Sun. July 12, 2015:
I awoke to the sound of Brent typing at his computer. I asked him what time it was, 8:25am he said. I replied 20 more minutes and went back to sleep. My alarm clock was set for 9:00am, but at 8:57am Brent woke me up, as jokingly promised the day before. The hotel breakfast was lacking to say the least: a really crappy cup of coffee and a sticky honey bun. I had to dump my first cup of coffee, I had used coffee whitener and only after I found some actual half and half cream. It barely made the coffee any better. I posted a joke picture of my food on Instagram.
In the car we started on a list of things to Google, various questions that had come up so far. We had a very scenic drive through Catskills Park, lots of windy twisty roads and beautiful foliage. At one point we were driving alongside a river. We drove by a chicken shaped mailbox which made my day. We stopped at the Emerson Resort & Spa for a better breakfast, however we could not find the café. After wandering around the main floor, gawking and drooling over the gorgeous antique furniture, we found the gift shop where you could buy tickets to see a show inside the world’s biggest kaleidoscope. How could we turn that down? It was $5 for a 10 minute show, and because it was just the two of us we were able to lie down on the floor to get a better view without destroying our necks. They did have boards set up on an angle with headrests, but the view from the floor was much better. Going in, I had no idea what to expect beyond colours and patterns. The kaleidoscope was not traditional in the sense of coloured glass or plastic illuminated, it was instead a projection bounced off angled mirrors. It was done in such a way as to produce a 3D effect, which I only got part of the time. Being a projection they were freer to create more intricate and unique patterns. I did not expect it to be so imbued with Americana. We had eagles and president heads flying at us. At one point there were marijuana leaves dancing all over the place. Then we were on a very condensed timeline of American history, Churchill and Hitler also made cameos. Weirdest of all were the Confederate flags.
At the back of the gift shop we found the café nestled away. We split two cookies and I had my second coffee fix of the day, really first because that other cup was so bad I wished to forget it. I had a bite of Brent’s sandwich, it was delicious, but I was in a cookie mood. We drove to Woodstock, NY aka where the Woodstock festival did not take place. The town had a lot of hippy and Woodstock-inspired décor. The parking meters were shaped like guitars and there was a sign that said “calm this way” and pointed towards a Sufi centre. We saw a guy with giant dreadlocks, and we passed the Woodstock love knot sculpture. We browsed the flea market we had parked near and it was exactly what we had expected: lots of stuff from Tibet, tie-dye fabrics and records. There was one stall where they were selling old stuff, including some old books. I was quite tempted by them, especially one from 1905, but I realized if I bought one then I would have to buy more. And I would rather buy books I intend on reading over and over. I spent a few minutes geeking out and drooling over a beautifully bound volume of poetry by Percy Shelley. We tried to find the library that was having a book sale. We had passed it on our way into town but it was much further than we had thought. We saw yet another motorcycle gang meet-up. This one was a more diverse group, not everyone was on Harley’s, it was much less intimidating too.
Up next in our tour of towns on the Hudson River was Kingston, NY. At first it was really sketch and crappy. However closer to the river there was a small stretch of road that was nice, the historic district. We parked in the first spot we saw because we were unsure of the parking situation closer to the river and walked down. The view of the river was marred on one side by the highway overpass but to make up for it there was a nice old bridge at the other end. It was getting hot outside, and the humidity was not helping matters. Walking back to the car seemed to take forever.
On our way to the next town we stopped at a liquor store. They did not have any good ciders (there was a specific New York one I was looking for), I just grabbed some “limited edition” iced tea coolers. The beer selection was also not that great. There was a car show happening in Saugerties, therefore we had to try and take a detour which was really confusing as there were no signs and we were just guessing based on the map showing on the GPS. Adding to the fun was the traffic caused by the blocked off streets.
Eventually we made it to the Saugerties lighthouse. I was expecting to jump out of the car and walk up to it, maybe across a crappy beach. I was not expecting a 15-20 minute nature walk through a marsh. There were some cranes hanging out among the reeds, making a noisy ruckus and flapping about. The lighthouse had a house attached to it that now functioned as bed & breakfast. It was nice and quaint, alas we barely had any time to enjoy it as we had to head back. It had taken a lot longer than we had planned for.
