The Drive North to the Adirondacks

Trip Start Jan 28, 2008
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Trip End Mar 12, 2008


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Flag of United States  , New Jersey
Friday, March 7, 2008

Here begins my second short ski trip of the 2008 winter season and probably my last with it being well into March.  This time I decided to go to the Adirondacks in far northern New York State.  I picked the Adirondacks this year for a couple reasons: 
1.         I love going to Quebec for skiing, but the exchange rate now makes Canada more expensive.
2.         New York is a little closer than New England.
3.         Availability of cheap hostel accommodation in Lake Placid.
4.         I love the wildness of the Adirondacks but have previously only visited in summer. 
Each of the mountainous areas in the northeastern U.S. has its own slightly unique character.  The Berkshires of Massachusetts are known as a cultural center; New York's Catskills are a busy playground for New Yorkers; Vermont's Green Mountains are almost a stereotype of New England quaintness with their picture perfect villages; New Hampshire's White Mountains are the highest in the Northeast and a somewhat more rugged place; Maine interior has fewer mountainous areas but is almost a kind of distant outback of what seems like near-Alaskan type wilderness to people in the crowded Northeast.  The Adirondacks fit into this winter geography as another very wild and empty place, one with some of the largest wilderness areas in the eastern U.S. but also with the facilities of the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics at Lake Placid. 
I usually dread the drive from Central New Jersey north to places of recreational interest because it takes about two hours to get out of New York City's heavily populated suburban orbit.  Actually, I pretty much dread the drive out of Central New Jersey to just about anywhere because it takes so long in any direction to escape the exurban world of heavy traffic and highways liken with glass office buildings, shopping malls, and suburban tract housing. 
This sentiment is only compounded by the fact that highways in most directions from my parents' house, the closest thing this nomad has to a "home", are toll roads.  These tolls can add quite a lot to the cost of travel - around $5 to drive the 120 mile distance of the New Jersey Turnpike and a similar amount to drive the New York State Thruway from its southern tollgate to Albany, where I exit to take the Northway to the Adirondacks. 
I don't really get the concept of tolls.  Why create a big time consuming nuisance on a handful of roads when states could raise the same amount of revenue more fairly and efficiently through a slightly higher gasoline tax?  Actually I do get it; tolls are usually placed only on roads used mostly for driving long distances and largely by out-of-staters, a way for a state to suck some additional money out of the pockets of outsiders
The issue of tolls versus petrol taxes was notably on the mind of this environmental economist as he drove his rather non-green Jeep Cherokee Sport north for a week of winter recreation because of an NPR segment on the way discussing the issue of lifestyle changes in response to high fuel prices.  One economist interviewed proposed replacing fuel taxes with a complex system of variable tolls which take into account costs of traffic congestion - to drive the same stretch of road or cross the same bridge during rush hour might cost several times what the same trip might cost in the middle of the night when that resource (the use of the road or bridge) is not so "scarce".  That's all fine and good - just get rid of the aggravation of these annoying toll booths which waster so much of everyone's time.  I would have liked to have jumped on my soapbox and made the unpopular case for much higher gasoline taxes on economic grounds but will spare you the details of what I would like to have said. 
Anyway, it was a gray day for the drive north, one that became drizzly north of Albany and then somewhat sleety once I got into the Adirondacks.  I didn't take any pictures on the drive north so have only included a few from home in the weeks before I left.
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