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RI Archives: Rural Road Trips

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Berkshire Property Agents

Travel Essentials

Amtrak Empire Service between Albany, Hudson or Rhinecliff, NY and Penn Station, NYC.

Amtrak 449 Lake Shore Limited between Pittsfield and South Station, Boston.

Bard Bus and Shuttle  On select summer weekends, Bard offers round-trip bus service from Manhattan’s Lincoln Center directly to the Fisher Center, exclusively for performance ticket holders: $30 round-trip. Reservations are required. Box dinners can be ordered in advance for $10. Bard also offers shuttle service from and to the Poughkeepsie Metro-North train station for select performances: $10 each way.

Mega-bus between Albany and Ridgewood, N.J. and Penn Station, NYC.

Metro-North Railroad between Wassaic, Dover Plains, or Poughkeepsie, NY and Harlem (125th Street)  or Grand Central Station, NYC.

Peter Pan Bus Lines  Boston/Albany route serving Albany, Great Barrington, *Lee, Lenox, *Pittsfield, Stockbridge, Williamstown, and Boston South Station and Boston Logan Airport  (*greater frequency, better fares). NYC/Williamstown route serving Williamstown, Lee, Stockbridge, Great Barrington, MA, or Canaan, CT and Port Authority Bus Terminal, NYC.

Roosevelt Ride Free Shuttle  Free round-trip shuttle service daily (summer through October) from the Poughkeepsie train station to Hyde Park, Val-Kil, the Vanderbilt Mansion, Top Cottage, and the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum so Metro-North train passengers can tour historic sites without a car. For reservations and tour info, call the Wallace Visitor Center: 845-229-5320.

Weather Underground
The radar is especially useful for tracking snow, sleet and thunderstorms.

Gas Prices
The price of gas at many of the stations in your zip code and those immediately surrounding it.

Hudson River Valley Ramble Is More Than A Walk In The Park

Tour Innisfree Garden in Millbrook on September 27.

By Amy Krzanik

The 15th Annual Hudson River Valley Ramble is something of a misnomer, as it involves so much more than leisurely strolls. Occurring every Saturday and Sunday in September, the Ramble celebrates the trails, the river and the historic and cultural resources of the Hudson River Valley Greenway and National Heritage Area, which extends from Saratoga County to the Bronx. It includes guided walks of all types, but also encompasses fun runs and races for charity, hikes and bike tours, kayak and canoe trips, stargazing, bird watching and more.

Mark Castiglione, the acting executive director of the Hudson River Valley Greenway, says that the goal of the Ramble is to connect people with the resources and organizations in their area, so that they’ll become involved stewards of their surroundings. “We’re trying to connect people to the history of the land, because when people know about and appreciate the sites, they become advocates for them.”

Take a ramble to Bash Bish Falls on September 27.

Each year offers new events, so even if you’ve rambled before, it’s a great time to do it again. “Every year when I look at the Ramble booklet, I’m amazed by all the new things I didn’t know about,” Castiglione says. And an added bonus to touring sites at Ramble time, he says, is that “the tours are led by experienced guides who can orient you to the history of the landscape, which enhances the overall experience.” So you can walk away from an active and pleasant day knowing a lot more about the scenery than someone who goes it alone.

Ramble activities are held in 14 counties and feature more than 200 events in all, but here we’ll focus on a handful of Columbia and Dutchess County excursions to give you an idea of the broad range of events offered.


September 13 Framing the Viewshed: Groundswell at Olana is a one-day art, nature, history and auditory experience rolled into one. You won’t find anything like it anywhere else, guaranteed. Read the recent RI article to learn more about what to expect.

September 20 In tandem with the Garden Conservancy’s Open Days Program, garden blogger Margaret Roach’s grounds will be open for touring, along with a rare plant sale held by Broken Arrow Nursery.

September 21 Join Dr. Willie Yee and Joe Macagne from the Mid-Hudson Astronomical Association for a Night Under The Stars at Olana. Various sizes of telescopes will be provided to view the moon, comets and stellar clusters. Please pre-register by September 19 to (518) 828-1872, x109 or

Cycle through the farmland of Dutchess and Columbia counties on Sept. 20.

September 27 See Lindenwald in a whole new light when you take a lantern lit journey of Martin Van Buren’s home with an NPS Park Ranger and learn about life after dark in the 19th century. Reservations required, (518) 758-9689.

September 27 Ramble through the Copake Iron Works to Bash Bish Falls and back. Learn more about what you’ll find at the Iron Works in this RI article.


September 14 What You See and What You Don’t See: Enjoy a leisurely guided stroll through the grounds of Staatsburgh, which was designed in 1895 to showcase the good life in the Gilded Age, while deliberately hiding the technology and labor that made a turn-of-the-century estate run.

September 20 Farmland Cycling Tour: Energize with fresh donuts, cider and apples (courtesy of local farmers), then pedal through the rolling countryside of Dutchess and Columbia counties. After returning to Poets’ Walk, enjoy a fabulous lunch while listening to live music. If you don’t want to ride, join in anyway for a fun day in the park.

Hike through the apple orchard at Peach Hill Park in Poughkeepsie on September 28.

September 20 & 21 Revolutionary War Re-enactors Weekend: Re-enactors will have an Encampment on the grounds of the Van Wyck Homestead Museum all weekend with cooking, blacksmith and musket-firing demonstrations scheduled throughout the day. The homestead served as Officers’ Headquarters during the American Revolution. Guides will escort visitors to the Continental Army and Militia Soldiers burial ground located nearby, where an estimated 700-1,000 soldiers were buried, making it the largest Revolutionary War soldiers’ burial site in America.

September 27 Recognized as one of the “world’s ten best gardens,” Innisfree is a powerful icon of 20th-century landscape design. Join the Landscape Curator for a 90-minute tour exploring the garden, its rich history and its unique design.

September 28 During the Apple Cider Ramble, hike through the old apple orchard at Peach Hill Park and collect apples along the way. At the end of the hike, help press your apples into cider.

