Adventure, Food, FUN!, Life, New York, Road Trip, Spring

Road Trip: Beacon, NY

How quickly things are changing.

A few weeks after Captain Clam and I moved, we started talking about buying a pick-up truck. We didn’t want anything fancy, just a little clunker that could make it to Virginia and back a half a dozen times a year. We started stalking Craigslist for a few days just to daydream about what our options were. Then the dream faded and we got on with trying to finish organizing our new apartment. Eventually, we forgot about the truck, but the wish was already released to the universe.

At some point, my dad called asking us if we wanted his old pick-up. And just like that, we are drivers again. We named our Little Mazda “Dino Gadget”, and have been whipping all over the place lately (especially the laundromat). A few weekends ago, Le Clam scrawled an invitation on a torn envelope. He wanted to take me to the DIA: Beacon and stay overnight in a hotel yet-to-be-chosen (his treat). Our first road trip had been planned!

My first course of action was to go shopping. I needed an awesome springtime outfit for our 2 day extravaganza. So I bought 4 different outfits and 6 pairs of shoes. A girl needs to be prepared! I “modeled” my clothes for the Captain and he said I looked like I was from Connecticut. What an outrage! I wore crazy Chevron Shoes and green eyeshadow, just in case anyone thought I was a CT resident (I am still insulted and completely grossed out that he even said that).


The road out of the city was almost painless. We got turned around before we even made it back to the apartment with last minute necessities (like cat food and kitty litter). Once were were all set, there was one more small directional panic, and then we were off.

Once we reached Westchester, we cheered out hearts out! We had made it out of the city on our first grand adventure. As we headed North (avoiding all tolls) the scenery started to change; the air became fresher and warmer. We followed the hand written directions from the Clam, and eventually ended up on Route 9D. The scenery was unbelievable. I had almost forgotten what the mountains and the sky looked like. My ears popped like crazy and we cheered yet again as we entered Beacon, NY on the back roads.

Then we exited Beacon and headed through all sorts of other lovely towns in search of a cheap hotel. We ended up on Route 9, and found that this was a place that looked like it could be anywhere in America. Strip malls with chain stores and a ton of car dealerships full of cars that will never be sold. I hate places like that.

Low and behold, we finally found a hotel. You would think that a place with the name “Mercury Grand Hotel & Convention Center” would be, well, grand. It was everything but. The place was falling apart. I was almost excited about there being a bar and kitchen, since I have never eaten at such an establishment at a hotel before, but the bar was closed (GASP!). The place looks like something that would have been nice in it’s heyday. We booked a room for the night and wandered down a hall lined with books and large empty conference rooms. It was as if the place itself were the ghost.

And there it was. Room 217. What a fucking beauty. It was a double queen with typical hotel art. The bed closest to the door had been made rather poorly, and I wondered if someone had taken a nap in it on their lunch break and had forgotten to straighten the comforter. The room was alright, but had some gross stuff on the ceiling above the shower. The toilet was about 8″ from the floor and tucked under the sink, which is okay by me, but Captain Clam has long legs. Eek! Nevertheless, the room was livable for one night.


Sleep in me…. just for one night-prepaid.

After we dropped our bags off, we hopped back into Dino Gadget and sped off towards our big date at the DIA: Beacon. We snacked on $14 Turkey Sandwiches and $12 hummus while drinking $4 water from fancy glass bottles (which we kept for a future art project, of course). It was more expensive to have lunch than to get into the museum. Next time, we bring a picnic with us. And a tent.


This place is cool. The museum is situated in an old Nabisco Printing factory near the Hudson. The gallery spaces are huge and roomy, allowing for 360 degree visuals of the sculptures. The first gallery we walked into was inspiring, with twisted metal pieces by John Chamberlain (check it HERE & HERE). That’s where we encountered THEM. The know-it-all-artsy-fartsy-late-20-something-art-history-minors. Those people who just don’t let you enjoy the museum. For me, a museum is like a library. You should keep your mouth shut and absorb what is in front of you in peace.


Captain Clam at peace.

There were, however, a few large groups with professors trolling about. Those groups were interesting to eaves drop on, especially at the Sol LeWitt exhibit. One of the installations has inspired a little project for the wall above our bed. Anyway, being around the field trip crew made me realize just how much I miss school and being surrounded by creative people and new ideas.


Fred Sandback String Installation

Captain Clam and I adventured all over the museum and grounds. We made sure to kiss inside each of Richard Serra‘s overwhelmingly huge metal sculptures and explore the simple elegance of a string connected from floor to ceiling. It was important to walk around and view the pieces from all angles. I have got to be honest. Some of the art was crap. It wasn’t even aesthetically pleasing. Some of it was just penises. It made me uncomfortable just how many penises were in this one piece. Where did they come from? Who did they belong to? Why were they at all? I just didn’t get it.


