May 10, 2008: Discovering the Hudson Valley

New York’s Hudson Valley has always been a strange place to me.  Being from western New York the lower Hudson Valley (south of Albany) is a place of immense history and importance but appears to serve as nothing more than a traffic corridor between the capital at Albany and New York City at the valley’s southern most extent.  All of New York’s large Upstate cities lie along an east-west corridor along the Erie and Barge Canals with Albany in the east as the capital and oldest city in the state, then Utica, Syracuse, Rochester and finally Buffalo when you reach the state’s western edge.  With the except of Utica, each city grows in size and importance as you head west as well.

The Hudson Valley has no significant cities.  In fact it’s cities are so small that they are actually smaller than New York’s southern tier corridor cities which are minuscule in comparison to the northern “canal” corridor cities.  Along the southern tier are Jamestown, Corning, Elmira, Ithaca and Binghamton.

What really sets the Hudson Valley apart from the bulk of Upstate New York are two things.  The first being that it serves simply as a suburban area for New York City so all traffic and “focus” are towards the south instead of being around local city centers.  The second is that there is no “open space” between the Hudson Valley towns.  Unlike New York farther north, the Hudson Valley is a continuous blanket of population – much like Long Island and Northern New Jersey.  Most of New York State is dense city centers separated by immense spans of countryside and agricultural land, but the Valley hides a large population without the obvious population centers.  The feel is completely unlike New York’s other population regions.

Today our goal is to go to the Hudson Valley and discover this region of our home state.  Dominica is leaving on the six o’clock in the morning flight to Houston tomorrow, flying out of Newark so today is our last day together for a whole week.  So this morning was packing and last minute laundry, flight check in and other miscellany.  Then a little after noon we hit the road north.

We drove up the Palisades Parkway through Bear Mountain State Park and crossed over to the eastern bank going over the Bear Mountain Bridge.  We took Route 9D north along the river through Manitou, Garrison, Cold Springs and up to Beacon.  The area was completely breathtaking.  Those communities are so nice.

We stopped in Beacon and explored its now rather famous main street.  Downtown Beacon is really nice with tons of food options and lots of crowds wandering about exploring the town like us.  We drove around and got a feel for the town and went down to the train station to get an idea of where that was located.  Then we went to the end of Main Street and ate at the Thai restaurant there.  We sat outside since the weather was so nice.  The food was really good too – although I accidentally ordered mine way too spicy.  Not that I couldn’t eat it but it wasn’t nearly as good as it would have been much less spicy.  I will know for next time.

After our dinner we went to the other end of main street to the Beacon Creamery and got ourselves some local Hudson Valley hard ice cream.  It was really good.  We got a small dish of vanilla for Oreo too.  He was really bored by this point having just sat in the car all afternoon.  He was very thankful for his dish of ice cream which he ate on the sidewalk while I held the dish for him.

After Beacon we drove to Fishkill.  Fishkill is one of my “old family” towns.  My mother’s mother’s family lived in Fishkill in the late 1600s into the early 1700s after having moved from Rensselaerwyck (Albany today) to Flat Bush in Brooklyn and then to Fishkill.  Lise Winans is from Fishkill as well.  We didn’t get to see anything but the trailer park and Rail Road Recovery operation on the outskirts of town, though, because they were having some “Rock Around the Clock Block Party” and had closed off the streets.  So we didn’t get to see Fishkill and drove away.  Not a good move for potential home owners since the only parts of town accessible easily from the outside were pretty sad.  We did get to see their impressive prison, though.

We drove back to Beacon and then took Route 9D down along the Hudson River back the way that we had come but instead of taking the Beat Mountain Bridge back to the west side of the river we instead took Route 6 / Route 202 to Peekskill (where furniture VidenovThe Facts of Life is set) and on down through Westchester County.  I have never really driven through Westchester before and Dominica has never seen it at all so it was very interesting to see the New York Metro’s competition for Beverly Hills.  Westchester is very impressive.  We really wish that we could afford to move someplace like Tarrytown.  The commute into the city wouldn’t be bad at all, and the area is just amazing.

It was pretty late by the time that we made it back to Newark.  Dominica had some more packing to do and some things that she needed to do to get ready for her week away in Texas.  So the evening was pretty busy.  Eventually she was able to work on stuff in our bedroom so we watched The Love Boat and then it was time for bed.  It ended up being almost midnight by the time that we actually went to sleep.  The alarm is set for three thirty in the morning so that she will have time to get up and get ready and be to the airport by five.  Her flight leaves at six and the airport opens at five.  So it is a short night for us.

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