Roadside America: Hudson Valley, New York

For many New Yorkers, it’s a fall rite of passage. Rent car. Book bed-n-breakfast. Drive somewhere with trees. Indulge in pastoral pleasures like hay rides, apple-picking, hiking, canoeing, etc. Return, wondering faintly if you should ditch city life to renovate a colonial home and take up beekeeping.

But often, planning a New York City getaway is a bit more complicated than that. First, there’s the cost of getting out of the city; a weekly car rental from Manhattan can often cost more than a flight to Europe. Then there’s figuring out where to go. The Adirondacks? The Catskills? Pennsylvania? Maine? And once you finally arrive at your destination, there’s the long process of disconnecting from city life. By the time you’re no longer checking your phone every half hour, it’s time to go home.

Thankfully, there is one getaway that is relatively easy to plan: a trip to the Hudson Valley, a region of upstate New York about two to three hours from Manhattan.The main town of Hudson is accessible either by car, which is more expensive but offers greater flexibility, or by Amtrak train. If you do decide to go with a car rental, try taking the PATH train from Manhattan to Hoboken, New Jersey. An Enterprise Rent-a-Car is walking distance from the train station, and rates are about 50 percent cheaper than in the city.

Accommodation-wise, Hudson is overflowing with charming bed-and-breakfasts. For cheaper accommodations with more privacy, try booking a homestay in a nearby town. I recently found a lovely two-bedroom townhouse in nearby Athens for just $125 per night, which is comparable to the cost for a single room in the region.

Apart from the stunning scenery, river views and fresh air, the town of Hudson offers a number of charming cafes, galleries, antiques shops and historic sights, which can easily be explored by foot. The food options are also top-notch. Head to Olde Hudson Specialty Food to peruse the selection of regional artisanal foodstuffs, like fresh eggs, cheeses and charcuterie. A few doors down, Hudson Wine Merchants offers a wide array of wines and liquors, including locally distilled whiskeys and spirits. The staff is familiar with the selection at Olde Hudson and can provide excellent pairing suggestions. Protip: the Hudson Red with the Chilean shiraz is pure bliss.

Cap off your artisanal picnic basket with a baguette from Café Le Perche, which also has an incredible French Roast coffee. And if you have a car, don’t miss a trip to Black Horse Farms in Athens, which sells fresh seasonal produce and gourmet grocery items from nearby producers.

Indulge carefully, though. You may never leave.

[Photo Credit: Flickr user eleephotographay]

Revolutionary War battlefield of Saratoga to be excavated

Revolutionary War, Saratoga
One of the most important battlefields of the Revolutionary War is going to be excavated by archaeologists ahead of an EPA cleanup.

Back in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, General Electric dumped polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) into the Hudson River near Saratoga, New York. The dumping was banned in 1977 due to risks to public health, and the EPA has ordered GE to dredge up the affected silt from the river. Dredging destroys archaeological sites, though, and has already damaged Fort Edward, a British fort in the area dating to the mid 18th century. Archaeologists are working to excavate the stretch of river near Saratoga before the dredgers arrive.

Saratoga was on the frontier for much of the 18th century and played a large part in the French and Indian Wars (1755-1763) and the Revolutionary War (1775-1783). During the two battles of Saratoga in September and October of 1777, the American army stopped the British advance down the Hudson River Valley, then surrounded them and forced them to surrender. It was a major victory that led to the French coming into the war on the American side. French help was one of the deciding factors in an ultimate American victory, and the creation of the United States.

The Saratoga National Historical Park 9 miles south of Saratoga, New York, includes the battlefield, a visitor center, the restored country house of American General Philip Schuyler, a monument, and Victory Woods where the British surrendered on October 17, 1777.

Archaeologists hope to find artifacts from both wars and are currently looking for a British army camp.

[Image courtesy U.S. government]

NYC pulls trigger on mass execution of geese

For the past several weeks, the last thing you’d want to be is a goose in New York City. Hundreds of them have been “euthanized,” in an attempt to keep the skies safe. You may remember the impact that geese can have on a plane from a year and a half ago, when an unlucky bird forced a US Airways plane out of the sky and onto the Hudson River.

According to the Associated Press:

Carol Bannerman, spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services, said Monday the department was asked to remove Canada geese from more than a dozen locations within seven miles of city airports.

In Brooklyn‘s Prospect Park, for example, around 400 geese were rounded up and killed using carbon dioxide – “because they are a risk to planes,” the article continues. Last summer, the body count hit 1,200, which is what it’s expected to reach this year.

[photo by mikebaird via Flickr]

“Miracle on the Hudson” plane up for auction

The plane that Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger landed safely in the Hudson River just over a year ago is going up for auction. Chartis Aerospace Insurance Services is accepting bids on the plane, which is described as “having severe water damage throughout the airframe and impact damage to its underside” according to USA Today, though March 27.

Unfortunately, as celeb-gossip site TMZ points out, the survivors of the harrowing water landing won’t be able to take home a memento from the plane. The plane is being auctioned off in its entirety so those hoping to snag just a small piece cannot do so. Looks like they’ll have only their memories. The survivors recently got together on the anniversary of the crash landing and toasted with champagne and Grey Goose vodka (a nod to the flock of birds that downed the plane) at the moment of impact.

Air Traffic Controller chatting with his girlfriend during Hudson chopper crash

The plane / chopper crash this past weekend in New York was tragic on many levels – the wife of one of the tourists killed in the crash decided to go shopping instead of taking the sightseeing trip, the pilot of the chopper was in the middle of preparing for his wedding, and now some more shocking news is being released.

Apparently, the air traffic controller in charge of that portion of airspace was on the phone with his girlfriend during the crash, and if that wasn’t enough – his supervisor was nowhere to be found, even though FAA regulations stipulate that he should have been in the building at all times.

The NTSB, who is in charge of the investigation, said that the two controllers “seriously deviated from their assignments at the time of the collision”.

The two have been placed on administrative leave, pending the investigation, and will likely be fired. The FAA was quick to point out that the behavior of the two controllers did not play a direct role in the crash.

A preliminary probe into the accident has uncovered that the pilot of the plane was told to contact the Newark tower, but never did. What part (if any) that played in the crash is unknown, but it obvious that there may have been many factors that could have prevented this horrible accident.