East Coast Road Trip East Coast Road Trip, June 2018

East Coast Road Trip, June 2018

In June of 2018, Marguerite and her sister Betsy took a three-week road trip on the East Coast. The trip started in Asheville, North Carolina, where Betsy and Brent have a home. We wended our way over 2400 miles to end up back in Asheville. The red route on the map is going to our initial destination, a Road Scholar program at Raquette Lake, New York, to learn about "the great camps of the Guided age" where the Vanderbilt family had a large summer home called Sagamore. Both Marguerite and Betsy are graduates of Vanderbilt University and have always had a great interest in "all things Vanderbilt." After 5 days there, we went to spend a few days over the 4th of July with Marguerite's son, grandchildren, and her son's wife's family on Long Island, and three of Betsy's grandchildren and their family who have a summer home on Long Island. The green route is coming home from NYC.


The trip began with a visit to the Biltmore Estate where Betsy and Brent hold memberships and visit often. We spent the first visit on the "inside" of the home and came back the second day to explore the Chihuly exhibit on the grounds. Dale Chihuly, a glass artist (now 76 years old) had designed a special exhibit to take advantage of the beautiful gardens surrounding the Estate. The exhibit was truly spectacular as is the Biltmore. We were very fortunate to have nice (but hot!!) weather.

The Biltmore Estate was built in the late 1800s by George Washington Vanderbilt II, a grandson of Commodore Vanderbilt. The Estate is the largest privately held estate in the U.S. and is still owned and managed by Vanderbilt descendents.

We also enjoyed a terrific play, "Don't Dress for Dinner", at the local repertory theater, as well as some excellent food at the Wolf Laurel country club.


Our next stop was two days with Mac and Marcy Johnson. Mac is the brother of Nedra Johnson Mathis, Marguerite's dear friend since they were 10 years old. Marguerite, Nedra, Mac, and Marcy traveled together on a road trip throughout the Southwest in April and will take a river boat trip to France in April 2019.

While with Mac and Marcy, we visited Roanoke and also met their son, Houston, his wife Kachina, and grandson McMillan, age 3. Houston is on the faculty of Virginia Military Institute (VMI) and he and his dad take one or two big hikes each year. We enjoyed a delightful visit and family dinner together.


On the way to Luray, Virginia, we stopped at the Natural Bridge State Park. The bridge was visited over two centuries ago by Thomas Jefferson and is quite lovely.

We spent the night in Luray at the Mimslyn Inn, a grand hotel built in 1931 that includes historic cottages, a fully restored manor house, and beautiful views.

The next morning we went to Luray Caverns. George had recommended we see this remarkable place. Betsy said she and Brent had passed it by many times en route back and forth to various places, but had always thought it was just a tourist trap. Well, were we ever surprised!! Three young men first discovered this natural wonder in 1878 when they were exploring a sinkhole in the hillside. They felt a cool breeze coming out of a small hole, and then dug that hole large enough for the smallest man to slide down with a candle. they could not believe their good fortune. Years of exploring and searching the Shenandoah Valley has also found other caverns but none as magnificent as the one at Luray.

We took a two-hour tour that included an underground organ that is used for weddings and parties to this day. When you press a key on the console, a signal is sent to a solenoid triggering a rubber mallet. The mallet gently taps a stalactite creating a tone of symphonic quality. Stalactites of different sizes create different notes. It was quite a wonderful experience to hear the sounds! As they say in those parts, stalactites "stick tight to the ceiling" and stalagmites "might reach up to stalactites someday".


Next we journeyed to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania where we spent two nights at The Manor on Front Street. A wonderful old mansion that has been renovated into a bed and breakfast. We used this as our headquarters for other visiting in the area. The highlight of this visit was learning about Milton Hershey and Hershey chocolates.

Milton Hershey was born in 1857 into modest circumstances. After two failed attempts, he set up the Lancaster Caramel Company. In 1900 Hershey sold the company (for 1 million dollars -- a vast fortune in those days!) and focused on perfecting the formula for chocolate bars. Three years later he began building his large and modern candy-making facility that opened in 1905. His winning ideas included the Hershey Kiss in 1907, and the trademark foil wrapper in 1924.

As the company grew and his wealth expanded, so did Hershey's vision for creating a model community. In the town of Hershey, he built schools, parks, churches, recreation facilities, and housing for his employees. At his side for these endeavors was his wife, Catherine, whom he married in 1898. They were unable to have children of their own, so made it their life's mission to help disadvantaged children and orphans. In 1918, after Catherine's death, he transferred much of his wealth to the Hershey Trust which funds the Hershey School. This school now has almost 2000 students who board there and learn life skills. The Trust fully funds the school, the students, and college for any who show they have potential. Our tour guide had been a student there and credits that experience with making him into the man he is today.

We were also very impressed by Hershey's philanthropy during the 1930s and the Great Depression. Hershey ignited a building miniboom in his town in order to keep men working and nobody who wanted a job was without work building a large hotel, a community building, and new offices for the Hershey Company. During World War II, he backed the country's military efforts by supplying forces with chocolate bars ("D Rations") for only the cost of supplies. Hershey was truly a remarkable man and we certainly recommend the "Hershey Trolley Tour" to learn about his life.

We also rode through Amish country and learned that many of the Amish families have become very wealthy with farms and other endeavors that seem to be the envy of the Mennonites in the area!


