Frum Outdoorsman: Rare but Possible

The wanderings and adventures of an orthodox Jew

Archive for the ‘Road Trips’ Category

Super lightweight backpacking

Posted by Frum Hiker on July 14, 2010

After a recent 3 day backpacking trip to Yosemite, I realized the joys of packing less. For years I have struggled with what I would call “into the wild syndrome” in which I pack everything and more because I think that extra fleece or battery is going to save my life. Ever since buying my smaller pack an Osprey Atmos 65 I have been able to go longer with less. Read the rest of this entry »

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I have moved to Northern California

Posted by Frum Hiker on July 7, 2010

This blog doesn’t get updated enough, which may be a good thing considering it’s an outdoors blog. I originally created it because the weather on the east coast sucked much of the time, so I figured I might as well relive my experiences of the great outdoors. Now that the weathers been great it’s tough to write about all the fun I’ve been having.

I have been living in the Bay Area for close to 7 months and it has been amazing. Although I never really have to drive more than 45 minutes from my house to get anywhere, human nature kicked in a couple of months ago forcing me to wander further and further from home. I went to Yosemite twice, up to Eureka, Shasta wilderness area, a coastal drive from LA to San Francisco and have a greater knowledge of California geography and roads than most natives. Its been fun and although I am lonely some of the time, missing my friends back home, I have made new one’s and the wilderness is so good that it keeps me coming back for more.

I hope to keep you all updated, although I have no idea how many people will actually read this.

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Heshy Fried is the author of Frum Satire

Posted by Frum Hiker on March 1, 2010

If you would like to read more of my adventures, thoughts and wanderings please check out my regular blog Frum Satire by Heshy Fried

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Wandering around Buffalo

Posted by Frum Hiker on November 18, 2009

Buffalo, NY has a bad rap, it is one of those cities that evokes negativity whenever spoken about by people who never even set foot onto its wide tree lined boulevards, or grimy ghetto streets with wood paneled housing and shaky porches. I don’t know what images fill your head when I mention Buffalo, maybe the grazing Buffalo of upstate New York or the abandoned mills of Bethlehem Steel, maybe you think of the western terminus of the Erie Canal or of Buffalo as a suburb of Niagara Falls, that place you drive through to get to the falls, which you visit for about 15 minutes before retiring to the fast food and tourist establishments along Lundy street on the Canadian side of the falls.

I didn’t realize how much I missed Buffalo until I drove down Elmwood avenue today and marveled at the abundance of art stores, organic food establishments and hip funky music/coffee houses.

I then drove down a wide boulevard with a small park in the middle and wondered if the Buffalo haters had ever seen the houses here. Had they seen the color, the ornate woodworking attaching the roofs to the upper story windows? Had they seen the tal spires of the brown stoned churches? Had they seen the traffic circles with fountains in the middle?

Texas doesn’t have what Buffalo has, Buffalo has charm and character, it has beautiful old buildings, of the red brick industrial warehouse variety and of the art deco spires and gargoyle variety. Buffalo is one beautiful city, even the ghetto has charm. Rows of houses just stop for the random railroad tracks all leading to some abandoned grain elevator.

Don’t get me started on the grain elevators, Buffalo has more abandoned and unique grain elevators that Topeka, its quite beautiful to see the different designs and the peeling white paint. General Mills still has a large operation, but there are many more, smaller and larger grain elevators that appear to have been abandoned for 5 decades, weeds grow at the bases and railroad ties are scattered around. The Buffalo river and frozen canals leading all over the place past these behemoths create quite the scene, add the hundreds of railroad tracks and you get a n industrial photographers paradise, it doesn’t hurt that there are no neighborhoods around, which means safe wandering and no bums with syringes sticking out of the arms annoying you with change requests.

Downtown Buffalo is quite impressive in terms of architecture, only a few bland new skyscrapers compete with the countless older beauties. Old advertisements, neon signs and the trollies mix together to bring Buffalo alive, even though it is mostly abandoned. I think I thrive on the desolation and solitude of downtown Buffalo. It is quite cold out and a few stray people are walking around hands shoved deeply in their pockets heads down against the wind, with scarves fluttering about their faces, I drive by oblivious to the cold but thankful for it, the cold paints Buffalo as it should, an old city left over from an industrial heyday that has embraced its funky artsy citizens who need to have a way to escape the negative feelings that the media and non-residents feel toward them.

