18 Hours: Upstate / Connecticut Loop {Day Trips, 101}

18 Hours: Upstate / Connecticut Loop {Day Trips, 101}

Travel tucks you into new environments, which facilitate different experiences. And experience is the basis of all learning, all growth. So, travel is enlightenment…. Luckily, there is no need to head to an ancient Buddhist temple to derive this wisdom. There is plenty of beauty, adventure, inspiration, oddity (and vegan eats) just a couple of hours away. This is particularly gratifying for me… as those are a few of my favorite things. I had 18 hours to pack with as much of those things as I could.

Planning a trip is a bit of an art form, a form of self-expression. It expresses your values, how well you know (and care for) yourself, and, most importantly, how to feed your heart and soul. A day trip should be purposeful. After all, it’s the condensed version of a regular trip, where there are days of acclimating built into the rising action towards one or several trip pinnacles. Day trips are more concentrated, requiring a bit of forethought in order to avoid quick burnout. The trick is to induce that road trip euphoria quickly… then feed it in a variety of different ways. The best way to get this going is to go somewhere beautiful, where nature’s majesty bonks you on the head joyfully and reminds you that you are more than a couch recliner or cubicle dweller; you are more than the you inside your daily circumstances–you are a part of a gloriously intricate expanse of wonder.

That was accomplished at Walkway Over the Hudson, the longest elevated pedestrian bridge in the world, spanning the entirety of the mighty Hudson River. You can walk the bridge by entrance in Poughkeepsie or Highland, to the west. Or you can take an elevator 212 feet up to end up right smack dab in the center of the bridge, lazy bones. PicMonkey Collage1

Looking south you can see it’s slinking its way towards New York City. DSC_0027

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Poughkeepsie looks like a miniature model set, like a big HBO is going to fly through.DSC_0046

Planning spots to eat is important. A hungry traveler does not make rational travel decisions. She may forgo worthy or spontaneous stops, lead by her irrational belly. Or, worse yet, she may quickly head to a familiar chain to grab a bite (“Oh! They have a Panera!”) Food stops are a big part of the experience. Regional takes on well-loved forms vary. The Mediterranean Veggie Sandwich with no Feta abroad is the same as the one at home. Unless you’re in another hemisphere and the visit gives you a well-needed comfort from home, don’t hit a chain. But do hit a regional chain, like Mother Earth’s Storehouse, a small grocer with locations in Poughkeepsie, Kingston, and Saugerties,
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Mother Earth has a big selection of vegan treats to choose from. And on a day trip, you can get more than enough and take them home!IMG_0240

I always took a lot of pictures. Way before there were easy means of sharing pictures. The I only have 24 exposures on a roll but the inside of this Porta Potty bowl is art days. The I have to wait a week for film to be developed days. I love taking pictures. In travel planning, you create the conditions to do the things you love: not incidentally, supplementally and in passing, but singularly. It’s like honoring each part of your being’s delicious pie chart, one slice at a time. Don’t rush. That’s part of regular life. When you’re traveling and partaking in activities you love, you relish. You take your time. Of course that is more difficult when you are illegally trespassing. DSC_0060

Holy Land USA is an abandoned theme park in Waterbury, Connecticut. What was the theme? The Bible. The park had a miniature model of Bethlehem Village and a variety of diaoramas.  This article has some great before and after shots, which give the ruins a bit of context.DSC_0062

The place had its hey days during the 1960’s and 1970’s, closed in 1984 with a plan to expand and was never reopened after 1986 when founding visionary John Baptist Greco passed away. DSC_0063

Though the grounds were the crime scene of a brutal and disturbing rape and murder in 2010, there have been many revival attempts for Holy Land USA–the most recent being last year, when Waterbury’s current mayor had trees cleared and brush removed. DSC_0074
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Back to planning for food options. Sometimes you have to eat cupcakes twice. Because you’re there and you won’t be there again soon, usually. I know, I know. It’s just terrible. So you break the rules that ground your daily life; be flexible. Flexibility is the foundation of happy travel. And the lack thereof is the main reason someone is not a good traveler. Openness, adventurousness and a sense of When In Rome-ness–not everyone has the confidence required to birth these traits. Leave the phooey-phooey’s at home. Leave the folks who can only celebrate adventure through movies and television at home. And move on with ya bad self–bring a to-go container; bring a flexible traveler who values the same things… or no one at all. DSC_0115

