Blogs > Millennial Traveler

New and traditional ways of exploring the globe, and your own backyard.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Mountain Roads are Calling

While driving through some of the back roads of Rensselaer County, I realized something…I really miss mountain road driving.

I’m probably a weirdo, but I love the twists and turns of driving on a mountain. It’s probably not quite as fun as when you’re in the passenger seat (due to the large possibility of getting car sickness and all) but when you’re behind the wheel it is so much fun, especially if you’re in the right kind of car.

I was coming back from a maple syrup sugar house in Berlin on Plank Road when I had this epiphany. I thought the people in Berlin were being kinda funny when they said the establishment was on a mountain, but they were right.

I can’t wait to make my first hiking trip to the Adirondacks for some spring hiking. I think I enjoy the driving just about as much as the hiking.

Maybe some day I will finally tempt the inevitable and hit a deer, or get in a bad winter car accident out in the the boonies on a mountain. But, until then, I love being at the top of the world in the middle of absolutely nowhere.

My second favorite type of driving? That’d be onthe rolling hills of Rensselaer County, especially along Route 351.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Wiseman say: Watch hockey!

In lieu of venturing out into the not-quite-winter-but-not-quite-spring outdoors this weekend, I recommend expanding your horizons by popping some popcorn, making pizza, and watching some good ol’ fashioned hockey on the boob-tube.
Yes, I am a travel enthusiast but I’m also a lifelong RPI hockey fan and they’re playing Saturday starting at 1:30pm (EST). The great local monopolized TV provider that is Time Warner cable is graciously showing it on TW-Channel 3. I’ll admit, not a huge fan of Time Warner as a company (they’ve laid off a couple of my friends, continue to raise prices and they really are basically a monopoly despite the recent Fios TV announcement) but…they do show some good hockey games on Channel 3.
You’ve probably never even noticed Channel 3 but they have a lot of local sports coverage. I wouldn't know if they covered Jimmer or not...that was kinda off my radar. And now that that craze is done...I'm sure you are all looking for something to do.
So, I submit for your approval watching RPI battle North Dakota in the NCAA Midwest Regional. For the love of the game, I’ll even recommend watching Union play Minnesota-Duluth (that game is going on as I type and Union is losing by one point thus far).
If anything feel free to crash on my couch, though I’m sure your own will be much more comfortable.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

I am the Greatest Travel Packer in the World....kinda

I’m a little behind on this (it’s been a hectic week in the education beat at work), but I really enjoyed participating in the World’s Greatest Travel Packer contest at the Yankee Trails Travel Expo last week at Siena College.
I can be a little competitive, sometimes, so I left some tweets and Facebook messages to psych out Kelly Lynch, who I knew was also participating. We were joined by a mystery packer who was randomly chosen from the 200-plus people in the audience.
My strategy was to go in rolling items up but there were a lot of odd items – snow pants, a hat, a golf club, a water bottle. And, we had to discern what could and could not be packed in a carry-on according to flight regulations.
Kelly had what seemed to be the same strategy (or as me and Mr. Bush like to say, strategery), only she was carrying it out a lot better than I.
As far as time was concerned, I came in second but apparently the expert judges thought my bag was overall neat and well-organized (now if only my work desk reflected this), so Kelly and I tied for first place.
The best part, other than actually packing because I actually do love packing suitcases – weird, I know, is that money was donated to charity in our names.
The only question I have at this point is…who’s C-cup bra did I pack in the contest and why did they also have miniature Spongebob pjs?
Here's a video of the contest too. :)

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Doughboy: A thing that makes you go mmmm

I just had my first doughboy at Esperanto on Caroline Street in Saratoga Springs last night following a second "interesting" music show this week. $3.50 of Mmmmm. (And here's a recipe courtesy of Kristi for those interested, because I know I was.)
'nuff said.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Just Keep Swimming...

So, I went swimming today for the first time since January. I'll be honest, just driving over to the YMCA I was very nervous. The last time I attempted to do laps the pain in my left arm was too much and I gave up after a few hundred yards. Not nearly as many laps as I should be doing if I ever expect to do the English Channel next year or ever.

This time started about the same. My left arm hurt but not as bad as before. I've been trying to stregthen the muscles that I think I sprained before. Even though the pain was not as bad I couldn't help but focus on it while I was swimming.

I'm not the type of person who pops pills to get rid of pain. I'm the type who listens to my body and tries to realize when I'm doing too much.

