Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Hudson Valley Weekend

Almost two weeks ago, my husband and I decided that we couldn't waste another 3-day weekend sitting around Brooklyn, where we would inevitably be stuck doing the same monotonous chores of house-cleaning, laundry, and grocery shopping. I also find that boredom leads me to spend a lot more money than I should, just for the momentary excitement of owning something new. We end up subwaying it to 'the mall' (Manhattan), forgetting the walk-out-your-door tax that we ALWAYS get slapped with.

This Columbus Holiday would be different, we'd go farther afield, and spend a whole lot more, but have the rich memories that come with a new adventure. We've been living on the East coast for over 3 years, and always have had the goal to take as many weekend trips as possible to explore all points of interest between Washington D.C. to who-knows-where in Maine. This is a tall list, my friends, that only gets longer the more places we see. So far, we have managed to get quick tastes of D.C, Philadephia, Princeton, Ithaca, Newport, and Boston, with longer road trips thru New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont. We still have not spent anytime in some nearer locales, like the Hamptons or Hudson Valley. With a baby, and with my pregnancy before it, our get up and go style has been hampered, but not reigned in. We do however, get a little nervous about long car rides, so the Hudson Valley seemed like the perfect last minute, destination choice. It is Fall, after all, and we really couldn't pick a better time to see the Autumn foliage and pick apples.

With the lightbulb of thought, our budget was immediately blown with the price-gauging car rental (almost $100 a day). We packed that little Ford with every baby gadget you could imagine - a car seat, a bjorn, a Maclaren stroller, a bag of toys, books and bath fun, Baby clothes, baby food and paraphernalia, our clothes, hiking shoes, rainjackets, camera, binos, videocamera, road food, road cd's (including the Music Together CD that puts Stella into a musical trance of body bouncing and humming), and camping equipment - yep, that's right. We were obviously on a suicidal mission.
I took responsibility for Saturday - Day one, and came up with our East coast route along the Hudson river. I listed all the possible sites in route, hours of operation, possible lunch and dinner stops, and reserved our first nights hotel in Hudson. Dan was responsible for Day 2. When I say this was a spur of the moment trip, we'll go with the flow, and see where the day takes us, Dan applied the loosest definition...I'll leave it at that.

Our first stop was Kyekut, a Rockefeller estate and gardens as evidence of the endless possibilities that unlimited wealth can create. This really was not a tour for babies, and the fact that they charged our 10 month old a child fare of $12 should have been proof enough that we were meant to be discouraged. No strollers, just a baby bjorn and a squirming eighteen and a half pounder. Stella has recently mastered one baby sign language word - the squeezing of both fists to signify milk. She now knows how to look me in the eye and demand it as if she could squeeze it out with her tiny hands. 15 minutes into the tour and she was pumping her fists and squeaking with impatience. I wasn't in the position to deny and had to hover in the back of our group, holding her sideways, barely under my shirt, belly flab and nipple flashing. The tour guide kept beckoning me to the front so that I could get a better look. Umm, it's ok, no really. Did I mention that the tour was 2 hours?

On to Cold Springs and a German/Irish lunch of Bratwurst and Guinness stew, while listening to bluegrass and short commuter trains go whizzing by the depot. Despite the endless need to entertain, we were still determined to do 'adult' things, and had DIA beacon, a modern art museum, next on our agenda. This was an absolute highlight, and a fantastic place for a baby. The exhibits are in a massive transformed warehouse with shiny hardwood and cement floors that are expansive and uncrowded - perfect for the speedy crawler and the mama who can't resist racing in circles with the stroller. The art installations are large and primarily sculptural - perfect for oohing and aahing with a baby.

Thankfully, our road-stops were just long enough to tire out Stella, and she was able to sleep during our drive, sometimes mellowed by the type of baby tunes we though we'd NEVER succumb to. Dinner in Rhinebeck was late and high pressured as our nerves were set for a potential meltdown in a crowded bistro. Stella was allowed too many sugary cheerios in an effort to appease her, and keep the tables next to us smiley as opposed to scornful.

We stayed in Hudson, and day 2 awoke to a very likeable town. Baby hours meant that we were up and strolling Warren St. before any shops were open. The street was foggy, draping the historic buildings in a mist reminiscent of old times past, harking back to the whaling industry that this town was founded on. None of the stores were open, and I was drooling as I window shopped the art galleries, hip eateries, and antique & boutique shops. This is definitely a town to return to with lots of cash, and a big van. We however, had plans to hike in the Catskills, so off we were. Let me correct that last sentence by omitting the word 'plans', as the truth is that Dan had not a clue where we might hike, hoping instead that some trailhead would beckon from the roadside or some local in Tannersville might be able to give us the heads up. By nearly 2PM, a road diversion and inability to make any decision meant that we had been primarily cooped up in a car, and finally decided to just go to the North/South lake in East Catskills and at least enjoy the view, if not get any exercise. I was short on patience, as we still did not have any 'plan' for where we were going to lay our heads. My husband had a much looser list for campsites down south, and expressed the sudden urgency to get settled before it was too dark to set up camp. Duh! Bitchy, cranky, sullen Sarah began to metamorphose as we missed the exit for our first option and ended up in the New Paltz area instead, limited to Yogi Beara - "kiddie circus" camp or KOA. We tried Yogi Beara only to find that they were charging the utterly ridiculous fee of $65 for a patch of dirt! These were holiday weekend prices, and so ludicrous that I was actually angered. Off to KOA, where they were charging the slightly less ridiculous price of $46, and we were offered a further discount of $10.

