Humor / New York / Slice of Americana / Travel

And Then the Museum Docent Said, “But Have You Been to the Nudist Camp?”

No Bottoms Please

Today we’re wrapping up our July “Slice of Americana Series,” highlighting fascinating posts from all 50 states + Washington DC!

We’ve enjoyed your smart comments, and thank all the talented bloggers who write about this country we love. We want to leave you with a smile, so we’ve brought back one of our most popular posts from last summer.

* * * 

The oak door stood open and the cavernous foyer was empty. It was a quiet, weekday afternoon, and it took a “hellooooo” to flush out the museum attendant. A “Yesssss, come in,” echoed around the corner, and we stepped into the foyer. Then suddenly, a petite, gray-haired, iPad totin’ woman popped into the room … and we recognized her immediately as a “character.”

The characters we encounter in our travels are one of the true perks, and this docent at the Cayuga Museum of History and Art in Auburn, New York fit this category perfectly. She was all smiles as she ticked off the different exhibits scattered around the early 19th Century mansion. And what began as a warm welcome, became even warmer when she discovered that we were from the far off land of Georgia. Without missing a beat, she shifted into town ambassador mode suggesting attractions that we might want to see. Cayuga Museum Auburn, a relatively unknown city of 30,000 people, sits like a fingernail at the north end of the Finger Lake of Owasco in north central New York. The town isn’t as quaint and charming as some of the other villages in the area, but for a small place, it has a surprising number of famous sights and historic figures. All of which, the ebullient docent happily proceeded to enumerate.


Harriet Tubman, the famous abolitionist and Underground Railroad leader, established her home and a haven for southern slaves seeking their freedom in this small city.

Theodore Case, the first person to successfully add sound to movies was born here, and the docent pointed out the museum window to the upscale garden shed out back which was Case’s “lab.”

William_sewardThe home of William Seward is also located here. This is the Seward of “Seward’s Folly” fame, and the person responsible for Alaskans speaking English instead of Russian.

Then in a casual voice, the docent said, “And then there’s the maximum security prison just down the street. You might want to drive by that as well.” This is the prison where William Kemmler, the first person to be executed by electric chair (Or as they say in Texas, “ride Ol’ Sparky”), met his maker. We were surprised by this revelation and had questions, but the docent’s tourist train rolled on.

WmKmlr-execution Next, we mentioned that we were camping in nearby Moravia. Then a twinkle came to her eye, and she said, “But Have You Been To The Nudist Camp?” Four eyebrows shot skyward, and in unison we said, “What Nudist Camp?”

Sunset As it turns out, the Empire Haven Nudist Park was very near our State Park Campground. A visit to their predominantly (but not totally) PG-rated website proved informative. The rules and regulations were pretty standard until we got to the only rule that was in all caps:


Ewwwww! TMI!

And at that point, we decided that we weren’t quite ready for that type of camping experience.

Our conversation in the museum was a pleasant surprise, and one that will stick in our memories for a long time. In addition, we added another character to our travel list.

Happy Trails,

This post is part of our “Slice of Americana Series” for July. Click here to see all the posts in the series.

balloon-fiAnd this final one comes to you from beautiful Pennsylvania where the folks in Meadville have come up with a very creative way to recycle old signs. Enjoy!

Roadside Americana: Read Between the Signs


Photo Credits:

1. By Gerbil via Wikimedia Commons
6. By Albert Yam via Wikimedia Commons

33 thoughts on “And Then the Museum Docent Said, “But Have You Been to the Nudist Camp?”

    • Thanks Melanie. It’s always good to get feedback (particularly when it’s positive). I’m not the most confident writer, and it’s nice to hear that someone appreciates my writing skills. ~James

      • I’m new to writing in this way i.e. travel writing, conversational. My career is laden with persuasive writing so I feel very “green” in this arena as well. I really enjoy the simplistic, concise way that you and your wife convey information on your blog. I hope to emulate that as I progress.

      • Thanks again Melanie. I’m particularly happy to hear that you like our simplistic and concise style, because this is exactly what we hope to achieve. I’ve read that there are 2 million blog posts each day, and people have so many sources of info, that it’s astounding. We recognize that readers have lots of choices and little time, so from day one, we’ve gone for clear and concise. And I have to be honest, when I read other blogs, if the post is more than 500 – 600 words, I skim. Or if it’s not something I’m particularly interested in, I just go away. I wouldn’t want readers to be leaving our blog for this reason. This is probably way more info than you needed, but Terri and I feel pretty strongly about it. ~James

    • This lady was a real hoot Sue, and I couldn’t believe that such a small, unknown town had so many famous residents and notable sights. And who knew? A nudist camp! ~James

  1. Ewww agreed, but would you rather they NOT sit on a towel (and you sat there later, not knowing, scratching, breaking out in hives, convulsing, begging for mercy…).

    Just funnin’ ya. Happy travels!!

    • I’m with you Tom. Also, besides the obvious health and cleanliness issues, with very hot or very cold plastic seats I would think that towels would represent a significant improvement in quality of life at a nudist camp – if you know what I mean. ~James

  2. This post is awesome, and it made me laugh aloud! Love it! I love finding other bloggers who are exploring America too. There’s just so much to see and experience, and you’ve helped me add a lot to my personal list! 🙂

    • Thanks for the comment and for dropping by the blog Genna. If you’ve read much of our blog, you know that we’ve lived and traveled abroad quite a lot. But, there’s nowhere like the US for easy travel, and the variety is fantastic. With the money we save on overseas airfares and hotels, we’re able to travel longer in the States. ~James

      • I definitely agree! Traveling in the US seems underrated to me. It definitely saves money and offers a ton of gorgeous variety. I look forward to reading more of your posts!

    • You’re right Juliann. We still laugh about this lady. One minute we were talking to what we thought was a typical reserved docent, and the next minute she was suggesting a drive by the maximum security prison and a nudist camp. Hilarious. ~James

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