The Catskills

April 23, 2015

We survived the night in Albany but I can tell you it was an early start back on the road. With the Catskills in our future, we headed out after I fortified myself with a hastily assembled waffle sandwich, or as I have come to know them: a wafflewich. The man behind the counter looked a bit confused as I smeared peanut butter all over my waffles but in my head I’m like “I’m getting out of here before someone wants to wear my skin”. And to be honest it’s good and a very convenient way to start the day as you try to put some distance on the road.

Normally I walk the dogs as soon as we wake up but given our location, I held off for a bit and I’m glad that I did because we found the Greenport Conservation Area which gave us a great chance to stretch our legs.

We drove a little further until we got into the mountains proper.  Our first hike stop was just off the 23a and was some of the most treacherous and rugged terrain I had ever hiked. Most trail systems I’ve been on have clearly marked trails for safety and to avoid damage to the ecosystem. This bit was like “oh you want some mountains? Here you go. Good luck”. Who knew the bouldering I did last winter would actually have practical applications. It was a relatively short but intense hike through some absolutely gorgeous land and thanks to my superior tracking skills we emerged right where the car was. It occurred to me after we got back to the car that it wasn’t really a proper trail but one of those trails that lead off the road and then becomes an animal track.


Then we drove a little bit longer and stumbled on the find of the century!!! There on the outskirts of the town of Shandaken, was a dog park with an agility centre. Amazing. The dogs tore around there until a blizzard blew in so back in the car we went. 


After the snow stopped we found another trail and wandered through there for a bit.
With tired dogs dragging behind me we returned to the car and began the drive to Allentown Pennsylvania which is where our room for the night was booked.

The 209 took us most of the way and I have to admit it has been the prettiest road so far. I stopped at this little place called Cherrys Deli for a peanut butter sundae. I ate it before I even thought of a pic. Soooooooo goooooooood. I had a wonderful discussion with the young man working the counter.  He was maybe 16 years but surprisingly knowledgeable about politics.  We actually talked for quite some time about the Canadian healthcare system and how it compared to Obamacare and his wanting to move to Canada.  Not what I expected when I stopped.


A bit further down the road and I saw a sign that said gourmet cheese. Tell me: how do I not stop? I ended up with a container of chicken matzo soup for dinner tonight and some local Brie and a fiery pepperoni that I’m going to save for a picnic.


We spent the night at The View Inn. After last night it was been a beacon of clean and comfort. All in all a fabulous day on the road.

The Adirondacks

April 22, 2015

The day dawned cool and overcast and after a leisurely walk around the hotel, I ran into the first minor complication that came with my travelling friends.  As I would soon learn, most if not all hotels have a clause that you not leave the dogs in the room unattended.  The biggest problem with that was then going to the restaurant to make the most of my complimentary breakfast.  Now that I think about it, it’s really not complimentary since I’m sure I covered the cost with my hotel fee.  I’m sure this has occurred to others before me so I will continue on.  I stopped in the lobby to chat with the manager who was absolutely in love with the dogs and she waved aside my concerns and told me to come back for some food.

As we were talking an older couple had to get in on the dog love.  During the conversation,  I asked if there was anywhere that I had to visit in and around the Adirondacks.  He suggested Cranberry Lake and warned me that there would not be anyone around.  Great.  There’s no cell service.  Even better.  If you get into trouble, you’re on your own.  Perfect.  He seemed to be very confused by my excited reaction.  After a rushed buffet breakfast, we packed up the car and headed towards mountains.

Road Trip 2015-spring edition 023

Leaving Watertown

The sky stayed grey as we wound our way through the increasingly hilly terrain.  Finally we came to the Brandy Brook Trail at Cranberry Lake.  And it started to rain.  It wasn’t too bad, an intermittent spattering; hardly enough to climb back into the car.

Road Trip 2015-spring edition 044

We were here

True to his word, we did not see another person as we hiked the trails around that lake.  It was not quite as rugged as I had expected; in fact it reminded me a lot of Algonquin Park. The trail was very well-marked and there was no danger of getting lost.  I didn’t even find any parts that were particularly hazardous aside from the few boggy patches.  The trail was covered with leaves and as I was enjoying the solitude I didn’t notice some of the leaves were a little less stable until I sank ankle deep into a puddle.  Well that was great.

