Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Day 1: Concord, NH to Brooklyn, NY

(Visit link for gmaps route)


  • TOTAL BEERS: 3 (Smuttynose IPA, Wolaver’s Organic IPA, Paper City India’n Pale Ale)


I meant to leave the house by 8 on Saturday, but packing always takes longer than you think and I didn’t want to embark on a long journey of miles driven and beers drunk with less than six hours of sleep. So instead I decided that waking up by 8 would be good enough, and an 8:40 ETD would have to work. There were, after all, hourly trains departing from Poughkeepsie to Grand Central, which was my final destination for the first day.

The heater in the barn had been on the blink for the last two nights, but luckily I was able to crash with a girl on Wednesday, and spent Thursday huddled up next to the remnant sputters of heat coming from the kerosene flame with every blanket I could get my hands on to keep me unconscious as the temperature outside dropped into the teens and the inside approached freezing. As a result, I spent my last night at Snow Pond sleeping in Angus’ childhood bed, with Tom and his bad back out on the couch, and a sick and possibly wounded mallard sitting in a hay-strewn Tupperware container between us. No matter the case, there was a fire burning nearby all night, which made it well worth the change in accommodations in spite of the duck’s awful smell.
So Long, Snow Pond. Ye'll be in Me Heart

My car was half-packed as of 10PM Friday, but I still needed to stick in a few more bags of books and clothes before I finally set off, which I did a few minutes after my revised goal, and by 9:20 I was west of Hillsborough and had cracked the first beer of the road trip, a Smuttynose IPA (Portsmouth, NH).

Beer before noon is like beer at no other time. The slightly foul taste of an otherwise unchanged amount of liquid is our body’s way of telling us that the only times we need be drinking between the hours of 6AM and noon are on the tail end of a well-earned bender, tailgating a sporting event, taking part in college hijinks, and once in a while on a state-by-state, beer-by-beer cross country road trip. Those, however, should be done no more than four times in a calendar year.

Ten miles west of Hillsborough, three miles south of Stoddard, and eight miles east of Marlow, where I bore witness to Bill Richardson breaking the streak of the last town in the state not to have a Presidential candidate visit back in the earliest days of my Granite State journey.

“I hopped in the car, pushed into 1st and headed down 123 to 10 to 9 while the Ashuelot flowed down toward the Connecticut amid the boulders, the great herons, the deer and the turtles that crowded the road in Western New Hampshire. I had some blogging to do, and some thinking, and of course I was excited to get back to my beloved Keene. Railroad, anyone? It is Thursday, after all.”

Oh, the halcyon days of blogging youth. This morning the Ashuelot was frozen I saw neither deer nor turtle, just the roadside which was caked with thigh-high rails of plowed snow. Thigh-high, I discovered, as I stepped aside to snap a self-portrait in front of the inimitable Old Man of the Mountain highway sign, only to discover that the snow pack was not very hard after all, and I sunk in fully boot to pavement. It took me nearly 45 seconds to maneuver out, and another minute to shake all the snow out of my boots before I got back into the car. A half hour later I was saluting to my beloved Keene and all the fond memories of Menadnock hikes and Granny D sightings and nights spent in admiration of the beautiful college girls.

Getting Started with Rte 1-2-3 and the Granite State's Distinctive Old Man of the Mountain Signs (RIP, Old Man)

Now I was on a new path, westward to Brattleboro and beyond, one beer finished, and two more states to go before boarding a train to New York City.

I hit the Vermont border and Brattleboro in search of a pound of Mocha Joe’s coffee for once I was home and a cup from the store to enjoy with a slice of coffeecake for breakfast, and sadly was too early for a pint of Duck’s Breath Bitter from McNeill’s. Instead I had pre-packed a Wolaver’s Organic IPA (Middlebury, VT) out of fear that my meager twenty minutes in Vermont would all come before selling time. Secondary to that fear, but valid nonetheless, was the knowledge that I would be due for a second beer some forty minutes after the first, and potentially to be drunk at a mind-boggling chug pace, especially for pre-noon.