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Posted by Amy Krzanik on 09/08/14 at 08:49 PM • Permalink

Behold! New Lebanon Is A Living Museum Of Rural Life

By Lisa Green

We’re quite fond of our towns, villages and hamlets in the Rural Intelligence region. But let’s face it, some towns beg you to jump out of the car and explore their Main Street, while others seem more like drive-through towns. The rural New Lebanon, despite its presumptive cachet as a “Hudson Valley town” hasn’t been able to rev its economic engine the way, say, Hudson — its polar opposite less than 30 miles away — has. 

But that may be changing, and it won’t be by rehabbing historic buildings, bringing in big name chefs from the city or creating a design district (or any district, for that matter). It will be in the recognition that the heritage, agriculture, scenery, food, culture, arts, crafts of New Lebanon — in other words, the people who live there — have skills and experience to share with visitors.

That’s the mission behind Behold! New Lebanon, a living museum of today’s rural American life. Last weekend kicked off a series of four weekends this fall. Consider it a “choose your own adventure” in which you can go into the homes, farms, workshops and places of businesses of the people who are living successfully in rural America.

That might mean visiting a first-generation farmer and finding out why and how he’s harvesting 150 varieties of organic vegetables using two Belgian draft horses. Getting a behind-the-scenes tour of the Lebanon Valley Speedway, or learning why the town’s postmaster loves hunting — without a gun. Or watching a chef as she demonstrates how to make New Lebanon’s famed slab pie. It’s an opportunity to find out who lives in a small town and how they spend their time.

Each event is eye opening, bringing focus to a city dweller or suburbanite’s possibly fuzzy lens on rural life. The “country guides,” who are paid an honorarium, are sharing their hopes and dreams — things you cannot glean when cruising Route 20 on your way to I-90.

Behold! New Lebanon is the brainchild of Ruth Abram [photo, right], an historian and activist who founded the wildly successful Lower East Side Tenement Museum. The concept of Behold! New Lebanon was tied with an economic mission. After Abram bought a weekend home in New Lebanon, it saddened her to learn of the town’s early shining history, contrasted with the current situation of its loss of businesses and people. 

“In the 18th and 19th centuries, New Lebanon was the natural healing center of the world,” Abram explains, referring to the world-famous Lebanon Springs. “It was alive with spirituality. The Shakers were here. The abolition and temperance movements were here. It was a centerpiece of evangelical thought.” It was thriving — a very different story from what she found in her new community.

Abram isn’t exactly evangelizing, but listen to her and you’ll see the idea makes sense. “We see Behold! New Lebanon as a way to serve as an economic engine for the entire town,” she says. “Inviting the resident ‘experts’ to share their knowledge, talent and enthusiasm for the rural life can ignite their wherewithal to bring in tourism dollars and” — keeping the historical reference going — “create their own salvation. We hope that people from surrounding cities and suburbs will visit Behold! New Lebanon, and enjoy their interactions with our marvelous country guides and our magnificent landscapes.”

At the Visitor’s Center, Rich Crouch handles registration.

Bring a good idea to the table, and people will come. The program has been seeded by donations (and, as a nonprofit, will be applying for grants).  The New Lebanon community has embraced Abram’s idea and it showed at their launch day. The Visitor’s Center (a rather deluxe shed, which was donated for Behold! Lebanon’s use by the Shed Man) was practically vibrating with good spirit and excitement as volunteers registered visitors, shepherded them to their events (a bus drops off and picks up visitors; no need to seek out the locations on unfamiliar country roads) and hand out surveys.

Tickets range from $25 for a one-day pass to $40 for a weekend of events. Residents of nearby towns get a 50-percent discount. Kids 12 and under are free.

Even that first day, the mission was being well accomplished. “I’ve lived in this area for years, but never knew how to find out about these people and places,” said one participant.

The country guides express enthusiasm for the program. The common refrain: they simply like showing and telling people about themselves. Melanie Hunt, owner of the Blueberry Hill Market Cafe, enjoys the opportunity to talk about what she does. “Instead of just doing, it’s nice to talk about what we do,” which is, for Behold! Lebanon, the slab pie demonstration and a coffee chat.

“I think it’s a tremendous effort to promote this wonderful town,” said Heather Van Ort, who is owner and designer of Masterpiece Jewelry Studio, and whose event was “Gemstones Demystified: Pearls Renewed.” Eric Johnson of Wild Goose Chase NE (he demonstrates how he trains dogs to help people rid their ponds of geese in a humane way) acknowledges that some residents have expressed some skepticism for the venture. But he appreciates that it helps preserve the town’s heritage. Plus, he says, “it’s a way to self promote. Anytime I can present myself as a dog trainer to the public, it’s a good thing.”

And, if the concept works in New Lebanon, Abrams says, why not in other towns? 

“I want to establish a working model for small towns to use their own resources to benefit the town, and develop a how-to manual for other towns.”

The logo and website were designed by Peter Blandori of Columbia County.

So sign up and get on the bus to “Surviving in the Forest,” “Pigs On Whey,” Working Dogs,” “The Farming Life” or any of the other events, available only in New Lebanon. You’ll walk away from these authentic experiences — and people — awed and impressed, as I was. Plus, you’ll be helping them expand their tourism base. And that is rural intelligence at its best.

Behold! New Lebanon
Friday, September 12 – Sunday, September 14
Friday, October 10 – Monday, October 13
Friday, October 31 – Sunday, November 2
Visitor’s Center: 14398 NY Route 22, New Lebanon, NY
(518) 795-5756

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Posted by Lisa Green on 09/01/14 at 01:45 PM • Permalink

W. Cornwall’s Covered Bridge Parties With A Paint-In

By Kimberly Jordan Allen

Some people know it as the Kissing Bridge. Others recognize it from its cameo in the opening scene of the 1967 film Valley of the Dolls. And for some Connecticut residents, it’s just the way they get to work each day.

“Our family has been crossing this bridge for 150 years,” says Melissa Andrews of West Cornwall. She’s talking about the West Cornwall Covered Bridge, a New England landmark that celebrates a big birthday this year.

