Sat. July 11, 2015:
Connecticut to New York
Our second day of vacation was off to a much better start, partly because we stopped at the Dunkin’ Donuts in the airport on our way to catch a shuttle to the rental car place. I was tempted, but I did not end up getting a donut, as we still had snacks left over from the previous day. Across from the Dunkin’ Donuts I spotted a LEGO model of Mark Twain’s house. It was not 100% accurate, as it was missing us in the parking lot tailgating (last time we were in Hartford).
In the shuttle on the way to Payless Rental Cars, we passed by the old airport which had been abandoned and was being slowly torn down. It looked pretty cool. The guy at the car rental place was awesome. He was very nice and chatty. He said Connecticut was the most boring place ever and he wondered why we were visiting. He was incredibly good at his job, trying to up-sell us to a bigger car and everything (which did not work, but still a good effort).
As soon as we got on the road, the license plate game began. It also helped me to stay awake instead of drifting off to sleep as I usually do. The license plate game picked up almost immediately. Soon I had a possible Maryland and an unidentifiable one because everyone else was flying past us, even though we were also going over the speed limit. Trucks were great for my game, however I limited it to only the front or the back license plate, not both for that would be cheating.
A great cheer went up in the car, hands raised as we shouted NEW YORK! Now we were in New York state. There was a sign for a rest area that was advertised as a “text stop” so people could check their phones. As we drove we had a 99% Invisible podcast marathon. We passed by a prison and all the inmates were outside on the baseball diamond.
Our first stop of the day was the Dia:Beacon modern art museum. We got there right at open. The plan had originally been to see this museum the day before, and now we had to cram it into our Saturday plans. Luckily the museum was not that big and the art pieces themselves were quite big, thus we were done in less than two hours. While I am not a huge fan of contemporary art, for some reason it just felt good to look at it, especially the installation that was just a series of tube light bulbs in various arrangements. There were also these giant metal sculptures in one room, and it was unclear if you could actually go inside or touch them. As I later found out, yes you were allowed to. All I missed out on was some mild claustrophobia. The highlight of the museum was their collection of photographs by Berndt and Hilda Becher, the only artists in the collection whose work I was previously familiar with.
Afterwards we drove to a nearby park associated with the museum in the hopes of seeing one more art installation. Turns out the park was just named after the artist and there was no artwork there, just the Hudson River and some canoes for rent. The view of the river was beautiful and I joked that it was because we were upstream from the New York/New Jersey bridge where they dump all the bodies.
We stopped in Newburgh, NY to gawk at Washington’s headquarters during the Revolutionary War. Because our plans from the previous day had to merge, we did not have enough time for the originally planned tour of the place. It did not look like we had missed much, the place was small and the town was crappy. There was even a guy sleeping on the lawn of the historic building. We stopped in New Paltz, NY to view the downtown, which consisted of one street, Main Street and it was really busy. There was a biker gang meet-up at a restaurant and the place was swarming with motorcycles.
In the original plans, our day was supposed to start at the Mohonk Mountain Inn with an early morning hike. There are only a limited amount of parking spaces for day visitors and we were worried that because it was a Saturday the place would be full. Lucky for us there were still a few spots left. We took a shuttle from the guest parking lot to the main lodge, there was no point in walking half an hour to the trailhead. When we bought the hiking passes the lady gave us a trail map. The lodge had miles and miles of trails, it looked like a pile of string had been thrown on the map.
There were two different trails we could take to Skytop Tower, one was relatively easy and the other entailed scaling rocks and squeezing between boulders. The choice was obvious: we had to take the easy way, with my bad knees and DSLR there was no way I was going to take the difficult route. Before we left the car we had put on sunscreen just in case, even though I figured if we are hiking how much sun exposure can there be? Lots apparently. It was less of a hike and more of a pleasant, uphill, sometimes stair-climbing half hour walk. There was not much tree cover, and so we had gorgeous views of the lake and the lodge down below. It was a giant resort set in front of the Catskill Mountains. It reminded me of the resorts in Dirty Dancing and The Shining. Periodically there were breaks in the trees below and we could see the difficult trail. From the overlook we looked down and watched people squeeze between boulders and climb up rickety wooden ladders. We had made the right choice.
