Posts Tagged ‘upstate’

The longest single span wooden bridge in the world!

January 7, 2009

On our New Year trip, my dad and I took a detour through the countryside of the lovely Schoharie Valley.  We detoured out of Oneonta, passed a bunch of big box stores, and pretty soon we were climbing and climbing up past little farms and trailers and maples.  You know, country life.  Except country life in this part of New York state seems pretty different from country life in Vermont.  The landscape is different — much less spruce and cedar, and while Vermont’s hills roll down with farms and roads built up into them, the hills in the Schoharie Valley are a little more severe — too steep to build on, and they abut these flat valleys really abruptly.  It’s very isolating — you don’t get a sense of the countryside rolling on like you can in Vermont — it’s more like you’re stuck in whatever narrow valley you live in, living in the shadow of these big hills.  Geologically speaking, I think you could say that Vermont was folded, and New York was stacked — meaning that you have vertical rock grain in Vermont, and in New York state, it’s more horizontal and layered.  You can see it in the hills.  (I’ve just expressed my total knowledge of geology).  Needless to say, it’s really beautiful.

Schoharie County

Culture is way different, here.  I saw one farm that was making cheese, but who knows whether you can buy it anywhere around there.  I didn’t see any organic farms, mostly just conventional dairy, but I did see some sheep.  Lots of sugaring!  The little towns are different too.  I think the biggest difference is that every tiny town in New York State has a bar — imagine that villages like Greensboro Bend, or Woodbury, or Eden, would have little bars in them.  Here’s the bar in Jefferson, New York.


The bar thing is probably just a New England sort of difference.  Is the rest just gentrification?  Schoharie County never got the wave of back-to-the-landers that even the Northeast Kingdom has gotten, or the Catskills?  Since upstate New York is so big, and hasn’t sold it’s name as well as Vermont has (excepting the Hudson Valley of course)?  I think it’s partially that — and it seems more isolated than Vermont, too.  It might also be more religious.  Who knows.  All I can say for sure is that there are a lot of heartbreakingly beautiful little Victorian houses that could be yours for not very much money at all.

We stopped in North Blenheim to take a look at the Blenheim bridge.  Yes, it is the longest single span wooden bridge in the world!  My dad also claims that it might be the best constructed timber structure in the world, and he, a card-carrying member of the Timber Framer’s Guild, would know.

Blenheim bridge

The bridge was built in 1855 by a Vermonter, Nichols Powers, who built bridges up and down the East Coast.  The span between abutments is 210 feet over the Schoharie Creek.


Well done, North Blenheim!

The carousel capitol of the world

January 2, 2009

For New Years, we drove down to Binghamton, NY to visit my extended family.  Binghamton is sort of a classic upstate city — it’s on hard times.  Though it’s former glory is still apparent in some places — like some extremely beautiful and large Victorian houses — it’s also a pretty good example of how to destroy a small city with strip malls and expressways.  Driving in Binghamton is constantly being on off-ramps and on-ramps that are totally empty of cars, passing over and around streets that were probably very nice before all this elevated concrete came in, with expressway exit signs that just say “shopping mall.”

It’s in this incredibly beautiful valley, where the Chenango and Susquehanna rivers join.

Oh, Binghamton.


Apparently, in 1890 Binghamton was behind only New York City in production of cigars.  After that industry died out in the 30s, shoe manufacturing was the big thing, and after “urban renewal” in the 1960s, they’ve just sort of been holding on, I think.  I have this vision where the neglected cities, and the countryside, of central New York state will come back to their former, or a newer glory.  Or maybe not glory, but just back to having downtowns and growing populations.  Their city motto right now is Restoring The Pride.

It’s also the “carousel capitol of the world,” and all of its many carousels are “jumpers”!