On Saturday, July 26, local artists will mark the bridge’s 150th year with “Paint the Bridge Day.” Artists, professional and amateur, are invited to render the landmark in whatever medium they choose — photographs, paintings, drawings, sketches, or sculpture — and their work will be on sale that same afternoon. Space will be limited, so if you want to participate in the creative rendering, arrive early to choose a good spot on the riverbanks.

Proceeds from the sale will go to the artists and West Cornwall Village Improvement Association for maintenance of the flower-filled areas surrounding the bridge — riverbanks that have long been used for contemplating and absorbing the scenic beauty of the Housatonic River. Submissions must be entered by 2 p.m. and a sale and reception will follow from 3-6 p.m. at Cornwall Bridge Pottery [shown right]. The artwork will be exhibited through the following day.

The iconic covered crossing is a piece of Americana that was built in 1864. The bridge is made from red spruce and tree nails (wooden pegs) and is 172 feet long and 15 feet wide. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975, it has been renovated, reinforced and painted over the years to handle weathering and the increased traffic of the area, but otherwise, it’s unchanged.

The bridge was originally named after the Hart family, dairy farmers who lived in Sharon, CT, who constructed the bridge in the early 1800s for traveling to and from West Cornwall farmland. Since then, it’s become recognized as a significant example of New England architecture, featured in many books and websites as a scenic Connecticut destination. The construction and history also prompted the creation of a booklet by historian Michael Gannett.

Brendan O’Connell West Cornwall resident and well-known contemporary artist, will be participating in Saturday’s event and selling his work at the celebration. “We’re painting landmarks and natural beauty that are disappearing in other parts of the world,” O’Connell says.

Bianca Langner Griggs [left], owner of the Wish House shop in downtown West Cornwall, organized the event and is thrilled to gather locals in town to enjoy its historical features. “We should constantly have parties and get-togethers,” she says. With the help of Debra Tyler, active homesteader and owner of Local Farm, Langner Griggs created the farmers’ market eight years ago after the last grocery store had closed in West Cornwall. “We feel it necessary to continue to bring people together. Celebrating our landmarks is a way to gather the community and draw attention to this beautiful, bucolic town. Just as the farmers’ market brings people together, celebrations do the same.”

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Posted by Lisa Green on 07/22/14 at 01:39 PM • Permalink

Ramblewild Sees The Forest For The Trees — And Then Some

By Lisa Green

A tree-hugger’s dream-come-true has materialized in the forest on Brodie Mountain in Lanesborough, MA.

At the same place and time, anyone who fancies a challenging adventure on the mountain will be equally delighted.

The two interests can coexist, and they do, in Ramblewild, the tree-to-tree adventure trail that’s not so much an adventure “park” as an immersion into nature, which visitors happen to experience via aerial courses that include riding saddles across a river gorge or a snowboard on a zip line. 

There’s something else that sets Ramblewild apart from other adventure parks: it’s owned by Feronia Forests, a corporation that, it says, sees the forest for the trees — and wants to see it that way in perpetuity. Rather than razing the forest for timber, Feronia chooses to offset its revenue with recreation and environmentally friendly businesses. Mostly, though, the company wants people (focus on young people) to learn about the forest as they learn about themselves.

On a preview tour of the property, a red fox dashed across a trail.

Ramblewild CEO Tim Gallagher at the top of the mountain.

“See, that’s what we want kids to see,” says Ramblewild’s CEO Tim Gallagher. “We want to give kids who don’t get to experience nature the chance to see things like this. If we can get young people interested in nature, they will become stewards of the forest.”

The goal, he says, is to get every visitor to develop an understanding, appreciation and respect for nature, and see that by coming to Ramblewild, they’re helping to preserve the woodlands, protect the wildlife and conserve energy.

But back to the adventure part: Ramblewild, which officially opened on June 21, takes its visitors off the grid (no cellphones allowed while aerial bound) while they’re flying from platform to platform. There are 135 platforms in all, located on eight separate trails throughout seven acres. There’s no electricity on the trails, either, so it’s fly-by-daylight or moonlight.

Once adventurers pay admission (prices range from $55 for a child to $69 for adults for a three-hour visit), they’re handed a safety harness and shown how to use it. Walking up the main trail, they hit a practice area where they learn the basic skills needed to negotiate the self-guided tours. Gallagher says visitors will have time to go on 3 to 4 trails in a visit; there are 12 to 15 sections per trail. Trails range from lower, beginner trails to much higher, more difficult expert courses.

Harnesses and helmets ready for a crowd.

Safety is a given; the full-body harnesses have a safety system, and everyone wears a helmet. There are staff operators on each of the platforms and others monitoring action on the ground. Those who would rather be earthbound are welcome to just walk the trails, and parents can follow their kids and take pictures from down below.

Feronia is serious about its mission to sustain forests, and sees its future in education. Its Feronia Forest Fund is a nonprofit created with the mission to connect youth with forests and their ecosystems, and the funds are being used to bring inner city schoolkids to the Berkshire woods. As an extension of its “sustainable full forestry” mission, Ramblewild leases part of the land to the owner of the Berkshire Wind turbines on Brodie Mountain. There’s also a maple syrup operation (with 110 acres of tubing and 7,500 taps), with the sap being processed at Ioka Valley Farm just down the road. Plans to install solar panels near the turbines are in the works.

The climbing wall.

Despite the 135 tree-to-tree elements, little of the property has been modified and everything on the challenge courses has been installed without harm to the trees; in fact, not one tree has been subjected to a nail or spike, thanks to an ingenious clamp system that holds up the platforms and lines.

Gallahger, born and raised in Dalton, has a background that, in hindsight, seems to have put him squarely on a trail to Ramblewild. At Hillcrest Educational Centers in the Berkshires, he ran the adventure-based skills program and was director of training and staff, and then business development, there. He had his own team-building company, and at Canyon Ranch, was director of health and healing. Now he’s training Ramblewild’s staff of 25-30, some of whom also have Canyon Ranch backgrounds.

While families, school groups and of course tourists are a target market, Ramblewild also hopes to attract other groups looking for ways to practice team-building exercises. Prior to its public opening, Ramblewild hosted several middle school groups. The kids were completely engaged with the physical and mental challenges of the courses. In fact, Gallagher was surprised that their presence didn’t create a lot of noise. It was as if they took their cue from the hush of the forest.

