Monday, August 05, 2013

Syrup run, Day 3

Woke up to a steady rain, dry as a bone in the lean-to.  I had the last of the eggs and struggled with the coffee again.  As I was wondering how long the rain would last, it stopped.

I packed up and hit the road east for Bennington.  Skirting the town via the by-pass that leads to rt 7, I again got a view worth stopping for, which again I couldn't capture with the phone camera: the peak southwest of Bennington rising into the clouds behind the Battle of Bennington monument.

A short way up rt7 I ducked over to 7A to see "historic Vermont."  7A winds along the east side of a ridge thru picturesque towns which pay homage to the Green Mountains, outdoorsy activities, and what must be "tradition."  It seemed that each 100 foot stretch contained either a lodge, a B&B, or a campground.  It was like riding through a postcard.  I got as far as Manchester Center before I started feeling panicky about making time, so diverted off on rt30 thru Dorset to 315 to 153 crossing the state line near Salem, New York.

The area reminded me a lot of 309 N thru Heidelburg, except none of the farms seemed to have any livestock.  Lots of farm villages, each with their own low, square, wooden-sided church and general store.  In Salem I picked up 22, then 29 to Greenwich.  I'd fiddled the GPS to avoid tolls, highways, and traffic and take me home.  Garmin decided I should take 113 south and cross the Hudson at Stillwater.  More farmland - a tranquil stretch of road.

The tiny GPS screen is a terrible way to get an overview, so I just trusted it.  It routed me to rt9, and before I knew it, I was in downtown Albany - and I mean downtown.  I vowed to never rely on the GPS again, vaguely remembering coming to the same conclusion on more than one previous trip.  As soon as I was thru Albany, I canceled the GPS nav and took rt32, stopping at the first Stuarts for gas, a cold drink, and cash from the ATM so I could stop avoiding tolls (I'd spent my last cash on the lean-to the prior night).

I took 32 to Cairo, NY, and thought I'd give the GPS an easier task: take me to Phoenecia.  Happily it took me down 32 to 23A, a very scenic, narrow, crowded, twisty rise of about 1500 feet to Tannersville, then 214 to Phoenicia.  From Phoenicia I wanted another route, and found "Camp Willowemac" still in my favs from one of my Catskill trips.   I was routed to 47, much of which turned out to be under construction.  Long stretches of gravel, single-lane, and an armada of dump trucks throwing dust in the air.  Eventually I was spit out of the Catskills via rt 55.   A sign warned of "high crosswinds ahead" where the Neversink Reservoir dam carries 55 across the valley.

Rt 55 to 17E to 42 at Monticello, NY, which appears to be a Hasidic enclave.  Once out of town it moves nicely to 97 just north of Port Jervis.  Just before descending into town, there's a big pull-off with a stone pavillion, a plaque, etc. - a highly advertised and celebrated view.  I pulled over next to an orange HD whose rider completely ignored me.  Turns out the view is crappy.  The town seems to be, too.

It was getting late in the afternoon when I picked up 209 in Port Jervis and I was starting to wonder if I'd get home before dark.  I got stuck behind a slow-moving pickup, so turned off at rt739, thinking I could catch Fivemilemeadow Rd.  I missed it and had to double back, but was rewarded with a brisk ride thru the woods, stopping only to avoid a deer, and a family of wild turkeys.
Fivemilemeadow ends at Silver Lake Rd, which is a fun ride leading over to 402, on which, far ahead of me, was a guy going 20mph over the posted limit who was being tailgated by a VW.  So late in the day, I was happy to be speeding home and kept a good distance behind the cars, matching their pace.  Blah, blah, 33, 512, 329...

At home the trip odo read 975 miles.  The main odo had rolled 10k somewhere in the Catskills - another missed photo op.  Suzuki calculated 50mpg.

Thoughts from the road:
The romance of letting the day and the roads take you where they please ends largely in wasted time, multiple stops to re-nav, and missed opportunities.  It may be fine for an extended trip, but a long weekend requires that specifics be researched, routes planned, and real maps consulted enroute.

This country is big.  For reasons unknown, (making Lincoln Middle School proud), I thought of the Continental Congress assembling.  I can't imagine the trip from upper New England to Philly on horses or pulled in wagons,  on non-existent roads across wild terrain full of wolves and mosquitos.  A swollen stream or river could at best add days or weeks to the trip, at worst be impassable or deadly. And then, winter.  I can understand a bucolic existence where the farmer rarely made it further than the village... but these people traveled, too.

Vermont seems, owing either to sparsity of population or sheer will to maximize tourism dollars, to have retained a "sense of place."  The terrain, the farmland, the woods - it could all be the PA wilds. But there is a conspicuous absence of corporate invasion, at least along the corridors I traveled.  I passed any number of family restaurants, inns, B&B's, even nice, clean, inviting MOTELS with 'no vacancy' signs... but didn't see a single McDonald's (or a single morbidly obese person, for that matter), Appleby's, Chile's, etc., nor even a hotel or grocery chain store.

The state supplies parking areas, but doesn't place trash cans there.  Even the grocery store didn't have trash cans in front.  So, maybe Vermonters just carry their trash home?  Nope - they line the roads with it.  To be fair, out-of-staters could be responsible for this mess, but where are the trash cans?  And why aren't Vermonters cleaning it up?

It all reminded me of "Mad Men"... Vermont in 2013 is SE PA circa 1953.
They could  develop their woods, retaining a few sterile state parks which don't allow camping or dogs, and create clean, congested, highways that rage between bedroom towns past a scrolling background of sandstone malls, McDonald's', TGIFridays, and Marriot Inns.

Oh, an Walmart!  They're gonna need a lot more Walmarts.

I was compelled to look it up:  There are 2 Walmarts in the state of Vermont...  Two.

Stay weird, Vermont!  I hope to see you again soon.

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