Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Off the Clock!

Something happened for me this season at the Gunks. Except for transportation between NYC and the cliffs(and back) my mode of travel has been by foot. Maybe it's just my perception of time that changed because of it, but I'm not entirely convinced of that.

I mean...if our perception is our reality, life is but a dream, and all....then the fact is that, in these days of speedy express service that exasperates people at the slightest hint of a slowdown, we've created a monster with all our efforts at getting the jump on that dimension called time.

Most everyone who knows me is aware that, for a short time, I had a cute little 4WD 'Yota minivan. I'd brought him from a Gunkie(and when he had the van, he was a she....) who had found her in California and road-tripped cross country. She, or he, had the spirit going on. I plastered Junior(as s/he'd been renamed) with those magnetic poetry stickers and every day, upon return from climbing, I'd read the snippets people had created while I was away. That, the KRASHPAD plates, and Teddy the Wonderhound ambassador, and we went quickly from nobodies to well-known regulars.

What a luxury that time was. I could drive to and from whenever I felt a desire, run into town for those delicious salmon burritos at Mexicali Blue, cruise the surrounding area to explore on rain days and generally have an easy time of things with my away-from home on wheels.

Before that, I occasionally got a ride form someone heading out of the city, but mostly relied on the bus between Port Authority and New Paltz, with a climbing partner picking me at the station. I was new to climbing, and it was enough for me, just getting a day at the crag.

But once I partnered up with that van, everything changed, as I discovered more of what the area offered.

Junior passed away in June of 2006, and I went into despair at the instant cut-off from my Gunks lifestyle. I'd become accustomed to having Teddy along(and so had he!) and the withdrawal was hard on us both. Luckily, I happened along on a new climbing partner, Diane, who had an SUV and no problem whatsoever with having us along for the ride each weekend, whether we climbed together or not.

Those were really great times too, with the addition of a human companion who knew all the ins and outs of the area, and who enjoyed a good restaurant meal after a day at the crags. I was back!

Alas.....all thing pass with time, and shortly so did this. I started out the 2007 season mightily wigged out. I had developed an entire existence in the Gunks, one that made the weekdays in the city acceptable, as I planned and plotted for the upcoming weekend. No I was back to square one. No transportation, except the bus. Which didn't take dogs.

Uh oh.

Teddy would get so excited as I packed my pack for a day trip, and the look on his face when he realized he wasn't coming was truly heartbreaking. This would not do.... He let me know that in no uncertain terms(Yes, Teddy can communicate clearly with humans. If they are receptive.)

I remembered one time the previous season when I'd not had a ride, and had to do my damnedest to "find a way." I'd discovered that Metro North railroad allows dogs, and so I posted to Gunks.com seeking a helping hand. If someone would just pick us up at the Poughkeepsie station(20-30 minutes drive from New Paltz), we were willing to pay gas, time and a "Teddy Tax" (my way of saying I'd pay for the extra effort of having a dog and all my accompanying luggage, as I did not travel light).

That worked out great.


Although I also did snag another set of rides off a visiting Colorado guy who had learned to climb at the Gunks(Cute as could be, too. Plus, he had a beautiful blue Weimerheiner who could boulder). That worked out nicely.

So....this season, having forgotten about the Poughkeepsie Connection, I put a post on Craigslist(NYC), for a rideshare situation, offering, of course, to pay the gas and Teddy Tax. Talk about nutjob responses from hell.... Finally, one "seemed" okay, and at the appointed hour, he called supposedly from a payphone around the corner, saying he'd be there in a minute.... never showed up. Giving benefit of the doubt(was he in a crash up between the call and my house?), I called the cel phone number he'd given me when we'd made plans in the first place(umm....yeah. It didn't escape me either, the pay phone call from a cel-phone holder). The guy who answered had no idea who I was or what I was talking about.....

As miracles do happen(to me, quite often), Diane just happened to call at that very moment, saying she was heading up and wondering if I was looking for a ride. At that very moment! before I'd even begun hauling my gear back into the apartment.

Anyway..... Time passed, and I was stuck each weekend trying to snag rides with great levels of unsuccessfulness. I was missing out a LOT, often having to choose from a day trip of climbing or one of trail work, because I couldn't afford both days, and couldn't bear the idea of leaving Teddy home all weekend with just the dog sitter stopping by.

It was awful.

I can't remember what jogged my mind about the Poughkeepsie train; I think I was perusing Craigslist for something, and I noticed they'd added a Hudson Valley forum. A light must have went off in my head, as I realized I might have some luck by posting for a paid pick up through that forum. Oh...I recall...I had been checking into taxi service from the train to the cliffs($50 plus tip each way).

At any rate, I posted the ad, and within an hour received a very nice response from a SUNY new Paltz student, a woman, who appeared....normal. When i spoke with her on the phone, it seemed almost too good to be true. She was pleasant, able to process information, and clear in her ability to communicate. She'd stated her fee, and it was acceptable(I pay $50 for a ride to and from with her and the various people she has hooked up rides for me with).

