7/02/04 Geneseo to Jason’s, Spencertown NY

We were off by 8:15 , down the drive, and out by way of our regular Canandaigua back-road-route. However, once we got to Canandaigua, we headed N to piece together a series of little roads between 5&20 and the Thruway. Not an easy task. Nonetheless, we eventually ended up in Montezuma NWR. Hey, we can’t do a trip without going to a wildlife refuge, right?


Montezuma was surprisingly rewarding. We got to see baby coots, baby grebes, a morehen, some ruddy ducks, and a glossy ibis. Oh, there were also bunches of other things like Canadas , mallards, seagulls and black terns, which reminded us of ND. That memory faded fast once we got to the part of the refuge bordering the Thruway. Good lord, there were tons of vacationers interspersed with every kind of truck imaginable. Glad we are not on THAT road.


We bit the bullet and took 5&20 to Skaneateles to get around the last of the Finger Lakes before dropping down to NY-80. We had noticed this road before, wanted to check it out and this seemed like a good time to do so. NY-80 was a very good road, so we took it all the way to Cooperstown . In Cooperstown , we needed to string together some roads to get to a bridge over the Hudson . We considered going up toward Albany and getting on I-90, but it was approaching rush hour on a Friday before a major holiday weekend. We settled for crossing near Hudson … again. The part of Hudson traversed by this route is awful. Apparently, there is a much better side of Hudson , but we have yet to see it. Anyway, Janie patched together a string of good roads all the way to Jason’s.


Our other routes to Jason’s were about 300 miles, but this one was a bit shorter, so we arrived a full hour earlier than we had expected. Jason had just finished his afternoon run and follow up dip in the pond, so he was standing in the kitchen putting the final preparations on the evening’s hors d’oeuvres buck naked (or so we were told). While we found a level spot for RVan, J had just enough time to dash upstairs and cover himself. The 3 of us met in the drive, about halfway between the house and RVan. Yay! We were at Jason’s again. Let the good times roll, eh?


Jason’s house is a mile back a private road. It sits on the shoulder of a hill with three ponds about a hundred yards in the valley below. The entire lot is heavily wooded and carpeted with fern and woodland flowers. We sat up shop out on Jason’s porch overlooking the ponds. Jason’s place is a marvel of quiet serenity. At least it is for guests. I imagine Jason looks out and sees thing that should be done, just like I do at Naweedna. We visitors look out and see what has been done: grass mowed, trees pruned, ponds glistening in the evening sun. The weather was spectacular. The setting was perfect. The company was wonderful and promised to get even better when TIM O’MARA arrives.


We sat, talked, dipped bread into fresh, garlic-laden baba ghannouj, and drank some fine beer (Left Hand, as I recall). Shortly after our second beer, we heard the sound of car wheels on a gravel road – thanks Lucinda. It was TimO arriving in his brand new car. I didn’t realize Tim was driving up from Tampa where he has been keeping himself busy rebuilding his garage while on furlough from American Airlines. You see, amazing as it may seem, TimO is a pilot for AA – no, the other AA; the one that flies airplanes, so I just assumed he would be catching a ride and getting a rental. Tim had been one of those NOAA hurricane hunter pilots before deciding to retire and start a second career with an airline. The downturn in the economy resulted in his being furloughed, but he expects to be called back shortly, and in the meantime … hey, why not do a little catastrophic carpentry and drive to NY to meet up with a friend he hasn’t seen for several years?


20040702-01-JanieJasonTomO.jpg (82639 bytes) 20040702-02-OnThePorch.jpg (109383 bytes) 20040702-03-OnThePorch.jpg (99702 bytes) After big hugs and appropriate greetings, we gathered again on the porch. The conversation, beer and baba ghannouj flowed freely until dinnertime when Jason presented us with a blue-gorgonzola-feta-roasted pepper pasta dish followed by home-made elderberry pie. Oh my, every one of our friends is a gracious host – and talented cook. We are blessed for sure. Time passed quickly as we socialized. None of us is as young as we used to be (duh), so discretion – and the memory of too many late nights – resulted in our turning in around midnight . 


