Adirondack Back to Back

The drive from central New Jersey to the heart of Adirondack State Park in New York is a six hour journey. Traveling on I-87, you fly through farmland, zip by the Catskill Mountains, bypass the state capital of Albany, and pass through the city of Utica, before turning northward to enter into the mountains. Nearly 330 miles of driving, almost entirely at highway speeds. It is a peaceful road trip, filled with fascinating views.

It is one thing to do this lengthy drive once a month, as my wife and I did this past summer. It is entirely another thing to drive up twice in one week! My wife, who is working remotely due to the pandemic, decided to spend time visiting a dear relative who lives in the Fulton Chain of Lakes region in the Adirondacks. My job, however, remains in-person, so I offered to chauffeur my wife up to the mountains, come back home, and then return again to pick her up the following weekend. All together, I drove nearly 1,400 miles in eight days. Whew!

Along the way, I managed to eat great food, see gorgeous views, climb a mountain, and survey the world from atop a one hundred-year old fire tower. And of course… I’d like to bring those adventures to you:

Trip 1: Saturday Up, Sunday Back

Map of New Jersey and New York with red pins in New Brunswick and Old Forge. A blue line highlights the route.
If I wasn’t an expert on the route before this past week, I am now. And don’t be fooled by Google’s optimistic estimate: traffic, especially when you first enter New York from New Jersey, pushes this drive to six hours at the minimum.
View of I-87 with blue skies.
Despite departing early on a gorgeous Saturday morning, we hit significant traffic as soon as we crossed the New York State line. After about a half hour of slogging our way through gridlock, the road opened up and I was able to let my Accord fly down the open road ahead (get it? get it? I’ll be here all week folks. Try the chicken).
2012 Honda Accord coupe parked in front of Kayuta.
At the edge of the Adirondacks in the town of Remsen is one of my summer “must stop” destinations: Kayuta Drive-In, a restaurant and ice cream parlor. Open from Memorial Day to Columbus Day each year, we decided to swing by for one last summery treat.
Vanilla milk shake in paper cup in cup holder of car.
To quote Homer Simpson, “Mmmm… ice cream… good.” While my wife delighted in her black raspberry ice cream cone, I was in heaven with each sip of my vanilla shake. Ah, Kayuta, it was great seeing you again.
2012 Honda Accord, parked in front of tree-lined meadow.
I had aspirations of seeing amazing fall foliage in the Adirondacks. Unfortunately, upon arriving in Old Forge, constant drizzle and gray skies meant the colors were muted, at best.
Fog over Fourth Lake, with boats tied to dock on left side of image.
Overnight temperatures dipped down into the 30s, causing a thick mist to hang over Fourth Lake. It made for some dramatic morning photos! Unfortunately, this would be the only sun I would see in the Adirondacks, as heavy clouds rolled back in for my return journey to New Jersey shortly after this photo was taken.
2012 Honda Accord parked in front of Quiver Pond.
On the way home, I did detour to South Shore Road, which runs along the southern rim of the Fulton Chain of Lakes. As I have shared previously, it’s a fun drive, and even with gray skies, Quiver Pond still makes for a fun backdrop for automotive photography!
2012 Honda Accord parked in front of tree with red leaves.
Only after descending from the mountains did I find blue skies and colorful trees. I pulled off the road in the town of Steuben in upstate New York to grab this shot.
Car odometer reading 161146 TRIP A 321.2
Six hours later, and I was finally back in New Jersey. The Accord is a great companion for an Adirondack drive, soaking up the long distance highway miles with ease while carving up the twisty mountain roads. For the return trip, however, the Accord would stay in the garage as our other vehicle would have a run to upstate NY.

Trip 2: …and Back Again

2014 white Jeep Grand Cherokee parked in front of I LOVE NEW YORK sign.
Departing from work Friday afternoon, I slogged through rush hour traffic before finally reaching the open highway on my way back to the Adirondacks. For the second drive, I used Grace, my wife’s 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee. A ferocious all-terrain explorer, the Jeep also is uber-comfortable on the highway.
WW Durant cruise ship docked along tree-lined shore of Raquette Lake.
Early Saturday morning, my wife and I drove to Raquette Lake to catch the sunrise. There, we spotted a familiar site from a previous trip: the W.W. Durant, a cruise ship that takes passengers on a delightful journey around the lake during dinner.
Red caboose gift shop.
This old caboose is used as the gift shop for Raquette Lake Navigation, the company that operates the cruise ship.
Sadly, the Durant is spending 2020 tied to the dock. Owing to the pandemic, the cruise ship is not operating this year.
View of tree-lined South Shore Road.
A little later in the day, we returned to South Shore Road, where sunny skies brought out the fall colors.
Yellow and green trees in rear view mirror of car.
Every direction we looked, there were beautiful views!
Leaf-covered TOBIE trail, with trees filled with autumnal colors.
Speaking of beautiful views, my wife snapped this photo as she walked along the TOBIE trail (a hiking path that runs through Thendara, Old Forge, Big Moose, Inlet, and Eagle Bay). The Adirondacks have seen a dramatic increase in visitors over the past six months, and while locals are welcoming of guests, there has also been an unfortunate increase in careless visitors who are not mindful of their behavior. My wife and I would like to encourage you to take the Love Your Adirondacks Pledge. In doing so, you are committing to being a good steward of the largest protected wilderness in the continental United States.

