During the week prior to our Summer Mystery Trip, the weather was very hot and very humid with frequent thunder showers over a period of about 5 days. On Friday night, we got heavy rain, and the morning of our trip dawned with lower temps and slightly lower humidity. Rain had originally been predicted for the trip day, but all looked OK. There were 90 of us – we were completely full. Itineraries were distributed, revealing our destination. Albany – we had visited this town before for a Mystery trip, but we changed the venues this time for a new look at New York’s Capital City.
After a nice long rest stop in Blandford on the Massachusetts Turnpike, our first stop was Albany, a sprawling metropolis on the shores of the Hudson River. We had chartered a steamship from Dutch Apple Cruises and had chosen the northern route up the River. The ship has three decks with plenty of seating, a bar and snack bar, and clean rest rooms. Everybody got comfortable, and we set sail. We had a guide with us who provided commentary, giving us history of the area, the flora, and the fauna. There were lots of river birds, ospreys, falcons, cormorants, ducks, and we even saw two bald eagles. Nice.
Our tour was two and half hours long…traveling as far up the river as Troy, NY where we saw the Troy Dam and went through the Troy Locks. Some of the folks on the tour were old hands at cruising, but others went through locks for the first time. This can be a fascinating experience. The lock raised us up about seventeen feet. We also sailed under a bridge that had to be raised for us to pass, and we saw another bridge – a railroad bridge – that swiveled so that our ship had enough height to sail through. There were pleasant breezes, and our cruise was really refreshing.
The day of this trip coincided with the retirement of our long-time driver, Steve, who, after ten years of dedicated service has decided that he needs to spend more time with his wife and family. It’s both a happy day and a sad day as we say farewell to more than an employee – Steve is our friend, too. Each coach passed congratulatory cards around, and everybody signed wishing him well for future endeavors. We gave him a gift certificate to a local restaurant as well. Good luck, Steve!
After our cruise, everybody piled back into the coaches for the short ride to our restaurant. Buca di Beppo is an Italian theme restaurant with great food and one of the maddest kitsch decors of all time. Everywhere are campy images of Italian film stars, and photos of things that are essentially Italian. There is even a room dedicated to the popes. Great fun to visit all the different dining rooms. We were served the traditional Firenze luncheon beginning with tossed salad. Next came a cheesy Caesar Salad and slices of fresh Italian bread. Oh, boy…very good starters. Heaping platters of Fettucine Alfredo came next and were quickly followed by the most delicately seasoned Chicken Parmesan. The inside was moist and tender, and the outside was crisply fried. They really know how to do it. Our last dish was spaghetti marinara. Lovely. The frosting on the proverbial cake was New York style cheesecake. Oh, my!
After lunch, we headed for our last stop – the New York State Museum where most of us visited the 9/11 exhibition that is filled with artifacts preserved from the bombing of the World Trade Center Towers in 2001. The displays are sobering reminders of our mortality. The museum is filled with historical displays that include New York’s harbor and docks, the native peoples who came before us, flora and fauna native to the state including bird life, mastodons from long ago, fish, and other wildlife. There is a carousel on the top floor, the set from Sesame Street, artifacts from the 1939 World’s Fair, and lots of reminders that immigrants built the city of New York. Everybody had a great time here. There’s something for everyone.
Just as we were boarding the coach (fortunately, we were under cover of a large bridge), a very heavy thunderstorm struck, and most of us narrowly escaped getting wet. We headed home with full stomachs and lots of memories. It was another fine day on a mystery trip.