August 28-30 — We’ve spent the last three days visiting in and around the very lovely town of Saratoga Springs in eastern, upstate New York. Who knew this would turn out to be such a good stop on our journey?!? We decided to route this way a couple of weeks ago once my cousin, John, hooked me up with his nephew, Jason – I know; it’s confusing – we just referred to each other as ‘cousins.’ Anyway, Jason has worked for the National Park Service for 10+ years now. Last I knew, he was up in Alaska at Denali N.P., but John told me he switched parks and was now at Saratoga National Historical Park outside Saratoga Springs. Given the nature of our journey, we knew we just had to reroute this way to see Jason’s park.
Saratoga is known for two important battles in the Revolutionary War during our forefathers’ quest for independence from the British. In the fall of 1777, the Revolutionaries, under Generals Gates, Morgan, Learned, Poor, and Arnold – the future Traitor Benedict Arnold this would be!** – defeated the Loyalists and British troops, lead by General John Burgoyne, in two significant battles that were just three weeks apart. Burgoyne was forced to surrender to Gates, thus turning the tides of momentum, which, up until this point, had favored the British. It is for this reason that Saratoga is celebrated as the turning point in the Revolutionary War.
[**Incidentally, these Revolutionary victories happened, in large part, due to the aggressive tactics and surprise attack of the brash General Benedict Arnold. He was a hero in these battles. He was shot in the same leg twice, and if he would have died then, he would have been celebrated here. But then it would be two more years before he committed the treasonous act of selling information about the Revolutionaries to the British. As one of the NP Rangers shared with us, Benedict Arnold was more concerned with Benedict Arnold than he was with his Cause. Indeed, he was a great general, and he was being promoted up through the ranks during the war; he just wanted glory and recognition faster. So he got impatient, got greedy, and betrayed his country. He escaped to Canada, then Britain, never to return, but boy did General George Washington want to hang him! And today, other than mentioning his name in the literature, there is no monument hailing the good works that General Benedict Arnold did do here.]
We enjoyed our tour of the Saratoga National Historical Park – the movie in the Visitor Center, of course, and especially our private, after-hours tour of the Schuyler House and the Saratoga Monument; a 155′ memorial obelisk we got to climb with Jason. We also took the 9-mile audio-guided tour of the battlefields and surrounding area. While not much remains of what was originally here – it was, after all, some 240 year ago! – the NPS has done a nice job of presenting the important battles that occurred here.
Then if the Park wasn’t enough, we met up with Jason and his, wife, Marie, for dinner at the Old Bryan Inn – a great old colonial restaurant and inn that was originally established in 1773. We love being out east here and seeing all of these old structures! We enjoyed our ‘revolutionary cuisine’ and then made plans to get together with them once again on Saturday at the race track.
Historic Saratoga Race Course is the oldest racing track in the country. It was established back in 1864, and the old, iconic buildings are simply beautiful. Jason made “the dash” to secure our spot – this involves queuing up outside the gates around 6 a.m. so when park doors open at 7 a.m., all those who have lined up can run – or dash! – into the park with tablecloths, chairs, etc. to reserve their spots for later. When we arrived around 1 p.m., just before the first race’s post, we had a prime spot right next to the rail where they walk the horses en route to the paddock before their races. A couple of Marie’s high school friends were in town, as well, so nine of us in total enjoyed the afternoon picnicking in between the 12 thoroughbred races. We got a couple of tips from Elmhurst friend and racing fan, John K., but I didn’t need his help to win. I didn’t bet a single dollar, and did the best I’ve ever done at any track – nothing spent; nothing lost!
While Saratoga Springs wasn’t on our initial itinerary, we are so glad we rerouted.