The things I learned in the Catskills

As I mentioned in my last blog, I headed up to the Catskills with a bunch of friends for the 4th of July weekend. It’s an annual tradition for us, except this is the first time we ventured away from the Poconos in Pennsylvania and instead went further upstate. The drive was an extra hour longer but it was worth it for an extra 70 acres of land.

Our view from the deck of our house

Pretty freakin’ sweet.

But as I was driving up to the ‘skills, and passing through various towns in the upstate New York region, all I could think was “How the heck do people live up here?”

I was born and raised in the suburbs of Long Island, where if you stand on your front stoop, you can see about 10 houses in both directions. But there were stretches upstate where you saw miles and miles of farmland in between houses. I just don’t understand how people can live this way.

Having to travel half an hour to get to your nearest supermarket does not sound appealing to me. Plus there is no jobs up there. If you want to work, you have two choices: Open an antique shop or create a stand on the side of the road selling rock candy.

I suppose that people who are born in places like these are just accustomed to it. I can’t even begin to imagine what kind of culture shock they would experience if they were to come to New York City.

So would I ever want to own a second home in the Catskills? Sure, why not. It’d mean I’m basically rich. But would I ever want to live there full-time? Hell no.

But what else did I learn in the Catskills?

Mountain biking is awesome.

For the first time in my life, I went mountain biking.

Since I had never done it before, and never even watched any mountain biking on TV (since I don’t spend my free time watching ESPN2 or Spike), then anything I thought about the sport was all derived from my imagination.

When I think of mountain bike trails, I think of actual man-made, smooth, possibly even paved tracks that are easy for mountain bikes to travel through. Instead, what we got was narrow dirt paths full of large stones, tree stumps, full-grown trees, roots, curved pathways and small wood bridges.

For the first thirty minutes of the trails, I’d say I spent more time off the bike then on. I gripped the pedals so hard that I actually have bruises on my hands. I also have bruises on my legs for coming to quick stops and slamming them into the pedals.

But it was all worth it because mountain biking is awesome. Once you finally get the hang of it, you learn to actually trust the bike and not slow down when you approach rocks and roots. In fact, if you slow down, you’re more likely to lose your momentum and be forced to stop. The faster you go, the steadier your ride will be. Once I understood that and basically stopped being a pussy, I finally spent more time on the bike than off.

And words can’t express how great of a workout it is. It takes a ton of leg strength and endurance to successfully mountain bike. I enjoyed it so much that I may even look into purchasing my own mountain bike. It would be a great way to mix up my habitual exercise routines.

People upstate take their times with things.

Whether it is at the supermarket, on the road, and even just talking, people who live three hours north of New York City apparently enjoy taking their time with things.

When you spend a lot of time in a city, you become accustomed to people always moving quickly and being in a rush. You become used to cars not waving you to walk across the street, or for others to hold the door open for you. Basically, in the city, it is acceptable to be an asshole. Well that’s not the case everywhere.

Although, I suppose when you’re surrounded by vast greenery and grandiose mountaintops, it’s a lot easier to take a moment, take in the scenery and enjoy the finer things in life.

You can actually see stars.

When you’re surrounded by skyscrapers, it’s hard to even see the sky, let alone the stars. Of course I live in Long Island so this isn’t much of a problem, but it isn’t until you lie in a spacious open field when you can see the full plate of stars lying above your head. It’s actually really nice to see.

Also, when you can see stars, and especially if you’re drinking alcohol, it will almost definitely lead to some type of existential conversation about the depths of our universe. It’s very easy to forget that when you’re looking at stars, you’re looking millions of years into the past, since it takes so long for light to travel. In fact, most stars you look at have burned out already — we just can’t see it yet. It’s pretty mindblowing stuff.

Ponds exist.

In cities, and even the suburbs, you see plenty of oceans, rivers, harbors and the occasional lakes and reservoirs, but when the heck do you ever see a pond?

When’s the last time you ever called up your friend Roger and said, “Yo Rog, you doing anything tonight? No? Well, then let’s go hang out at the pond!”

Ponds only exist in 90s movies that take place in Indiana or Missouri.

So when you actually see a pond, it’s easy to become fascinated by its calm peacefulness, its horrific stench, and the exorbitant amount of frogs that hang out around them. Frogs are so freaking cliche — a pond, really? I was almost expecting to see a few of them chilling on lily pads ribbiting the words “Bud – Weis – Er.”

Houses are actually made of logs

You grew up hearing about how our nation’s first presidents grew up in log cabins, but you forget that you’ve never actually see one with your eyes. Well we literally stayed in a log cabin. You can actually see each log connected together to create a house.

There is quaint sense of beauty that comes with a log cabin, and I think our country needs to return to this vintage technique of homemaking. Forget mansions, and constant renovations as we attempt to outdo our neighbors. If we all lived in log cabins, peace and harmony would prevail.

Peace and harmony. Now that’s what the Catskills are all about.

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