Road Walking, Urban Walking, USA
Comments 37

I Got My Kicks on County Road 36

I’d bought us a new washing machine that was getting delivered “between 1:00 and 5:00” — how’s that for an opening hook? — and with my morning free I set out early down Rt 9 to make the most of the Winter sunshine and stow some more road miles under my belt.

Naturally I was motorvating down said road on foot, clinging as far to the left of the sludgy shoulder as I could, staring the oncoming traffic in its ugly face. The sky was gloriously bright and blue, which only pissed off the cold and made it work all the harder.

Somewhere down 9 was Moreau Lake, where Kate takes her girls in Summer — sigh, SUMMER — apparently a dragonfly jamboree when it’s warm but a nice place to stomp through snow right about now. Google advised that I was looking at eight miles each way, so there’d be no stomping that morning, but enough time to gauge the possibilities.

A few miles along, though, I deviated — I do love to deviate. A little road branched off uphill to the left and without even pausing I swung onto the road less travelled. A short ascent and at another junction, this:

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Roadside Colour

Sometimes I forget just how much history lies just beneath the surface in these parts. Battle of Wilton? Sixteen ninety-three?! Says Edward Curtin on this archaeology blog, the battle was…

..a running engagement between a force of some 700-800 French and Indian allies, who had just attacked Mohawk villages in their homeland southwest of Saratoga County, and some 250 pursuers from the colony of New York. 

The New Yorkers caught up with the French and Canadian Indians in Wilton, where the western war path that led to the Mohawk valley met the northern war path to Montreal.  A violent struggle ensued… The French and Indian force fled along the northern path to a place in the Queensbury-Glens Falls area where they crossed the upper Hudson River on ice that, conveniently for them, thawed and broke up before the pursuing New Yorkers reached the river. The surviving French and Indians made it safely back to Canada.

There would be no thawing this day, despite the sunshine; it was still well below zero C. But intrigued, I took this new road — 36, or plain old Wilton Road — as my return route, figuring it would parallel 9 and take me back to something I might recognise.

Sometimes spontaneity pays off:

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Woodpecker Wounds

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I gained some height, the road guiding me by turns through shady forest and past small farms and secluded homes:

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36 was a joy to walk compared to the far more travelled 9, but road-walking is no time for the aimless daydreaming of a forest trail. You face the oncoming cars always wary of a wheel straying over the shoulder or a sudden tightening of the margin. An extra step left whenever a snow plough-brandishing pick-up bears down like the prow of a ship; two or three times a logging-truck driver swerves way over into the far lane to give me space, making eye contact and returning my nod of gratitude.

Greenfield is where Kate grew up…

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..where we still go for Sunday night dinners.

It was so quiet up there. Birdsong and the odd passing car. Slouching barns, wooded front yards invariably deserted:

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“Old District Number 9 Schoolhouse, 1813-1941”

Up ahead I could see a beautiful old farmhouse on a hill; I was sizing it up for a picture, reassessing the framing with each step, when my phone rang — it seldom rings and I love it for that. I wrenched a goatskin mitten off with my teeth to swipe the screen, cold hitting my fingers like a hammer.

“How you doing today, sir? I’m calling from Home Depot.”

“Good. You?”

“I’m fine, sir. We have a washer to deliver to you.”

“Yes…”

“We’ll be there in about 20 minutes.”

20 minutes?! I was told between one and five!”

“I know, we’re running ahead of schedule.”

“Well, is there any way you can come later?”

“Can’t do that, sir.”

“Okay, well, I don’t have a car. And I’m not sure exactly where I am. But I’ll do my best.”

“Thank you, sir.”

And just like that my whole morning clouded over. I started pacing hard, even as I knew it was pointless. Twenty minutes?! Where the fuck am I? Raced past the farmhouse, forgetting the shot, reached a crossroads with signs that didn’t help and gambled on a left turn down a straight and narrow road…

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..aiming for home, possibly, which might as well have been in California.