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Wanderlust Rant

Posted by Frum Hiker on November 23, 2008

Edited by my new fan and inspiration Eli Perlow

My hand is out the window making waves in the afternoon sunlight, the free flowing air moving about my fingers as if they were stuck in the white sand along the Mexican coast, swishing and swooshing and enjoying the warmth. It’s so warm; I have shorts and a t-shirt on and it’s November. I am in my happy place, Grateful Dead blaring from my speakers as I meander on some forgotten byway, lost in time, devoid of other travelers because they prefer the sing-song of concrete and the fast windows-closed-motion of their box of steel hitting super sonic speeds that make all the fast food billboards look like a picket fence.

In Missouri it sure seemed that way, the picket fence scenario played out at 72 miles per hour on Interstate 44. I cruised along, paid no attention to much besides for the current song on the Ipod shuffle, another invention of the laziness permeating our society, the instant gratification reflective of the “I want it now not later” factions who control everything.

I don’t want to skip songs I don’t like, nor do I want to appreciate LPs or imports and random tracks at the end of albums which the album cover doesn’t reveal to even be in existence. Nope, I want it now, just like my picket fence of billboards mostly advertising truck stops that have all the amenities of a small city, including showers, casinos, cheap prostitutes and loads of food containing things like xanathan gum and hydroemaciatedemancipatedsomething with weird extracts ending in sucrose or gum. Can someone please tell me why potato chips need to have 89 ingredients – those being the plain ones?

And so I zip past these horrible neon cities in the night with their 40 gas pumps (pay at the pump laziness to boot). I see the moths hovering around these glowing towers of progress, these robots filling their steel behemoths to transport more big box items to the steel structures that hog the strip malls of their once charming facades. I am past that, thank God; I am out of Missouri and Indiana and Ohio. These places make me sick, a tribute to the fatness and uncaring aspects of our society. Even the back roads contain it; hop onto any US highway in the Midwest and they’re not accoutered by the old neon flashing motor court signs and abandoned gas stations with names like Jim’s Service offering full lubrication and tire fixings, or old beautiful forgotten homes on the verge of collapse with some little old lady watering her petunias – nope – the old US highway in the Midwest and mostly wherever you go has become a service road.

I can almost guarantee that if the brakes in cars become good enough or auto pilot in sedans ever comes to light, the Interstate highway system will become one mile after mile choice of strip plazas. You will merely tell your car how fat you want to get that day, or how much life you want to lose and – walla – you will arrive at the fast food destination of your choice. Brilliant, another way to keep the gas guzzling American automobile makers in business – they should have fizzled out 30 years ago. I almost feel as if the big 3 in Detroit are a symbol of everything we don’t want America to be; big ugly pigs who never change, a bunch of liberal hogwash you may say – but seriously, who wants to buy American?

But that’s all past me, I am in the Ozarks, passing by stately looking mobile home parks with names like Breezy Corners or Spring Gardens, it’s great to see nice looking trailer parks. Growing up in NY you hear about trailer park trash, although the only place you see them is on Jerry Springer when you’re home sick from school because before the Price Is Right came on it was Jerry Springer or Montel or Rikki Lake. Jerry was best with his southern drawl trailer park trash, Mandy was fighting with Rick or someone named Ashley, those names that people in the East just don’t have. Then suddenly you see the real thing and there are regular people mowing their small lawns and flower pots hang next to those gun toting cowboy silhouettes that have mailboxes attached to them. It’s kind of odd to think that you can lie down and that’s your whole house, but then again, people in the cities; the cosmopolitan, artsy, cultured, and intellectual humans have even smaller places to call their own, and they don’t even own them.

The smell of fresh cut grass comes wafting through my window and I just want to stop and run around in the small patch of fresh cut grass between the road and the property line marked by a barbed wire fence with posted no hunting signs scattered about; it’s not like the East, in the East posted signs are every 10 feet, here it may be every 10 miles. I love fresh cut grass though, and I ease off the gas to slow down to wallow in its path.

I pass the state highway mowers and give a little nod. That’s another thing about country roads – everyone nods. It’s interesting, maybe it’s just to acknowledge their existence; or is it something more? It brings a personal aspect to the place, something people have lost. Don’t even get me started on the lack of general knowledge people have about their places of existence. Most people run from one place to another without taking the time to enjoy the journey, the road trips of today are destination trips. “Were going to California” brings epic visions of orange deserts in Utah and Arizona, Indian reservations, shimmering sunlight mirages blowing around in the distance. Swimming holes, weird truck stops, rock formations and mountain climbing, snow capped mountains and old broken down abandoned cars buried in the earth next to an old mine. But nowadays going to California means going to Los Angeles with a side trip to Las Vegas, all on blistering fast highways ignoring the beauty around them – not even a trip to Joshua Tree or Kings Canyon is in store and a trip down the PCH brings people to Malibu or something with a stop immortalized by digital pictures in front of the Pacific Coast Highway for proof to say they were there.