On a small road there was a traffic light in the middle of the road, not even at an intersection or anything. It confused me, until we passed over a one lane bridge, then it all made sense. As we drove through the town of Catskill there were tacky cat statues everywhere. It was killing me, I wanted so desperately to photograph them. Alas, we did not have time to stop, we had a 3pm tour of Olana Historic House to get to. We also passed a sign for a catfish derby that had our baseball team’s logo. We made a note of it for later, we would try and backtrack to it (alas, this was a while after we had passed through Catskill and was much closer to Olana House). We drove over Rip Van Winkle bridge, for a second I was excited, then I realized it had nothing to do with the story. It was just named that because the story was set in the Catskill Mountains. They were capitalizing on the fame, and charging a toll to boot.
We could see Olana House high atop the cliff where it was perched amongst the foliage. Oddly the gift shop had Diana cameras for sale, alas only 120mm and no 35mm. We wound up having the world’s most boring tour guide. She was one of those rare types who literally just do the job. She seemed to have no passion for the subject, could not care less, simply repeating what she had learned through rote memorization. It was really too bad, as it affected our perceptions of Olana House. I kid you not, I was more interested at one point in a sign warning of ticks in the forested area surrounding the house, than what she was saying about the architecture. It was nearly impossible to listen to her. Again, a shame, because I really did want to learn about the house- I wanted to learn more than I could read in a brochure though. She was like a talking info pamphlet. Things only got worse as the hunger and dehydration started to kick in. We made a beeline for the gift shop, hoping it would still be open. To hold us over we got a brownie and some ice cold water- which we pretty much devoured.
We drove to another small town to see a lighthouse in the middle of the Hudson River. It was interesting, but there was nothing else in this town and the waterfront was rather crappy and industrial. On our way out of town we noticed another catfish derby sign. Brent pulled over to the side of the road and I ran out with my camera to snap a quick picture, confusing the nearby motorists. We stopped at a CVS near our hotel to grab some snacks to hold us over until dinner. There was not much in terms of new or wacky candy, we got Butterfinger Bites and Mega M&Ms and Starburst gummies. The soda selection was even worse, I ended up grabbing the last cherry Pepsi. Back at the hotel we made a terrible discovery: I had grabbed regular M&Ms by mistake!
We Google-image searched The Beekman Arms to see what the dress code for dinner was like. Turns out we did not have to get dressed up super fancy, as it was a tavern. We also found out that The Beekman Arms is America’s oldest continually operating inn. When we got there I almost made the mistake of getting us a table on the patio i.e.: outside the building. Once inside we had a choice between sitting in the bar area or in a booth. Again, I made a terrible choice and said booth. There was only one couple in the booth area, everyone else was in the bar area. I thought nothing of it. That is, until we sat down. The guy was talking and would not shut up. It was intolerable and absolutely horrible. He was ranting about guns, except we could not for the life of us tell if he was pro- or anti-guns. He barely stopped for a breath, just going on and on, guns this, guns that, this country and that country. We were there less than 5 minutes before we flagged down a server and asked to be moved.
It was such a relief to get away from that guy. The bar area, even with the din of all the other conversations going on around us, the bar seemed quieter and more peaceful. On our way in Brent had noticed that the tavern had won an award for best appetizer. It turns out the award was for their mini-sliders which are served individually, making them quite difficult to share. I opted out of ordering another app and instead resorted to stealing some of the kettle-chips on the side of the slider. There was not much debate about the mains, they had grilled swordfish on the menu and seeing as I never see it on menus it was an obvious choice. Opting for something presumably more local, Brent had the brook trout. The trout was amazing, way better than the swordfish which was a bit bland. However the baby potatoes on the side were much better than the couscous salad on the side of the brook trout, so who can really say which dish won? It was a draw.
For dessert we stopped at Jane’s Homemade Ice Cream. We had passed it on the way to the tavern. Once inside the choice was easy, they had an ice cream flavour called the kitchen sink: finally I could say I conquered the kitchen sink! The ice cream had Rolos, chocolate covered peanuts and Mounds bar pieces. Alas the ice cream was minty and the fillings were sparse. Back in the hotel it turned out the iced tea cooler I had gotten was a malt beverage, I felt like such white trash drinking it.