Emma and I arrived in New Paltz too late to climb, so the logical thing to do was shop for gear :). After feeding a quarter into the meter, a man approached us and said “Did you put your money in yet? You look like you’re headed to Rock and Snow and we have a free parking lot right over there.” This turned out to be Rich Gottlieb, the owner of Rock and Snow. He then held the door for us as we entered the shop and thus began the theme of our time spent in New Paltz: Kindness. Rich greeted us with a genuine warmth, and he and I chatted while Emma surveyed their collection of backpacks as her pack has annoyed her since the day she got it. Rich noted the Colgate Outdoor Education logo on my jacket and mentioned that he had a daughter looking at colleges. Apparently she was not taken with Colgate after her visit there, and we discussed the challenges of finding the right college, especially for young women concerned with the sexual climate on campus. I couldn’t help but be an opportunist and suggest that his daughter look at College of the Atlantic, where I am now a board member and was a former student and employee.
I later asked Rich if he had suggestions of where we could park our camper van overnight without trespassing. He replied, “yes, my driveway.” At first, Emma and I were appreciative, but dismissive. We were wary of imposing, and not sure how to interpret his offer. Rich remained insistent and convinced us to accept his offer. His house was a few miles from New Paltz and a mile from the closest busy road. There was a flat area of his driveway set away from the house where we parked Vanna. Tikka was free to roam and quickly found a perch where she could keep an eye on the woodland creatures. Rich’s dog Griffin was an occasional visitor, and his wife Teri and daughter Celia were incredibly welcoming. We fell asleep to Barred Owls calling and awoke at least once a night to those owls making horrendous screeching noises.
I was really impressed with the efforts Rock and Snow made to reduce the cost of adventuring in the outdoors and to stay relevant in the digital purchasing age. They recently opened a consignment store next door to their retail shop where they match any price found on-line and allow customers to mail-order from the shop. Needless to say, we expressed our appreciation for Rich’s kindness and business practices by purchasing some gear from Rock and Snow as well as giving Rich and Teri a couple bottles of wine for their hospitality.
After the weather turned and required us to hunker down for a couple of days, we moved to Alice Henshaw’s driveway in Cragsmoor, NY on the very southern end of the Shawangunk Ridge. Alice and I went to college together and reconnected in recent years when she came to Colgate to teach Wilderness First Responder courses through Wilderness Medical Associates. Alice’s huge smile, coupled with the exuberance of her pit-mutt, Buddy, made us feel immediately welcomed. We cooked an incredible feast complete with venison procured and prepared by her partner, John, and enjoyed comparing the different head sizes and shapes of Buddy and Tikka. Buddy’s head was at least three times wider than Tikka’s, and Tikka’s head was at least twice as long as Buddy’s. The dogs got along great, and Buddy shared all of his beds with Tikka. What a gentleman!
We stayed in Alice’s driveway for three rainy days, and Alice was gone for two of them. At first Emma and I were hesitant to stay after Alice left. Again, we were hesitant partly out of a fear of imposing, but partly because we weren’t sure how to feel around John. A self-defined Red-Neck, John is big and burly and drives a beat-up Tacoma with a large Trump sign made of red duct tape on the tailgate. He likes to answer his home phone “Clinton Campaign Headquarters” followed by a chuckle, and talks a lot about putting arrows through animals. Every night around dusk, John would stand up and say, “C’mon Buddy, let’s go put an arrow through something” and walk out the door. But, every night, John would come home empty-handed. When pressed, he would admit that he had seen the “Three Stooges”or the really stupid doe and clearly couldn’t kill the deer with which he had some connection. In truth, I don’t believe John really enjoys killing anything. I also think Buddy is also relieved to arrive home with an empty truck as he seems like a big softy too.
Like many of us, John is composed of contradictions and doesn’t fit neatly into a box. While boxes should be for things and not for people, a flaw of human nature is to want to be able to predict the behavior of others, and predictability is increased if people can be categorized.
John proved to be an excellent host. He was chatty, allowed us to fix a few minor things in his shop, and seemed completely happy to have a couple gay women in a van in his driveway. In turn, these gay women really enjoyed time with their new, self-defined, redneck friend who is voting for Trump. In an election cycle where civility is almost imperceptible, I feel thankful for the gentle reminder that people are full of contradictions, and that I need to check my biases more often than I do.
Alice and John sell wood as a side business and have a hydraulic splitter that I have declared the BEST TOOL EVER! I might have enjoyed the hydraulic splitter as much as I enjoyed climbing in The Gunks 🙂