I drive a lot of miles in a year. Between work trips and all my extracurricular activity for skiing, cycling and family trips, I put a lot of miles on a vehicle. For work, my general rule is that if it is 6 hours or under, I drive. I really don’t want to fly unless the distance dictates it. Airports are a hassle but a necessary evil in our day and times. But on the other side of the coin, I like to take road trips. You can pack more than you might otherwise, and you can dictate your own schedule. You can listen to your music in the vehicle, CDs, books on tape and most of all you have the time to relax,put the sun roof down, and take some personal time. I like road trips and the ones with my family are gold in that we have hours to talk and be with each other uninterrupted. But, I also like my solo trips because it is a chance to take some time, sit behind the wheel, listen, and think.
Back in the days in college when I went to New Hampshire for the first time to ski with a friend of my dad’s, I fell in love with the White Mountains. I really enjoyed Mt. Cranmore and the Mt. Washington Valley and the most scenic highway in the northeast- the Kancamangus Highway. After college, I worked at Sugarloaf, Maine for the winter and really enjoyed my experiences there. (See my earlier blog post-Maine Memories). All in all, that area of the country had a special appeal to me and it drew me back, year after year, with road trips in all the different seasons. I had taken the path of least resistance after my winter in Maine and worked for my father in our small manufacturer’s rep business. As I made my way through my early days in the sales wars, I often made lunch stops between visits to the steel mills and machine shops, and read my ski magazines and other periodicals about life in New England. My commitment to my family business was taking root for better of for worse, and the need for a road trip was a welcome respite from the industrial day to day in the sales world. I racked my brain trying to think how I could make a living at the time somewhere in the Northeast living in that great area of the country, but as adventurous as I was with my avocations, I was not that adventurous with a career change or taking a chance. I figured the best thing I could do was to stick with what I was doing and save up to take the frequent road trips to the Northeast.
The best road trips up there were to visit my buddy Mike Smith who owns a marina on Lake George. The both of us would frequently make the trek to Killington to ski with our good friends, the Durfees, who lived in Bethel, Vermont at the time. I think I could take that trip from Pittsburgh in my sleep. 79 North, to 90 East, cut the corner in Amsterdam, New York, get spit out at Ballston Spa, hop on the Adirondack Northway(I-87 North) to Rt 189, to Rt 4 to Rt7, past Killington and turn at Bills Country Store for the home stretch into Bethel. Lots of good times up there including our cross country ski excursions on Sundays in the stone quarry where we tried killing ourselves xc skiing up and down the piles of gravel covered with snow. Lots of busted equipment and lots of laughs between ski outings at the Beast of the East- Killington,Vermont. I learned about the value of Grade A maple syrup by observing the sugaring process at the Durfee’s neighbor’s house. I learned about wood stoves and how important it was for Bethel residents to make sure they got their wood in the basement for the winter to power their furnaces. Lots of sub zero ski days, road cycling outings on the back roads of Vermont and treks to the White Mountains to ski our beloved Tuckerman Ravine.
I couldn’t wait for those trips and had some hairy experiences in the winter making my way through Buffalo. Freezing rains with tractor trailers sliding sideways on the Interstates, to 3 foot snow events slowing my usual 10 hour trip times. However, it was adventurous and I always drove four wheel drive vehicles so I felt that I had some advantage even though they slide as much as any vehicle. If you check out my Fourth of July post, you will see that one year, my neighbors thought I was moving when I took a New England road trip with my bike, skis, golf clubs, tennis racquets, and water ski. That was maybe one of the best road trips of all time.
I still take road trips often and when I travel regionally for work, I always take my toys with me, either skis or a mountain bike and make the most of a trip. Why spend your evenings sitting in some restaurant by yourself or a bar pickling yourself when you can see a great state park, a lake, a great mountain, or take advantage of some other nice outdoor adventure right nearby? I have not taken a New England road trip for a while because the Durfees are now out in Tahoe and we visit them there. But,I do make a point to see my friend Mark Hutchinson in East Randolph, Vermont and ski the Beast whenever I am in the New England area. Also, Mike Smith is still at Lake George and we get together to ski the Adirondacks and enjoy the lake. It’s just like anything else, you have to make the effort to go see other places and the road trip is a great way to do it. It may take longer than flying and getting a rental car, but if at all possible, the road trip is relaxing, and living out of your vehicle is comforting and practical. Hit the road Jack!!! Thanks for reading.
Good stuff Pat – did a lot of trips this fall – pretty scenery and lots of books listened to – have to stop a lot more than i used to though 🙂
New England has really lots of great skiing destinations. Been in Maine once and visited Sugarloaf. Also some place in Vermont like Killington and Okemo, got a special hot deal package from my favorite online Ski organizers. It was indeed an awesome trip and great moment. : )
Brings back great memories of Cranmore, Wildcat, Sugarloaf, Killington, driving across the Kancamangus Highway after racing at Waterville . . . all great stuff. Thanks for the memorial journey!
My wife’s brother works for GE research in Albany and have a summer home on Ballston lake. People there are the salt of the earth. Beautiful place !!!!!!!
You are a New Englander at heart, living in Pittsburgh. I remember going to the beast my second year on skis to the race camp. How about Christin Cooper? Thanks for the memories.
Just reading your post Pat as I was in Florida for the week. Its always a big highlight for me to have you come up and ski the beast! You are a true woodchuck, able to withstand minus zero temps, solid ice, death cookies, and the occassional watery snowgun and keep on smiling! Wouldn’t trade a day of skiing with an old steelhead like you for anything! Going tommorrow, they have the superstar chair open where you and i must haved topped 70,000 vertcial feet on a very cold day a couple of years ago!