After the junior year of high school, it’s a time that every parent dreads. The father tends to dread it more than the mother, simply for the reason the he knows how much time he’s going to have to spend in the car driving to visit various colleges with the soon to be high school senior and the rest of the family.
Well, that happened to me this past week, and while I was sort of looking forward to it, I was dreading it at the same time. If you read the column “Summer Vacation,” it explains everything I fear.
My wife, Marcy, had planned this trip to visit her alma mater, the State University of New York (SUNY) at Oneonta, and then added New Paltz. I had already made one hotel reservation; I had to switch it around and reserve the other date, 22-23 August 2013.
Unbeknownst to Marcy, I had purchased tickets to yet another Jimmy Buffett concert at Jones Beach for Thursday night, August 23. Once she told me the traveling dates, I had to spill the beans and tell her about the tickets. You know that look a wife gives the husband whenever he does something she doesn’t agree with something he said or did. I got that look, yet again.
We made a reservation on line for a tour at Oneonta, and tried to do it for New Paltz, but because that was “move in day” for the freshman, tours were not being offered. However, Michelle has a friend who is going to attend New Paltz, and she offered to take us around the campus.
We packed up the car and left at 8:20 on Tuesday morning, a little later than we hoped, but in the grand scheme of things, 20 minutes was not going to make a difference. I had gotten directions from MapQuest, and plugged in Debbie, our Magellan GPS. Of course, the directions were different, so we just followed Debbie.
I knew we would hit traffic on the Cross Bronx Expressway, since there is always traffic on it, no matter what time of day or night. Once we crossed over the George Washington Bridge, we were moving the rest of the way.
Keep in mind that this is an approximate 4-hour drive with three females, and I was NOT looking forward to hit. The kids always fight and complain, and my wife says I drive like a cowboy. Funny, cowboys ride horses and my Mazda 6 is no horse. Do cowboys drive Mazdas?
I drive with the flow of traffic, and if it’s moving at 70 mph, that’s what I’m going to do, especially if the posted speed limit on the New York State Thruway is 65 mph. I wish I counted the number of times Marcy said, “Slow down, you’re going too fast.”
We finally arrive at Oneonta, get some gas and proceed to find Marcy’s old rental house, which is only a couple of blocks away. While she waxes nostalgic, I’m waiting to move on and get to the college. We arrive just in time for the 2 pm tour and I’m glad to see that they have a Keurig coffee machine, so I make a cup of coffee, and I’m happy again.
Our tour guide, Amber arrives and takes up outside. She is a very perky and energetic senior, who takes us to various campus buildings and gives us lots of information. We get to see a real dorm room occupied by one of the other guides; it reminds me of a hotel without any amenities.
I can tell that Michelle is not happy, and she keeps saying that she doesn’t like Oneonta. I ask why, and she doesn’t give one specific reason, only that she doesn’t like it. Have you ever tried to reason with an almost 18-year-old girl?
The tour is finished, and we didn’t even bother to see an admissions counselor. What was the point if she doesn’t want to go there? I think just to be on the safe side, she’ll apply there anyway.
Ah, but the fun is just beginning! We finally find the hotel after a couple of wrong turns and check in. It’s very nice, and right in the middle of town. Marcy is yapping away about how it was when she attended college 30 something years ago. At this point, the kids and I are tired, and don’t really care. Marcy goes for a walk, and the kids and I relax in the room.
Here’s the lousy part; instead of two queen beds, it has two full beds. Michelle would rather sleep on the floor than sleep with Melissa. Marcy and I haven’t slept in a full bed at home in at least 19 years, and I’m dreading it.
I was going to relax at the indoor pool, but it was very hot and humid in there and not one chaise lounge. I turned around and went right back to the room.
The highlight of that day was going out to dinner at a rather famous restaurant landmark, Brooks BBQ. Loyal readers know how much I love BBQ, so I couldn’t wait to get there.
We weren’t disappointed. The salad bar was included with dinner, and there is nothing like making your own fresh salad. For some reason, salad always tastes better than when it’s homemade.
Guess what I had? Go ahead, guess.
The combo plate of sliced pork and brisket, half rack of ribs and a quarter of a chicken; I’m telling you, I could have had another plate and truly been in hog heaven.
The next day Michelle informs us that she had a nose bleed during the night, and thinks she has a UTI. Marcy called the doctor’s office at 9 pm, and finally gets to talk to a doctor for a prescription. We had the number to the local Walgreens, and I called them and told them to expect a call with this prescription. The woman I talked to on the phone, Jill, was so nice and helpful that I knew I wasn’t home.