Note to self: Never, ever go camping with a baby, ever again. Needless to say, my mood was soured before we even arrived, so maybe this whole camping experiment would not have been half as bad, but still- !@$?%!!!
Arghh - it is a little hard to set up camp as a team, when you have a squirming 9 month old who can crawl, but can't walk. I wasn't going to just set her down in the dirt, so that she could become a dusty, dirty mess. We spread out a blanket, but that was hopeless, as she just wanted to crawl off it and pop acorns and rocks in her mouth. This poor little baby who had been confined to a car seat or high chair for nearly the entire day, was now strapped into a stroller to forlornly watch her father set up a dinky 2-man tent and try repeatedly and unsuccessfully to coax flames out of damp logs. The smoke never failed to blow in Stella's face, and we had to continue adjusting her position, yet keep her near enough for warmth. I was so frustrated that there was no where we could put her, as the tent freaked her out, and the stroller prison made me feel guilty. I glumly kept her in my arms as I just sat on my ass watching Dan do all the work. We barely had enough daylight to get situated and heat up some cans of chili. The fire was pathetic and we gave up on s'mores and sitting around a barely smoldering campfire. At about 8PM, with absolutely nothing to do we decided to go to bed. Stella's bedtime ritual was blown - no bath, and no space to do her ritualistic crawl around her bed, a winding down pattern of burying her face into her blankets and rocking herself to sleep. I don't even know where to begin when describing what it was like inside our tent with a baby. First, this tent requires some cuddling for 2 people, and we were trying to squeeze Stella between us. We had two thermarests - one long one that kept deflating and one short torso length one that is frankly unsuitable for a 6 foot plus man. Nonetheless, I am a wuss when it comes to comfort, and always have backaches, so I made Dan use it. It was my sad little way of expressing anger and making sure that he suffered too. Stella was thus stuck in the crack. She didn't fit in either of our sleeping bags, so we had to make a makeshift bed for her out of several blankets. All this for a baby who can never stay still when sleeping and always has managed to crawl out from under any blanket. I think we must have been awakened to her howls every 2 hours. I could hardly nurse her back to sleep as I could barely sit up in the tent, and she wouldn't stay still when I tried to nestle her between us. Dan had to play bunny flash light games with her throughout the night in order to keep her from waking up the entire campsite. I had to avoid emptying my bladder in the night - a very uncomfortable task, so that she wasn't rustled and disturbed. It was not fun.

Day 3 was glorious. We had summer weather with a fall foliage backdrop, and crystal clear blue skies. Our friends Leyla and Eric were also on a city getaway and joined us for a beautiful day of Ulster County exploration. Breathing deeply the clean country air, we treasured the bounty of an autumn harvest. With a brown bag full of heirloom tomatoes and a bundle of basil, plucked from Eric's brothers garden, we were off to a healthy start. We continued our food foraging in an organic 'minimally treated' apple orchard, making sure to sample the different varietals. Stella was ecstatic and full of energy, crawling through the tall grass at warp speed. I felt like we had plopped ourselves in the center of some idyllic pastoral painting. We also went to a nearby pumpkin patch and picked out our future jack o' lantern, assuming it can hold up for several weeks.

When living in a city like New York it is too easy to forget how much open space still exists outside of the congestion. I found our trip really rejuvenating. It affirmed in me a desire for openness and spacial freedom. I'm looking forward to many happy returns, and a taste of different seasons.


Blogger mrsgreen said...

Upon rereading my negative attitude about our camping trip, I realized that I really had not given my husband enough credit for the day.
In an attempt to write something funny, but not entirely accurate or unbiased, I only expressed what I thought was so wrong about the experience. Writing a public blog leaves much room for misinterpretation. In truth, Daniel had a positive attitude throughout the whole day. He had no problem with being in charge of the campsite and setting up all our gear. He honestly enjoys it. He had done all the work of packing the cooking supplies, sleeping bags, etc., and wanted Stella and I to be as comfortable as possible, actually offering the longer thermarest so that I could get a better night's sleep. The 'go with the flow' attitude about traveling has been BOTH of our mottos as long as we have been together, and we have always managed to keep things positive, and still enjoy ourselves during those moments that would make other people crack. He balances out my rough edges, and stays positive when I dip low. I was embarrassingly impatient and snappy, but Daniel never caught the cranky bug or got angry back at me.... this is why I know we are a good match. This is in truth why he is my best friend and partner.

10:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Camping is fun

8:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

After reading your camping experience, I couldn't help but remember the first camping trip we had with Dan. (In fact it probably was the only camping trip we ever did.) I believe he was 7 or 8 months old and we were still in Spain. Went with another couple who had a VW camper with the sleeping compartment over the driver's seat and your father-in-law had no problem putting Dan in that sling. Well, not being the understanding person that you are with Dan, I pitched a fit. He won the first round, deciding to try it out. Well, I was up all night checking on Dan to make sure he wasn't going to roll off. A night of no sleep he decided to find a place to stay with real beds. I give you both a lot of credit to venture out with a little one. How times have changed.
Mom G.

6:48 PM  

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