Saturday, January 4 2003Snow had fallen all yesterday and by today there was an accumulation of sixteen to eighteen inches. This was in addition to snow remaining from the Christmas nor'easter?. (I'd prefer to write "northeaster," but it appears that these sort of storms are never referred to that way.) The snow complicated two things: a computer housecall I had to make down in New Paltz and the return of Ray and Nancy to pick up their dog Suzy.
Gretchen tried to "plow" our driveway by driving my pickup truck back and forth but had managed to get it mired in the marshland just uphill. I looked out the window at one point and saw the truck listing at a strange angle and knew it wouldn't be moving immediately. Shortly thereafter Gretchen came in all contrite about it. The solution to getting it free was to insert pieces of plywood under its wheels.
Once I got out of the driveway the roads were fine. I drove down to New Paltz via State Route 32. Having been through the area and looked at the maps, I get the impression now that Rondout Creek cuts through the Shawangunk ridge at High Falls, and the falls (which today were running brown) are what remain of the obdurate sandstone-and-conglomerate Shawangunk formation after millions of years of erosion at this spot. The directions I had were a little confusing, but eventually I found the house where I needed to go. The lady was having trouble getting a USB floppy drive to work, and I couldn't get it to work either. But I did get her built-in floppy drive to work, sort of. The key was to push on it a little with your finger while it was being read. Its mechanisms had jammed up with dust bunnies during an inadvisable "cleansing" with an air blower. If you must clean your computer with moving air, the key is to suck, don't blow.
Driving back from New Paltz, I made the odd decision to head west on 299, thinking I could find a back way to 209 and Hurley. Somehow I missed all the back roads and found myself climbing up over the Shawangunk ridge, the spectacular tower-accented skyline of New Paltz. After I'd crossed the ridgeline I was treated to a spectacular view of what turned out to be the Rondout Valley. It's a fairly heavily-forested valley and every one of the millions of trees glistened from accumulated snow. Further downslope I passed one hotel after another. At least one restaurant claimed to serve authentic Ukrainian cuisine.
The road I was on now was US 44 and it went to 209, but much farther south than I wanted to be, ending up only seven miles north of Ellenville in the Rondout Valley. As remote mountain valleys go, the Rondout was fairly populous, at least along 209. I passed numerous businesses as I headed north. Somewhere north of Accord I saw a sign for a Williams hardware store, so I took a little detour to go there. I crossed a low ridge somewhere along the way and suddenly there was the familiar New Paltz skyline, only much closer and backwards. It was kind of a Twilight Zone moment.
This particular Williams was most peculiar in that it seemed to be in the middle of nowhere, its front door in a narrow alleyway behind a old rotting farmhouse. Inside, though, it was a fairly big place, complete with all the various sizes and types of lumber. Since I was the only customer on this snowy day, I immediately had two guys offering to help me. One of them showed me where the finish trim was and I managed to find the few sticks I'd come for. It was considerably easier to find what I needed after he'd gone off to do whatever else that needed doing.
Driving the final leg back home, I realized that the odd bit of skyline familiar to me from Hurley Mountain Road is actually just the Mohunk tower - the New Paltz skyline - from a great distance and backwards.
Back home, I found that Ray and Nancy, with Nancy's sister Linda, had arrived safely and then left with Gretchen to explore Kingston in the snow. From having passed several Stewart's Shops along the way, I'd developed a craving for Stewart's nacho cheese corn chips. Luckily I had half a bag leftover from the last time I'd satisfied this uniquely Hudson Valley craving. By the way, Gretchen is horrified by Stewarts's nacho cheese corn chips. But she's one to talk; she has a number of unsettling food cravings of her own, particularly a substance called Pirate's Booty that, while all-natural, smells exactly like throwup.
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