I asked Jill to call me when the prescription was ready. She asked if I would like to get a text. Yup, that’s the way to do it. A few minutes later, the text comes through, and Jill calls to make sure I got it and confirm it’s ready.
Here’s the tough part. It turns out I had the old medical card, with the former prescription provider on it. Of course, they denied my claim. We knew the new provider, so the girl at the counter, Allison had to call them and get approval. At the same time, I saw Jill and thanked her for all her help.
Allison finally got the approval and we were out of there. I went to Walgreens website and put in a compliment for Allison and Jill for a job well done, which went beyond the call of duty.
Of course, when we got home, the new benefit cards were there. Duh.
We left Oneonta on Wednesday morning, and decided to visit the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown and the town of Woodstock before heading to New Paltz.
I had never been to Cooperstown, and was happy to have this opportunity. It’s times like this though I wish I had a son who would appreciate the finer things in life like baseball. Having two girls just isn’t the same, as they don’t have the same interest or passion about baseball.
We were there about two hours, and everyone was getting cranky. We stopped for pizza and drinks. It would have been cheaper to buy a whole pie, $11 for four slices and two drinks. Talk about legal robbery, but it’s the price to pay when three cranky females are involved.
So on to Woodstock and by this time I’m road blind. I have no idea where I’m going; just listening to Debbie is enough. Woodstock is small, so we walk it in about an hour. Luckily, we found free parking. I like free.
We get back in the car, and head to Hyde Park, where the hotel is located. I can’t believe some of the roads that Debbie is taking us on, but it’s too late to reroute so we just go with it. After what seems like an eternity, we finally get to the hotel. New Paltz is only 30 minutes away, an easy ride the next day.
Next door is the Eveready Diner and Dairy Queen. We hit the diner for dinner and DQ for blizzards. It would have been cheaper to have dinner at DQ as well.
This hotel has beds that are too hard with pillows that are half the size of normal ones. Melissa calls the front desk and asks for extras and the fellow tells her that he’ll check to see if they have extras. He hung up and never called back. Of course, I emailed a complaint about that as well. It’s rude to hang up on a kid asking for a pillow.
Our plan the next day was to visit Springwood, the home, library and museum of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. I hadn’t been there since my family moved from Poughkeepsie in 1972 and I wanted the kids to experience this history of FDR.
The tour took an hour, and we spent another hour in the museum. It was a very moving and powerful look at history, and the life and times of one of our greatest presidents.
In the car, again, and Debbie is leading the way to New Paltz. We found parking and went over to the Admissions Building hoping to talk to someone. Because it was move in day, there was no one available to talk to, so the receptionist gave us some brochures and said we should go to the Welcome Center, since that was where everybody was.
We get to the Welcome Center and the first thing we see are tables of food donated by local businesses. I’m getting a bottle of water and I see this blond woman with a nametag. It’s the same name as on the card, which I just got; I said hello and told her we just came from admissions.
Emma offered to sit down and talk with us, and told us to get some food and relax. She brought us over to a quieter sitting area, and Michelle was thrilled! We asked many questions and got many answers. It turns out that Emma will be visiting Michelle’s high school by the end of the year. If Michelle has any more questions or concerns, she'll get the answers then.
The best surprise was getting to meet the college president, Donald Christian. Emma said that he was helping the student move in, and I was quite impressed that he took the time out to stop by and talk with us.
Emma suggested we walk around the campus, and visit the student union, which was next door. Since we all like t-shirts, we took advantage of a “buy two, get one free” sale. It looks like Michelle wants to go to New Paltz.
It’s around 2 pm and we are all tired. It’s time to hit the road even if we didn’t get to see much. Debbie is ready to go, and a normal two-hour ride is three and half because of traffic on the Thruway and the Cross Bronx. I swear, to whatever deity I believe in. The next time I hear, “slow down you’re going to fast,” I’ll hit the ejector seat button.
We made it home in time to relax, have a quick bite on get to the Jimmy Buffett concert on time. Fins Up!
My advice to the dads who are contemplating this sort of trip; don’t do it. Let mom take care the prospective college student for the visit, and you stay home and go to work. You’ll thank me for it.
Matt Seinberg lives on Long Island, a few minutes east of New York City. He looks at everything around him and notices much. Somewhat less cynical than dyed in the wool New Yorkers, Seinberg believes those who don't see what he does like reading about what he sees and what it means to him. Seinberg columns revel in the silly little things of life and laughter as well as much well-directed anger at inept, foolish public officials. Mostly, Seinberg writes for those who laugh easily at their own foibles as well as those of others.
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