Tag Archives: Road Trip

Exploring Cairo, Climbing in New Paltz… and getting rained on


Wednesday, 27-May-2015


On the way between visiting my Grandma and partying it up with Big T in Connecticut, I did a bit of adventuring in Upstate New York.  See… I’d been reading American Gods again, and the thought of visiting the town of Cairo (I’d learn later that this wasn’t the same town from the book, unfortunately) was too good to pass up.

So I drove down the highway, took the exit, and started looking for a diner to find some breakfast.

Well, it was a wasted effort.  The town of Cairo, New York is not really what you could call a “lively” town… instead, it was mostly closed storefronts and empty houses.  Abandoned roads and… not really much, aside from a single excellent welcome sign.  Maybe it becomes more lively during the evenings, or on holidays?

But I ended up just driving through.



Instead, I spent some time at my favorite climbing spot – The Gunks, in New Paltz.

Since I was rolling solo, and the weather was kind of threatening I decided to take it safe and go to the swimming hole instead of straight into the climbing area.  Figured that I could save a few bucks on a climbing pass too.

Well, finding the swimming hole wasn’t as easy as I thought… I remembered the main turnoff, but got a bit turned around while I was driving down the back roads.  Thankfully, another car pulled up and asked me if I knew where to go – since they were coming from one side, and I knew it had to be one of the two… I got to sound all smart.  And so I led a convoy down to the waters…

But turns out that the girls were really against paying anything (seriously, what?) so the other car turned around, and I went swimming solo.

Or not so solo – I ended up hanging out with some Physics students from the nearby university – chatting, swimming, and doing some water-solo bouldering.  It was awesome, until they mentioned how close we were to some other bouldering… which I decided I had to go see.  So I grabbed the crash pad and headed down the trail.

Turns out, the trail was just another way of getting to the main climbing area that I know and love… but that wasn’t a bad thing.  Basically, just meant that I had an excuse to climb it again!

So… I did.


But see, that’s where the fun comes in.  I was bouldering all nice and pretty as your please, for maybe an hour or two. I tried a few interesting routes; mostly just traversing the bottom of some of my favorite tall routes. But I did a few pretty solid overhangs as well… at least until it started getting disconcertingly dark.

And then it started raining. Normally; not a problem. But today, I had brought my new Laptop with me, so that I could do some writing between routes. And my new laptop was not, in fact, waterproof. And I had parked a long way away…

So, I tried walking back to the car, using my crash pad as an umbrella.

That didn’t really work, since the rain was impressively heavy, and the wind was strong.

So, I found a small cave. Deep enough that the rain wasn’t getting anywhere near the back. I put the bag with the laptop on a rock, and layered the crash pad on top. Then, I ran.

I’m happy to say that the runs I did back in Cambridge paid off – I made it back to the car in record time, sloshing through the puddles and ponds and runoffs that covered the trail.

I got changed, and pulled the car up to a parking lot that was nice and close to the cave that I’d stashed the gear in. I’d thought ahead to bring a tarp, just in case I wanted to make a covered campsite, so I dragged that out of the car too. Now, clad in my full rain gear, I was ready to casually walk back out and save the laptop.

Which, I did. I wrapped everything in the tarp, and then casually walked back in the rain again. Slipped the laptop into the front seat, and stuffed everything else into the back in the car, and drove out to the supermarket to get some food, and relax for a bit before driving out to link up with Big T.


First obstacle on the roadtrip: dealt with.

A visit to Connecticut before the storm hits


Weekend of 31-Jan-15 through 01-Feb-15

Ben Hutt Jan 2015

As we’ve established, I enjoy visiting my Aunt.  Her house in Connecticut is amazing; she just creates this perfect atmosphere of warmth and serenity, no matter what season it is, or what’s happening in my life.  This winter has been rough for me, as most winters are… I dislike being trapped, and the longer commuting times due to the snow, combined with a lack of sunlight and general “you can’t do that, because it’s zero degrees out and there’s a billion feet of snow on the ground” makes me more than a bit blue.

So, I drove down to CT to visit and recharge my batteries.

The drive wasn’t too bad – it had snowed pretty hard earlier in the week, but there had been enough time and snow and plows to clear the roads out pretty nicely.  Of course there were a few spots that I had to slow down and be careful at the wheel, but for the most part the drive was the usual relaxing.  It did help that I’d stopped in Cambridge for a bite of breakfast before hitting the highway – that way I was able to just drive straight, and had a belly nicely full of pancakes and coffee to keep me going.

Once I got into Connecticut, there was a short bit of hanging out and catching up – chatting about my job, her writing, my lack of writing… the usual stuff that my Aunt and I chat about.  Eating kumquats, and playing with Einstein (pictured above, with me).

The main goals of the weekend were to eat delicious pizza, do a bit of shoveling, get grain for the goats, and get hay for the goats.  The pizza part we killed off that first night, along with picking up the grain (if I remember correctly).  However, the shoveling and hay had to wait for the next morning…

My Aunt, as we’ve established, is amazing.  So her goats are, obviously, amazing as well.  But that means that they need amazing food, and amazing hay can be hard to find.  So, we went to a small farm, with a large barn.  And an owner who scours the nearby farms (and some not so nearby farms) for bales of hay, and then organizes them all up into the huge barn.