In broad daylight, and looking to buy myself an extra five minutes or so, I drove down Cotton Mill Hill to the lumber-clad shores of the Connecticut River for a picture next to Vermont Rte. 142. The sky was a perfect winter blue, and slightly camouflaged by cirrus clouds, as I bid adieu to Brattleboro and its great guardian, Wantastiquet Mountain, for Massachusetts via Rte. 5 and Guilford calling my old Bratt friends with triumphant tales of Flat Street. The Wolaver’s still in my lap, soon to be finished amid the forests and bogs of Southern Vermont.The Green Mountain State, with the Mighty Upper Connecticut River Rolling down toward the Pioneer Valley

My journey through Massachusetts was ostensibly three-fold. I needed to purchase a beer, drink a beer, and get my emissions checked. I had been living in New Hampshire for four months, but retained my Mass plates. Unfortunately Mass emissions checks are fickle. Two years ago the state authorized a number of gas stations and auto repair shops to officially act as bureaucrats with the power to grant or deny these annual car stickers.

Yet, in spite of the great convenience of obtaining gas at any hour of the day, on Saturdays you can only get your emissions checked in the morning, and the exact time of closing varied widely from shop to shop. My first stop, Greenfield at 11:15, turned up three shops that had all closed by 10:30. Next, in Northampton at 11:30, I found two that had stopped by 11.

Screw you, Taxachussets, I’m buying some beer. I figured it was the logical step to follow an emissions-check jilting, and perfectly enough the Liquors 44 on King Street sold singles of an old favorite, Paper City India’n Pale Ale (Holyoke, MA). Beer in hand, emissions in limbo, siren song of the road loud in my ears, I decided that a stop in Northampton for another cup of coffee and a chance at flirting with some stressed out Smith girls would have to wait until the spring.

I hit the MassPike around noon and headed west toward New York state, planning to stop in Lee for a back road to drink my beer and a town sign to take my photo. Massachusetts state highway signs are drab, simply white squares with black outlines and a number, yet the signs which announce the beginning and ending of each town are full of information citing the name of the town, the state, and even the year it was incorporated. Far better proof, I thought, for the record.

Problem is, when I got to Lee, I was met by a local cop who followed me for nearly a mile as I drove around aimlessly in search of a town sign. I finally shook him, only to find that every town sign was either nowhere near a safe shoulder or else right in the middle of a populated village.

But I carried on, skipping a couple of prime spots around Great Barrington for fear of daylight, and realized I was dangerously close to the New York border. Luckily, next to a ski resort in a town called Egremont there was a pullover right next to the border with a sign for MassHighways Project Clean. Teeth disheveled and eyes showing my stress, I parked my car and snapped a photo.

Massachusetts: The Spirit of America

Now it was just a quick split down the Taconic Parkway, stopping only briefly to piss into a bottle on a country dirt road next the highway, along some farm roads into Poughkeepsie and into the parking garage at the train station. Two hours later I was in New York City and eating dinner with my sister at a restaurant in Williamsburg then capping the night off over at Barcade and a few joints helmed by her friends.

It was a long cap, my friends, in the city that never sleeps. With no fear of last call, five am comes awfully soon, and I was on the couch trying to catch an hour or two before sunrise. An eventful start, for sure.

To be continued


Jeb said...

man, the vermont road sign brings back memories. they might have been good, they are certainly somewhat aged, and they were definitely days. i don't know how i feel about wolaver's. that's not me challenging your choice either, i simply mean that it has been too long since i have had one.

BTB said...

Yeah, Wolley's isn't that great. I much prefer Orlio if I am going organic, or if I am just going no matter what.

I had to pre-buy my Wolaver's because I figured that my VT window would be small and early and I was worried I wouldn't be able to find anything at 9 or 10am so I picked it up the night before in Concord City. It was either Wolaver's or Magic Hat...and F that.

P.S. Price Chopper, we're grillin' tonight!

Jeb said...

oh man, i just popped over to the barcade site via your link and had to see the reviews for magic hat #9 (one of my favorite beers to hate on). i enjoyed the second listed rating, a shining D+, but the first review was priceless: "This beer appears OK but appearances can be deceiving. The smell reminds me of when my mom would give herself a home perm in the late 70's/early 80's. An odd combination of chemicals and lawnmower grass stick out in my opinion. The taste is better than the smell."

p.s. price lopper, we're killin' tonight!