The kayak element.

Sounds like Feronia’s mission is working.

110 Brodie Mountain Road, Lanesborough, MA

There are no food vendors on site but visitors are welcome to bring their own and use the picnic area.


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Posted by Lisa Green on 06/23/14 at 01:47 PM • Permalink

Witnessing A Force Of Nature At The Copake Iron Works

ciw2By Jamie Larson

Though the structure around it has long since disappeared and its last 2,500-degree blaze was extinguished over a century ago, the old blast furnace at the Copake Iron Works Historic District remains an arresting sight, timeless and still imbued with a ghost of furious power. Even in such an historically rich region, the Iron Works is a summertime site not to be missed, whether you’re a diehard history buff or lazy Sunday rambler.

The site, museum and surrounding trails scattered with beautiful blue old slag (a glass-like chemical byproduct) are located in Taconic State Park in Copake Falls. It’s open to the public throughout the summer and there will be a half-dozen weekend opportunities to tour the Works with the extremely knowledgeable and engaging historian Jim Mackin. Dates and times are available on the park’s website. Mackin will also be speaking about the Iron Works at the Roeliff Jansen Community Library on Saturday, June 21 at 2 p.m, with a tour the following day at the site at 1 p.m.

ciwThe Iron Works, which produced 4,000 tons of cast iron a year throughout the 19th century and into the early 20th, is made up of the furnace, frame office, brick explosive powder storage building, engine house, pattern and mold shop and worker homes.

“This place has an incredible legacy,” Makin says, “but there’s still a lot of mystery.”

It’s that mystery that captivates visitors both regular and new. While the industry was huge in the area at the time, with its own section of railroad, and forest teams that cleared 100 acres of surrounding woods each year to create charcoal to feed the furnace’s insatiable appetite, there is little known about the business, started by Lemuel Pomeroy in 1845. Records have been lost to time and even the physical layout of the production operation is still a bit of a puzzle. On each tour, Iron Works enthusiasts actively work out theories about how exactly everything was configured.

Looking up at the crumbling pile of stone and its restored Gothic brick arches, portals to what was once a molten river of iron ore, one can’t help but feel a connection to a time in our collective human history when we truly began to reshape the natural world with brute force and an insatiable industrial will.

ciw4Edgar Masters, park commissioner and a founding member of the Friends of the TSP, has remained captivated by the ironworks for years. “I’m amazed by the vision these industrialists had,” he says, “to create an entire industry out of nothing, in the woods. The scope of what these people did, essentially by hand, is incredible. It’s a little like building the pyramids.”

The Iron Works, which is slowly being reclaimed by the stronger-than-iron force of nature, is a monument to the founders of the Modern Age. Molten iron poured through the hellish womb within the furnace and into wooden molds resting in sand. Those molds made plows to feed an expanding nation, canons to protect it and pieces of infrastructure that connected us like never before. The furnace in Copake was a crucible not just for iron but also for, at the time, America’s industrial future. The workers, mostly immigrants, who sweat and broke their backs and died here gave birth to our nation and instilled it with the ideals of progress. It’s surprisingly easy to see and feel that, just by visiting the Copake Iron Works and standing before its furnace.

ciw5Take a tour and you’ll experience all that. It only takes an hour. Plus, it’s free, the park is pretty, the hiking is limited and there are good places to eat nearby.

Copake Iron Works in Taconic State Park, Copake Falls.
Jim Mackin speaks at the Roeliff Jansen Community Library Saturday, June 21 at 2 p.m., with tour the following day.
Check website for other tour dates.

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Posted by Jamie Larson on 06/09/14 at 08:48 PM • Permalink

Club Members At Lime Rock Park Feed Their Need For Speed

The Chalet deck, best corner of the track and home to Lime Rock Drivers Club during all Lime Rock Park races.

By Don Rosendale

It’s a damp Friday morning in May. Jeanette Veitenheimer, executive administrator at the Driver’s Club at the Lime Rock race course (the members call her their “den mother”) has set out a continental breakfast and is helping Carol, who has driven from Long Island for the day, select the club patch she wants on her Nomex suit. From the perch of the Driver’s Club chalet overlooking the Sam Posey Straight, a solitary Porsche Cayman is turning lap times — 58 seconds for one circuit — which would be impressive in a race in a couple of weeks.

Created in 2007 by racing champion Skip Barber, the private Lime Rock Drivers Club in Lakeville, CT offers private track time, fully coached, on the same track that’s welcomed nearly every great road-racing driver. A high-end sports cars and a hefty club fee get you into this rather rarefied world of cars, racing and hobnobbing with the sport’s greats.

But before the private, one-on-one coaching begins, a non-moving class is in session. Simon Kirkby of South Egremont, the chief instructor (and an internationally renowned driver coach) is using a blackboard to explain the theories behind driving fast. (“When you step on the brakes, the adhesion shifts to the front wheels.”) Joe Courtney, who lives “between Litchfield and New Milford” explains why he belongs to the Driver’s Club.

Joe Courtney

“It’s like a country club for people who love cars,” he exudes. People who like putting will join a golf club, polo players head for Mashomack in Pine Plains. Those who love cars pay a $55,000 initiation fee and $3,630 a year to belong to the Driver’s Club so they can drive as fast as they want without looking for flashing blue lights.

Courtney’s stable includes a Porsche Cayman, a Ferrari 457 and a Lamborghini, each capable of 150 miles per hour and zero to 60 before you can sneeze. Courtney doesn’t keep his scuderia at home, but rather at a specialist garage. When he needs one, he calls and it is delivered like a Domino’s pizza. As we speak, which one is en route is still a mystery, but when it arrives he’ll drive it on the same Lime Rock course where professional drivers compete in major races.

For people like him, places like the Lime Rock Driver’s Club and the Monticello Motor Club in New York State are springing up. They’re called “automobile resorts” where those with high-performance cars come to realize their potential. The members are no budding race drivers. They just want to drive fast legally and safely.

