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Hudson Valley: Bittersweet Memories

Author: Deanna Rowley
Date of Trip: October 2006

The fall is the perfect time to travel in New England. The weather is marvelous, the countryside is rich in changing colors, and history is abundant. My husband and I planned at trip to Dutchess County in the Hudson Valley region of New York. I did most of the planning by internet. I found a website that was very helpful and easy to use ( I was searching for an affordable bed and breakfast that was in this region as it is not too far from home, but it offered many things to see and do—including biking. One of the first things I did was search for a rail trail in the Hudson Valley. We enjoy the beauty and ease of biking the trails through the area we visit. Harlem Valley Rail Trail ( offered easy to follow maps and directions I printed out before we left. The rail trail is located close to the Connecticut/New York state line and offers 15 miles of paved trail and another 8 miles under construction in 2006. The trail is well marked and several access areas with parking are available. We like to stay in older homes rich in character and history. I found BitterSweet Bed and Breakfast which is a 230 year old Dutch Colonial located in the countryside near Rhinebeck, NY. BitterSweet has 7 rooms with private baths. The pictures on the web site were appealing and the rates reasonable ( We were planning a visit for a Monday night as we like to take our trips at less busy times of the week and seasons. There are usually more rooms available midweek and discounts might be better too.

After the planning, the time came to enjoy our trip. We loaded our bikes onto the car and traveled through the scenic back roads of western Connecticut—off the interstate. It took an hour and a half from Hartford to reach Millerton, NY. There we stopped for lunch at a Subway located in a quaint old mercantile. The weather was in the 60’s. We found the access point to the Harlem Rail Trail and headed north. The scenery was gorgeous–such a contrast from the city life we normally are around. We passed by a farmer harvesting a field, several wetland areas, fields of cows grazing, a corral of horses, numerous sheep in pastures, woodland areas with small animals and birds, and occasionally another person or two who were enjoying the trail also either by running, walking, biking, or roller blading. Since it was a rail trail, there were no difficult spots of uphill riding. We enjoyed several wooden bridges over roads or small streams. All along the trail the foliage on the trees were starting to burst into luscious warm color. We biked about an hour and a half on the trail before turning around and heading back. Periodically along the bike path, there were park benches placed strategically for enjoying the views and for resting.

When we reached the car, the bikes were loaded and we headed out to check in at BitterSweet about 30 minutes away. Our hostess directed us to our lovely second floor room and suggested places nearby for dinner. Because we still had plenty of daylight left, we decided to do some sightseeing along the way to dinner. We drove by signs for the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome ( and decided to visit it. It was late afternoon in October on a Monday and the season for the air shows had just ended. The grounds were open and we were able to see several of the old airplanes that were used in the shows. We could use our imagination as we sat on the log “grandstands” looking out over the grass landing field to see and hear World War I “dog fights” and “barnstorming” biplanes roaring overhead. We thought it would be fun to come back one day and see an actual air show. We then traveled over the Mid-Hudson River Bridge into Kingston which offered a wide variety of dining. We settled on a wonderful Chinese buffet for our dinner. When we finished, we headed back across the river and back to BitterSweet. During the middle of the night, my husband awoke and smelled smoke in our room. We had no fireplace in our room. He heard talking in the hallway and opened the door. The smoke was thicker there! By this time I was awake too! He told me to get dressed quickly and we would try to get out of the house. A fire was not something that I had EVER expected on this trip. I threw my clothes on over my nightgown, grabbed my jacket, slipped on my shoes, opened the door, held my breath and hurried down the stairs and out the front door. Thankfully we saw no fire but the smoke was thick and made it hard to breath. Outside 3 other couples gathered with us who had also been guests in the house. The information we exchanged was skimpy and many questions were unanswered. Our hostess assured us that things were under control and not to worry. She disappeared down the basement stairs into the even thicker smoke. Ten minutes later she emerged and told us that there had been leaves that had blocked the vent to the wood stove in the basement which was used to heat the house. That afternoon when we arrived, a man had been leaf blowing around the house. Apparently fire from the wood stove escaped up the wall below the living room and was licking at the curtains when another guest and our hostess aimed a fire extinguisher at the flames. The fire was out, smoke was in, and we were standing out in the cold for over an hour at 2 AM. My husband and I debated what to do. Should be leave and drive back to Hartford or believe our hostess that the fire was truly out and stay in a smoky house for the rest of the night? Finally we decided if my husband and another man could inspect the house for themselves, we might stay. My husband determined the fire truly was out and not still smoldering in the walls of a 230 year old house that had no fire sprinkler systems. The other guests and we then went back to our rooms, opened the window, turned on the ceiling fan, added some quilts, climbed back in bed, and, surprisingly, did get some sleep. In the morning at breakfast, our hostess again apologized for the disruption of our stay. A month later we noticed on our credit card bill that she had refunded us half the price of our stay. After a wonderful breakfast we left to explore more of the Hudson River valley. There were many places to see like the home of FDR, his library and museum, Vanderbilt Mansion, Culinary Institute, Wilderstein, besides the Catskill Mountain area, but our time was limited. We did take some time driving around Bard College ( and taking a hike down to the Hudson River.

Just back into CT on Rt. 44 we drove past Lakeville. We decided to stop into see Lime Rock Park (, the road racing center of the East where NASCAR and Grand Prix races are held in the summer. We had heard that Paul Newman liked to race cars at Lime Rock. Since the race season was over, the park was open and we could drive in. It was fairly deserted, but we did see some race cars on the course. We discovered that the drivers were attending a Skip Barber 3 day racing course learning how to race cars. The people driving the cars were ordinary people with just a dream of being behind the wheel of a race car. They paid big bucks for such an opportunity. We watched the driving for about an hour and drove around the infield which offered glimpses of the cars as they zoomed past us. We enjoyed our brief time away from the routines of life and came home with some bitter memories–standing outside at 2 AM because of a fire–and some sweet memories–spending time with my husband enjoying the beauty of God’s creation.

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