Still, I really missed swimming so I started to focus on other things - my side breathing, my kicking, the blue tint of the water, the smell of the chlorine (one of my favorite smells, actually...which must be because I practically grew up in the water).

It was around this time - when I stopped thinking about my arm - that I started to feel better. Some people use running/jogging as their "me-time" and as a time to think. Well, swimming had always been that time for myself.

And that's when the woman in my swimming lane frog-kicked me in the gut.

The healing process hurts. But, there is healing and with that there is hope that I just may still reach my goal.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Next stop, New York City

So, I signed up for Airfarewatchdog and, overall, the deals have been pretty amazing. But, I found this one today a little perplexing – Albany, NY to NYC (JFK) Roundtrip for $198.
Why, why, why would I pay $200 to fly to New York and how does this categorize as a great “unadvertised” deal? The reason it’s unadvertised is because it’s ridicules.
There are so many other ways to get down there: Megabus one-way for $1 (if you book at the right time), driving to Poughkeepsie in an hour and then taking the MTA Metro North commuter train to NYC for $31.50 roundtrip (at off-peak times, if the ticket is bought in the station and not on the train), Premiere Limo does a daily airport shuttle from Albany International to several New York City airports at a fare around $65, and there are other shuttles that can get the job done at around $25, or so I’ve seen advertised.
I just dropped off my sister this morning (very early this morning) at the Albany-Rensselaer Train Station so she could take Amtrak to Penn Station (around $80 round trip). On a side note: She’s going to Atlantic City with a friend who just got back from India to see the ECAC hockey championships. I’m very jealous.

Now back to Albany to New York City transit: And, aside from all these options, you could always drive. I’m pretty sure, depending on how long you’ll be staying, you could find a parking deal that would be better than the $200 airfare – but then parking and driving in the city sucks so that’s kinda travel-at-your-own risk. I’ve only driven and parked in Manhattan once (to go to a 7-Eleven while The Simpsons movie was out and I got a Squishee). The driving was not as bad as I expected but it was bad enough where I do not plan on doing that again.
My favorite way down, personally, is to drive to Poughkeepsie. Parking is free at the train station on weekends, the schedule is flexible with trains leaving every hour, and the fare is not bad.
But, if you have $200 to blow on airfare to a city just 2.5 hours away, by all means…

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

By (Lake) George!

On the news today, I heard that Lake George was dubbed a national and international destination, the only one in upstate New York (according to CBS news this midday). There are two parts to this. One I agree with and the other I don't.
I totally agree that Lake George is an international destination. Hell, I've seen people in my travels to Egypt and Europe wearing Lake George apparel. It's kinda (Really) cool. And it attracts people for all the right reasons: it's a beautiful setting where people and families can enjoy themselves - whether it's hiking to the top of Sleeping Beauty, taking a trip on the Mini ha ha steamboat cruise, eating along the boardwalk, or paragliding on the lake (which I really want to try sometime).
And it's obviously the theme park capital of the world, or at least of upstate New York, with Water Slide World, Great Escape, Magic Kingdom- just to name a few. Kids in the Capital - Saratoga region are lucky to be near this location since it's close for families, not to mention school trips.
Though, I'm not too happy with the Six Flags corporation these days. Twenty-dollars for parking across from Great Escape? What? I remember when that was just a grassy, muddy, free field.
Oh well.
Lake George obviously mainly a summer location but I've had just as much fun there in the winter with their annual Winter festival and Polar Bear swimming, which I've done seven times though I missed doing it this past New Year's Day. Planning to go back next year with my new polar bear sled.
And I still want to check out the year-round water park at Great Escape Lodge, even if they are owned by the greedy Six Flags people.
The one thing I did not agree with in today's news report was that it was the only place worthy of international recognition in upstate New York. Hello? Lake George is just barely inside the Adirondack Park borders and it only gets better as you go north to the Keene Valley area. Then there's the Ausable Chasm, the Finger Lakes, and, am I missing anything? Oh right, that little dripping water and hydroelectricity source called Niagara Falls, which has some pretty cool nearby attractions too.
I wish I could find the report CBS cited but I couldn't, otherwise I would Facebook friend the source and yell at them profusely. But, since I can't, I'll just get off my soapbox now.