Damn it. God damn it. Damn it to hell. All the Damn It Variations. The beauty I’d been drinking in a few minutes before quickly soured. All these stupid farms, these pointless aimless clueless useless country roads. So damned inconvenient.

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An inviting driveway

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Then I remembered I was carrying a phone; sometimes they have their uses. Texted Kate without stopping or putting on my glasses.

Kat cna you cal me babe

She called soon, on her lunch break. I was wrecked by guilt — three kids, laundry as deep as the backyard snowdrifts, no machine in a week or more, and here I was taking yet another slacker excursion through the backroads of Nowheresville…

Explained the deal while I hurried on, eyes on the next rise where an oncoming car might materialise…

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Strangled Sumac Blossom

..and  — well, it all worked out.

Kate called the driver, adopted her Helpless Single Mother identity (it’s very convincing), persuaded him to delay the delivery by a few precious minutes, begged some time off from her teacher, and hit the pedal on her Town & Country in time to meet the Men With White Goods and observe their perilous descent into our cavernous basement with its crippled Whirlpool.

Suddenly the crisis was averted; we could wear fresh undies again. Even better, the sky was blue…

old house & snow saratoga springs

..the fields and farms were white and still and lovely…

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..and Kate, her afternoon now free, could help me un-lose myself.

“Where are you?”

“Locust Grove Road. Just passed the Daniels Road junction.”

“Go back and turn right onto Daniels. That’ll lead you towards downtown. I’ll pick you up soon. Are you hungry?”

 I was — but not for very much longer…

woman in diner

~ And that’s all the Goat wrote

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37 Comments

  1. Liz Russell says

    You weren’t too far from the Lincoln mountain state forest, where I once found myself lost and almost got my car stuck in the mud trying to drive through on an unmarked dirt “road” during an exploratory jaunt. Despite my experience there it’s a great place to visit. Feel free to get my phone number from Kate if you ever find yourself lost again I’m usually in the area most days and happy to help 🙂

    • That’s brilliant, Liz! I asked Kate about you and she replied, “Oh, she’s so sweet, I love her!”

      I’ll look into Lincoln Forest, too. If it can be reached on foot within a few hrs, I’m there! Anything to get me off the roads.

  2. Hi
    I’ve been such a blog-slacker lately, doing stuff and not posting much let alone visiting other blogs. Shame on me! Reading this just reminded me what I have been missing. The tyranny of delivery men knows no bounds. Kate’s face at the end is priceless. I must say I am enjoying your new scenery. All that fresh snow and blue sky and red barns. All very fresh and wholesome. Even fresher and more wholesome when enjoyed in freshly laundered undies. 😉

    • Heheh, I am loving (as Americans like to say) the new surroundings, especially now that the enjoyment comes relatively pain-free. Definitely worth a few miles of walking — plus I will get the joys of seasonal change as the year moves on.

  3. Wow!!! And then Yikes!!! And then what a relief to see Kate across the table from you and know that things worked out.

    Delivery people are inscrutable. I had an occasion where they arrived early, and I wasn’t home yet. I don’t have a cell phone, and they had to come back later. Nothing more painful than those moments when tranquility is lost so abruptly. Nothing so sweet as its return. Splendid photos of the country roads, the barns, the blue sky, the trees, and the fields. A memorable day.

    • A great day — I have quite a few posts like this in the pipeline, lots of drifting down roads, with snow a constant theme. We lost a fair bit of it to unusually warm weather over the weekend, but today there were more flurries and more falls are predicted. I’m told this “false Spring” occurs in February each year, and not to get too excited.

      So strange not being tied down to a job but not yet desperate enough or legally permitted to get one! A bit of writing, lots of photos, some housework and tons of strolling — just wish someone would pay me for it!

    • That tree has excited a lot of interest! We are confident it was an apple — this is apple country and we have seen other trees holding onto their fruit in local orchards. Kate tells me she knows of no persimmons in the area. Unfortunately this one was on private land and I couldn’t get as close I wanted.