7/03/04 Jason’s, Spencertown NY

We awoke … at a civilized time … and sat around the dining room table having our morning beverages and talking. There was a lot of talking going on, but, hey, we haven’t all been together for eight years, so there was a lot to catch up on. Both Tim and Jason are “characters” so there were lots of stories interlaced with jokes and remember-the-Seinfeld-episode sorts of things. We covered nearly all the common culture from Mary Tyler Moore to Michael Moore. Whew! It was a continuous barrage of this, that, and the other thing. Somewhere in the middle of all the talking and coffee drinking, Jason whipped up a batch of blueberry pancakes, and we chowed down like landed gentry, which, of course, we are not.


I don’t remember exactly when, but some time during the morning Jason’s friend, Chris, arrived. Eventually, the 5 of us got organized for a hike around Jason’s 4.5 mile loop running and biking trail. It was great fun for all, especially TimO. Tim is pretty fed up with living in the tropics and wants to return to his native Northeast (he’s from Baldwinsville). The walk through the woods reminded Tim what he was missing living down there in FL. Sure, FL is good over the winter months, but the summers are oppressive – and don’t get him started on the termites, ants, cockroaches ... Hell, Tim even seems willing to put up with the ominous presence of deer ticks and the potential for contracting the Lyme disease many of them carry.


After our hike, Tim & Jason did a little fishing in the ponds. Tim caught a fairly large bass (17.75 inches, or so we were told), but being the wonderful human he is, released it back into the friendly confines of its home pond. While they fished, I busied myself ripping thirty or so CDs that Chris was kind enough to “loan” me. I also acquired a few more of Jason’s and some Tim had brought along for the drive. I returned the favor by giving Tim a set of the Naweedna CDs and Jason got 3 jazz mixes I put together for him. Chris got a heart-felt thank you and a firm hand shake.


After cleaning up a bit, it was time to head for Tanglewood. Jason had procured PHC tickets for all of us AND he had made a wonderful picnic dinner for us to enjoy before and during the performance. We gathered on the lawn with a few thousand of the best PHC-loving friends we’ve never met and had a most agreeable time. Jason presented us with Genoa salami and smoked cheese followed by tomato pasta & spinach rollups with pesto sauce (Jason showed them to us before they were cut and told us they were cow spleens – ever the jester, that one). Ah, but that wasn’t all. There was also a most delightful BBQ chicken pie, and of course, some very fine brew. We were all giddy with the gastronomic delights and camaraderie.


As we were finishing up our eats, that bass voice came booming out of the speaker system. It was Garrison announcing the last live PHC program for the year. We sat and listened to the adventures of Guy Noir, the joyous music of Sam Bush and Pat Donahue, the very sensuous voice of Inga Sweringen, and the News From Lake Woebegone. This was my very first live PHC. What a thrill. We got home around ten and had plenty of time for a round of martinis (for them) and wine (for us) before turning in, once again, around midnight .


7/04/04 Jason’s, Spencertown NY

20040705-04-JasonJenn.jpg (68697 bytes) We repeated yesterday’s morning beverage routine. At some point, Jason went out to pick up a variety of fresh bagels and flavored cream cheeses – good and greatly appreciated. Shortly, Jenn, Jason’s main squeeze – currently known as Jenn, Jenn, Jenn, in honor of the other Jens, arrived around midday . After exchanging greetings, it was time to get out and do something. Jason, Jenn, and Chris decided to go for a bike ride. Janie, Tim, and I weren’t feeling the urge for physical exertion, so we all hopped in Tim’s new car and drove around looking at shit.