Road Trip 2015-spring edition 036

There’s something out there

The rain would turn to snow and then back to rain.  When it started to get a bit later, we turned around to go back to the car.  As we sat there waiting for the heat to kick in, I realized that we had been gone for about five hours.  The dogs were asleep in no time…as usual.

The time came then to find a hotel room.  I had decided that I would use an app to find cheap hotels and when we finally got to a place with cell service, I started looking.  I found a motel that I thought would do the trick just outside of Albany.  Now here dear reader, I have a bit of a dilemma: do I mention the hotel and gloss over some of the details of our stay? Or do I deliver a no holds barred account of without mentioning this fine establishment to avoid any, shall we say, issues?

For entertainment purposes, just this once, I think I shall withhold the name.  I should have walked away as soon as I parked the car but I didn’t want to jump to any rash decisions.  And I was tired from hiking all day.  And it was raining and all I wanted was to have a long shower and climb into bed.  I walked into the lobby and there on the counter was a sign saying no pets.  Huh.  I had quite the discussion when I told the man working that this online site had said the place was dog-friendly.  Eventually I got the key to my room and had my first experience with a motel.

Now rain and darkness do not do much to help with the appearances of many places and this was no exception.  It was like something from a movie it was so surreal.  I half expected to hear power tools going or see vats of chemicals being wheeled in to “dispose” of things.

I got the dogs into the room and started taking stock of what I had picked for the night.  Now I probably should have done that before I cracked into the bottle because the more I looked, the more I wanted to leave.  It was so bad I actually called the app people to complain; first about the rating and second about the issue with the dogs.

The operator was quite kind but unfortunately there were no other hotels in the area that were even close to where we were.  So I could suck it up or try and find something on my own.

Well that’s just great.  By this time it was getting pretty late so I just decided to accept it as part of the adventure and try to touch as few things as possible.  The moral of this story: not all two stars are created equal.

I ordered a pizza from a local joint and after it was delivered, I used my pack and anything else I could find to barricade the door before shoving as much of that cheesy goodness down my throat.

By the time I crawled into bed it was getting close to midnight.  I set my alarm for 6:00 and fell asleep listening for…well…anything

Road Trip 2015-spring edition 048

Piper keeping watch

Road Trip 2015-spring edition 047

Possibly my last meal?

 

The trip that started it all

Up until recently, travel had always been about a destination.  You go somewhere, spend time there, and go home.  A flight or a drive are just a means to an end.  I would have every tiny detail planned from the roads I would take to the places I would stay, even places to eat.

Then in April 2015, I suddenly found myself with two whole weeks of vacation time.  It’s not that I had forgotten about it, I just lost track of time.  It was too good an opportunity to pass up and sit at home; I do enough of that anyway.

So my options were to book a flight to some sunny beach and fry in the sand or throw the dogs in the car and hit the road.  Guess which one I picked?  At the time my pack was Jack and Piper; Leo didn’t enter the picture for a few more months.  They had done trips with me to visit family in Manitoba which is a trip that I usually do in two days, three if the weather is nice so I was not concerned about how they would behave in the car or in strange places.

With no destination in mind, no route, no planned stops, no research on attractions or points of interest we left the house during the early hours of April 21, 2015.  I had packed my camping gear hoping that as we drove, we’d be able to drive out of the rain and snow. I had the general idea to land at the east coast somewhere but that was a very loose idea.

To make things fun, I came up with a set of rules for the road:
1. No serious destination plans
2. Avoid interstates as much as possible
3. NO CHAIN RESTAURANTS
4. Road trip bottle is Forty Creek (more on the road trip bottle later)
5. Stop whenever I want

When we left home we started heading west and crossed the border at Lewiston.  I had never been to Lewiston and when that was the first border crossing I saw, well that was the one I took.  On a side note: when you’re crossing the border and they ask where you’re going, “wandering”, “wherever I end up”, and “wherever the wind blows” are bad answers to give.  Now normally I have no problem talking to people in positions of authority but there’s something about crossing into another country and suddenly I’m a babbling fool.


I drove the smaller roads back east and stumbled onto Lakeside State Park. I imagine it’s a zoo when it’s warm but it was deserted when we were there.  It was a small park and windy and the sun was shining and it was perfect.  It was just what I needed when I needed it and it put me in such a good mood; it was the best way to have started the trip.