Jeanette Veitenheimer, the club’s den mother.

There are 80-odd members of the Lime Rock club. Most are men, but there are women, too. Fathers bring their sons. “We have a couple of people who have bought homes near here so they can come and drive more often,” says Veitenheimer. John Steinmetz, who lives just across the road, comes for lunch.

There’s no actual racing, no trophies for being fastest. “The only person you are racing against is yourself,” she says.”

Because, in an earlier time, I won pewter trophies at Lime Rock and held a lap record when 1:14 was considered blistering, I’m offered a chance to take my vintage Porsche on the track for a few “hot laps” — that is, drive on the track at racing speeds but not actually compete. A pair of crash helmets are pulled from the closet and the car windows go down. Kirkby, who came to Lime Rock after being a champion rally and race driver in England, bravely belts himself into the passenger seat.

The starter checks to make sure I have a Day-Glo orange wristband, and we’re off. Simon waves out the window to show overtaking cars on which side to pass (we don’t pass anyone). He points to the best “lines” to take in a corner and warns what’s coming up.

Simon Kirkby and the author, Don Rosendale, after a few “hot laps.”

Lime Rock offers “hot laps” but these are, at best, “cool laps.” I am what serious race drivers call a moving roadblock, but there is still an adrenalin rush, a sharpening of the senses, an emotional high.

When we pull off, I’m stopped and lectured like an errant school boy for using the turn signals to show we were pulling into pit lane; the flashers here are counterintuitively used to indicate to overtaking cars where you want them to pass.

Back at the Driver’s Club building, Veitenheimer is showing Courtney pictures taken at a “field trip” the club took to the Watkins Glen racecourse in upstate New York in April, and then recommending places to take his new friends for dinner.

“It’s about more than just driving cars,” says Courtney. “It’s a family atmosphere. I’ve met a whole group of new people who will be friends for life.”

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Posted by Lisa Green on 05/12/14 at 03:50 PM • Permalink

10 Things To Love About Rhinebeck

By Robert Burke Warren

If you’re looking for a distinctive combo of arts mecca, small-town cool and historic significance, Rhinebeck is the ticket. As we noted a few years back, for both locals and out-of-towners, this charming town is a rich resource for fun, relaxation, and edification. With easy access via train or bus, Rhinebeck offers opportunities for both weekend getaways and day trips, making it a destination point for the urban-weary and/or intrepid country folk.

1. The Beekman Arms: Time travel is possible, and quite a thrill at the oldest operating hotel in the U.S. Opened in 1766, the Beekman Arms has never closed. With its wide floor planks and massive fireplace, it offers hard-to-beat rusticity. But fear not: they have WiFi. Thankfully, the tastefully appointed modern conveniences do not distract from the 18th-century character, and visitors continue to rave. Just passing through? Step in to the downstairs tavern for an ale or a pot of tea, and emerge saying things like, “poppycock!” and “cheerio!”

2. Sinterklaas: Since 2008, this inspired, fairy tale re-enactment of the Dutch Yuletide celebration, wherein Saint Nick arrives by boat and parades through town with oddball sidekicks, has captivated young and old alike. The brainchild of New York City Halloween Parade director Jeanne Fleming, Sinterklaas includes giant puppets, floats from local businesses and organizations, music, and a little delicious spookiness to offset the run-of-the-mill holiday treacle.

3. Oblong Books & Music: While independent bookstores shut down everywhere, this family-owned-and-operated establishment made headlines in 2010 by daring to expand. Four years down the line, all is well (as reported in RI last year). Staffed by friendly and knowledgeable book lovers, including second-generation proprietor Suzanna Hermans, Oblong offers bestsellers, children’s books, nonfiction and great CDs. Tucked away from the bustle of Rhinebeck’s Montgomery Street, Oblong will restore your faith in the quiet power of the book, and the indie bookstore.

4. Upstate Films: For more than four decades, non-profit Upstate Films has offered foreign, independent and classic films, weathering seismic changes in the movie-watching culture while steadfastly providing a cultural and economic anchor to Rhinebeck. Undaunted by the rise of DVDs, they actually expanded in 2010, purchasing the former Tinker Street Cinema in Woodstock. Additionally, they host high school classes, workshops, and the Woodstock Film Festival. The two-screened venue is homey and charming, with an old timey popcorn machine, really comfy seats, and great sound.

5. Omega Institute: Since 1977, Omega has been the place for seekers. Yoga initiates, aspiring writers, musicians, couples and students of myriad disciplines come to Omega, many seeking a respite from urban stress. Workshoppers descend on the sylvan beauty of the 200-acre campus to receive instruction from hundreds of teachers, artists, healers and thinkers on the leading edge of their fields. As the arena of lifelong learning expands, Omega remains a world-renowned standard bearer, part spiritual retreat, part summer camp for grown-ups.

6. Old Rhinebeck Aerodome: Opened in 1966, the Old Rhinebeck Aerodome reminds visitors of the early days of flight, with World War I and Lindbergh-era aircraft, vehicles, related equipment, documents, memorabilia and historically significant artifacts. Originally established by veteran collector Cole Palen, the Aerodome became a nonprofit in 1993, and new generations of flight enthusiasts continue to keep it going. In addition to a well-maintained museum, from June to October, the Aerodome offers biplane rides and air shows that present the history of flight and World War I.  A great day for families, or anyone looking to be amazed that we humans managed to get airborne.

7. The Center for Performing Arts: Originally a tent, in 1998, the Center for Performing Arts at Rhinebeck finally got a permanent structure, where they consistently bring excellent theater to Rhinebeck and its environs. The cozy barn, built to blend in with the surrounding farmlands, presents high-caliber productions that run the gamut from musical theater to Shakespeare to great American drama. The Center brings in actors from Manhattan as well as the adjoining regions, maintaining a reputation for high quality.

