The Catskills: A Heap of Old-Fashioned Fun, Only Two Hours From New York City
In the borscht belt, organic greens are beginning to trump Shecky Greenes. But if you skip the summer classics--like hiking and tubing--the joke's on you
- F-S Tube RentalJust off Main St., Phoenicia, 845/688-7633, fstuberental.com, transportation and rental $15
- Saugerties Lighthouse168 Lighthouse Dr., Saugerties, 845/247-0656, saugertieslighthouse.com, from $160
- Karma Triyana Dharmachakra335 Meads Mt. Rd., Woodstock, 845/679-5906, kagyu.org
- World's Largest Kaleidoscope Shops at Emerson, Rte. 28, Mt. Tremper, 845/688-5800, $7
Day 3: Saugerties to Fleischmanns
The smell of eggs and bacon wakes us. Patrick has been cooking up a storm. We have no interest in leaving the lighthouse. Ever. In fact, we kind of want to quit our day jobs and become lighthouse keepers ourselves, until Patrick complains about having to wipe dead moths off the light bulbs. Every place has its unromantic side.
In Tannersville, a bunch of cars are parked in front of theLast Chance Antiques and Cheese Cafe. Once inside, we see why. The cafe has over 300 beers, about 100 types of cheese, and the best selection of candy this side of the Haribo factory. We marvel over the contents in the antique candy baskets and pick up Brie, almond, and apple sandwiches on raisin bread--plus some wax lips--for later.
In winter, Hunter Mountain is popular with skiers and snowboarders. Off season, the resort is open to mountain bikers and hikers, and the views are unparalleled. The 10-minuteSkyridechairlift to the top of the mountain is well worth the $8, so long as you're not acrophobic. It can be a breezy, chair-swinging ride, which makes for either a massive rush of adrenaline or--in the case of the woman in the chair behind ours--a loss of lunch.
We land for the evening in Fleischmanns, a quirky town with a slightTwin Peaksfeel. There are few people on the sidewalks, and the huge Victorian houses are more than a little odd. My favorite is all black, with blood-red stairs and a sign on the door announcing A NICE COLD WELCOME.
Ben Fenton, the innkeeper at theRiver Run Bed and Breakfast Inn, is much warmer. He insists we won't want to missRoberts' Auction. It takes place right next door every Saturday evening, all year round (it's since moved a few miles away to Arkville). Ben volunteers for Roberts, and he promises us VIP treatment. Whatever that means, it sounds exciting to me.
There are few better ways to spend a Saturday night than watching Eddie Roberts, a craggy old guy with a flannel shirt and a mile-a-minute delivery, hawk everything from an old Connect Four game to a majestic hand-carved bed rescued from an estate sale (Roberts' son, Edward Roberts Jr., now runs the auction in the Arkville location). Steve and I take our seats behind the regulars, octogenarians who show up with their own auction paddles as well as their pillows and pets.
As Steve and I learn, there's a right way to wave your paddle--subtly, nonchalantly, as if you don'tcarewhether you get that Shaker armoire--but we haven't mastered it. We swat our paddle around with gusto and end up going home with a pair of turbaned-gypsy figurine lamps ($25), and, for some inexplicable reason, the vinyl interior of a trunk ($15). We decide to quit when a broken Atari console starts looking good. It's almost 11 P.M., and we haven't eaten much all day.
Devin Mills, a former chef at New York's beloved Gramercy Tavern, grew up in the area and returned to openPeekamoose Restaurant. The prices in the main dining room are high, but the menu is more reasonable--and equally impressive--at the tables in the bar. The short-rib sandwich could convert any vegetarian. Devin's wife, Marybeth, approaches us with a spoonful of a new ice cream flavor they've concocted. We immediately identify it as sweet corn, and Marybeth is so impressed that she rewards us with a peach cobbler on the house.
- River Run Bed & Breakfast Inn882 Main St., Fleischmanns, 845/254-4884, riverrunbedandbreakfast.com, from $79
- Last Chance Antiques and Cheese Cafe602 Main St., Tannersville, 518/589-6424
- Peekamoose Restaurant8373 Rte. 28, Big Indian, 845/254-6500, short-rib sandwich $14
- Hunter Mountain Skyride61 Liftside Dr., Hunter, 800/486-8376, huntermtn.com, round trip $8
- Roberts' Auction, 43311 State Highway 28, Arkville, 845/586-6070
Day 4: Fleischmanns to New York