It turns out, after talking to one of the neighbors, I am closer to the bathroom than I knew. There are facilities right by the office, a stone’s throw away. Another road rule, “ask about the camp specifics before you leave the office.” Oh well, at least I was getting my steps in for the day as I dashed up the hill. The morning started with lake fog, the shore obscured by its cloud. I cooked eggs with Mabel wandering the length I allowed on her lead. Normally she has 30 feet but these sites were close so I cut her back by half. She goes right to the end regardless of the amount I give her. Its NY or bust today and one way or another I will rest my head in the Empire State. The article they wrote about Mabel and me in the Express came out in yesterday’s edition. I cautiously read it on-line, sort of afraid at what I would see. This trip is not a recreation and I wanted to make sure it wasn’t billed as one, it’s just me using Steinbeck as a guide for my own trip. They did a nice job and captured what I am trying to do, neat to see the two of us on the front page.
I spoke with a man from the end of the road, his spot is on a point that juts into the lake. Prime Real Estate! He liked the camper but his dog was non-committal with mabel. The site is booked a year in advance and I can see why. Another example of the rituals/customs involved with RVing.
The neighbor lady next to us has been at the campground long enough to know people; greet them as they walk by and even ask a personal question or two. My way of camping doesn’t allow for this, I am usually staying one night, not enough time to form a relationship that allows to ask how the grand kids are doing. It would be nice to stay permanent for a little while, not having to pack up after it feels like we just unpacked. But this trip is not about permanence, its more about shedding the routine for the different and a new campsite each night is different. She looks like she is an experienced camper, the site is neat and they are well equipped. As we talk she explains the site on the point used to be theirs when she visited with her late husband. His family has been coming to the camp since when it first became a camp. There is a twinge of sadness in her voice and I can understand. The rituals/traditions represent normalcy, a pattern to your life. This little bit of normalcy is gone, but the implications are so much more for her. I find out her oldest is going off to college this month, Pre-Med, and she sounds excited about leaving for her first year. More optimism about the future! It’s good to see, especially now-a-days.
We pull out and head west on Route 105 with the road taking us close to Canada. I think of Gen. Passing through Derby Center and Newport eventually turning onto 78 at Sheldon Junction. This is typical Vermont, small farms, rolling hills, and happy cows. We stopped to get a picture of a bridge, pulling into the parking lot of a small farm store. I went inside, figuring I should since I used their parking lot and picked up some real Vermont Maple Syrup to see how it compares with the product from our neck of the woods. A window at the back of the store allows you to view a very sanitary room and watch the making of cheese. I felt like I was at the State Fair. Paying the girl wearing a NY Yankees shirt for what included maple syrup candy I figured we are closing in on the border. Around 3:00 we crossed the bridge into Rouses Point and will start our journey South along the East Coast. It will be HWY 9 for a while, sandwiched between Interstate 87 and the Hudson River. Mabel needs some exercise so we stop at a school to use their fields. She has a blast chasing the ball and burning off energy. A school takes on a different character as they lay fallow in the summer. You can sense their need for purpose as they wait to be useful again. The village of Chazy lets us know it holds the largest McIntosh orchard in the world and I consider stopping. The mention of Honeycrisp reminding me of home (developed by the University of Minnesota!)
Plattsburgh is a city I have only heard of with friends attending SUNY Plattsburgh or stationed at the old Air Force base, now closed. We decide to see some of the city and I find a place to park the car and trailer. Armed with my camera and a sense of adventure we walked past restaurants that were just starting to come to life. I even passed the portal to the Hogwarts Express.
At the McDonough Memorial, a tribute to the war of 1812 Naval Battle of Plattsburgh, I have probably the most interesting conversation of the trip. A young black woman was sitting at the picnic table eating dinner when she asks, “Do you live here?” I thought my attire screamed middle age tourist but maybe I did a decent job on today’s wardrobe choices. I answered “No” but used this as a segway into conversation. She is from the Bronx, a Senior at Plattsburgh, and told me “I figured out I am doing what I should be doing but instead it should be in New York City.” “So, are you leaving?” I asked. “No, I’ll finish the year and then leave.” Wispy and with a slight enthusiasm she continued that at one point she wanted to be a Doctor but didn’t like the science. She changed after taking an intro class to Womans’ Studies, her new major. “What can you do with it?”, I ask nonconfrontational. “Nothing,” she replies “but it makes me a better person.” I think back on some of the college professors I had and how they viewed the University as a shiny beacon of knowledge on top of the hill. They would have liked her answer, me I am not so sure what to think. On one hand, it’s good that she feels she is becoming a better person from it, but on the other, this enlightenment is coming at a substantial cost and are there alternatives to academia that provide the same results? I was a business major so school was all about getting a job, maybe I missed out because of taking that point.
We continue talking and she explains she learned the golden rule from her boyfriend and it has made a great difference in her life. She asks if I love my wife, “of course” I respond and she asks if we ever get tired of each other. “Every relationship has its ups and downs” I explain, “but at the end of the day you just don’t see yourself without that person in your life.” “My idea of love comes from romance novels,” she answers. “Not reality,” is my response. The conversation has run its course so Mabel and I exit but I wonder how she will do in her final year.
Wanting to reach Ticonderoga, the Fort looks interesting, we continue South on HWY 9. I gassed up on the outskirts of Ticonderoga and ask for camping recommendations. The clerk left his register, a customer waiting to pay, so he could show me where to go on one of the store’s maps. Roger’s Rock State Park is the destination, farther out of town than expected, but the clerk’s landmarks hold true. They accepted Mabel’s tags for proof of a rabies vaccination and we were across the road in a fairly primitive site (no hook ups) and settled in for the night. It was a cool night for sleeping, just what we wanted.