg bone. Arnold remarked that it would have been better to have been shot in the chest than the leg. The injury left his left leg two inches shorter than his right.
Occurring in what is now Stillwater, New York, the battles of Saratoga took place in a relatively small space – approximately five square miles (the Battle of Gettysburg, in contrast, took place on almost 18 square miles).
Built high on a bluff overlooking the battlefield, the rear of the visitor’s center gives you a panoramic view of where the action happened.
As I have said before, one of the things I like about living in the northeast is being able to walk on the grounds where many of the most famous events in our nation’s history occurred.
On these grounds, American forces lost 90 soldiers, with another 240 wounded. The British lost 440 soldiers, 695 were wounded, and 6,222 were taken prisoner. Far from a crushing victory over the Americans, the British suffered a stinging defeat that changed the course of the American Revolution.
The Schuyler (pronounced Sky-ler) House. Owned by Philip Schuyler, a wealthy landowner, the house was burned to the ground by the British forces in October of 1777, as they did not want the American soldiers to use it for cover. After the Battles of Saratoga ended, Philip rebuilt the house completely, and it was finished by November of 1777… about one month later!
Victory Woods. This forest was the final location of the defeated British army, who retreated to these woods after being defeated by the Americans. Lacking food, existing in cold and mud, and surrounded by dead animals, the British surrendered to the Americans on October 17, 1777. Treasure hunters have long since looted the woods of any relics from the time – an archaeological expedition a few years ago found zero artifacts remaining in the woods.
The Saratoga Monument Obelisk, located beside Victory Woods. The obelisk has four niches, three of which name the commanders of the American forces at the Battles of Saratoga. The fourth niche, for Benedict Arnold, is left empty, as a General Order from George Washington decreed that Arnold’s name be erased from the records of the Army.
On the way home, we stopped in nearby Saratoga Springs. Home to mineral springs which have made this a popular tourist destination. It is also home to the world famous Saratoga Springs Race Track for horse racing, the National Museum of Dance, and an automobile museum. Needless to say, we will definitely come back to visit!
One of the stranger things I’ve ever seen on the road: a railroad car. I was going to make a wisecrack about the Broadway – 7th Ave Local train being late because it was detoured… but I couldn’t quite get the joke on track.
And on the way home, we had a small milestone – the Jeep broke the 30,000 mile mark.
Saratoga National Historical Park is open from 9:00 am until 5:00 pm daily except for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. An auto road that runs through the park is open until either December 1st or the first snowfall (whichever comes first), although you can still see a good amount of the park by walking. The Schuyler House and Saratoga Monument can be visited year round, but they can only be entered from Memorial Day until Columbus Day. The National Park Service does an excellent job providing clearly marked signage, and the park rangers gave a great overview of Saratoga when we arrived. If you are driving along I-87 in New York, this historic site is well worth the visit.
Thank you for reading through this detailed post of my recent adventures… and for coming along on another journey down the open road ahead!
‘Til next time.