Lauren showed up on time, and was such a pleasure. I know every generation says the youth is (insert whatever negative term you desire), but this person was a gem. And, when she wasn't able to do the job a few weeks later, she got a housemate to pick me up! Every time since we've been able to coordinate rides that work out for me, and work out for these young people. I've met 4 or 5 of them, including boyfriends, and each is as nice as Lauren. What a lucky person I am to have found this group. THANK YOU LAUREN, et al!

Which brings me back to the topic I started with.....

So, these people pick me and Teddy up at Poughkeepsie each Friday at the agreed upon time(they're ALWAYS there or soon to arrive) and we head toward New Paltz, where I pick up a bag of ice for my cooler and a couple jugs of water. Then they drop me at Camp Slime, and we agree on a Sunday evening pick up time(they're ALWAYS on time, if not early).

The time between, while I'm homing away from home at Slime, I use pedestrian tactics to get around.

I've gotten a few rides from Dick Williams to Split Rock after trail work this summer, and it was a luxury one can't possibly imagine if they haven't tramped the Shawangunk Trail to get there in 90-degree, high humidity, temperatures. AFTER having spent 5 hours doing heavy manual labor, which trail work involves(digging trenches, lifting 50 pound rocks, and ratcheting the grip hoist as it moves rocks from between microwave to dorm fridge size and larger.

Most people jump in their car from the Trapps parking lot, or the Overlook, and drive the few miles. I walked that (Shawahngunk)trail often, this summer, and I can tell you it's a small minority of climbers who hike the thing to get a dip in the swimming hole. I've probably seen only one or two most times, and often nobody, as I made the trek.

and I recently acquired a new climbing partner who has a car and knows how to use it! After climbing, it's a cold one on the tailgate, before heading into town for dinner at a local eatery. he also enjoys Teddy, and allows him free run of his nice, clean vehicle. Which CANNOT be taken for granted. Sometimes Teddy is dirty from having dug in dirt, or if it was a wet day. And Teddy likes to nest....

But, those drives into town are now a special event, and one to be appreciated, because they're not standard operating procedure.

Conversely, one might consider having to make the sort of effort I do, in getting to the Gunks, to be too much effort. I've seen people who refuse the bus because it's inconvenient or too expensive. I well remember how people were all too happy to get a ride from me when I had the van, offering a share for gas money and then handing $5 for door to door service(it cost me $30 round trip, at the time).

So, there I was, all summer. getting dropped at Camp Slime on Friday evening, and pretty much on my own until getting a ride back to the Poughkeepsie station on Sunday.

At first, I really - really - missed the convenience of being able to run into town. On one trip, I neglected to pack a second fuel cannister, and when I went to make dinner the first nite....the can I had was so light I didn't expect I'd be able to heat a cup of water for coffee.... What to do!?

Well - what Ii did was, I revised my meal planning and chose options that entailed less cooking time. As luck would have it(for I always am lucky), the propane DID last me the weekend - slowly fizzling out as I heated the water for my past dish washing of the weekend!

And I surely missed the Salmon burritos at Mexicali Blue and the delicious Walnut Citron bread french toast at Main Street Bistro.... At first, I felt really deprived - for even the breakfast burritos down at the deli on the corner were beyond my reach(with Teddy, the walk down the road or through the talus would have been unsafe and/or more time-consuming than was efficient).

But soon enough, I had developed some new meal options that had me feeling really luxurious. (My next post will include a set of these; and I hope you will try them out yourself).

And of course, there was no weekly visit to Rock & Snow....

What I discovered through all this purported deprivation, of course, was that I was spending a LOT less money on my trips! Even with my extravagant food purchases(eggs, fresh bread and tomatoes; not the easiest items to transport in my situation), I was happily finding my cash on hand still on hand on Monday morning!

The biggest gift though, was that I began to view time differently. I couldn't simply zoom away and get somewhere quickly. The Split Rock afternoon swim really did take an afternoon, when I factored in travel time. On the other hand, because I wasn't going to the deli for breakfast, I had no need for concern about meeting partners on time(I am fastidious about being considerate in this area). Mornings were an easy rise from sleep, slowly waking as my coffee brewed and breakfast preparations began. I felt like I was living the life - no lines, no hassles, no delays, no problems.

Days seemed to pass in a slower, gentler fashion when my ability to "just get there" was removed. This forced me to be more present within myself, which is always beneficial. The practice allows one to become aware of how we interact in our surroundings. I found myself becoming less interested in dramatic energy, and being drawn to more calm situations.

When I would come back to the city - the juxtaposition was jarring, unfortunately. The masses of people rushing around, hooked into ipods and cel phones, oblivious to their surroundings, was unsettling. It was apparent that a majority of people go through their day barely taking the time to be apart of a bigger picture, so focused in "getting there," wherever that might be.

It really was grating on my nerves, those weekday travels around town, and I found myself longing for my quiet weekends, in part to heal from the trauma of the city rush. As well, I realized the importance of removing extraneous activity from my own schedule. Some things just really don't need to be taken care of immediately....

And finally, this time perception shift has shown me that, though living in New York City does have some advantages, the emotional cost outweighs the benefits I have been receiving lately. It's time to find my way out, and though it is a frightening prospect, I'm taking the initial steps in doing so. The good news is - I don't have to "get there now!" I can walk my way through this transition; just as I walked my way through weekends at the Gunks this season.

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