Tim is thinking of moving to NY or NH, so he was interested in the terrain and real estate. We started in Chatham , where Jason’s school is located. It is a quaint little New England-y village of a few thousand souls. Not much was open because of the holiday weekend, but the realtor had some booklets in a rack outside the office, so TimO picked up one or two. We walked around town looking at the architecture and talking about stuff. Tim was hungry and we were thirsty, so we stopped at the one eatery that was open. It was very busy, and it took a long time to get served. However, since we didn’t have anything in particular to do and just sitting and talking was cool, we weren’t the least bit upset.


After lunch, Tim decided he would like to see the Hudson River , so we headed west. We didn’t have the foresight to bring a map, so we had to use dead reckoning and the little sketch map in the real estate brochure. Although we were always “just off the map,” we eventually found our way to the river, got some gas, and were back at Jason’s just in time to clean up and head out for dinner.


Our ultimate destination was the Diana Krall concert at Tanglewood, but first, we needed to get some eats. A new pizzeria had opened in one of the villages on the way, so the plan was to grab some pizza before the concert. That is exactly what we did. We scarfed down two larges – hey, there were six of us, you know – and got to the concert right on time. This being the Fourth of July, there had been activities all day, so there were a lot more people there than last night. Tonight we had tickets for seats under the shed roof.


The opening act was a fairly young bluegrass-blues-folk-gospel group called Ollabelle, in honor of Olla Belle Reed. The lead female was Amy Helm, who is local and the daughter of Levon Helm of The Band fame. When Jason told us these facts, I didn’t get the reference to The Band, so I was wondering how he knew about Levon Helms of the Drifting Cowboys of Hank Williams and the Drifting Cowboys. Ah, the “s” makes all the difference, eh? Later, we realized it is Don Helmes of the Drifting Cowboys. Duh.


In a fog of giddiness, we had managed to leave Jason’s without a single pair of binoculars. We have three pair and a spotting scope in RVan, and Jason and Tim have at least one pair apiece. But we arrived without optical aid. I suppose you could say that the lack of visual stimulation forces us to use our auditory senses to a greater degree, but that really wasn’t necessary with the massive sound system in place.


Although held back by conventional mores, Krall is the logical extension of a long line of female jazz piano pounders and singers. The first, well-known one I’m familiar with is Mary Lou Williams, who started playing professionally in the late 20s. The next,  Marian McPartland, started her professional career in the 40s. To my knowledge, neither of these jazz pianists sang on their records, however.


Diana seems to be one of those talented piano players who sings reluctantly but of necessity because she is so damned good at it. Others that come to mind would be Mose Allison and Nat King Cole, both of whom, it seems, would rather be known as good jazz pianists than singers.


Whatever, the concert was very good. Diana is the real deal – an authentic jazz musician. She can take a simple tune like Don’t Fence Me In, as she did that evening, and turn it into a masterful tour de force of amazing virtuosity. And she sings divinely.

After the concert, we stayed to watch the fireworks display. That may have been a mistake because when it was over, there were several thousand people in an equal number of cars trying to get out of the very congested parking lots and onto the equally congested roads. When you park in an open field with one single-lane exit and no one to organize the evacuation, chaos ensues. Although I didn’t time it, we certainly were confined to the parking lot for well over an hour. Then we were forced to turn left, taking us into Lenox. Once again, we had no map, so we headed north, stopped once for directions, and eventually found our way back to Jason’s well after midnight .


We were determined to have our martinis, beer, and conversation, so we gathered around the dining room table and did those very things until a little after two. Yeah, that’s pretty late for us elderly people – age range from thirtys to sixty (guess who is the oldest) but this was our last night together, we were determined to make the best of it, and we did ;-)



I came away from the weekend with some general thoughts. First of all, we are blessed to have former students who are now our friends. The fact that our friendship goes back to their undergraduate days is testament to THEIR maturity – or OUR lack of it. Although our ages differ by ten to twenty years, they seem to enjoy our companionship as much as we do theirs. I always have the same thought when we have these gatherings: Who could have predicted this? Those of you who are reading these words are our family – our very extended family. You have gone from student to friend and are now family. No, I certainly would never have predicted such a transition, but count me among those who are very happy it happened.