8. Wilderstein: This stately 19th-century home is known mostly as the longtime residence of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s cousin and close companion Margaret (Daisy) Lynch Suckley, who lived there until her death at age 99 in 1991. Now a sought-after tourist attraction, the Wilderstein home and grounds are jaw-droppingly gorgeous. Visitors enjoy views of the Hudson River on one side and the Catskills on the other, picturesque gazebos, charming outbuildings and a winding network of private roads. The building itself, a turreted Queen Anne villa, is one of the more understated of the stately homes of the region, but still quite grand.

9. Terrapin Restaurant: Housed in the handsome former Rhinebeck First Baptist Church, completed in 1825, multi-award-winning Terrapin is a farm-to-table restaurant with a stellar reputation. Chef Josh Kroner, a former instructor at the French Culinary Institute, opened his dream establishment in 1998, and was on the cutting edge of the locavore movement before it had a name. He sources from area farms for his comfort and upscale cuisine, combining French, Asian and American Southwestern flavors for dishes that’ll suit any palette or mood.

10. Rhinebeck Farmers Market: Celebrating its 20th anniversary, the Rhinebeck Farmers Market is a year-round endeavor. The vendors offer local fruits, vegetables, meats, dairy and assorted other goodies, and there’s always a performance going on, usually acoustic-based acts. Frequent cooking and craft demonstrations offer opportunities to learn a little something while indulging in the various wares. What began as a small collective is now a thriving marketplace and a renowned w eekend meeting spot for locals and passers-by.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 03/31/14 at 09:20 AM • Permalink

Regional Rambles: Short And Easy Winter Hikes

By Jamie Larson

poets walk1 With the Berkshire Mountains and the Hudson River in our midst, we are fortunate to live in a region of incomparable beauty. A long, invigorating weekend hike through our forests, streams, hills and fields will leave one deeply awed by the humble grandeur of it all…

(Insert screeching brakes here.)

Reality check: Yes, it’s been really cold this winter, like polar vortex cold. The snow is deep again, and there’s a whole season of that show you’ve been meaning to watch on Netflix, and there are blankets and radiators. Nothing wrong with that snug-as-a-bug-in-a-rug thing.

So let’s compromise. Let’s go hike down a great trail (for a little while), let’s climb up to a sweeping view (one not that far from the car) and enjoy the snow-capped beauty of our amazing area while it lasts (and then go get a bowl of soup and a sandwich). These great, abbreviated hikes will get your heart rate up, smite your cabin fever, deliver a moment’s peace and get you back home feeling all the better for it.

omiThe Fields Sculpture Park at Omi International Arts Center

The spring, summer and fall provide a myriad of complex canvases for the world-class artists who present their sculptures in the fields, woods and bogs of Omi. When surrounded by nature’s color, the pieces have a lot to play off of, and compete with, for attention. In wintertime, the snow creates a blank canvas for the art and greatly impacts the contrast and intensity of each sculpture.

The walk around the sculpture park is a short loop with diverging trails that are usually well enough packed down a day or two after snowfall. Omi is a great place to bring a dog for exercise in the winter.

If the walk works up your appetite, Café Omi at the visitors center is open on weekends, and offers a limited but sophisticated selection of sandwiches, snacks and warm drinks, along with a fine exhibit in the gallery room.

1405 County Route 22, Ghent, NY
Open every day 11 a.m. - 5 p.m.

tanglewoodTanglewood and Jacob’s Pillow

We’re all well accustomed by now to the joys of visiting these two world-class institutions in the summer. We go to Tanglewood for the Boston Symphony Orchestra and James Taylor and to Jacob’s Pillow to view the best the dance world has to offer. But we do so always in a crowd. Wandering these grounds, now cloaked in snow and silence, imparts a sense of personal connection and ownership that will resonate the next time you’re there with the adoring throngs.

The rolling grounds of both locations are open weekdays and weekends, except holidays, and the paths are plowed and gentle in slope. After a short stroll, head to the Lion’s Den in Stockbridge for soup, a sandwich and a warming drink.

Tanglewood, 297 West Street, Lenox, MA
Jacob’s Pillow, 358 George Carter Road, Becket, MA
Both grounds are open every day, hours subject to change.

cedar parkCedar Park Cemetery

There are few cemeteries anywhere that rival the eccentric historical handsomeness of Hudson’s Cedar Park Cemetery. From its location on a nearly comically steep hill to the worn old stones and regal mausoleums of its dead residents, the vast acreage exudes intrigue. Winter makes the grounds that much more ghostly. There are endless meandering trails and much along the way, including a spectacular westerly view from the top of the hill. Stopping to read ancient grave stones and peek through the crack in the door on a tomb may get your heart racing no matter how cold the day. Afterwards, warm your bones with the freshly baked offerings at Bonfiglio & Bread.

20 Columbia Turnpike, Hudson, NY
Open as the sun shines and closed during hours of darkness.

poet's walk2Poets’ Walk

This pastoral, meandering trail was designed in 1849 to inspire one to think about the connection between landscape and poetry, and so it does. Walking through the white hills of winter, one’s own breath seems to huff poetry and the wind in the trees whispers it back. Here, in the midst of nature’s muse, you are accompanied by the venerable poets who walked these paths before you. Washington Irving, William Cullen Bryant, and Jack Kerouac looked out on these same frozen meadows. When you’re there, they’re yours alone. Bring a notebook.

When your sense of awe is satiated, go get inspired by one of the “Eat Good, Feel Good” sandwiches at Rusty’s Farm Fresh Eatery.

Look for the sign on the west side of River Road, Red Hook, NY
Open every day.

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Posted by Jamie Larson on 02/10/14 at 06:14 PM • Permalink

Valentine’s Day Specials and Celebrations

Sweet Deals on Suites

Cranwell Resort, Lenox Romance Package: This is the ultimate package to beat the winter blahs, and includes a one-night classic accommodation, a romance gift collection, $50 dining credit at any Cranwell restaurant, a complimentary bottle of Cranwell’s Private Reserve red or white wine with dinner, and full use of the spa, including heated indoor pool, whirlpools, saunas, steam rooms and fitness center. Forget Calgon, this stay will have you saying “Cranwell… take me away!”
55 Lee Road, Lenox, MA. Phone: 413-637-1364; 1-800-272-6935.

