On the first day of summer, we loaded the car with traveling gear: our backpacks, a stack of road maps and cold drinks. A spontaneous road trip, for a few days. We will see where we end up—as usual, we have no plans. We just need to relax for a few days.
It was only 8 a.m. when we left but the heat was already brutal—20°C and very humid like summers in Ontario can be.
We first drove to Montreal and crossed the city’s endless suburbs. Traffic was relatively heavy—mostly commercial vehicles and Québécois with a canoe strapped to the roof of their cars, presumably heading to the cottage—and the roads were bumpy as usual.
The Blackpool Border Crossing, simply known as “Lacolle/Champlain”, is a few kilometres past Montreal. This the major crossing on the Montreal-New York City corridor and one of the largest port of entry along the International Boundary. The size of the facilities, much bigger than those at Prescott/Ogdensburg, reminded me of crossing from the U.S. into Mexico. However, this time crossing was fast and easy: the U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer just glanced at our passports and wished us a good trip—the perks of Canadian citizenship.
We stopped in Plattsburg, the first big U.S. city past Montreal on Interstate 87, for a late greasy breakfast in one of the many franchised restaurants (I later checked the nutritional information on the restaurant’s website and freaked out—holy shit, that was a lot of fat!).Then we bought more drinks at the nearby WalMart and drove away, in the heat of the summer.
The scenery on the road was amazing, very different from what we see in Ontario. It reminded me of our trip to nearby Lake Placid last year: a wide open road cutting through hills, bordered by miles and miles of very tall trees.
A 450 kilometres later, we arrived in Albany, the capital of New York State and a convenient pit stop for us. We headed straight to the motel we had booked a few days earlier. There was some confusion because the manager couldn’t find our reservation, or rather Expedia had apparently emailed us, the customers, the reservation, but hadn’t followed through with the hotel. The Indian manager was rather annoyed and yelled at Expedia over the phone for a good twenty minutes before we were finally able to check in.
We dropped off the bags and drove down Central Avenue which took us to the city centre. Small businesses, mostly convenience stores and restaurants (that all seemed to serve a variant of pizza or fried fish/fried chicken), lined up the large avenue.
Downtown Albany, and despite the late hour, the heat was brutal. We parked downhill by the riverfront and it took us a lot of energy to walk uphill towards the main government buildings. The Roman-style NY State Education Building was very impressive, and so was the capitol. Most employees were presumably done for the day and the grounds were very quiet but for a few G-men in suits and ties whispering on their cellphones.
The nearby Empire State Plaza, Albany’s landmark with the four Agency office building, The Egg, the Mayor Erastus Corning 2nd Tower, the Cultural Education Center, the Robert Abrams Building for Law and Justice, the Legislative Office Building and the Swan Street Building reminded me of Canberra: very modern, very clean and wide and open if somewhat cold and impersonal.
Past the cluster of government buildings, there wasn’t much to see. We wanted to buy a drink but couldn’t find a single convenience store open and a lot of places seemed abandoned. We ended up driving back to the motel and bought some groceries at the nearby Price Chopper. We ordered Chinese food in a small takeout place, two fried noddle dishes, but back at the motel, we discovered we had two container of cabbage, plus a small pack of cold fried noodle. “Do-it-yourself Chinese food,” I sighed, disappointed. “You’d think a place called ‘Magic Wok’ can actually make fried noodles from scratch!” Fortunately, we had a bit of food from the supermarket as well so the meal was somewhat balanced.
We passed out rather early, excited to be on a trip again yet tired with all the driving.
You can see the set of pictures taken in the U.S.A. on Flickr.