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Once upon a time my Dad listened to the Kingston Trio and CSNY.

He has since become so right-wing my mother won’t let him talk politics in the house, because she knows she’ll wind up kicking him out of the bedroom. So I was bit surprised, to say the least, when they announced that they wanted to visit the Woodstock Museum in Bethel, NY when they come up next weekend.

It’s a 2.5 hour drive (ish) so I’d love to break up the trek with a few cool stops along the way.

I hear there’s amazing ruggelah in Sullivan County.

Anyone have suggestions?


We fled the city for the Great Sacandaga Lake this weekend. Funny thing about camping, though – kinda hard when you forget the tent. Thankfully the new car, aka the Multibeast (it’s apparently a Phish thing, it’s not my car, don’t ask me) fits two and a dog with the seats down.

Our first order of camping business – two camp chairs, a book (me), the NYT (him), and nothing to do otherwise but nap. It was a lovely few hours. We roused ourselves to walk the lake front with the pup and finagled a canoe for a bit. Sadly, it seems the Great Green Grill has passed on to camper heaven – a leak was sprung, and all we could do was mourn and try cooking over a fire. Note to self: broccoli and fake chicken strips do not fireplace food make.

We snagged fishing gear, and the next morning a canoe, but sadly no fish. Pup had her first jaunt on the water, and thankfully was so nervous she stood stock still. Mostly. Except for the times she tried to put her nose in our laps as we paddled. Which was about as successful as one could imagine.

We stayed at the Northampton Beach DEC campground (a moment of appreciation here for the Brady Bunch-era photos on the site – nice trunks!) Many people brought bikes and that seemed like a swell idea . It really is a beautiful Adirondack lake, although not really, since it’s a man-made reservoir. But the views of trees and mountains all around are lovely, no matter who created the water. From Albany, you either drive to north to Amsterdam and cut right, or to Saratoga and cut left (literally – you drive to the heart of town and turn at the Starbucks). A friend has a family camp on the northern end, and I’m crossing my fingers I’ll get to go later this summer.

PS If you drive the Saratoga route, there’s the greatest general store ever on the way to the lake. Sorry, I don’t remember the name. I love it because of the cheese and the cranky lady behind the counter. She sells all of the old-fashioned candy my parents sent me at sleep away camp – but she hates children. It’s highly entertaining. She makes her own cheese so good she limits the packages you can buy on a single trip. She’s got a wheel of it on the counter she cuts to order, covered with a lid attached to string, a pulley and a water-filled milk bottle so delicately balanced a drop would change it. It’s a fascinating bit of physics. If she doesn’t yell at you for standing there staring at her for too long.

My mother’s friend Dana has very specific tastes. She lives two and a half hours from Baltimore and DC, and refused to stop at any but a handful of specific gas stations whose bathrooms were deemed acceptable, or at least not quite as bad as the rest of ’em. This is how I became, at a young age, a pit stop snob.

Cleanliness doesn’t bother me. I want food not involving a bun, strong coffee and easy in, easy out. Hard to find all three at once, but I try. We all need goals.

The rules:

1. Any stop without gas is pointless.

2. The Ulster rest stop is exactly as far as I can go if I have a morning coffee in Albany before leaving. They have a lovely summer farmer’s mini-market come June.

3. The Plattekill rest stop is exactly as far as I can go if I have a morning coffee in Brooklyn before leaving. They have hands-down the best food stop on either stretch, a Cafe with a full bakery spread, sandwiches, surprisingly large salads and very thin crust personal pizzas. I haven’t tried the latter, but they look really good, which isn’t something one often says about rest stop food.

4. The Modena rest stop on the other side has a dangerously leaky roof (car-sized puddles so big I wondered if a roof that porous would stay up long). However, the bathrooms on the second floor are only a few feet from the top of the parking deck, the quickest pit stop by far. Very important.

5. The Thruway Web site is no help. Though they do point out a Denny’s in Angola near the PA line I-90, which makes me jealous.

Sometimes we travel for sad reasons. My grandmother passed away last week – she of the Bubby’s Mandlebrot fame. It was a long, lonely drive to Baltimore. My mother and I agree that it wasn’t tragic, though. She was almost 96, lived all but her last 24 hours in her own apartment (never needing assisted living) and basically went to sleep in a hospital bed with her daughter and her two best friends beside her.

Leaving Baltimore was tough. I found myself dawdling at Panera, finding an excuse to check email one more time, procrastinating getting on the road. Bubby was the last of her generation still in Baltimore. Everyone else lives in the suburbs or Florida now. The city was such a part of family lore. My first car trips as a child were to her apartment. We weren’t natives, but we weren’t tourists either. Now that’s Bubby’s not there to visit anymore, does that change our status?

Bubby took me on my first overseas trip – Israel when I was 15. She always wondered where I got my journalism skills from – despite knowing everyone in Jewish Baltimore and writing copious letters to everyone who was ever related to anyone she knew. She even started keeping journals and memoirs nine years ago. We found some dozen notebooks. I’ll transcribe them this summer, I hope. I know there’s a lovely essay in all of this, probably more than one.

I’ll post more thoughts as they come.