And from the huge barn?  Tetris skills man.  Tetris skills to get six huge bales of hay into one small Volvo.  I mean, not a tiny car by any means, but definitely not a monster van or anything… or even the usual pickup that you’d expect.  But it can be done, and it was be done, because it done got done.  Yes.

And then – we belted up to do battle.  See, the path down to the goat’s barn was all well and good for walking, but not for trucking bales of hay down from the car.  So we shoveled it out.  Nice and light and fluffy snow, and the job was made easier by the fact that somehow Boston’s been a magnet for snow this season – meaning that there was only ~8 inches of snow on the ground, vs. Boston’s 16-30 inches.

So it was a simple job.  Moving the hay was a bit tougher, but definitely fun due to the wicked hook that we used to haul it from the car into the wheelbarrow… Seriously, that thing reminded me of Captain Hook…. but scarier.  I loved it.

Once the hay loft was stocked, we played a bit with Violet and SweetPea, helped them do their nails (Trimming their hooves, really only Violet, since SweetPea was too big for me to hold onto), and ran around the pen like crazy people.  Sometimes I chased the goaties, sometimes they chased me.  Usually we just ran around crazy, enjoying the outdoors and the winter as only Swiss goats can.



Blog Link for my Aunt!


The Great Far-North Roadtrip – Days 4 and 5


After spending a few days in Auckland with Couch Surfers, I was planning on finding a nice Hostel and bunkering down to explore the city for a few days before my flight took me to Honolulu. Plans changed, however, when my CS host offered to lend her van to myself and two other Couch Surfers. We had debated renting a car and exploring the far-Northern peninsula, but I wasn’t planning on spending the money to rent a car for that long… but when Anais offered to give us her van for free, my decision was made up in an instant – the chance to drive and explore for only the cost of diesel fuel? Yes please! The following is a quick account of our journeys:

The main actors – See Days 1 and 2

Day 4:

And the animals just won’t leave me alone. The fourth and last full day of my roadtrip dawned, or rather shattered, around six thirty or so when, as if by planning, the roosters and rain both arrived at the same time. The roosters were a trio who, it seems, had been abandoned on the side of the road by their farmers, and had grown up as a trio who worked to keep travelers awake in the early morning. The rain… well, it was pretty wet. Other than that it was exactly what one would expect rain to act like.

After trying to ignore the roosters for an hour, I finally gave up and succumed to the combined forces of my mattress deflating and the roosters crying. It took a bit of time for the Europeans to actually get themselves out of bed (something in the range of an hour, actually, spent mostly stretching and watching a movie on their computer), but once they were mobile we got breakfast going quite quickly – toasting up the bread and heating up the coffee and tea in record time. We actually got onto the road earlier than most other days, thanks to the animals and rain driving us away from relaxing in the forest, and so we pushed on towards the next town on our trip.

We took a quick stop in a seaside town, quite similar to Paihia, for a bathroom break, some information, and to search for some showers. The bathroom situation was first on my mind, but that in and of itself turned into a bit of an adventure, as the girls were quite occupied in the bathroom applying a few layers of road makeup. Seriously, mascara and everything. So I took a bit of time to explore the town and see what it had to offer, which fell cleanly into the category of “well, not much at all”. However, while I was gone the girls did find a small sign for a “Christian Workers” house a bit up the hill that offered Emergency housing to anyone in need… this they took to mean “open showers”, and so we headed up into the town after giving the house a quick call to make sure they were available. (Note: This again ties into the “Americans vs Europeans” post that will follow this one. Please read it, especially to understand why my roadtrip partners decided on this course of action).

The Claire House was the name of the Christian Workers house, and the woman living and working there was an amazing host to us, even though it was clearly non-standard for travelers to stop into the house just to use her showers. I ended up taking the first shower, since everyone else was having difficulty extricating their shower gear from the van, and so I was able to spend a good bit of time chatting with the people living there – we shared stories, I learned about the Christian Workers movement, and we generally had a most-excellent time there. I was honestly quite impressed at their hospitality; more than once I had to turn down an extra cup of coffee, a sandwich, or some other small gift or piece of food, and I honestly felt a bit bad about infringing on their time as much as we did, especially since their hot water was purely drawn from a wood fire that also heated the house and the kitchen stove.

But we had a great time, and I think that the folks there enjoyed the company for the short time we were there, in the end. They lived an amazingly simple and clean lifestyle, though I have to note that it was quite a “Western” style of life, instead of a native New Zealand style. They farmed, raised goats, and cooked food on a wood stove, clearing the land as they needed for the fields and grazing land. They honestly most reminded me of what I’ve heard of the old pioneers in the Mid West United States, back before electricity or cars, and I would have loved to spend a week there, tilling the fields and helping with the goats. But we did have to push on, and so we started eating through the rest of the main highway to a place called the Kauri Forest.

