Running on Empty


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North America » United States » New York » Saugerties
February 23rd 2022
Published: March 10th 2022
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After taking two epic road trips last year, I was eager to take more this year. Maybe a Christmas season trip up through Vermont before darting over to Maine to see my cousins. Maybe I could follow that up with a late February/March trip to the Deep South: Alabama and Mississippi. Unfortunately, those were not to be. These days life’s plans frequently get changed and not for the better. In October I developed a back injury that made sitting down or walking for prolonged periods very painful. The anticipated road trips of my imagination drifted away like so much smoke.

However, I was determined to go somewhere and do something. By February, I realized that for the time being I would have to live with this injury and do what I could regardless. I decided to drive two hours upstate of here and discover a section of New York that I have never been before. Catskills on one side, Hudson River on the other. With this being the turbulent 20s not even that would be a foregone conclusion as a monster snowstorm was slated to hit during our stay, over a foot of snow predicted. I was up for an adventure though, any adventure.

We managed the drive in just under two hours before Mom and I arrived at our hotel in the town of Saugerties. I decided it best to rest my back before venturing out to see the historic local lighthouse. It was important to see it now before the snow closed in because apparently there was a long nature walk in order to gain access to it. This probably ruled Mom out, but she was game to give it a go anyway.

The parking lot was fuller than I expected. It turned out that a lot of locals liked to do the walk at the end of the day. We started up the trail together, but the ground was very slippery with mud and large puddles. This was not going to be Mom’s day and she headed back to the car for a read. I however plunged ahead. Sometimes there was a boardwalk, but most times I had to pick myself a treacherous path through the slop.

With people coming back along the path, it was difficult to figure out how to pass one another and who should go first. One man looked down at my sneakers and remarked, “Hey. Your shoes are still white.” “Not for long” I replied. The masked faces of the past two years had vanished off this trail and everyone seemed to be in a good mood as they smiled and said hello. It felt like things had turned a corner.

By the time I reached the lighthouse I had the whole place to myself. The red bricked structure had been built in 1869 and served as a functioning lighthouse along the Hudson River until 1954. It stands on a spit of land jutting out into the water. The river was now frozen along the banks and was filled with chunks of ice. In the back was a deck which was shaped like a ship’s prow pointing up the river. In the distance was a modern tanker still hauling goods along the river. A vital part of the supply chain I imagined.

When a mother and her two noisy sons finally arrived, I figured it was about time to head back and check on Mom. On the way back I passed only one couple as it was getting late. Sunset was coming on and the day was coming to a close. My back had survived the walk in decent shape. A small victory not to be overlooked. It wasn’t quite dinner time, but we felt like getting it out of the way so we headed straight to the restaurant.

The Tavern at Diamond Mills was perched above an impressive waterfall which we made sure to check out before entering the restaurant. Inside we also lucked into a window table in full view of it and the old bridge in the distance. The whole hotel and restaurant complex was built using the site of a 19th Century paper mill. I had the traditional tavern burger, but the highlight of the evening was the fruit and cheese plate. It consisted of harvest moon cheddar, a block of parmesan, and a hunk of bleu cheese. Alongside the cheeses were dried apples, cranberries, bread and crackers. Wait there’s more! There was also a vat of hot cheese fondue and dish of honey. We made a project of figuring out the best flavor combinations.

By the time we left the restaurant the air temperature seemed to have dropped abut twenty degrees. Shivering we dove into the car. We then promptly drove to the local drugstore, bought two heating pads, and called it a night.

* * * * *

The next day I woke up to find that my back was extremely stiff and generally not happy. I wasn’t sure if it was because of a night spent in a strange bed or yesterday’s exertions, but I was going to persevere and see the sights. The night before I had seen a delicious menu from the Phoenician Diner located in Catskills Park and had determined to make that our first stop.

The diner was in the middle of rural nowhere. But when Baron Von Zoom pulled into its parking lot there was rock music playing from outside speakers. We had just passed Woodstock on the way here and it seemed that a musical spirit was in the air. Inside the diner was packed and humming with activity. There was a loud happy buzz. It was continuously busy. One table would get up to leave and another group of customers would fill their place.

Many of the customers were families with young kids. Without knowing it, we had arrived right in the middle of the statewide mid-winter vacation week. I ordered the Catskill Muddy Mountain water and a taco breakfast skillet. The stereo kept the place going with old hits like Jackson Browne’s Running on Empty. I don't know where I'm running now, I'm just running on.

Back in the car I discovered that my GPS had rundown completely to 12%!p(MISSING)ower. I would have to use it sparingly if we had any hope of seeing the sites and making it back to the hotel in one piece. The first thing on our post-lunch itinerary was the Ashokan Reservoir. The GPS led us there, but tried to get us to park by the side of the road and walk 300 yards down a forested hill in order to reach the water. We ignored this suggestion.

I turned off the GPS and drove a little further. Finally, I found the pedestrian promenade that I had been looking for. The reservoir had been providing New York City with water for over a hundred years now and was quite large. It was covered in a sheet of ice and what water there was was littered with ice flows of various sizes. With the steely grey sky above it reminded me of pictures I had seen of Antarctica.

Mom and I walked down the paved promenade. It was absolutely frigid, so cold in fact that Mom turned around halfway to retreat back to the car with frostbitten cheeks. I kept walking for a while until I came to what looked to be some kind of bridge. From reading a nearby sign, I learned that it was actually the original dam that was used to create the reservoir all those years ago.

It was finally time to head over to Woodstock for a browse around the town. We took the scenic route over and down the Ohayo Mountain Trail. And that’s what it was, point the car steeply up the mountain and then once at the top wind the car down the other side into Woodstock. I was glad we were driving on these roads now, instead of after tomorrow’s major snowstorm. Who lived up here exactly? And what did they plan to do tomorrow?

I had originally thought that the town of Woodstock was where the legendary 1969 music festival was held. However, it turned out that the group who had put it together planned to host it in Woodstock. But when the locals got wind of their plans, wisely rejected the idea and the festival was moved to a venue many miles away. The town did actually have a vaguely hippy crunchy vibe as if the mere name Woodstock acted like a magnet to bring together like minded people.

We bought a couple of hot chocolates at a local coffee shop and had a wander around the town looking through the eclectic shops. I was also searching for a pair of gloves so that my hands didn’t freeze when I was inevitably shoveling out my car tomorrow. There were a lot of giant tie-dye mitten options, but I went with a sensible pair of grey gloves instead.

When we got back into the car my poor GPS battery was at 1%. This might be a problem. About one minute later it did finally die, but not before informing me about the crucial turn to the right. Luckily, I was able to find my way back to Saugerties with a combination of intuition and road signs. You know, the old-fashioned way. Back in familiar territory we stopped to buy supplies and prepared to hunker down for the impending snowstorm. Tomorrow the landscape promised to look quite different.



Note: I decided to write this current and "up to date" blog before starting on the my series on my 2021 road trip down to Florida,

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12th March 2022

Winter Perseverance!
Certainly looks like your winter perseverance yielded good experiences and a variety of interesting sights. Too bad your GPS died, but glad using your own navigation sense and the signs worked out. Seems using a good old paper map is a lost skill these days, LOL).
12th March 2022

In state travel
Yes it turned out well. Travelling somewhere new, near or far, always is an illuminating experience. I actually looked around my car for a map, but all I could find was one from North Carolina. I did not win the preparation award that day.

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