      • Haha, yes! You can walk past a hundred metres or so of property frontage over here and see half a dozen “POSTED” warnings nailed on trees, etc!

  4. A little deviation, and disaster averted in the end! It’s a fairy tale! I delighted in the snowy, sunny landscape. You made me smile. And Kate’s face was such a picture — an expressive finale…

  5. Katemurray Stano says

    YOU WERE AT MY HOUSE! Practically! Why didn’t you call me or D? !!!!!! Mr Mountaingoat! Really…… !
    Jeepers!

  6. Katemurray Stano says

    PS, other than Spire Falls we have more local gem to show off as well…..
    Lets make a play date.

    • Heck, yes! Our last walk is one of the many on my to-post list. Let’s hope we get some more white stuff this week, we’ve just invested in some expensive toys.

  7. Darius Russell says

    Ahh, Brother Goat! You always know how to tell a tale!! –And crisp, colorful, great pics, as usual!! (I can’t figure out what I love more: the barn pic or the camera and your expertise in photoging the barn!)

    Laying here on my couch after my usual two days off (Sundays and Mondays) and so dreading having to start the work week once again (though I’ll be fine once I get there) and your humorous, wonderful adventures inspire me once again! Great to hear from you again!

    Never fear–I moved from North Carolina to Texas in Oct., and Spring is on its way!! Starting to hot 70 on a regular basis–Summer with Kate and the girls will get there soon enough!!

    Russell Goodloe

    • Darius Russell says

      (…err, what I meant to say…Never Fear! Temps down here north of Houston way are starting to climb upwards of 70 degrees. Spring will arrive soon enough for you, Kate and the girls!
      In the meantime, Happy Winter, Goat!

      –Darius

    • Thanks, Darius! I drove through Texas in 1993 — big state, hell, yes — and spent a little time in Dallas and Austin but never got to Houston (home town of my comedy hero Bill Hicks). I’m getting the hang of this Winter-in-America thing, I reckon — who knows, I might even be a little bit glum when it moves on?

  8. My family and I grew up in Greenfield Center with Kate and her family. We lived on Locust Grove Rd. You were less than a half mile from my parents house. I now live thousands of miles from Greenfield but your post brought me home for a few short minutes…thank you for that.

    • Much appreciated, Nan. Looking forward to walking Locust Grove again with a little more time and confidence — but today’s mission is actually making it downtown on foot via Maple Ave/9, for an appointment with a nice cup of coffee at Uncommon Grounds… It’s a pretty good life right now!

  9. Goat,

    check out John Ford’s “Drums along the Mohawk” (1939) for a good film about the perils of “frontier living” in the Mohawk Valley, New York circa 1770.

    No doubt they suffered hardships but they had no conception of life without a good washing machine.

    It’s a good film and it’s filmed on location, in, errrr Cook County, Pennsylvania, and Utah.

    • I’ll bet the delivery men never got there early in those days.

      Everything I know about the French Indian War I learned via historical markers and the ‘Last of the Mohicans’ movie! Yes, the remake — I was told, by the way, that parts of said film were shot on the Appalachian Trail, and that if you look closely you can see a white blaze or two on tree trunks.

  10. So – walking in new directions, in new places, with new people since last I visited. Reading between the lines I think that perhaps it suits you. I’m following with interest (OK, nosiness then).

  11. It looks like a beautiful world and I think the snow enhances it. Pity about your frozen hands! Take it easy on those road walks, as over the years I’ve been to a couple of people bowled over by wayward cars! You’re an old hand at that though, so I’m sure you’ve got goat-like skills in avoidance 🙂

    • The thing about road-walking is that you have to fight the urge to slip into any kind of blissful trance. You can’t take anything for granted so it’s quite mentally wearisome. I still like it though, in reasonably safe circumstances. Lately we’ve had some warmer weather here so the verges are delightfully wide thanks to the retreating snow. More due to fall this week though!

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