to Fulton County
Saturday, August 11 2012
location: rural Hurley Township, Ulster County, New York
Today was the day that Gretchen and I would be driving up to the Adirondacks with our three dogs for a week in a house on the shore of a lake. But when I checked my email this morning, it was clear that the vacation, such as it was, would have a halting arrival. I found myself having to do some last-minute web development, which is the worst kind of web development to find one's self doing.
Our destination would be in Fulton County near the southernmost point in Adirondack State Park. Albany lay about half way there, and today we took the opportunity to visit Albany's brand new Trader Joes, which had only been open for a week. Trader Joes is our favorite grocery store, and, since they cannot be found in the Hudson Valley, we take pains to visit them whenever we're in places where they exist (Danbury, Connecticut; Silver Spring, Maryland; Manhattan; and Route 17, New Jersey). The fact that there is now one in Albany gives us a good reason to visit there; back before Kingston got a good Indian restaurant, one of our main reasons for visiting Albany was to eat quality Indian food. Since we planned to visit Trader Joes in a week's time, today's shopping spree was mostly for buying groceries for the coming week. Somehow we ended up spending over $160 for a single cart full of corn chips, IPAs, bread, pasta, organic greens, and various forms of prepared food.
To get to Fulton County, we took the Thruway west from Albany for about thirty miles and then turned northward on Route 30A through the rather shabby rust belt cities of Johnstown and Gloversville (whose combined populations are less than Kingston's twenty five thousand). Ultimately we drove to the tiny hamlet of Bleecker, which is the Township seat for the otherwise hamlet-free Township of Bleecker. The house we'd be staying at was on Lake Edward (which Google Maps insists on calling Vandenburgh Pond) on its own private cape (43.118168N, 74.366246W). For some reason the house had two garages (both of which were locked and their contents made invisible).
After parking, we found that a teenage girl was inside vacuuming, evidently cleaning up after the last occupant. The house was a big sprawling affair with four bedrooms, a half-finished basement, and a fully weatherized porch with a view of the lake that would have been spectacular had half the windows not been rendered semi-opaque from blown seals. The house was cluttered with all manner of objects: jigsaw puzzles, televisions (with working cable), old stereos, dusty plastic floral arrangements, and white trash furniture (including at least one seat removed from a minivan and placed on a makeshift plywood platform). Everything looked cheap and vaguely depressing, in a way that reminded me of my mother's trailer at Creekside (near Staunton, Virginia). There was a hint of an unpleasant smell in the air and surfaces seemed to radiate a subtle cooties vibe. But the house wasn't why we'd come; indeed, it was perfectly suited to our needs.
Of course, the thing we'd come for was the lake, and the house also came with numerous methods for exploring it: a row boat, a large aluminum canoe, and two small plastic kayaks. There was also a dock and a nice gently-sloped sandy-bottomed launching/wading spot. We immediately went for a kayak paddle out to an archipelago of islands (some complete with trees) out somewhere near the distant end of the lake (43.121136N, 74.359556W). Ramona initially tried to swim after us and we had to return so she wouldn't drown herself. The exhaustion of that attempt seemed to make her resign herself to the shoreline, and she allowed us to escape.
The kayaks made the paddle out to the islands seem almost as effortless as bicycling there. On the paddle back to our house, we passed along some delightful marshes along the lake's southeastern shoreline. As we approached our landing, we saw that Ramona and Eleanor had tried to follow along with us on the lake's northwest shoreline, cutting through whatever yards were in their way. Clearly we were going to have to come up with a solution to that problem.
One such solution was to try taking the dogs out with us. So I docked the canoe and tried to get Eleanor and Ramona to climb in. Eleanor would have nothing to do with it, but Ramona hopped right in, and so Gretchen and I took her across the lake to a nearby swampy inlet (43.114252N, 74.367828W) and back. She was mostly well-behaved, though it would have been nice had she just sat in one place instead of trying to grab lily pads as they floated past. We could see one building near the swampy inlet but as we drew close we found another there as well, though both looked dark and unoccupied, at least for this weekend.
This evening Gretchen cooked up a dinner of collard greens and Trader Joes chana masala, but she made the mistake of using some lemon pepper from the house's spice rack. Evidently that lemon pepper had been on that spice rack for a good number of years, because it had absorbed a poorly-curated collection of the house's worst smells, a fragrance I would later note in the mustiness of one of the upstairs bedrooms. Gretchen described the smell as being "bad breath," but that's really just an approximation. Anyway, the flavor more or less destroyed the collard greens, though mixing chana masala in with it helped a bit.
I knew I'd be doing a lot of web development this weekend, but I'd expected to mostly be doing it offline. So you can imagine my joy when I discovered an open "Linksys" WiFi hotspot in the neighborhood. Using a powerful USB WiFi adapter, I could get it from a bench outside the front door though. The signal was strong, it was a fairly unreliable.
After the sun went down, I managed to rig up means to watch video files on my netbook. I'd brought an extra flatscreen, meaning we didn't have to watch on its tiny screen. But I'd forgotten to bring a replacement for the netbook's terrible tinny speakers. Luckily, though, I was able to rig together a good-quality audio system using equipment I cobbled together from my computer bag and the clutter of the house. I found a working boom box, which I could connect to using an RCA connector with stripped wires I found on another piece of old stereo equipement. To connect those stripped wires to my netbook, I used one of those quarter inch stereo-to-dual-mono adapters that you get on international airplane flights. Such adapters are all sealed up in a small plastic housing, which I had to crush using a hammer (it took a number of powerful blows). But once the housing was out of the way, I could connect the stripped wires of the RCA plug to one of the quarter-inch male mono audio plugs. This gave us mono audio, but does stereo really matter much when watching video on a small screen? The program we watched tonight was the Breaking Bad episode entitled "Fifty One," which both Gretchen and I found meh at best.
When we went to bed, we left the front door open so the dogs could come and go as they pleased, but that proved to be a bad idea in the middle of the night when Eleanor decided to attack a skunk, perhaps the first of this species she'd ever encountered (they don't appear to live up in the highlands around our house though they do live in the Esopus Valley). Gretchen ran out to see what Eleanor was barking at and she immediately smelled the smell. Strangely, though, Eleanor didn't really smell as though she'd been skunked. Oddly, though, the top of her head smelled like burnt rubber. Later we would realize that extremely fresh skunk musk smells like burnt rubber and only begins to smell like Becks Dark and dank nugs after being exposed to the atmosphere and other chemicals in the environment. In any case, we'd sort of dodged a bullet on this one; Eleanor hadn't been skunked all that badly and we wouldn't have to attempt a heroic cleaning.
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