Part 3 – Woodstock & Amsterdam

The third day was marked by the start of The Road Trip itself.  The plan was to leave Suffern in the morning, and move north upstate, stopping for lunch at Roscoe, not famous for anything in particular, but known to have a decent diner.  After the pit-stop in Roscoe we were planning to continue riding north and spend the night in Amsterdam, NY.  A total of close to 200 miles, on nice country roads, enjoying beautiful scenery.

Before lunch, however, Fletch planned a surprise for us – a stop at Bethel, NY, that in 1969 housed the Woodstock festival – the 3 flower-power days that changed the history of rock-n-roll!

Yes – we, too, were at Woodstock!

The story of how Woodstock came to be is quite interesting: it was originally planned to take place in Wallkill, NY, about 50 miles away from Bethel.  The good people of Walkill, however, were not thrilled about what they considered to be a “hippie gathering“, and putting up a legal fight, successfully vetoed it out.  The organizers had to change the venue at the last minute, which turned Woodstock into a free concert.  Despite the fact that the initial 200,000 tickets were sold at rather steep prices, there was no chance to ensure security or tickets checking at the hastily changed venue, and the remaining 200,000 that showed up unexpectedly for the organizers, turning the event into one of the biggest music festivals in history, enjoyed the party for free.  The 32 bands and singers that performed during the weekend, often in the pouring rain, and throughout the nights, were among the best there were at the time: Credence Clearwater Revival, Joe Cocker, Joan Baez, The Who, and Jimmy Hendrix, to name just a few.  And all this happened on a peaceful farm field, that never expected to become famous!…

The map of the area – the tiny field on the top left-hand side of the map is THE Woodstock site.

Having visited the premises we could confirm that the area did look way too small to host almost half a million visitors. The stage was set near the lake, and the listeners gathered on the slopes of the hill, coming down to it. Standing on top of the hill we could only wonder at the stretchy capacity of the place back in 1969.

We paid a visit to the gift shop, and marveled at the surprisingly big number of visitors that seemed to still be reliving the flower power days: seemingly grown-up, and mostly grossly overweight individuals were walking around in psychedelic shirts and harem pants, smiling at each other and the surrounding world.  The spirit of the 60-es was sure alive and kicking in the area…

Happy riders on the parking lot at Woodstock

Part of the road to Woodstock lay along the highway, which made me remember my road-trip hobby, acquired during a Christmas ride through the country two years earlier: comparative studies of anthropological diversity between different states through billboards.  East Coast could boast as many billboards as any other part of America, but offered a different variety of topics than redneck country or central states.  Billboards, advertising kosher supermarkets were competing in numbers with those offering contact details of doctors and medical insurance companies.  This symbiosis made one draw rather unsettling conclusions, and start wondering if kosher food was good for you, after all… Complementing them was a surprising number of billboards, advertising psychics and palm readers.  Those were obviously a local specialty: the number of psychic parlours, astrologer’s hang-outs and palm-reading shops, advertised quite openly and persistently, was the highest I have ever seen anywhere.  Don’t ask me why.  One would have thought that all para-scientific services would have much better success chances somewhere in backwater redneck country, or in crazy-ass Los Angeles full of celebrities.  Yet, it’s the “old” part of the country that fell victim to public superstition.  Go figure…

But this comparative analysis of roadside advertisements made us stray away from The Road Trip…  Having consumed some non-descript, but gigantic sandwiches at the flower-power landmark, we ditched the idea of Roscoe with its diner, and moved on in the direction of Amsterdam.  Either the unscheduled stop happened to be too far off our initially planned route, or we were getting tired by the end of the day, but the afternoon part of the ride seemed to last forever.  Of the four of us only Fletch was used to long rides, and Nic with his periodic 2-hour trips from Munich to the office and back was probably the next experienced rider.  Last time I spent more than a couple hours on the bike was probably two years earlier at the redneck camporee.  Jane, who got her bike off Fletch only last year, was not a marathon-rider either.  The last stretch to Amsterdam tested our endurance, riding abilities and tempers.  By the time we checked into what looked like the only motel in town, all four of us were quite edgy.

The curious thing was, that the end of the 2nd riding day marked some sort of a break-through point for me.  The longer the ride lasted, the more tired I got, the better the bike felt, and the easier it seemed to handle – go figure!…  The skills seemed to be coming back – it was all just a matter of time and practice.  My second wind came in as unexpected as ever, and from then on everything seemed as comfortable as it could be.

Getting into traffic at a steep rise from a side road?  No problem!  Taking in sharp curves?  Easy!  Parking the bike backwards and at an angle?  Can do!

I was a bit afraid that the ease will bring in carelessness, and made sure to remind myself not to get too comfortable.  Don’t know if the reminders worked, or my newly re-acquired aptitude did not make me as self-assured and arrogant as I feared, but everything went well, and my familiarity with the bike continued to improve.

The motel in Amsterdam could not boast of anything in particular, and was booked by Fletch for the sole reason of having a bar next door.  Upon arrival we confirmed with disgust that despite big billboards advertising said bar around the area, the place was all boarded up, and looked like it stayed this way for at least a couple of years already.  This did not help with lifting our sinking spirits one little bit.  Besides, it was starting to rain…

We ended up having dinner (chicken wings!!!) in a local sports bar, that the hotel clerk swore was “the best place in town”, and was located right at the other end of it.  The ride through Amsterdam that looked very run down, shabby, and partially deserted did not let us get our hopes too high.  Our non-existent expectations were totally confirmed.  Luckily, the sports bar had a liquor store next door, and we prudently stocked up on wine.

Having returned back to the motel, we all packed up in Fletch & Jane’s room, and spent the evening drinking wine out of plastic glasses, in the best traditions of high school class trips.  At around midnight, tired, but less pissed off than we were upon arrival in Amsterdam, we all turned in for the night.

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