We had never been to Tanglewood, and we don’t normally frequent such hallowed high-grounds. Although there were many of us occasional visitors, there were also many patrons of the arts in attendance. The regulars were well outfitted. They had their fine wines sloshing around in fancy goblets. None of them ate or drank any better than we did, but they seemed to act like they were. That got me to thinking about copious consumption and such.


Over the weekend I saw a great many middle-aged adults living a pretend life-style. By that I mean, they threw a wad of money at life-style trappings in an attempt to be something they probably aren’t. I was reminded of the passages I read in Raban’s book. He delineated how enterprises like Ralph Lauren created a perceived need for a validating pedigree and gladly supplied the adornments of patronage. The newly wealthy were more than willing to purchase the life style Lauren dictated. Did it buy them happiness or was it just an exercise in self-delusion?


On a humid, eighty-degree day I saw middle-aged men sheathed in leather pants trying to wrestle their Harley Hogs into narrow parking spaces. What price glory, I asked myself. I also pondered the question of how we must have appeared to them. Are we living an illusion also? Certainly, a different illusion, but are we also self-delusional? Whatever, the net result is conspicuous consumption on a grand scale.


As I sat there listening to my former students and current friends, I found myself wondering how we compare. We have our “trappings” just like those others. But I truly believe we define our possessions rather than the other way around. We have an internal spark, a life essence that burns brightly regardless of our environment. We are our own source of entertainment. We are our own result. Our possessions are an extension of us; they are not an “us” that we aspire to be. If you strip us of all our belongings, we are still resolutely and undeniably us; we are still easy to discern. We don’t buy skis so we can look like a skier. We buy skis so we can ski. We don’t buy bikes so we can look like bikers. Our “toys” are tools we use to develop an existing personality. Like they say, the secret to happiness is not in having what you want but wanting what you have. We have ourselves, and that seems to be enough in itself.


I suppose I’m being too critical. I know I’m over generalizing. But while I’m on this bandwagon, let me over generalize about another thing. It seems to me that we all have just so much potential for intellect and humanity. Some of the nicest, most humane people I know are not perceived to be especially intellectually gifted. On the other hand, some of the very brightest people I know are self-serving and inconsiderate. It just seems like you can’t have it both ways at the same time. The line is somewhat less than distinct because some smart people who happen to be equally nice tend to conceal their intellectual gifts. On the other hand, some very smart people tend not to have the necessary patience for the less gifted. However, based on my experiences, you don’t often see brilliance and humanity in the same package. I’ll take the first caller now ;-)


7/05/04 Jason’s, Spencertown NY to Little Pine State Park, PA

20040705-05-JanieChrisTimO.jpg (50882 bytes) After our morning beverages and leftover bagels, we did our group hug thing and headed out. Janie & I were headed to northern PA for some biking. Tim was going to his 30th HS reunion. Thus, we all headed down Jason’s lane leaving him and Jenn to entertain themselves … and probably release a big sigh now that the weekend is over. I’m sure they, like us, had strong feelings of regret: regret that it had to end, regret that it may never happen again, certainly not in exactly the same way. Ah, but time marches on and all things must end at some point. We hope we leave them with the same good memories that we are taking with us.


Janie navigated us through smallish back roads as we motored along toward Little Pine SP. We intended to ride the Pine Creek trail, which extends some forty miles between two state parks – Little Pine is on the southern end. We arrived mid-evening, secured a campsite, dumped our tanks, and settled in for a quiet evening of reminiscing about the weekend’s events.


7/06/04 Little Pine State Park, PA

We were up and on the trail a little after 9. It was a great day, although a bit on the warm side. We headed north from the Waterville parking area. Our intention was to do the lower third of the trail today and then do the middle third tomorrow. What about the upper third? Well, that is the most developed and surrounded by state parks that offer horse-drawn wagon rides down the trail. We did that part last year and weren’t too impressed with the number of people and condition of the trail where the horses had chewed it up.