From the top the view was breathtaking, you could see for miles. You could see even further from the tower, you could also look down into the reservoir. We had read that you could see six states from the tower, looking out we tried to name them. We had five. Turns out you could see Ohio, how were we supposed to know? Trying to get back to the lodge we got lost, we took a wrong turn and had to back-track. At this point it was starting to get really hot. I really wish I had worn shorts, but I had been expecting a woods-y hike so I wore longer pants. The shuttle was there when we got back to the parking lot, perfect timing.
Back in the car it felt so good to take off my socks and running shoes. The car was an oven. I made the mistake of sipping from the bottle of Coke we had left in there- it was as warm as a cup of tea. Driving to Bethel, NY (where Woodstock took place) we took the scenic route through the backroads. We passed a sign for “foot golf” and I got confused: do you use your foot as a club? As we got closer to Bethel we saw a lot of hippy signs, such as the one for a restaurant called Peace, Love & Ice Cream. There were also some not-so-hippy-inspired signs like the Fat Lady Café billboard, or the one advertising a bar called Sports TVs & Topless. We also passed a peace sign standing in a field.
The entrance to the Bethel Woods Art Centre had speed limit signs that said “drive peacefully.” There was going to be a Def Leppard concert that evening at the centre, therefore the place was already packed with concert goers. We had to park on the lawn and make our way around the tail-gating concert-goers to get to the museum itself. The tail-gaters sure did love corn-hole, barbeque and beer. The museum was small and mostly consisted of information panels and re-printed photographs. There weren’t a lot of artifacts, but then again what could they really display? There were a few original tickets, scribbled notes about the concert line-up and a Volkswagen beetle covered in peace signs and bright colours. In the basement they had a special exhibit about fashions from that time period and you could play dress-up, but we did not feel like waiting behind a large group who clearly had no intention of finishing up anytime soon.
Before getting in the car and trying to leave, we walked around and tried to figure out the easiest way to leave. The field was crawling with people tail-gating. It was a slow and stressful drive out, thankfully the people were not yet drunk and thus moved out of the way. We also got some quizzical looks, like “why are these people leaving?” As we left we stopped at the Woodstock monument to get a view of the field where it all happened. There was a peace sign cut into the grass. The field was a lot smaller than I had expected, I also did not realize that it was actually on a hill.
The peanut M&Ms we had left in the car had melted the perfect amount, contrasting with the crunchy shell. However the shell colour had also started melting off, making them annoying to eat. Our hotel was less than ideal, the vending machine would not dispense any soda, it would not even take my coins. We settled in and got ready for our fancy dinner plans.
We drove to the Beaverkill Inn for dinner. On the way we saw some deer by the road. The male and female were across the road from each other and it made for a tense situation as we shouted at them to not go in the road. I joked that because they were young (the male had tiny antlers) they were out on a date, it was Saturday night after all. Apparently there was another deer up on the hill, but I never saw it. When we got to dinner it turned out we were very overdressed. Everyone else who was eating there was dressed in regular clothes, whereas we were in dressy clothes. And our plans for a fancy dinner, at least justifying our outfits, were quashed. For some reason dinner that night was being served buffet style. The worst part was that we were not staying there, we could not just go back to our room and change outfits. We had at least been expecting fresh caught trout from the nearby brook, but at least the salmon was still really good. Once we were done dessert had not yet been brought out, we sat there eagerly awaiting it. There was no way we were skipping dessert, it was buffet after all. It was worth the wait, a dark chocolate pot de crème with fresh fruits. I really did wish we had seconds.
Back at the hotel we settled in and queued up Netflix. Brent checked his email and we found out we could have flown through Montreal and got into Hartford, CT at 9pm. It was a little too late for that.