Friday, March 11, 2011


Another day and I'm wearing another piece of jewelry as a sign of my empathy with those around the Pacific Ocean. While I have never been to Japan, I visited San Francisco this past summer on my road trip. It was where I saw the Pacific Ocean for the first time. I picked up a set of pink pearls from the city. They've become one of my favorite pieces and I'm wearing them today.
There are tsunami and flood watches all along the west coast. I saw a newscast from San Fran this morning, around 9am, on the Today show. The reporter said the seas were calming at that time, but some areas were expecting a 10 feet rise in the sea level.
All of this is following the devastating quake in Japan early this morning. I first saw tweets about it as I was winding down from the day around 1am. Reports have said it was at least a 8.9 magnitude quake which is ridiculously strong.
It's days like today that: 1) I am glad I didn't plan any trips to Japan in the near future (just like I was glad I wasn't traveling to Egypt during recent turmoil). And, much more seriously, 2) I realize how fragile life is and powerful nature can be. About 200 to 300 bodies have already been found in Japan's northeast coast.
It's a truly sad day. But, if there is anything that I have learned from my international studies classes and the two Japanese culture classes I took in college, it's that Japan is one of the most resilient countries in the world. They have faced horrible challenges in the past and have come back to become a world power. I have no doubt they will face this with courage and I have a feeling they will have a lot of support from the international community.
And, in a few years, I look forward to visiting this small, proud country for the first time and talking with the Japanese who overcame this tragedy.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Twitterpated @ the Pine Bush

It's starting to come to a point where I don't remember a time that I wasn't concocting fun Facebook status updates and Twitter tweets in my head as I go about my day to day activities. Such was the case this morning as I was walking through the Albany Pine Bush near their Discovery Center on Rt. 155.

So, I thought it might be interesting to delve into the mind of...well, me...and do a blog using only 140-character thoughts on various parts of the hike. Sure, the tweets kind of go against the whole going into nature to escape the rest of the world thing, and the blogging just further adds to that, but I'm going to do it anyway. Tweeting for tweeting's sake.

11:25 a.m. - Almost got into an accident on Washington Ave Ext. Yes, there was a red light, but gree arrow means go, #dumbass

11:29 a.m. - Small, ice encased leaning pines welcome me to the center. Reminiscent of Charlie Brown's Christmas tree

11:30 a.m. - Stupid cumbersome snowshoes take forever to put on. At least they are #pink

11:31 a.m. - An alert for a text message reminds me to silence my cell phone to truly appreciate the "show"

11:38 a.m. - Snowshoeing is harder work than I remember. Miss my XC skies

11:41 a.m. - Came to an amazing, big view of the area. Can see to the southwest, some little mountains

11:42 a.m. - Along with a big view comes a big hill. Now glad I'm not wearing my XC skies

11:44 a.m. - Following a set of XC tracks. How the heck did they go down these hills? #Damn

11:47 a.m. - I used to get annoyed at snowshoers who would go in the XC tracks but then I realized it's good for packing down the snow

11:49 a.m. - Sighting of a big bird (not the Sesame Street one...sadly)

11:50 a.m. - Another fun hill, wish I had my sled

11:52 a.m. - The snow is packy and heavy. Some of it is on the top of my snowshoes. Too lazy to wipe it off

11:54 a.m. - The ice on the brush and trees is really breathtaking

11:56 a.m. - Ah crap, now the trail runs parallel to Rt. 155. Not so nature-y anymore

11:57 a.m. - Odd small tracks the size of thumbs near the trail. Looks like something hopping. Is it rabbit season?

11:58 a.m. - Trail goes off to the left in a weird way. Wonder why, I know why. Very moist under the snow and now in my boot

11:59 a.m. - Been mainly downhill and flat, now uphill a bit. Have to bypass bending trees with weirdly-angeled icicles

12 p.m. - Back at the beginning. The blue trail loop is a good, quick hike with some hills and good vistas. #Bravo @AlbanyPineBush

That really is the tag for the Pine Bush where you can follow them. But, I think they'd prefer if you followed them by making an actual visit.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Aspen, Aspen - A place so nice, they should have named it twice