The ride was so glorious that we just kept going and going. We eventually ended up at Rattlesnake Rocks parking area some 24 miles along the trail. We stopped there to check out the parking for tomorrow’s ride. Ah, but first, we have to finish today’s ride. That means heading back down the 24 miles to the other end where RVan is parked. We have this tradition when hiking and biking. We go out until we are half tired and then turn around. This time, we had violated our half tired dictum. We were half done and we were three-fourths tired. Oh well, what else we got to do, eh?


Our ride back was a little faster, a lot hotter, and increasingly painful. My butt was getting kinda sore, and Janie’s was feeling “the burn” in her thighs. We eventually limped into the parking area after covering 48 miles in eight hours ( 5:45 hrs of actual biking time). It was a great experience, even if we did overdo it a bit. However, we were more than a little concerned about tomorrow’s outing. A couple beers and a good nights rest should go a long way toward healing our aching bodies.


7/07/04 Little Pine State Park, PA to County Bridge Campground PA

The morning found us moving a bit slower than usual. I fully expected Janie’s legs to be sore, like my butt, but, amazingly, she seemed to be just fine. We broke camp and headed to the Rattlesnake Rocks parking area. Once there, we lotioned up, dressed, and prepared the bikes for another day on the trail. Fortunately, neither of us was suffering much from yesterday’s over-indulgence, so we were looking forward to another nice long ride. It was about then that fate trumped out lack of common sense.


About 5 miles up the trail, at the Blackwell gate, there was the dreaded sign. the bane of back road travelers – and trial bikers: Road Closed. A little sign attached to one of the gate posts said the Pine Creek trail was being resurfaced from Ansonia to Blackwell. After duly considering our options, we decided to ignore the Road Closed sign and forge onward. That decision was greeted by 4 large dump trucks rumbling down the trail – and occupying its full width. Shortly after the dump trucks passed, we were greeted by a pickup driven by none other than our old friend, Mr. Weldon.


We had first learned about the Pine Creek trail through a chance encounter with Mr. Weldon on the Ghost Town trail. Now, he sat there in his brown pickup telling us, in no uncertain terms, that the trail is closed and we would have to turn back. When Mr. Weldon tells you to turn back, you better turn back, so we complied. It was probably for the better because our bodies really didn’t need another day’s abuse. So we only got ten miles in when we had hoped to get thirty. So be it – let’s take the lemons and make some lemonade.


Janie had read about some Pennsylvania state forest campsites that were free – if you can find ‘em. One of them even had a dump station. Okay, we have the rest of the day to explore, so off we went toward the one with the dump station. We had to backtrack along one of the roads we drove in on two days ago, but it was a fine country road, so that was okay. We got to the place in the early afternoon, had lunch, and were faced with the dilemma of what to do next. Home was three or four hours away, and if we headed home, we would arrive in the evening. If we stayed the night, we could expect to get home around noon the next day. We eventually decided to stay the night and spend the rest of the day reading and relaxing in a nice quiet campsite. Well, it was quiet until the thunder storms came rolling in.


I finished Songcatcher by Mickey Hart and start a book we had borrowed from Jason’s personal Lending Library: Howard Frank Mosher – Northern Borders. We don’t have a tradition of spending a lot of time in camp, so this was a novel experience. I think it might be something we will continue to develop: manatee days on the road … do nothing all day and rest up afterwards.


7/08/04 County Bridge Campground PA to Geneseo

As expected, we arrived at Naweedna around noon . That gave us the rest of the day to unload and clean up RVan, go get the mail, and have an evening beverage on the porch. Yeah, a much better solution than dragging in later in the day and trying to cram that activity into a couple hours.


Although we didn’t get to do as much biking as planned, we did squeeze the best out of what we were afforded … and … we are left with a desire to do more. We are now planning the rest of the summer and early fall’s excursions: another bike trip into PA and WV and a NE trip to bike Acadia . Yeah, this retirement thing seems to be working out pretty well. We recommend it ;-)