Cross-country travels prove to one Valley resident that the grass is greener in her own backyard
Illustration by Richard Downs
A friend of mine — a lifelong Valley resident — is moving away. Recently retired, he and his wife are heading south to North Carolina, having suffered through one too many Northeastern winters.
Like my friend, my husband and I also have spent our whole lives within a stone’s throw of the Hudson River. Retirement is still a long way off for us (sigh); but even so, I can’t help daydreaming about where we’ll end up once the mortgage is paid off and the last kid is out of college.
Over the past year or so, we’ve visited three states — Maine, Texas, and Wisconsin — that are about as different from the Valley as one can imagine. Naturally, we’ve been comparing each place to our own home-sweet-home, with some interesting results.
The mid-coast area of Maine — the site of this year’s summer vacation — was the Valley’s equal in natural beauty. The rocky coastline, carved out by nor’easters and peppered with lighthouses, is as dramatic in its own way as the view from atop Breakneck Ridge or any one of the Catskill High Peaks. We found numerous locations for outdoor pursuits like hiking and bicycling, and the general wilderness feeling in the area (dirt roads easily outnumbered paved ones) appealed to us. But while there were dozens of antiques shops and places selling lobster rolls, we found only one museum; even in the height of the summer season, there was a noticeable lack of art shows, concerts, or other cultural entertainment — something we’ve come to take for granted here at home.
Conversely, there’s plenty of culture in Texas. Our drive across the Lone Star State, from Dallas/Fort Worth to San Antonio to Houston, included visits to no fewer than eight museums — oil money put to good use, in our opinion. But I don’t think I’ve ever seen a landscape so one-dimensional: mile after mile of flat acreage covered with scrub. We had to stifle a laugh when told we were traveling through the state’s so-called “hill country”: a ride along Route 9 in Poughkeepsie is like scaling Mt. Everest in comparison. Touring the Alamo was a highlight, although the long line we had to wait on — and generic tour we had to take — left me pining for the more relaxed, less regimented visits I’ve enjoyed at local historic sites like Mills Mansion and FDR’s Springwood.
Wisconsin was prettier — the land was still flat, but chockablock with picturesque farms. And Milwaukee has plenty to see and do. We enjoyed meeting Midwesterners, who by and large were overly friendly — at least by New York standards — and anxious to know about life in the Empire State. But — and forgive me if this sounds snobbish — their golly-gee-willikers attitude towards life, a novelty at first, got old pretty fast. Even worse, the culinary options were woefully lacking — plenty of beefsteak, sure, but not a single bowl of pasta worth mentioning. If the CIA was looking to open a branch campus, Wisconsin could sure use them.
So my hubby and I have come to an obvious conclusion: we won’t be putting the house on the market anytime soon. With its mixture of history and culture, scenery and sophistication — not to mention wonderful food — our Hudson Valley truly has it all. Like Dorothy, we’re convinced that “there’s no place like home.”