Green Mountain

 

There’s an oft-used saying that as you get older, time flies by faster.  It feels like it was only yesterday that I  threw my thick, lousy jacket into the closet stubbornly refusing to take it out again inspite of the vagaries of the Midwestern weather, almost willing the winter  to submission.  But that was two months ago.  Slogging away at work, I didn’t realize until a couple of days ago that I am only left with a couple of months of decent weather to enjoy before I will be forced again to drape that ugly thing over me whenever I step outdoors for months to come.   I’ve been  secretly entertaining grand plans for an elaborate travel trip out in the wild wild west in August-September time-frame, in spite of the fact that it requires the sun, the stars and the rest of the Universe to align themselves  magically for me to pull it off.  It didn’t stop me from salivating at the mere idea of visiting the Rockies, Bryce Canyon and Yellow Stone national parks having not made that visit in more than a decade now.  Taking the initiative to identify these breathtaking natural resources in all their variety and vastness, setting them apart for conservation, spending the time and money and painstaking effort with passion and dedication for their protection and preservation, and all along maintaining them and continuously making  them accessible to common folks like me is, just as the great PBS show about the national parks suggests, truly America’s greatest idea and deed.  And  I for one am grateful for that.

With the July 4th weekend upon us, in a mixture of panic at time flying by and greed in sneaking another trip before the big one that might not happen, I decided to take a couple of days off and drive through portions of the North East that I had driven through a decade ago, but never spent as much time as I have in the South East or portions of the West.  The Upstate New York and Vermont areas attract a lot of visitors especially in the fall to witness the stunning colors during the  fall foliage and in winters for skiing expeditions.  I am more interested in the hiking and trekking and I figured this might be the best time for me as I wanted to avoid heavy traffics and throngs of visitors.

So I leave to Albany in the morning in the hope that in the next few days I can do this trip up Vermont  through the Green Mountain National Park and spend some time at the Adirondacks through Lake Placid on my way back.  Once I get to Albany, time permitting, here’s the map of my expected travel up north through Vermont and down south from upstate New York from close to the  Canadian border.  Provided there is no shortage of wifi connections (there isn’t a place remote enough that deprives their natives of their basic necessity to tweet and facebook in today’s world), I hope to post my diary notes at the first opportunity.

Adorandacs (NY) & Green Mountain (VT) - Map + Terrain

 

Au revoir, for now.

….

July 4, 2010 – 11:30 pm (Albany, NY):


   

Sunny skies and a warm day for a ride

 

Arrived in Albany in estimated time. After sleeping through my morning alarm and waking up in a panic, made up good time on the road and made it to Albany a couple of hours ago. I picked perhaps the hottest day of the year to make the trip but the journey so far has been quite pleasant under clear skies, aided in no small measure by the decision to drive through Southern Ontario, Canada, entering the US again through Niagara in Buffalo and taking I-90 all the way to Albany. The scenery through that part of Ontario isn’t spectacular by any means, but you drive through the few arable sections of Canadian land, with large stretches of crops on fertile farmland dotted with red farmhouses in between. The speed limit shows 100 for 100 kmph. I looked at my speedometer and I could only see mph. I couldn’t remember the conversion, and had an in-built excuse made up if I were pulled over for speeding. “But Officer, I thought the speed limit was 100 miles per hour.”

I Scream U Scream.. couldn't resist some ice cream from this place along the Ontario drive

 

The alternate route would have been through Ohio, a military state where the primary source of revenue is highway piracy in the name of speeding tickets. Ohio might be the only state where Ohioans drive consistently below the speed limit, because they have been strictly programmed to do so by an army of policeman, the primary workforce of the state constantly roaming the highways and byways to nab unsuspecting drivers and squeeze the last hard earned penny out of them. As if this wasn’t enough, Ohio State Supreme court ruled recently that an Ohio policeman has the right to write you a speeding ticket without ever using a radar gun, just an educated guess of a trained eye is enough. “I think you were going at 76.5 mph in my estimation sir, I am afraid that’s 10 over the speed the limit. Now pay up!”

Construction and dividers.. as much a sign of summer as baseball and bikinis in America

 

On a typical holiday such as today, you will find half as many cops patrolling the Ohio highways as the travelers, or somewhere close to it. With or without a radar gun to hand out speeding tickets, it is just a lousy way to make a living if you ask me, hiding behind a hill or a tree or an over bridge and sneaking up on people enjoying their holiday rides

Back into the USA

 

when no one’s in any obvious danger. 

That whole tangential tirade aside, once I hit Niagara and into I-90, I was impressed to see that the heavy toll I

Nearing Albany with Appalachian backdrop

 

paid for that I-90 ride was put to use quite well. I stopped at three different service stations on the way, they are abundant and well kept and even on a July 4th evening, when most restaurants and fast food chains shut down, they managed to keep them working to serve travelers like me. Of course there is construction everywhere, what is summer without road construction? I used the GPS this time and it is amazing how accurate they are now-a-days with information from 8 different satellites guiding you wherever you are… you can ride but you can’t hide!  

Into the Albany evening with the sunset behind me

 

Soon as I got to the vicinities of Albany, I could see the Appalachian mountain ranges in the background and I am looking forward to tomorrow’s trip up the Green Mountain. I hope to get a good night’s sleep and a hearty breakfast before I set out to Vermont tomorrow. 

July 5, 2010 – 10:40 pm (Watertown, NY):


   

To Vermont - The Green Mountain State

 

Woke up just in time to catch the breakfast served in the hotel before they closed it.