Talk about saying they were there – memories mean nothing as long as they are tagged on Facebook in their photoshopped glory, oh how I miss the days of the winding mechanized manual camera. The loud snap to acknowledge you actually photographed something. Setting up the picture, putting in the flash; how I long for days when people cared about the little things. Seems like everyone is lost in the views, views of their Blackberry while they do anything: it must be documented, I am going here or there or feel like this. This is probably because no one spends any time alone, they are always connected, connected to electrical devices or networks.

The Ozarks remind me of West Virginia, they are rounded hills dotted with houses and quarries, I haven’t been here since 2001 when I took my first wandering trip. I remember it quite well, I decided to head west and regrettably (I am not sure why) turned around once I hit the prairies; I know what you’re thinking – I think the exact same thing. Why would anyone put themselves through the hell of the Midwest only to turn around? I was in Nebraska and Kansas for Godsakes and I went down…I think I was scared, that was my first time out of the damned time zone, west would have meant the Rockies, I would wait another summer, but still I look back and wonder why I turned south towards Oklahoma and Texas.

I do remember coming out of Topeka and seeing the most beautiful and amazing site ever. I had entered the prairies and it was unlike anything I had ever seen, until I went to the Rockies for the first time. The grasslands outside of Topeka are endless, you can see for 50 miles based on the highway being above the prairie. I was shocked and awed and just stood there watching the blowing green grass with thousands of cattle dotting the horizon.

I also remember that it was the start of a lifetime of insatiable wanderlust, that’s what John Steinbeck calls it in Travels with Charley, he is absolutely right and it’s something of a curse. You see, I cannot sit still; I always need to be seeing and experiencing new places and people. I am like a professional wanderer, although I like to be in America mostly, I have found I like to experience this country like no other. I enjoy that it’s all the same country, same language – yet so vast and different. I want to experience it all and of course it contradicts my society, my community, my religion, all saying to settle down build a family and wander around your tiny back yard and local grocery store- I sometimes think marriage would be a nightmare for me, literally, homebound, I mean I could grab the car on a Sunday and drive 1000 miles and come back- I have been known for things like that- but it wouldn’t be the same.

I am on a one way road trip, although I just got a call from my dad announcing he was getting married and he needs me back in NY on December 14th. I am not happy about it, he’s been dating the same girl for 8 years and finally I leave for the West to fulfill my dreams and I am told to come right back. But still, I am headed west and it’s a dream come true – although I am not sure if it’s what I truly want or need. You see those truths always evade me, I get carried with the wind, it’s always been like that. I just kind of go with the flow, no plans really. I see my friends settled down or trying to settle down against their wills and I don’t want it – maybe I do, maybe I can handle it – but if my life is anything to go on, it doesn’t appear so. It appears that marriage will drive me insane. I have fallen in love before, but even that was scary, the settling down aspect scared the crap out of me – people always say “its time to settle down” but I just don’t think they understand. They try to and then they say stupid things like “once you get married you will have no time to travel or wander or ride your bike or hitchhike, etc…” and those words – although said with a kind smirk – have the exact opposite effect they are meant to have. Why would I ever want to get married or settle down then?

I am out of the mountains and into rolling farmland and then flatlands with scraggly bushes and dark flowing streams. I am nearing Oklahoma, another state that is interesting because it connects two different worlds, the Plains and the Rockies; it also borders so many states that it makes it interesting. I could probably walk through the panhandle and around so that I have walked through a bunch of states in a matter of a week or so, I think about this sort of thing all the time, just walking, for no purpose except to see or go. I drive, but when the money runs out I can imagine myself walking, kind of like Peter Jenkins in A Walk Across America, one look at my book collection and you could figure me out. My book collection would tell you that I am a solo journeyman with a mind of a businessman and entrepreneur, its true, all I tend to read is social history books on items like coal, gunpowder, cotton and steel. I also tend to read about great American businessmen and their lives, Carnegie, Rockefeller, Watson, Walton. Then I want to read about adventurers, anything really, give me books about polar expeditions, Hudson Bay Company stuff, frontier stories and the general hitchhiking and rail riding fantasies that I may have but never come to fruition. You may even call me a professional American Romantic, almost like a Jack Kerouac minus all the drugs and partying.