As part of my quasi-daily routine, I have a bunch of Web sites – um, 24 to be exact – that are on my “Favorites” list that I read when I get into the office: All Over Albany , the New York State School Boards Association, the Retail Council of NYS, and the Wall Street Journal, to name a few.
Today in the ol’ WSJ I saw an article about how Aspen is bucking the trend of the national housing market and, having gone to this beautiful and obviously fairly rich city for the past two summers, that comes as no surprise to me.
My first trip there was last summer as part of my
dad’s big nearly-cross country train trip.
And, I’ve said this before and I may say this again, but being on a train for a total of 79 hours is nearly- cross country enough for me. So, I was ecstatic to finally arrive in Denver even though our original itinerary had us coming into Glenwood Springs. We rented a van and, after a few days in Denver, Boulder, and Colorado Springs, we drove to Aspen to visit our family there. So, it did not take long for me to really enjoy myself in Aspen. It’s surrounded by mountains, many of which are great for skiing and I think that was part of the initial attraction to the area. Well, that and the nearby silver mining. (which now has resulted in some pretty nifty ghost towns just a few miles away from Aspen)
The diversity of the natural world is not hard to see either. Lush green pastures of wild flowers are not far from snow-capped 14,000-foot mountains, which, in turn, are just a quick drive, or a longer hike, from some very arid nearly dessert-like ecosystems.

I actually named Aspen my favorite city in my post- cross country road trip blog . And its nearby Conundrum Hot Springs Trail is definitely one of my favorite hikes I have ever done.
So, it suits me fine that I have family that have put down roots in that area. I have a cousin who owns her own business in downtown(across from a very yummy Austrian restaurant), another cousin who works at a beautiful resort in Snowmass Village just outside the city, and a cousin (-in law?) who also owns a business downtown by making furniture for the seemingly ever-expanding homeowners in Aspen.
The Aspen disparity is not just seen in nature, however, since the resident millionaires also need services – restaurants, coffee, newspapers. Across the street from the Aspen airport, a couple miles down the road from downtown, a lovely community was developed for people who could not quite afford the now $6 million average priced home (up from $5.4 million in 2006). The development has beautiful, spacious one-family houses, yards, quiet streets, and playgrounds. It’s perfect for raising a family, and it’s close by necessities like the supermarket, mechanics, and gas stations – on my road trip, I think the most expensive gas we paid was in this community. It was $3.50 and that was a year ago!

As a visitor, it seemed Aspen offered a good life for even the not-quite-millionaire community members (since my family has been there for years, they seem to agree). And then, of course, for the millionaires there’s the $40 million ranches with outdoor and indoor leather-padded pools (‘cuz, ya know, why not).
Personally, I’m looking at the $559,000 home listing in the nearby trailer park. My thinking is that if the housing market is doing good, the newspaper home delivery is probably not shabby right now either in Aspen. But, uh, don’t tell my editors.

Above: (first picture) of a bell in downtown Aspen that has Troy roots
(second picture) of the arid-looking area not far from a condo where my family stayed last summer
(third picture) My sister and brother take a well-deserved break during our 18-mile roundtrip hike at Conundrum Hot Springs

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Honeymoon Period

There’s been a lot of talk of weddings lately…one good friend just got engaged in Seattle, then there’s the three weddings this summer/fall, and a childhood friend and his awesome new wife just got back from their honeymoon. And, honestly, if I ever did get married, the main reason (besides being in love) would be to have an excuse to plan and enjoy a honeymoon.
That’s always one of the first questions I ask people when I hear they’re getting married. Where are you going on your honeymoon?
Most seem biased for warmer climes (rightly so, being from New York’s quasi-frozen tundra). And, with awesome cruise details like towel animals on the bed and phallic guitar-playing watermelon, I totally see the appeal.

Then, there have been the more original honeymoons I’ve heard of like taking a cross country road trip or a brewery tour of the Northeast. And not all honeymoons these days immediately follow the wedding, which I think is a fun change to the tradition.
It was interesting Google-ing “honeymoon.” I guess one of the earliest references states that a man should be exempt of doing anything for a full year after marrying except making his new wife happy. (And the term was recorded in 1546, as hony moone.) Now, most consider the honeymoon period over after the first month.
My ideal honeymoon would either be a trip around the world (including stops for an African safari, Indian tour of the Taj Mahal, Thailand’s beaches, and Peru’s Macchu Picchu) or – the more cost effective but cliché and classic – trip to Hawaii. In fact, I’d probably just have the ceremony there for the awesome ambiance and then start the honeymoon immediately afterwards.
My less optimistic and more realistic self believes that given the divorce rate, there should be a moneymoon following an annulment where you spend your former spouses’ money to go on a trip to make yourself happy. In which case, I would definitely take that trip around the world.