Take another little piece of my heart

Already on this trip — with more than four months and 14,000 miles logged so far — I’ve left my heart in a number of places, and we haven’t even gotten to San Francisco yet.

To name just a few, Bandera, Texas, Best Friends in southern Utah; Santa Fe, New Mexico; Provincetown, Massachussets; Bar Harbor, Maine; and now, Saugerties, New York.

The latter, being my grandparent’s hometown, already had a piece of it; and, to be more accurate, I didn’t really leave my heart in any of those places, they just got it purring and pumping again.

When one leaves my grandparent’s former house, they can — and I’d recommend doing it very carefully — turn left or right on Highway 212.

Left is Saugerties, a tidy little village that’s like stepping into the distant past. Its main claim to fame, nowadays, is antiques. Every block downtown seems to have several.

Turn right and you end up in Woodstock, an art colony that gained more fame when its name was used for the legendary 1969 concert, which was held 40 miles away. “By the time we got to Bethel” wouldn’t have sounded nearly as cool.

Once I was 9 or so, I’d visit Woodstock whenever we went to visit my grandparents — first at the urging of my sister, who once persuaded my brother and I to walk there (it was about six miles), later on my own volition.

There we could see art, and funky shops and hippies — a world far removed from the quiet one my grandparents lived in, whose beat never varied, muted and steady as the tick-tock of the grandfather clock in the dining room.

I’m sure they looked at Woodstock’s transition as if it were an alien takeover, and annoying, too, what with all the added traffic, including lots of Volkswagen vans, that zoomed by their house once Woodstock became a destination — first for artists, later for hippy pilgrimages.

On our visit last week, Ace seemed to take Woodstock — still an artsy place, since the 1970’s a souveniry one as well — in stride. He’s actually yawning in the picture above, as opposed to singing along with Janis Joplin, whose cardboard cut-out stands behind him.

We spent a couple of hours there, and can report its still a great place for people watching — the real ones, anyway. The cardboard ones get boring pretty quick.

We spent a couple of hours, as well, on the quieter, non tie-dyed streets of Saugerties, and made a quick visit to the Saugerties Lighthouse on the Hudson River.

Its beam of light guided ships from 1869, up until 1954. Then the lighthouse keeper was replaced by a machine, and later the lighthouse went into disuse.

It was scheduled for demolition until residents got it listed as historic in 1979. Now fully restored, it serves as a bed and breakfast (pet-friendly, but it costs $200 a night, and rooms need to be booked at least a year in advance.)

Getting there by land requires a half-mile walk through marshes — recommended at low tide. It was quiet but for woodpeckers pecking, birds chirping and squirrels scurrying.

After that, we went back to to our campground, located just across the street from “grandpa’s fire house,” as we called it.

Rather than put out fires, as my grandfather did, I started one, then circled around it, thinking about all the memories the day brought back as I tried to find a spot where I could get the heat without the smoke. I popped open my can of Spam, and cut it into big chunks. I slid a stick through the middle of each piece and held them over the fire a few minutes to give the flavor a little more character.

Ace drooled as he watched. (Of course he got some.)

I went to bed early, under my sleeping bag and two of Ace’s blankets, thinking warm thoughts on a cold night.

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