1862 Seasons on Main, Stockbridge Romantic Getaway Package: Enjoy a two-night stay with flowers, wine and treats. Or try the Relax and Renew Package: Stay for three nights, and enjoy a 50-minute massage within footsteps of the inn’s front door, or a manicure and pedicure at Seven Salon.
47 Main Street, Stockbridge, MA. Phone: 413-298-5419; 855-223-1862.

Chambery Inn, Lee Romance Package: Two-day, one-night stay in the Schoolhouse Suite. Enjoy wine, cheese and chocolates in your room upon arrival. Afterward, bring some chocolates home using a $5.00 gift card to Chocolate Springs Cafe in Lenox. This special package includes a room-delivered breakfast basket each morning. 
199 Main Street, Lee, MA. Phone: 413-243-2221; 800-537-4321.

Kemble Inn, Lenox Valentine’s Special: This deal includes overnight accommodations for one night, either February 14 or February 15, plus a half bottle of champagne, 12 long-stem roses and chocolate-covered strawberries all in your room upon arrival. You’ll also enjoy dinner for two, early check-in/late check-out, and a complimentary fireplace in King suites.
2 Kemble Street, Lenox, MA. Phone: 413-637-4113; 800-353-4113.

The Porches Inn, North Adams Art and Romance Deal: This special is available exclusively on Valentine’s Day, and includes overnight accommodations, two tickets to MASS MoCA’s “Date Night,” and a continental breakfast. See below for all that “Date Night” entails; you’d better grab this deal right away.
231 River Street, North Adams, MA. Phone: 413-664-0400.

Inn the Woods Bed & Breakfast, Hyde Park Valentine’s B&B Getaway: A three-night stay and three full breakfasts of homemade specialties await you, plus receive a rose arrangement, chocolate-covered strawberries, and a plate of local cheeses with sparkling beverage served by the fire. A $20 gift certificate to Liquorama Wine Cellars is yours, along with a $20 gift certificate to 2 Taste Food and Wine Bar, a $10 gift certificate to Giggles upscale adult novelty and garment shop, AND late check-in, late breakfasts, and late check-out if preferred. Choose either a February 13 - 15 stay or a February 14 - 16 stay.
32 Howard Boulevard Extension, Hyde Park, NY. Phone: 845-229-9331.

Interlaken Inn, Lakeville Valentine’s Day Getaway Package: On February 15, let Interlaken treat you and your loved one to a three-course dinner including a glass of house wine or a cocktail, a red rose, and a night of dancing to the Scott Heth Trio. The overnight accommodations also include breakfast, but feel free to add to your rendezvous with the Inn’s long list of “over-the-top” add-ons, like a private cooking classes, rose petal turn-down, and in-room manicure and pedicure.
74 Interlaken Road, Lakeville, CT. Phone: 1-800-222-2909.

The Manor House, Norfolk Book one night at the regular price and add a second night for half price. That’s plenty of time to take a romantic horse-drawn carriage or sleigh ride, snack on a gourmet picnic basket lunch, and then head back for an in-room massage.
69 Maple Avenue, Norfolk, CT. Phone: 860-542-5690.

The Litchfield Inn, Litchfield Couples Getaway: A deluxe king room, chocolate-covered strawberries, and an in-room couples massage are waiting for you in Connecticut.
432 Bantam Road, Litchfield, CT. Phone: 860-567-4503.

A Table For Two

Miranda Vineyard, Goshen, CT Chocolate Lover’s Valentine’s Day Tasting Dinner: Enjoy six decadent chocolate-infused courses paired with award-winning wines. 6 p.m.
42 Ives Rd, Goshen, CT. Phone: 860-491-9906.

The Secret Table, Washington, CT Be My Valentine Dinner: Celebrate V-Day on February 15, at Litchfield County’s only communal dining experience. A New England Colonial farmhouse welcomes you with a roaring fire and champagne. Then settle in for a five-course meal paired with wines. And you’ll leave with a gift of handmade truffles. For reservations, email: 
115 River Road, Washington, CT. Phone: 860-868-7599.

Vico Restaurant, Hudson Romantic Valentine’s Weekend Menu: From Friday, February 14 through Monday, February 17, stop by Vico for a special menu served a la carte or prix fixe. There’s even a special dessert made for the occasion.
136 Warren Street, Hudson, NY. Phone: 518-828-6529.

The Enchanted Cafe, Red Hook Valentine’s Day Psychic Dinner: Psychic medium Johnny Angel offers a unique way to spend this day of love. Along with an exotic menu of Indian fare and a special dessert, you can look forward to Johnny’s personal message just for you. 6 p.m.
7484 S. Broadway, Red Hook, NY. Phone: 845-518-1915.

Terrapin Restaurant, Rhinebeck Valentine’s Day Prix Fixe Dinner: Choose from a two-course or three-course menu, with your choice of entree. See website for dining times and luscious meal choices.
6426 Montgomery Street, Rhinebeck, NY. Phone: 845-876-3330.

The Rhinecliff Hotel, Rhinecliff Two nights of special candlelit dinners (plus an a la carte menu) on February 14 and 15 lead into a Lovers’ Brunch with live music on Sunday, February 16. See website for menus and live music lineup.
4 Grinnell Street, Rhinecliff, NY. Phone: 845-876-0590.

Le Chambord Inn, Hopewell Junction Valentine’s Day Dinner Dance: Don your best duds and head out for a cocktail party and buffet dinner that includes five hours of open bar. 7 p.m. - Midnight.
2737 Route 52, Hopewell Junction, NY. Phone: 845-221-1941.

Charlotte’s Restaurant, Millbrook Valentine’s Dinner: Romantic fireside dining with a specially prepared a la carte menu, plus blues, jazz and love songs performed by Michael Brown on keyboard. 
4258 Route 44, Millbrook, NY. Phone: 845-677-5888.

Blantyre, Lenox Romantic Four-course Dinner: Celebrate Valentine’s Day with canapés and champagne, romantic piano music, a bouquet of roses, and an evening horse and sleigh ride. For those staying overnight, enjoy a half bottle of champagne, chocolate-covered strawberries, and a fruit and cheese tray.
16 Blantyre Road, Lenox, MA. Phone: 413-637-3556.