The Food

Plates with barbecue ribs, cornbread, and sides of creamed corn and baked beans.
While most of our meals were made at home, we did order takeout from Mountainside Smokehouse and Grill, a barbecue restaurant in Old Forge, NY. While my wife had the more reasonable Cobb Salad with smoked chicken, our relative and I split a full order of the St. Louis Ribs, with sides of cornbread, creamed corn, and baked beans. Healthy? Not so much. Delicious? YES! ABSOLUTELY YES!
Birch iced coffee on table.
We also stopped a few times at Blue Line Coffee House in the town of Inlet for our morning caffeine fix. My favorite is the Birch: a caramel and vanilla latte.

Bald Mountain

White Jeep Grand Cherokee in parking lot.
Sunday morning, I awoke early to climb my first Adirondack mountain. Bald Mountain, a 2,313-ft peak in the town of Old Forge, is a favorite hiking spot for many in the area. At its summit is the Rondaxe Fire Tower, which, I was told, offers amazing views from the top. Arriving not long after sunrise, the parking lot was relatively empty – a far cry from midday, when so many hikers ascend the mountain that overflow traffic is parked on nearby roads.
Yellow-leaved trees in forest, with hiking trail in foreground.
The first tenth of a mile led through woods in full autumnal color. I felt like I was bathed in yellow and green.
Sloping rockface with trees in the background.
Fairly soon, the easy hiking trail ended, replaced by solid rock. Maneuvering the path upward made me feel like a mountain goat.
Rocky section of trail.
One of the “easier” sections of the trail…
Small bridge in middle of woods.
After nearly thirty minutes of hiking, I came across this four-foot bridge. After precariously working my way over sheer rock-face, I guess it’s important to have a tiny bridge over a flat section of ground.
Rockface on top of mountain.
“It’s like doing the balance beam at school!” a young girl proclaimed as a family passed by me on their way down the mountain. “Except if you fall here, you end up at the bottom of the mountain, not a soft gym mat,” her older sister replied.
Rondaxe Fire Tower atop mountain.
My goal: the Rondaxe Fire Tower. Built in 1917, Rondaxe was one of 120 fire towers built in the early 20th century, as observers would keep watch for evidence of fire in the wilderness of New York. Closed in 1990, the tower reopened in 2005 as a tourist attraction.
View of Adirondacks from the top of the fire tower.
Despite my fear of heights, I climbed to the top of Rondaxe Tower, where the view was simply spectacular.
View southward from top of Fire Tower.
Rondaxe is one of twenty-five remaining fire towers in the Adirondacks. The truly intrepid complete the Adirondack Fire Tower Challenge: climb all 25! I am also now on the way to become an Adirondack 46er: there are forty-six mountain peaks in the Adirondacks, and the 46ers Club honors those who summit all of them.
White Jeep Grand Cherokee parked in front of Bald Mountain parking lot.
We came. We saw. We conquered Bald Mountain.

Heading Home

2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee parked in front of Blue Mountain Lake.
After a fun, long weekend, my wife and I said our goodbyes and began the ride back to New Jersey. Along the way, we made one of my favorite Adirondack stops: a car photo shoot in front of Blue Mountain Lake.
Car odometer reading 57398 miles.
The Jeep performed flawlessly, and is now heading toward the 60,000 mile mark. Onwards!

Automotive Updates

In our most recent automotive update section, I have a continuation of the “high mileage tips and tricks” from the previous post, a report on my Honda Accord (spoiler alert: it is running well), an interview with a gentleman who has taken his 1992 Honda Civic to nearly 600,000 miles, and an update on a classic Acura.

High Mileage Advice, Part II

Q: What advice do you have for someone who wants to drive and maintain a car with high mileage?

Josh, 2015 Honda Accord LX with 440,000 miles

  • To answer your question, MAINTENANCE! Always be sure to have your car checked by either yourself, or someone knowledgable, such as a mechanic. Having a go-to person who knows your vehicle is a nice plus.
  • Don’t scrimp on replacing things once you first notice a problem.
  • Always pay attention to any kind of weird noises coming from anywhere in the car. Remain proactive to keep your vehicle in tip-top shape.
  • Bottom line: If you take care of the car, the car should take care of you.
Gray 2015 Honda Accord LX parked along the side of the road.
This is a rare sight: Josh’s 2015 Accord standing still. Over 444,000 miles are on the odometer. We last heard from Josh in June when he rolled 400,000 miles… that’s 44,000 miles in three months!