11164671_421771997989528_8581842488015143438_n

Lakeside State Park April 21, 2015

We were going to put in at Syracuse but when I looked at a map (for the first time) we continued to Watertown which put us much closer to launch to the Adirondack Mountains. I knew that the Adirondacks were close but apparently my geography needs a lot of work because if we had gone east and crossed at Kingston, well, we would have been there that day.

With Fort Drum just outside the town, I expected at the least maybe a little look my way. Nope. Apparently they like their girls German and four-legged.  Piper was loving every second of it.  My self esteem? Who needs it?

It actually took us forever to get anywhere because everyone had to stop and play with the dogs.  We went for a stroll around town and walked to a local restaurant to get some seriously good grub.  Watertown has some of the nicest people, from the folks at the restaurant who brought my food out to me where I was waiting with the dogs to the manager at the Best Western that we stayed at for the night.  And some of the old buildings were absolutely gorgeous to look at.

Now about that bottle. I’m not sure how I came up with the idea, whether it was something that I had heard or read or just made up on my own but the idea is simply this: when you put in for the night, you toast to the day’s safe travels.  The road trip bottle must last the duration of the trip.  It has to be sealed when you stop for your first night and you have to finish it when you get home.  It has to be something that does not have to be chilled and you can drink straight because you never know where you might be stopping and it’s a pain to have to worry about mix.

Now I’m not always a sound sleeper.  In fact there are times when I’m lucky to get a few hours at a time.  That night, after a wonderful day on the road and snuggled up with my dogs, I slept like a log.

1510025_421772011322860_1761861841875232445_n

Family selfie. The dogs are confused about why they have to stand still

 

First an introduction

Who are the AdventureDawgs?  Quite simply it is my way of combining three things I love the most: my dogs, travelling, and food.  Road trips have almost become extinct which is quite sad when you think about it.  Sure you fly somewhere and you have a bit more time to explore, but what about the journey?  What ever happened to watching the world change all around you?  To stopping when you want to where you want to even if you have only been on the road for an hour?  To finding a little diner that only the locals know about because you actually (gasp) talked to them?

I’m lucky that my dogs love to travel as much as I do, whether it’s a short drive down the road to hit some trails or a multi-week cross country trek.

And so without further ado, allow me to introduce the real stars of these tales:

Jack is a ten year-old Boston Terrier-Pug cross.  He used to belong to my brother but when he had his boys he didn’t have as much time for Jack.  So I took him.  I knew he and Piper got along so there would be no problems there.  He is definitely a big dog trapped in a little dog body.  I’m not sure if that’s the Pug or the Boston or super-sized because of both.  And while he may look a little, shall we say portly, he is surprisingly athletic and can hike mountains all day long.  Of course he’s also happy to sit in front of the fire all day long too.

Piper is almost six years old now.  I’ve had her since she was a tiny seven week old puppy.  I tell people that she picked me and they laugh that indulgent laugh and think I’m just weird.  When I went to meet Piper’s litter, she and six of her litter mates were running around in a yard.  Piper would play and then come and visit me.  I scratched her and then ignored her.  She would go and play and sniff and then come back to hang out with me.  Then she left again and I said to myself “if she comes back again I’m taking a puppy home”.  Sure enough, back she came and then home we went.

Leo is the most recent addition to the pack and his joining was unexpected to say the least.  His owner had passed away and the family was not able to take him.  I looked at that little shivering body and could not let him go to a shelter so I offered to take him.  The plan was just to hang onto him so the family could find someone.  I mean, here’s this dog I’ve never met.  I have no history on him besides the fact that he’s a three year-old Boston Terrier, no way of knowing how he would behave with other dogs or cats (oh yeah I have three of those too), nothing.  He was asleep in my car in no time flat and when I walked him into the house, Piper and Jack came to meet me at the door.  There was the obligatory sniffs and such and that was it.  It was like “Oh hi new guy.  So here is the water bowls and the couch is over here and there’s plenty of space on the bed which is this way”.  A short time later the family got in touch with me and said they couldn’t take Leo back.  I’m not embarrassed to say that I was thrilled.  I would have really missed the little monster.  He is truly the pesky little brother.

And me?  Well let’s just call it what it is: I’m the chauffeur, financier, and chef.

Now that the introductions are out of the way, the real fun can begin.

IMG_3474

Jack looking for treats

DSC00129

Leo trying to look innocent

IMG_4235

Piper looking majestic