My second cupcake (great band name): Hardcore Sweet Cupcake in Oakville, CT. Kind of tucked away is fun, as is accolades like Cupcake Wars winner. It’s about discovering. And it feels more like discovery with a few twists and turns not dictated by the GPS. IMG_0251

Hardcore Sweets have a few vegan options at their bakery. Today it was Chai Latte, spiced cake filled with a mixture of cardamom, cloves and ginger, topped with a tea infused buttercream and Dust to Dust, chocolate cake with chocolate fudge frosting, Oreo and Biscoff Cookie crumbles. These are huge cupcakes, with tons of frosting. DSC_0120

So you’ll need to shift directions before you’ll have too long a stretch of driving to do to get home. The key is to find destinations to break up the entire loop. So as you are traveling to the destinations, you are looping back towards home and not traveling more then a couple of hours straight. With an 18 hour trip, no more than 6 hours of total driving is ideal. You also want to plan that against rush hour traffic if you’re near any metropolises.

A word on your destinations, you want to find the unique offerings of the area. Like a vegan cafe inside a music store in North Haven, CT.  PicMonkey Collage2

It’s a music store (Music Center). And it’s a vegan cafe (Musical Forest Cafe). It’s a music store / vegan cafe (a “slashy,” my new post tag). Yes, you can eat your vegan sandwich with a full view of the guitar section, as I did. Mark, the owner, gave me the history of the place, which included brown rice and broccoli-related miracles and the power of Reiki. And, pow, that’s how a vegan cafe is born! With a reverence for the true power of plant-based food and the desire to spread that power to the community.  Sounds like gospel. And in a way it is.  DSC_0122

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I had the Philly Cheesesteak-ish sandwich, with very tasty marinated mushrooms, caramelized onion, and protein twinsies: seitan and tofu, with a sprinkling of Daiya (my yearly allowance now full).  After a long day of travel, this yummy, hearty sandwich was so needed. DSC_0132

He let me sample his very rich chocolate cake, as well. So densely rich is was like a bar of fudge. I could barely eat half of it. More for my to-go box!DSC_0137

So I mentioned earlier that plans should include feeding the heart and soul in a variety of different ways. This is an important purpose. And although a stop may seem silly or trivial, underneath might be something pretty important. As a longtime weirdo and social misfit, it’s sad to witness such a flashpan society whose collective spirit barely seeps past a surface crack. Homogenized popular culture and marketing forces shape what should be a far more personalized living experience. Why? Because it is more profitable if everyone likes the same cr*p, wants the same material things, has the same version of “success,” and contributes, often subconsciously, to one of the many machines that keep that all running smoothly. But there are places where counterculture is alive. Places that exist and thrive in honor of weirdness–weirdness before it was watered down and doled out in mainstream acceptable forms. Wild Bill’s Nostalgic Center, feeds my my inner weirdo. PicMonkey Collage3

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Then the requisite visit to a Muffler Man. This one was in Norwich, CT.IMG_0278

With my car parked for boarding at the Cross Sound Ferry terminal, I had some open exploration time at the New London waterfront. And there was more beauty to behold–this time man-made. It was the El Galeon, a gorgeous reconstruction of a Spanish sailing vessel that was only in town briefly. Its reconstruction was 1:1. Tremendous. It was difficult to capture all of it in a shot without incorporating some detail that was so not 16th century, like a lamp post on the pier.IMG_0302

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Bucket list entry: I want to stand up there.DSC_0208

You know those theories about blobs / orbs in photos being ghosts. These orbs were all over the pictures I took of the boat with my SLR. In different spots. I thought that this bright one, directly at the foot of the saint, seemed most convincing.  Spooky…DSC_0185
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It was time to head home. 18 hours completed and I’d arrive back on that long island in style. But my final tip… enjoy the views till the very end. Lean against the rail, breathe it in… and keep a little inside for yourself. DSC_0215

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Till next time…