Thursday, May 01, 2008

The Catskills: Where No One Has 'Gone' Before

There is no place to pee in the Catskills.

As I mentioned in my last post, I had to get up and out in the wee hours of the morning on Wednesday. This was because my appointment was in Woodstock, NY. (I tried to post a map with a line on it, couldn't figure it out. Take my word for it. Its far.) Leaving promptly at 5am would put me in the Byrdcliffe artist's colony in time for my 10:30 appointment.

After three hours of highway driving I took an exit to a Quickway for a potty stop and some cold beverages and gum. (Hey, you can't breathe coffee all over people.) I exchanged pleasantries with the manager and left, confident that other such places would pop up in the next two and a half hours. I was wrong.

I left the rest-area-and-retail establishment-zone, and for that matter, regularly maintained roads, as soon as I left Route 17. The next thirty or so miles required what I call two-handed driving through state park lands. After a while I got paranoid, not just because there were no manmade structures whatsoever for miles other than the road itself, but because the directions said 'Go Straight' at one point where I passed a clearly marked left turn pointing the way to THREE roads that were mentioned in the directions. Since these same directions earlier gave an exit number that would have dropped me squarely in the sketchy and annoying-to-navigate section of Binghamton I was hesitant to accept them as doctrine. But my gut said go straight, so I did.

I don't know if the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, but the good folks at DeLorme clearly ascribe to the notion that there is no real need to stick to 4 lane 55 MPH roads when there are perfectly serviceable and mostly paved switchbacks that go STRAIGHT UP OVER A MOUNTAIN through countryside so positively uninhabited I started to look for Marshall, Will, and Holly on a routine expedition. (Some help for those of you not children of the 70's):

By the time I got out of 'Frost Valley' my long-savored second cup of coffee had settled to my nethers and I really had to go. I assumed that eventually there would be something-- a gas station, a fast food joint, whatever. I passed mile after mile of vet clinics, not-yet-open-for-the-season dairy bars, fishing access sites, and gun clubs. Christmas in Killarney, people. I was desperate.

Finally I reach what appears to be the next 'turn' on my directions-- the town of Phoenicia. I swing into town. Church, church, real estate office, pizza place, Mexican cantina, bank, funeral home, Tibetan meditation center, Valero-with-a-food-place. Ding ding ding! We have a winner. I swing in on two wheels and do that clenchy walk into the store. Stuck to the wall next to the Hallway of Relief, written on one of those neon starbursts used to advertise two for one sales, is a sign that says NO PUBLIC RESTROOMS. You have got to be kidding. I decide to negotiate.

"Hi, look, I just drove 40 miles over a mountain and I really have to pee." (Screw it. Will I see these people again? Nope.)

"Well, we don't have a public rest room, but they do," She points across at the pizza place, with a 'Rest Rooms are for Customers Only' sign clearly visible even across the street. Also, its 9:45 in the morning. Is the only pizza place in Phoenicia open at 9:45 in the morning? No, it is not.

I consider the following: Arguing, violence, darting into their bathroom and barring the door. I do none of these things. I leave and cross the street to the cantina. Mercifully, the door is open and I dart into the ladies room and say a prayer of thanks. When I come out, a man is standing at the door, probably to lock it behind him so no one else trespasses before the place is open. I consult him on my directions and he tells me something I immediately know to be completely wrong, then spend the next 10 minutes going in one direction for a mile, then the other direction, cursing like a sailor because I can't find my next turn which ends up leading to a bridge that is OUT AND CLOSED WITH A FENCE ANYWAY. I get back on track, wondering how close I came to maybe being lost on a mountain because the mapmaking geniuses of Falmouth, Maine don't know the befrigged bridges are out and whatnot.

By the time I get to Woodstock, I'm not half a million strong, but I do have to pee again. I mention the realtor I'm meeting about there being no 'rest areas' in the Catskills and she laughs and says "No, there are not! So make sure you go here at the house before you leave."

The second leg of the trip was a bit shorter, so I took a moment to snap some photos of Woodstocky coolness.

I wish the fence wasn't so high because I'm quite sure that the house itself is every bit as groovy.

I love the days when this is my office.

The next two hours of driving was a bit boring, one long road and a string of strange towns like East Durham, which is apparently some sort of Irish ghetto situated exactly in the middle of nowhere. Every shop, hotel, and garage, heck, even the firehouse, had shamrocks on it, but everything had this sad shabbiness to it, as if I'd missed East Durham's heyday by about 15 years. I hit snow squalls in Seward, hanging curtains that I drove into and out of for miles. I passed a small municipal airport with a banner that proudly proclaimed "Celebrating 50 years of relatively safe flying".

My second appointment was 3 1/2 miles from Cooperstown. No, I didn't go to the H o F. Why? Because I'd rather give myself a tattoo with household items than watch a baseball game.

I was warned that my customer had 'triplets'. Instead of the armful of infants I was expecting, I was led to a den on the other side of a baby-fence and introduced to three children who are one week away from their second birthday. They were cute, curious, and sweet for approximately 42 seconds. The next hour involved a lot of repetition (I couldn't understand what they were saying but it wasn't because they didn't give me 57 tries to do so) and that noise two year olds make that sounds like someone shoving a piece of plate steel through a buzz saw. They were nice people but the silence in the van was deafening (and welcome) when I finally extricated myself and started the long drive home, cracking open an energy drink that tasted like delicately carbonated bathroom spray to keep me between the navigational beacons all the way back to Pennsylvania. As peak-season adventures go, we're only getting started.


Kathy said...

Hilarious post!! Good job, I'm now laughing so hard I think I have to pee! I could feel your pain reading this. Note to self: Drink nothing for three days before embarking on the toilet-free Catskills. Wow. Just wow.

Tricia said...

I love it! Now if you really, really had to go there are plenty of bare stretches of road with trees to pee behind! LOL

My grandparents lived in Shandaken which is near Phoenicia so I know that area.

Burgh Baby's Mom said...

Triplet 2-year olds are the thing of nightmares. *shudder*