The Kauri Forest is, unsurprisingly, made up on Kauri Trees – also known as “Great Kauri Trees”, and some of the largest and oldest trees in the world, second only in height to the Sequoia and Redwood of California, as far as I could tell. Adrien had been talking about these trees since we started the road trip, and I was quite excited to see them myself as well – but when we finally got to see them nothing could have prepared me for how majestically giant they are. These trees, while not as tall as some others I’ve seen, are giants in girth with huge broad tops. Instead of tapering to a point like most trees you see in the Northern Hemisphere, the Great Kauri stay relatively cylindrical up to the very top of the tree, at which point they explode outwards like a clawed hand, making a large and flat top that would make an amazing tree-fort.

We spent a few hours just wandering around the forest itself, walking the paths and seeing some of the more famous trees – The “Lord of the Forest”, the “Father of the Forest”, and the “Four Sisters”. The Lord of the Forest is a named tree, which is to date the largest Kauri ever found, measuring nearly 17 Meters (about 54 feet) in diameter. The Father of the Forest is the second biggest, loosing to the Lord of the Forest by a mere meter or two, and the Four Sisters are four smaller, yet still giant, Kauri that are growing nearly from the same stump, with their roots only a few feet apart.

After breaking free from the small and winding roads of the Kauri Forest, our path headed almost straight towards a small town, and a place called Baylys Beach. The town was first of the agenda, so as to get ourselves some food, and so we found ourselves a good-looking Fish and Chips shop on the side of the road, and stepped on in. And it was exactly what I’ve gotten used to in Christchurch – a small shop with a cool Asian couple behind the counter, with a large chalk menu showing off $2 chips, $3 fish, and $4 burgers. Cheap, delicious, and horribly fattening I’m sure, but we all ordered up a great feast fit for poor travelers; I had a burger, chicken wings, and a milkshake, coming to a grand-total of $9. Yes. I am ok with that.

After gorging on fried food, thus proving my heritage as a citizen of the United States, we piled back into the van and backtracked to Baylys Beach – a place that even the guy at the fish and chips shop told us we had to explore. And his description… did not even come close to doing that beach justice. It was amazing in every sense of the word; only the attached pictures can truly describe it. The beach went on into the distance farther than my eyes could hope to see, and the sand trailed off into cloudy mist as the sand dunes reared up, seeming in challenge against the might of the ocean. The sand was hard-packed, indeed hard-packed enough for trucks and ATVs to drive around on, and so in the hour that we gave ourselves on the beach we were able to walk nearly a full mile down the shore – yet the beach just kept on going, farther and farther into the shrouding mists.

But we did have to leave, and so we finally tore ourselves back from the amazing beach at Baylys. It was a hard thing to do, but we finally got back into the van with full water bottles from a convenient station near the car park, and tore off onto the highway again. After a quick grocery and diesel stop we pushed almost flat out for the rest of the night, only stopping for a short while to watch the sunset and finalize our plans on where we were going to sleep, and who would be driving back to Auckland in the morning.

The total plan, as it stood, was that we’d camp out at a major intersection near a WWOOFing place, where Heloise and Adrien were planning on working, and then Alissa and I would drive on towards Auckland early in the morning, leaving camp around 4:30 to make sure that I could be in the city in time to make my flight at 10:30. It was a good plan, although it left me precious little time for sleep that night, and so we all agreed on pushing through until we finally arrived at a good spot to camp by that intersection.

And so… we did. It was a long drive though, but finally we did arrive around 10:30, setting up camp quickly before starting dinner and cleaning out the van for Anais. I didn’t bother setting up my tent that night, thanks to a small camping awning next to the van, and so I was able to help get dinner ready faster, getting us some more time to hang out and party for our last night as a road trip team. Everything was excellent – Dinner was an amazing pasta mix of fresh fruits and veggies with bowtie pasta, with a big Boston Cream Pie for dessert as a little “taste of home” for me (Ed Note: Ben won’t admit it, but this was actually the first time he had ever eaten Boston Cream Pie). We killed off the remainder of the beer, and I drifted off into content sleep just after the midnight bell rang out. (Another Note: There was no actual midnight bell. Ben just likes being poetic)

Day 5

I am a smart man, and thus I hadn’t fully inflated my sleeping pad the night before, thus setting a sort of “secondary alarm clock” for myself. I figured that, even after dealing with sleeping on concrete in Sao Paulo (See “My life in an Airport”) I would be forcibly awakened by the pad deflating enough to drop me onto the cold concrete. And it worked like a charm, although I did still try to keep sleeping for nearly 10minutes after my actual phone alarm went off.

Instead of an actual breakfast we all ate a quick bite of pastry or bread that we had saved from the grocery the day before, and Heloise and Adrien moved their gear into the small tent they had set up the night before. Alissa and I then said our goodbyes, exchanged contact information, and jumped into the van, driving through the mist towards Auckland. And by “mist”, I mean “crushingly dense fog”. And by “crushingly dense fog”, I mean “less than 10m (30f) visibility in the good parts”. It was rough, and made for slow driving… but I had expected that and so we arrived in Auckland only a few minutes late for my next airport adventure…