In Bennington.. along VT 7

 

It was just my luck that I caught the simmering heat wave stifling the northeast, which did make the trip uncomfortable at times, but the air conditioning in the car served me well. My impressions of Vermont, en-route from my previous trip to New England to witness the fall foliage, was one of several small towns along byways with quaint little shops selling ice cream, antiques and woodworks. The disappointing aspect of this trip was that I drove these towns and could see these shops and inns, but there were no vendors to be found. Due to July 4th falling on a Sunday, they all took the holiday off on July 5th and almost all of the shops were closed, which was a bummer. It was still a relaxing and leisurely drive through the Green Mountain State, first along the US 7 from Albany to Bennington to Rutland and then along US 100 to Burlington. Beyond the greenery of Vermont, the recurring theme along the way is dry wood with all types of furniture and woodworks on display with many wooden barns along the way. Vermont is home for a popular woodworking school and is proud of its popular home made wood products – chairs, tables, cabinetry, bowls, baskets, carvings – they were all on display. But the atmosphere I was hoping wasn’t there mainly because of the holiday and closed shops.

Waiting to get on the ferry

 

New York and Vermont are separated by Lake Champlain, and the quickest route

Lake Champlain.. from the ferry

 

for me to get to the Adirondacks was crossing Lake Champlain on a ferry. Now, I had traveled on ferries carrying people before, but I had no idea that you could just take your car with you on these ferries on Lake Champlain. It was just another day for all the regulars there, some do it every day, but for a tourist like me, it was a new experience. I was the only geek taking a video and some pictures on this Adirondack ferry. When I think of water bodies and hear about lakes, my mental image of the magnitude of them typically fall along the lines of
a pond < a stream < a lake < a river < a sea < an ocean.. but once I saw the great lakes and Lake Champlain today, mentally, I now equate them to the seas.

To Lake Placid

 

After getting off the ferry on the other side in the state of New York again, I had

Near Lake Placid

 

 a choice to make – I could drive down to Lake Placid and spend the night there or if I drove through and crossed the Adirondacks, and spend the night somewhere closer to Lake Erie, I could squeeze in another leisurely drive along Lake Erie on my way back, something I wasn’t sure if I had the time to do when I left home yesterday. I decided to do the latter and drove through the Adirondacks, through the High Peaks, Lake Placid, Saranac Lake on to the North-western New York. The town of Lake Placid, hosts of Winter Olympics twice, is a hip

Adirondack dusk

 

and happening place, attracting a lot of visitors even on a weeknight like July 5th. In general, the hills on this side attract a wider range of visitors compared to those in Vermont, because they are marketed and promoted aggressively by the state of New York and are more accessible to the large crowds looking for a getaway from the city of New York. As I drove west out of the Adirondacks, with night sinking in, I decided to stop at Watertown, New York, along Highway 81. Hope to take the Seas of Trail, a trail along Lake Erie from Sliver Lake, NY to Erie, PA tomorrow.

July 6, 2010 – 10:10 pm (Pittsburgh, PA):


  

Along Seaway Trail

 

The region along Lake Erie, a stretch of about 50 miles along the Lake coast from western New York to Pennsylvania is called “America’s Grape Country” and is the source for most grape production in the country, this side of the Rockies. It is also the Lake Erie section of over 500 mile trail along the great lakes dubbed as the Great Lakes Seaway Trail. If you are on the right byway, you will see a sign indicating you are on the trail. Due to the proximity to Lake Erie from Watertown where I stayed last night, I decided to drive through that stretch on my way back. Plus, I wanted to visit the Sri Venkateswara Temple in Pittsburgh and had to stay overnight in Pittsburgh, my current stop in what is the last night of the trip.

When I left Watertown, I knew I had about 4-5 hours to cover as much of the Seaway Trail as I can.

Lake Erie.. from Seaway Trail

 

I entered the trail in Silver Creek, NY and drove west on US 5, the Seaway trail road, along the beaches of Lake Erie, with large stretches of wineries and a few state

along the shores of Lake Erie

 

parks sprinkled in between by the lakefront. I spent some time on a couple of beaches, one in Dunkirk and one in Erie. You can’t help but marvel at the great lakes, the sheer vastness of them. If you are curious about how you could have such large water bodies in the middle of a landmass that is the North American continent, they were formed by the movement of glaciers back

town of Dunkirk on Lake Erie along US 5

 

and forth. During the ice age, entire Canada and some northern parts of the now USA were covered in a sheet of ice due to the advancement of a huge glacier called Laurentide. As the ice age came to an end and ice started melting with warmer temperatures, Laurentide started receding, leaving behind the glacial deposits that are now the great lakes and the shape and size of the great lakes continue to change on a daily basis.

Seaway Trail Sign on US 5

 

I could have taken the wine trails and spend some time in the wineries but with

Western PA wineries along Lake Erie

 

still some driving to do and the sweltering heat touching 100 F making life difficult outside the comforts of the car AC, I decided to just do a leisurely drive through instead. The state parks were relatively empty though a few camping areas were full by the lakeside, in spite of the heat. All that heat was just an excuse for more cold beer for these outdoorsmen. As I arrived in Pittsburgh, hungry and craving for Indian food, I managed to find an Indian restaurant just before closing time.

Overall, it was an interesting and satisfying trip. It has also been a very lengthy and tiresome drive and I am guessing I will need another vacation from this vacation once I get home tomorrow. By then I’d be closing in on 1800 miles for the trip. In hindsight, I could have done a few things differently – not pick July 5th for the drive through Vermont, not squeeze so much distance into three nights and instead spend a little bit more time in the Adirondacks than I did, but that’s like complaining about not having the right mix of cilantro and ginger in the dish I just ate when I should be glad that I was able to find the food I wanted to eat and munched it in record time to satisfy my hunger and craving.

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