One of the things Daria and I have enjoyed on our travels across the US is an incredible variety of households. Admittedly, we've enjoyed some more than others.
So far, we've had a stay in an exclusive neighborhood where the wealthy have their own police force. We've also experienced a house that takes me back to my youth when my family struggled to make ends meet.
Our current stop in Tuxedo Park, New York (house shown above) has been a lengthly one - over two weeks. And it couldn't have come at a better time. Without a doubt, the variety adds spice to our travels. That said, the last two stops (South Jersey, and Queens), for all the amazing experiences we had in the neighborhoods, were in houses who's owners...have a different idea about what normal living conditions are.
The good news, aside from the aforementioned incredible neighborhoods, is I'd like to think Daria and I have seen the worst of it. We've also developed some new listing review and interviewing skills to help us from getting into similar situations. When we started this house-sitting tour, we didn't know if people would like us for the properties we applied for. So we applied to a lot, and committed to anyone who accepted us. It turns out now that, we're the exact kind of quiet-living, middle-aged, responsible, safe bet that everyone wants (I managed to type that without using "boring", whew!).
Ah well, live and learn!
This sprawling, turn-of-the-twentieth-century, planned neighborhood is about 30 miles from the City (New York). But it feels a world away. In Atlanta, 30 miles is a drive to a special place for dinner. In this part of the country, ask someone to drive 30 miles and they look at you funny.
Some of the notable people who've lived around Tuxedo Lake include Mark Twain and Emily Post (the society of the area apparently inspired her etiquette writing). And where such storied families as the Whartons, Vanderbilts, Astors, Whitneys, Delanos, Pells, and Goelets circulated in the social gatherings and parties of their day.
The addresses range from 14,000 square foot estate mansions, to more modest cottages such as the house in which Daria and I are staying. Interestingly, some of the cottages pre-date the larger mansions as this area was first a hunting and fishing retreat. The later-dated cottages often started out as caretaker residences and then sold independently.
The eponymous lake is quite a sight. First off, you need to know that it's dead quiet. No gas-powered motors are allowed on the lake. So any boats that pass by sneak up on you like a Prius. Our cottage is across the street from Tuxedo Lake, so we've walked the pups down quite a few times. Under both clear blue skies, as well as stormy clouds.
I'll let you be the judge which is more beautiful.
As an early hunting and fishing retreat, the wilderness feels close. The trails around the area are old - Tuxedo itself an anglicisation of the Native American phrase for the area. We were told that bears, foxes, porcupines, and skunks are common - though we didn't see any (much to Daria's disappointment). We did see a gaggle of Turkeys and a young deer - admittedly, a let-down from the prior list.
Tuxedo Park has been remade several times over its lifespan. From the original hunting lodges with little area development, to modern dwellings that sit on the ruins of older, diminished estates. As we walked the trails, Daria and I could see the foundations of buildings that once were. Laying off trails that were the roads of their time. Once such ruin can be seen in the third and fourth photo below - reduced to the most survivable components and overgrown with vegetation. It stirs the imagination to wonder what such a building once was.
One of the common features around the northeast that you're unlikely to know about if you've never lived here: swamps. They're everywhere. Being originally from Florida, I associate swamps with that area of the country. I expect a similar viewpoint is held by the natives of New York and New Jersey. Pay attention the next time you're driving through the area and keep an eye out. You will find acres and acres of cattails sprouting from the marshes that you'll see everywhere. Some of those cattails can be seen in the picture below.
The animals this round were Midge (tiny pup below), Socks (round pup below), Micky (tuxedo cat), and Blacky (black cat).
Another one of those things we're learning as we travel into the homes of new animals: start early and often with the treats. It's a stressful time for the pets. Their parents left and strangers are in the house. These new people look suspect and the animals don't know who's in charge. The animals come to us in a very wide state of training and socialization. Every now and then you get a prima donna pup who gets feisty or a wannabe alpha cat who marks the common areas to let you know who's house it is.
We had both on this stop in Midge and Micky. This is where lots-and-lots of treats and getting down on the ground to their level got us over the hump. Otherwise they were good animals - Midge especially is really a sweetheart (seen below under the bed ready to bite fingers). She just didn't know whether she could trust us.
The Other Side of the Mountain
The area around Tuxedo Park is littered with lakes and mountains. On one early evening, Daria and I popped out to take a drive and explore. As dusk settled in, we approached Greenwood Lake to the northwest of Tuxedo, just over the ridge. A tiny town that assumed the name of the nearby water, and locally famous for the hosting the area Renaissance Festival.
I snapped these photos as we took a short walk in the brisk autumn air. Which just goes to show the amazing things that are out there waiting just around the bend.