The Catskills are less than two hours from Dutchess County, so when my host in Millbrook suggested a road trip to visit friends across the Hudson on a splendid September morning, I was all green lights. Andrew's wife opted out of the journey. Her kids were a handful on long rides. We set off after a heart breakfast and headed west to the mountains.
We crossed the Hudson and soon passed through Hunter. The ski slope was bare and the resort's parking lot was empty. Our friends lived slightly farther west on the desolate dissected plateau with long valley vistas and the summer air poured into Andrew's Tundra.
Lexington NY turn-off for New York 23A onto Route 42. Philippe, once the 'prettiest woman in northern Maine, was vacationing with his family of four in his modernized hunting cabin opposite WestKill Mountain. We arrived a little after noon. There was no offer of lunch.
Only lovely tea from freshly picked mint.
The reminiscing conversation was entertaining, but the rumble from Andrew's stomach grew louder. My gastric echoes were a little more demure, since I had stolen cookies from the kitchen. The schnorred Oreos tasted great, but Phillipe's kids eyed me with Gestapo suspicion. Children was very possessive about food.
After an hour we said our goodbyes and sat in Andrew's truck. He wanted to return along New York State 23.
"I've never been on any of these roads." The route over from Woodstock had been a avenue of arcadian scenery and I studied the map on my lap. "42 goes south to 28. We go west for a few miles and then head south on 47 to New Paltz."
"New Paltz is about a 100 miles away. Is there anywhere to eat on the way?" Andrew was dying for food.
"Has to be someplace on the way." Few towns dotted the backside of the Catskills; Shandakan, Big Indian, Neversink. This was the weekend. Stores made a fortune selling hot dogs to hungry day-trippers like us, but I replied honestly, "I'm not so sure.
"I got lost on the road from Tannersville to Woodstock. One hour in the dark." Andrew was British. He had seen DELIVERANCE. For him the land of the rednecks began once over the Hudson.
"That was night." I argued for 47. "We'll never come this way again. I'd like to see what there is. Even if it's nothing."
"There better be something to eat."
He wheeled south and followed my directions to 47. The two hotels in Big Indian were closed for the season and their signs wore years of weather.
"That's not a good omen."
The two-lane road slunk through bland valleys.
We drove deeper into the terra incognita. Andrew voiced his discontent. We were hungry, except Philippe no longer bore the blame for our lack of food. The secluded settlements of Olivera and Wistock Mountain were devoid of commerce. Frost Valley's services were reserved for YMCA campers.
"What do people eat here?" Andrew was frantic. It was well past lunch.
"Bark probably, but the only business I've seen for the past hour has been 'yard sales'." We slowed by each house hoping for food, but they offered nothing to eat and crap for sale.
"They look too fat to live only on bark. They must be snacking on moss in their spare time."
Our fragile state caused us to make a wrong turning.
Left to Clarityville in hope of sustenance.
Once more a meal of disappointment.
Andrew turned on his GPS and typed in 'diner'. The GPS did not respond. Andrew was for straight on. I was too. The land of nowhere had to end somewhere.
40 miles later we rolled into New Platz. I bought Andrew whatever he wanted. The foodless journey had been my idea.
"One day we'll laugh about this."
"But not today."
And I don't ever have to see the back of those mountains again.
Once was more than enough.
Especially on an empty stomach.