Accord Maintenance

2012 Honda Accord exiting service center at Burns Honda.
Speaking of keeping your car maintained… after my recent Adirondack road trip, the Accord went for service at Burns Honda, my preferred dealership. The car needed an oil change, tire rotation, new cabin and engine air filters, fresh coolant, and an alignment. A little pricy, but remember The Open Road Ahead motto: “It’s still cheaper than a car loan!”
Vehicle inspection report, with all boxes checked green for CHECKED AND OK AT THIS TIME
Over 161,000 miles, and passing grades as far as the eye can see on the Burns Honda vehicle inspection report. While owning an older car means you should expect the occasional repair, having a professional keep an eye on your vehicle means a better chance of avoiding unexpected vehicular drama!

The 600,000 Mile Civic

Car odometer reading 595265
Another high mileage story awaits!

Recently, I was contacted by Ken, a Honda owner from Texas. Ken is the original owner of a 1992 Honda Civic VX hatchback with nearly 600,000 miles on it! The VX was the car for those seeking the ultimate in fuel efficiency in the early 90’s. At the time, the EPA rated this model of Civic at 48 city/55 highway. I asked Ken if I he would be willing to do a Q&A with me, and happily, he agreed!

Q: When and where did you get your car? What made you choose a 1992 Honda VX?

I bought my car in May of 1992 from Howdy Honda in Austin, Texas.  I needed a car to drive while my 1969 Mustang was being restored in the shop.  I wanted a Honda because I knew the resale value was good and I was only going to keep it for a couple of years.  I chose the VX because it has 92 hp instead of the 70 that the LX, DX, and CX had.  It also had cloth seats and ‘mag’ wheels instead of wheel covers.  Finally, mpg ratings of 48/55 appealed to me.

Q: What’s been the biggest repair to date?

About 10 years ago I had a complete repaint as the car had some minor hail damage and a couple of dents in it that I wanted to fix.  It had probably 400,00 miles at that point.  At 489,000 I rebuilt the engine, transmission, and any suspension components, brakes, etc, that needed attention.

Q: What is your mileage at, currently?

Right now I have 595,200 miles on it.

Q: What do you do that puts so many miles on your vehicle?

I had an insurance agency for 35 years, so I spent a lot of time in the car going to appointments around central Texas.  I also drove it around the country to track meets and other events.

Q: Have you done anything to modernize the interior (for instance, adding Bluetooth or XM radio), or is it basically still stock?

I have Sirius radio in it. I also added cruise control, intermittent wipers, and a few factor options such as the cargo cover, floor mats, higher center console with an armrest, tinted the windows, etc.  It is still basically stock.  It still has all of the original interior.

Q: What’s your biggest pet peeve with other drivers?

My biggest pet peeve is definitely the texting and talking on the phone.  I hate having to hit my horn when the light turns green but the car in front of me doesn’t move, or having them drift into my lane because they are not paying attention.

Q: What’s your dream road trip?

I would love to drive to southern California, go north to Washington, then come back through the big sky country.  I still have 2 daughters at home ages 13 and 16, so that will have to wait!

1992 white Honda Civic VX parked in driveway
Ken, thank you for sharing your story. For over 595,000 miles, your Civic looks fantastic! Please let us know when you roll 600,000!

One Other Update

Car odometer reading 575000.1 miles
Finally, a shout-out goes to Tyson Hugie, whose 1994 Acura Legend recently rolled 575,000 miles while driving through Santaquin, Utah! Congratulations, Tyson! You can follow Tyson’s adventures at his blog, Drive to Five.

Wrapping Up

Nearly 1,400 miles in the span of two weekends is a considerable amount of driving, even for someone who enjoys life on the open road as much as I do. That said, two trips to the Adirondacks in a week was a lot of fun, filled with adventure, good food, and fun memories. Hopefully, these accounts of exploring upstate New York will convince you to drive up and visit… there is no bad time to see it!

Thanks, as always, for coming along on another journey down the open road ahead!

‘Til next time.

19 thoughts on “Adirondack Back to Back

  1. I’ll take a Birch coffee and a rack of ribs! You captured some excellent scenery on these two trips, and I’m glad you got to exercise both vehicles. Great fall colors! Thanks for the feature.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I finally sat down long enough to read this post in its entirety, and it is totally legit. The photos! The descriptions! The skilled writing! I would soak in every single mile of that beautiful scenery — which you did, and then shared with us. Thanks, Tim!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love the pic your wife got of TOBIE. The leaves on the ground while some remain on the trees was a really neat look. The Rondaxe pics and details were great to see too. Oddly enough, I’m a pilot who is scared of heights. Put me in a good plane and I’m fine. Put me on a two story rooftop and I’m terrified. Yeah, doesn’t make sense to me either.

    Congrats to Tyson on his milestone. Congrats to Josh for parking the car long enough to respond. I also liked seeing Ken’s answers. Even though he and I have written back and forth some, I learned some things about his car. Glad you and your cars are doing well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My wife will like hearing that you enjoyed her TOBIE photo. Glad you enjoyed the post, and I agree, heights are a really strange thing. I’m fine inside an airplane, but my palms were sweating climbing that tower!

      Thanks for reading!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Wow-those pictures are gorgeous! What a beautiful time of year to be up there. That hike definitely looked challenging (minus the random bridge on flat land-haha). Definitely impressive driving that much back to back.

    Liked by 1 person

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