The air is even warmer now and the road is empty and flat and lined with strange looking bushes and trees, the brush is thick and the sun is slanting almost to the point where the land becomes orange, my favorite part of the day. I am thrust into Oklahoma and the speed limit becomes 70 miles per hour, this is on a 2 lane byway mind you, the type that has backed up traffic on the east coast going to some tourist destination like Gatlinburg, Tennessee or Watkins Glenn in New York. I am just cruising along windows down – drivers tan beginning to creep up my window arm and thinking about Texas my new temporary home.

Oklahoma slips away and I am in Texas, I stop for evening prayers and notice the sweet smells, I love Texas I proclaim, rural Texas at least. I already know I don’t like Texas cities, but I can’t judge from being in Dallas twice and Houston once, everyone says the same thing, why Dallas, you have to go to Austin. My job is in Dallas I tell them, although I know I will not be there long, all I remember about Dallas was that it is big.

So I hop onto US highway 82 going west towards Paris, Texas and I hit cruise control. My car is running smooth and it feels good because I just hit 309,000 miles in the darned thing. I love reaction of the oil change guys, they hoot and howl for the other greased up guys to over and have a look, swinging their greasy rags they say wow wee, insane man. I am proud of my miles, those miles spent driving up the Alaska highway or down the up to Mount Rainier or across the flatlands of South Dakota, its all there in those cracked leather seats and that noisy engine, miles of a wanderer.

The transition happens all too quickly, kind of like in the East when you get that first snowstorm and everyone talks about how it was 80 degrees a week ago. I hit Paris and my world of rural back roads and trailer parks and abandoned hotels and gas stations ends. It ends with the first neon lighted gas station sign and continues to dwindle with Wal Mart, Home Depot and Sears, it continues to dwindle until I realize I am in the West with WataBurger and Jack in the Box, classic western burger joints. I am spit out onto Route 75 south towards Dallas and already I am wishing for the quaint roads of upstate New York lined with huge old growth sugar maples and ornate Victorian mansions with the beautiful wood carved railings.

Why did I ever come here, I begin to wonder as I pass strip mall after strip mall of continuous never changing offerings, I mean how many CVS pharmacies can you have already? It gets to a point where Missouri and its picket fence of billboards is nothing like this. Nothing I tell you, the whole craziness of the situation makes it a little interesting. Here I am driving 70 mph down a highway with service roads on either side packed with stores. It reminds me of New Jersey, except in NJ the service road is the highway.

I must say the highways are smooth and built for speed, but 50 miles before my new home I hit Dallas – random office buildings with shiny glass and huge parking behemoths, so people shouldn’t walk too far. I almost feel as if walkers are banned from Texas, it is not a walking state, it’s built for drivers. I pass under a huge interchange, in the East space is limited because the highways were built after the cities, not so in the West. The highway interchange I just passed under must have been a mile wide with ramps going everywhere.

I come to my exit and get off, but I am not off the highway, the service road is a highway with stores on it, welcome to Texas I proclaim as I get off and am thankful that at least gas is very cheap at $1.75 a gallon. I drive along another highway with slower speed limits and more stores to reach a side street finally, but once you leave the sanctuary of your newly built tree filled neighborhood you will have to go onto another highway just to get there.

Dallas is stifling and I haven’t even been here in their summer. Not stifling in a heat sort of way – as of yet at least – stifling in a “I need to escape this suburban hellhole but can’t” way. If you want to leave the city, leave the pull of the city or experience rural openness, you must drive and then keep driving on a superhighway until you finally reach farmland at which point it will have gotten dark and you must turn around. It’s already hurting my psyche, you see I find the wandering and I need to get out of this place – but don’t worry – Colorado is next and should provide for endless hours and days of wandering action.

Posted in Abandoned Sites, Road Trips, Rural America | Tagged: , , | 7 Comments »

Technorati is making me do this

Posted by Frum Hiker on September 9, 2008

Technorati Profile

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Labrador and Newfoundland: maybe this year?

Posted by Frum Hiker on August 12, 2008

I am fascinated with the two, they are rural and rugged and nobody lives there, plus Labrador got its first road- which remains unpaved in 1985. I haven’t been to either yet, but I have been wanting to go for several years. Every year I want to go I just decide that for the same money I can go somewhere west, and it always seems like the west is better to go solo. Last year I drove to the northwest and a week in Montana as well. The year before it was the mother road trip to Alaska and the Yukon. Labrador and Newfoundland are the two last road accessible places I have not been to in Canada, all the others have been driven to, which is what I do of course.