Penis Art

Crappy art is not uncommon, especially with Modern Art. A lot of the time art isn’t about the visual aspect of a piece. Sometimes it has nothing to do with the piece, but rather the viewer or the artist’s process. Like, maybe they made it with their eyes closed while they were drunk or sad? Who knows. Modern Art as pure expression is hit or miss for me, and I assume for most people.

After 2 hours, we hit the gift shop and bought the mandatory DIA: BEACON post card to send my parents (as I promised them post cards from all of our adventures with Dino Gadget). Then we gallivanted around Beacon and perused a few shops along the longest Main Street I have ever driven down! We popped into a bunch of junk and antique shops just to browse. Not looking for anything in particular can be a dangerous game to play. We ended up buying a $5 white marble doorknob with the hopes of replacing the gear shift knob in Dino Gadget. Not too bad of a price for a quick and easy project.

We eventually went into Hudson Beach Glass, which was having an artist reception in their upstairs gallery space. The space featured four artists, whose works complimented each other quite well. We wandered around a bit, pretending to be hoity-toity, unsure if we were being pretentious or if it was just everyone else.


Since it was too early for wine (as if that is such a thing), we went back to the glass gallery to see if we could afford any of the beautiful pieces on display. Some of the pieces were quite exquisite. Even Captain Clam was commenting on some tall and sexy vases. If I had $230 to start a new collection of something, this piece might be my inspiration:


Dodeka Bowl

Captain Clam had a great idea for the next part of our adventure: Newburgh. He read somewhere that Newburgh is the sister City to Beacon, just on the other side of the Hudson. Apparently, crossing the Hudson to Newburgh is like crossing the train tracks to the bad part of town. We live in the South Bronx and kinda understand what a rough neighborhood might feel like. Newburgh was a little scarier. As Captain Clam is quoted as saying, “Newburgh is like being in Tijuana on a bad donkey night.” I have never felt so uneasy in a place. Perhaps we made a wrong turn somewhere. Nevertheless, we got the fuck out of there as soon as we could. Newburgh sucked, as did the surrounding area. After we successfully fled, Captain Clam told me that he just wanted to go there so we could see the view from the bridge. I made him pay the toll back.

After a small stint in a place I hope to never go again, we decided that we needed to eat. We found a “mexican” restaurant with live music. Cascadas Mexican Restaurant was certainly not authentic, but it was good enough. All I can say is, thank the stars for BEER! The food was so bland that it was hard to believe the restaurant thought it was making Mexican Food. Regardless we ate until we couldn’t move and then adventured off to buy discount Beer and Tobacco at the Discount Beer and Tobacco Center.


I have never seen so much beer in my life. They had every kind of beer in the universe (well, except for the one beer that I wanted). So we picked up way too much beer and a package of cigarettes, as well as 2 lotto tickets. I have since misplaced the lottery tickets, which makes me certain that they are million dollar winners.

Upon arriving back to the Hotel and Convention Center, we settled into our cozy cave and I went in search of ice. The ice machine was from 1972 and did not work. Of course I stood there holding the button for a minute before giving up and heading for the front desk. I don’t normally go to the front desk to complain, but I also don’t like to drink warm beer. As I approached the counter the gal in charge said “I LOVE your shoes! Do you need ice?” What!? The Chevron Shoes were a success!! It was now clear that I was not from Connecticut.


Creek View Suite.

While waiting for her to return, I noted a giant leak in the ceiling. The entire ceiling was covered in dark orange water spots, and the carpet had old stains on it from previous damage.  I thought, “what the fuck happened here?” She returned and  handed me the bucket of ice and I asked her “Are you renovating the hotel?” She laughed and said “Oh no. The hotel is actually foreclosed and owned by a bank. They are just waiting for someone to purchase it.” I wish I could remember the joke I cracked, because it was awesome and we laughed and laughed…. sigh.

I returned to our room 20 minutes after I departed for the ice machine. My original plan had been to retrieve enough ice to cover a large portion of the bathtub so we could ice down all of our beer. Of course now I had a tiny bucket of ice and too many beers. We thought the garbage can might be a good cooler, but it was so disgusting! So we opted for a few beers in the bucket and the rest in a plastic bag with some ice.

Then we  proceeded to drink. We played a drinking game to a news program covering the Missing Malaysian Flight. We drank whenever anyone said “Ping” or “Black Box.” Needless to say, the beer disappeared rather quickly. Looking back on it, I do believe that game may have been a little insensitive.