Nancy Altic, the sister of Marguerite's friend Carol Archibald, hosted us for two days at her lovely home in Syracuse. While there we visited her daughter, Lisa, and family who live in a large home on a lake. Nancy also gave a party for us to meet several of her friends. In addition, we had dinner at the famous Sherwood Inn overlooking Skaneateles Lake, which is one of the freshest lakes in the nation. We also visited Erie Canal briefly, and did a little shopping!


On June 24, we arrived at Raquette Lake, New York, for our five-day Road Scholar Program: America's Treasures: Three Adirondack Great Camps of the Gilded Age.

The headquarters for the Program was The Sagamore Great Camp built in 1897 by the visionary great camps designer William West Durant on 1526 acres of remote wilderness. Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt (a great grandson of Commodore Vanderbilt) bought the property in 1901 and used it as a summer home. Alfred died on the Lusitania in 1915. His widow, Margaret, maintained the Camp until 1954 when she gifted it to Syracuse University.

We got our reservation in early and paid extra for a private room. When we were assigned lodging we were given Room 1: Mrs Vanderbilt's room in the Main Lodge. What a treat! The bathroom had a 7 foot bathtub (apparently tubs were purchased by the foot!). We had four beds and lots of space and loved it.

The Program included many interesting presentations about life in the Adirondacks including a session on Birds of Prey, a couple of wonderful folk singers and story tellers, and many short hikes.

We also visited two other great camps: Uncas and Pine Knot. Camp Uncas is now a privately-owned property but Road Scholar is provided limited access. Uncas was Durant's second "great camp" and was sold to J.P. Morgan when Durant had financial troubles. The camp was used only sporadically by the Morgan family and was eventually purchased in 1977 by the current owners.

Camp Pine Knot was completed by Durant around 1889 and eventually sold to the State University of New York-Cortland. It is used for a variety of education programs and all Cortland students are required to spend some time there.

One afternoon we decided to venture away from the Program and visit the The Adirondack Experience: The Museum on Blue Mountain Lake. This center includes many interesting interactive exhibits about this part of New York state that encompasses over 6 million acres of forests, lakes, and open space.

Our Road Scholar Program "exceeded or expectations" and being able to stay in Margaret Vanderbilt's room was a true highlight. After saying goodbye to the wonderful staff and the other 21 participants, we headed East to Long Island.


We spent the night at the Inn at Saratoga, built in 1843 and the oldest operating hotel in Saratoga Springs. We learned that the major focus for Saratoga Springs is the world famous Saratoga Thoroughbred Racetrack and the Saratoga Harness Track. There were two hat shops for ladies to purchase their finery -- Betsy loved this part of the trip, the "hat lady" that she is! We did some shopping, had dinner, and settled in early. It was HOT and we were pretty tired!


It just so happened that Betsy's son Neville McCaghren married Dune Thorne (a Cox on her mother's side) in May 2002, see Hampton Wedding , and thus is related to the family that owns several homes in Westhampton Beach, Long Island. These homes are about 1.5 miles from Chandi's family home as you see below. Betsy and Marguerite stayed in one of the Cox homes visiting Neville and family who were in Westhampton from the Boston area where they live. Marguerite spent most of her time with Gar and family and at the Neubauer home across the city where Chandi's family lives. Gar's family (her grandchildren) are visiting from Dallas, Texas, for the summer. A well planned cross-family visit of the McCaghrens, Jacksons, and Neubauers. Hence the trip.

In Westhampton Beach we had a wonderful time visiting family. First, we attended the second birthday for Henry Oliver Neubauer, who is the son of Chandi's brother, Leif. Lots of folks enjoyed great food and birthday cake; the kids had a bounce house and lots of things to play with. One day we spent at the Beach Club with Gar, Chandi, Grace and Crawford. It was a hot day and we spent most of the time in the pool! The fourth of July was spent with the Neubauers with more pool time for the grand kids. Gar, Crawford, and Grandma EE also visited the Quogue Wildlife Refuge to check on the bees. Marguerite's family gift to the Neubauers for Christmas was support for a bee hive there. If the bees do well, the family will receive 10 pounds of honey! We stayed with Betsy's family and went back and forth with lots of fun times with all the grandkids. It was a low key visit as we were all pretty tired!


The drive back to North Carolina started with a stop in New York City for Broadway! Betsy drove into the City without incident, we parked at the Midtown Hilton, and then did lots of walking. We had early dinner at Sardi's and went to see Hello Dolly. Marguerite had been Dolly in the Matchmaker (Thornton Wilder's story on which Hello Dolly is based) in the PK Yonge senior play in 1961. She had seen Hello Dolly with Carole Channing in 1964; Betsy had seen it with Pearl Bailey in 1968! It was a wonderful show with Bernadette Peters as Dolly! We finished the night with a pedi-cab ride back to the hotel.

Betsy navigated out of NYC without incident and we headed South. We spent the night en route at a Hampton Inn in Lexington, Virginia, that had previously been an old Mansion. We ate dinner at a local restaurant known to Betsy. One of Betsy's sons had graduated from Washington and Lee University in Lexington and Betsy knows that area well.

We arrived back in North Carolina exhausted but thrilled to have had a wonderful time together exploring the East Coast and New York. Marguerite headed back to California on Sunday, July 8.

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