This year may be the year, my latest job is telecommute mostly which means I may be able to get a 10 day road trip in, maybe I’ll just do Newfoundland. Labrador is a little scarier, being the road is unpaved and completely cut off from society. 40,000 people live in Labrador and its enormous. Did you know that the tip of Newfoundland is only 1600 miles from the coast of Ireland, its where the first transatlantic cable was laid. The book about it “A thread across the ocean” was fascinating and I do recommend it.

Newfoundland is a 6 hours ferry ride from the tip of Nova Scotia, I have gotten sea sick before, while crossing the Bay of Fundy between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, but I am so tempted by pictures of Gros Morne alone that I will do whatever it takes to drive there. My car has 299,000 miles and that doesn’t help much either.

I do have a bunch of little stuff I wouldn’t mind doing this fall, short trips. I want to do Alongonquin Mountain in the Adirondacks, its a long grueling hike. I also would love to visit the Whites in NH during foliage season and I also want to hike Katahdin in Baxter State Park Maine, lofty goals for a working man with not much vacation set aside.

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Bay Ridge Skatepark

Posted by Frum Hiker on July 31, 2008

I finally had a chance to ride the only concrete skatepark in New York City and I was amazed. Owls Head Skatepark is located in the Bay Ridge section of Brooklyn and is a must see for any skaters or bikers.

A nice sized street area with jumps, quarter pipes, and a bunch of great hips is super sooth and big enough for multiple riders. The bowl section is sweet with a deep bowl as well as a section connected with a spine, I was impressed.

Open from 9-7pm every day of the summer and its 100% free and they let bikes in.

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Aletrnate route to Baltimore saves on tolls and traffic

Posted by Frum Hiker on June 30, 2008

Instead of traveling to Baltimore down the ever crowded and ugly NJ Turnpike I have decided to go around through Pennsylvania from now on. This means that from Monsey I drive south on 287 until 78 west and then take that through to Harrisburg and then down to Baltimore. It sounds like a pain in the tuchus, but really its only about 30 miles longer- never has any traffic and there is total round trip tolls are $3 as compared to at least 40 dollars in tolls and loads of traffic the other way.

This route also allows for some great wandering around old towns and villages and driving through beautiful farming country. South East Pa has some great old towns full of old factories, abandoned railroad tracks and once thriving main streets. The route also allows for some significant back road travel if you like and I do like.

This past time I got off the highway and Easton Pa just over the NJ border and wandered around the town on my bike. Its a beautiful old factory town with some amazing classic architecture on main street including a fountain on the middle of the town square turned traffic circle.

On the way back I got off in York-PA and took US 30 to US 222 which took me to US 22 and then north up route 57 to I-80 and back home. It was a beautiful route with rolling farmland, popping corn and nice old stone houses from the late 1700’s.

Harrisburg and Lancaster which could be on the way depending how you go are also great cities to wonder around. Harrisburg being the capital has some nice stately buildings as well as some great railroad yards. Lancaster has a very well preserved historic district and is thriving in most parts, even the ghetto has beautiful old homes.

The distance this way from Monsey to the Jewish community in Baltimore is 240 miles as opposed to 210 the other way- but here you can hit the cruise control and relax. I would even do it that way if I came from NYC.

Posted in Abandoned Sites, Road Trips | 2 Comments »

My indecisiveness in action

Posted by Frum Hiker on June 5, 2008

So I gave my buddy Ariel a call this week to see if he was going to be upstate at his camp in Tannersville New York and sure enough he is and he would love to have me which is awesome- because I haven’t seen him in years and I love the area- and will have some great stuff to do on Friday.

Then it hit me- what can I do to utilize my time the best on Friday since I have to be down in New York sunday morning to pick a friend up from the airport. Suddenly my logic started working and I came up so many options its driving me nuts.

Kayaking in North/South Lakes- great swimming and beautiful.

Ride one of my favorite loops in all of the Catskills, routes 214-28-42 back up route 23. I was already thinking of this- it is tiring and hilly but amazing.

Do small hike like Giant Ledge only a couple miles, longer hike like Slide Mountain or maybe Hunter Mountain.

Go mountain biking at Jockey Hill and Bluestone wild forest outside Kingston.

Roll down the windows, remove my shirt, throw on some bluegrass and wander around the rural byways of Greene and Delaware Counties.

Then I realized I have to work tomorrow- which means less time- I have taken off the last 3 Fridays in a row. I figured on working till 12 and then driving up- only an hour and a half drive. Its supposed to be 87 degrees. I’m figuring on mountain biking, hiking and a little driving/wandering.

Ah the life as outdoors nut isn’t always so simple.

Posted in Catskills, Hiking, Kayaking, Mountain Biking, Road Biking, Road Trips, Rural America | 1 Comment »