A New Kind of Rendezvous

Shakespeare & Company, Lenox Private Lives Valentine’s Brunch: Treat your Valentine — and yourself — to a romantic brunch on February 16, followed by a matinee performance of Private Lives. It’s the perfect way to wrap up your Valentine’s weekend. 11 a.m.
70 Kemble Street, Lenox, MA. Phone: 413-637-1199.

MASS MoCA, North Adams Date Night at the Museum: Have dinner for two by candlelight on February 14 as you stroll through the galleries, participate in activities, and craft handmade gifts for your partner. Drop off the kids at Kidspace for their own special Valentine dinner and art activities. 6-9 p.m.
87 Marshall Street, North Adams, MA. Phone: 413-662-2111, Ext. 1.

Locust Grove Historic Estate, Poughkeepsie Spend Valentine’s Day night in good company at the “Show Your Love” Ball. Hosted by Big Gay Hudson Valley, the dance is a party for the LGBTQ community and their friends and allies, both single and partnered. Upon arrival guests will receive a glass of sparkling wine, and the night will feature a four-course meal and open bar, plus dessert stations. Live entertainment will be provided by Ophelia Nightly, followed by DJ dancing into the night… well, until 11 p.m. 7-11 p.m.
2683 South Road, Poughkeepsie, NY.

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Posted by Amy Krzanik on 02/02/14 at 08:09 PM • Permalink

Jumpfest Weekend Leaps Into New Activities

By Sarah Ellen Rindsberg

Photo by Kathleen Doyle.

Get your hand and foot warmers out; now you’re all set to join the thousands of spectators at the annual Jumpfest Weekend at the Satre Hill Ski Jumps in Salisbury on February 7-9. The weekend has been a highlight of winter in northwest Connecticut for decades, and this year offers an expanded lineup of activities that begin the preceding week. Not all of them call for extra layers, though, and some of the new indoor events even include something warm to drink.

The idea was to increase the scope of the events and to build momentum in the days leading up to the big weekend. It began with discussions among several local residents and merchants. “The thinking was that the three days are pretty full so if we wanted to do new events, we needed to start the week before,” says Willie Hallihan, one of the 20 directors of the Salisbury Winter Sports Association and the man in charge of marketing for the events.

One new feature in coordination with Jumpfest is the addition of several winter-themed art shows and openings. At Trinity Church in Lime Rock, a wine and hors d’oeuvres reception will mark the opening of its juried show. Over at the Academy Building, the invitational show Higher.Faster.Farther. catches the action at the jumps in photos shot by Jumpfest volunteers.

Work by several local artists in various media, including fiber, sculpture, prints and paintings, will be on display in The White Show at the White Gallery in Lakeville. Refreshments will be served at the gallery and ten percent of all proceeds will be donated to the Salisbury Winter Sports Association (SWSA).

For those with a culinary bent, there will be numerous tastings for the first time in Jumpfest history. At the Interlaken Inn in Lakeville, Executive Chef Brandon Scimeca will lead a cooking demonstration, and Hillrock Estate Distillery Bourbon of Ancram will be offering samples of its aged bourbon whiskey. Both the Falls Village Inn and the Interlaken Inn will be offering package deals which include event tickets. At Sunset Meadow Vineyards in Goshen, a tasting will be held over the entire Jumpfest weekend, and Jumpfest ticket holders will receive free souvenir SMV wineglasses.

The Human Dog Sled Race. Photo by David Newman.

There’s still a way for the non-skiing but sports minded enthusiasts to get involved. The ever-popular Human Dog Sled Races return, with more teams than ever expected to take the place of canines as they pull their cargo.

In addition to the traditional Snow Ball on Saturday night, revelers will gather pre-Jumpfest for the first Winter Warmer fundraiser, at the Salisbury home of Curtis and Susan Rand. The benefit grew out of the organizers’ desire to have a “fun party at the depths of winter.” Tickets for the party, catered by Country Bistro of Salisbury, are available on the website for $30.

Ice sculpture from last year’s festival.  Photo by Jonathan Doster.

This year’s ice-carving event will be a demonstration rather than a competition, and held in the square adjacent to LaBonne’s grocery store. Visitors can observe professional carvers as they craft their spectacular ice sculptures. “They know how to ‘weld’ ice,” Hallihan attests. “They’re beautiful but fleeting,” he adds, noting that the sculptures will be on display as long as Mother Nature permits.

And don’t forget the main events: Friday night jumping under the lights, the Saturday SWSA Invitational, and Sunday’s U.S. Eastern Ski Jumping Championships, where future Olympians start honing their medal mettle.

Friday, January 31
Trinity Church, Lime Rock, art exhibit opening with wine and hors d’oeuvres reception, 5 - 7 p.m.

Saturday, February 1
Academy Building, Salisbury, art opening with cider and cookie reception, 4 - 6 p.m.
Winter Warmer, at the home of Susan and Curtis Rand, Salisbury, $30 per person

Friday, February 7
Human Dogsled Races in the evening, at the conclusion of the target jumping, admission $15
Sunset Meadow Vineyards, tasting hours 11 a.m. - 5 p.m.
The White Gallery in Lakeville, art opening and refreshments, 11 a.m. - 8 p.m.

Saturday, February 8
Ice Carving Demonstration at LaBonne’s Square, Salisbury 11 a.m. - 3 p.m.
Sunset Meadow Vineyards, tasting hours 11 a.m. - 5 p.m.
The White Gallery in Lakeville, art opening and refreshments, 11 a.m. - 8 p.m.
Hillrock Bourbon Tasting and Chef Demonstration, Interlaken Inn, Lakeville, 4 - 6 p.m.
SWSA Snow Ball Dance Lakeville Hose Co. Annex, Lakeville, CT, 8 p.m. - midnight, admission $15

Sunday, February 9
Sunset Meadow Vineyards, tasting hours 11 a.m. - 5 p.m.

For more information, go to


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Posted by Lisa Green on 01/27/14 at 08:07 PM • Permalink