After a few beers, we decided to rearrange the furniture. It was a great idea that quickly backfired. After we moved the desk and lamp and chair, we discovered that when we turned the heater on, we disturbed the stink bug family that was living inside. There were stink bugs EVERYWHERE. Ok, I am lying. There were only about 3 or 4. But still. It was gross. We quickly moved our suitcase off the other bed and checked anywhere else there might be bugs. After monitoring their activities for half an hour, we realized they were probably just as scared as we were. Or they were dead.


The next morning, we woke up refreshed and happy that some of the beer never made it to our lips. The shower was just like home, with irregular water temperatures and varying pressure. We packed up our belongings (beer and all) and headed to the dining area for our free continental breakfast. We went to the food service area and there it was: a Waffle Machine. It was so awesome. I made my own waffle at a bank owned continental breakfast!

So we feasted on free breakfast and checked out. I felt bad about stealing the toiletries, but it is a tradition for all hotel patrons, so I did it anyway. We headed back to Beacon to peruse the Sunday Flea Market behind the post office on Main Street. What fun! We bought a whole bunch of crap that we didn’t need (including a mask, a wooden box, a jump rope, some stained glass, a compound miter saw, and a pewter whale key chain that reads “I ❤ Whales”). We must have gone into Rite Aid to get Cash back at least three times.

We eventually wandered in to this amazing little shop Lord of the Strings, where we met the proprietor, John Vergara. He was one of the most interesting people I have ever met. His insights were smooth and important. He talked to us about how he got involved in making musical instruments, how precision was important in all parts of life, and how mistakes need to be made so they can be lessons in learning. He was much deeper than I can articulate, but you get the point.

John Vergara, luthier

John Vergara, Luthier


A few minutes of chatting made it quite clear the we were not from Beacon. We told him we live in the South Bronx, which is apparently where he is from. He actually grew up about 5 blocks from where we currently live. What are the odds? We finally excused ourselves, as he looked very intent on getting back to his beautiful woodworking.

On our journey down the back roads, we came across this quaint little furniture shop that we just had to visit. By the time we had driven by it 3 or 4 times, we knew a few markers that indicated we were almost there. Most of the markers, however, were dead animals. If you see the dead deer, you’re almost there, but if you pass the splattered raccoon, you have gone too far.

At last, the deer directed us to At Home in the Woods, this great little country furniture showroom. Captain Clam and I are self proclaimed furniture nerds, which made this place a tiny nook of heaven. We felt the need to have to buy something, so we opted for the $11 cutting board. It was on sale.

Beacon and her surrounding towns were quite charming (except Newburgh, of course), but we were ready to move on…. or shall I say up? We headed towards Bear Mountain, hoping to get a bumper sticker for Dino Gadget. We headed around the loop and up the mountain. We went higher and higher until we could drive no more. And what a sight! Part of the drive was a tiny bit scary, since I thought we might fly off the mountain at some point, but it was all worth the fear. We weren’t able to stop at the gift shop because $8 is too much to spend to park long enough to go buy a $5 sticker. No thanks! The bumper stick was not meant to be.


After a successful drive up and down, we started to head home. We kept to the scenic route, hoping to find a cute little somewhere for lunch. We found THIS cute little place in Peekskill, which boasted a zillion Craft Beers and a delicious looking menu. Clam wanted a burger and I opted for a grilled cheese. After what seemed like forever, we received our food. My sandwich looked amazing, but Captain Clam opened his burger, and the entire patty was made of beets. BEETS! I still have no idea why he ordered it (he claimed he thought is was just going to be a topping). The Captain HATES beets in mass quantity. Since I don’t mind them (even though I wanted a grilled cheese since I saw the sign for Craft Beer), I took one for the team and traded lunches.

At first the burger was alright, mixed with goat cheese and a little homemade honey mustard on the side. Then I almost threw up. It was just too much beet! I hated it. I stole some grilled cheese while the Clam as blinking. It would have not been such a bad experience if we could have actually had a few beers, but one of us had to drive and it would have certainly not been fair to the other. Of course having to eat the beet burger wasn’t fair, but there would be beers in our immediate future. So I suffered.

We continued on the scenic route, not knowing our way home. We kept the Hudson to our right, knowing full well that the River would bring us safely back to the Bronx. Ultimately we made it to Yonkers, which is not the coolest place to be on a Sunday evening, but we were almost home and were exhausted from our weekend adventure. We finally found the highway, and were climbing the stairs to the homestead in no time.

The weekend felt so long. It was a perfect weekend, with weather in the upper 60’s. The trees had yet to bloom, but it made way for the imagination. I learned a lot about people. While everyone was nice, most people were so self-involved and important. I kept thinking, “Wow, I really dislike most people.” And that might be true, even if I don’t truly believe it. Captain Calm and I would definitely go back to Beacon, NY. I think we might even stay in the same little shit hole, requesting room 217, just for fun. And now to go find those scratch offs. I am feeling lucky.