The Internet has its uses.
You can find love, sex and friendship. You can buy a car, music, a house, new shoes, shampoo and books. You can sell couches, handicrafts, taxidermy and used appliances. You can make yourself sound smarter, look prettier and cook better. You can stalk your ex, find your long-lost best friend and pretend you’re someone else. You can also read this blog.
But of all these miracles of the Internet, I’ve found one consistent failing. Directions.
A few years ago, Isaac and I spent a dreamy, wonderful week in the Finger Lakes. Our first hotel actually had a free-flowing spigot of wine about 11 feet from our room’s door. It was kind of like being a kid in a candy store. It was the most beautiful October New York state has ever had, and we spent it outdoors traveling from vineyard to vineyard, winding through the most picturesque back roads, eating at Diner-aunts and just generally relaxing.
But the trip didn’t start out this way. We set out from New York City and headed north. We followed the directions–printed out from the internet–exactly. But no matter what we did or how many times we backtracked and tried again, we just kept ending up in a grocery store’s parking lot.
After a five hour drive, and with the promise of free-flowing wine, this is not exactly the place that dreams are made of. So we circled the parking lot until one of us managed a very weak signal on our cellphone. “Hello? Oh, yes hi. We’re supposed to be staying at your hotel tonight, but the directions from your website have us ending up in a grocery store parking lot.” “Oh, no! Do we still have the Mapquest directions up on the site? Oh yeah, you can’t trust those.”
Really? Wow. Thanks. Eventually, over the crackling line that threatened to drop at just the most crucial moment, we made it to the hotel, but with no thanks to the Internet.
I thought of this incident on Saturday as Isaac and I sat in the middle of Massachusetts. We had woken up early to go hiking, and yet, here we sat, foiled once again by the Internet. We had three different sets of directions, one in a book, and two (1. 2) from the Internet. We had my BlackBerry, with no signal, and we had our New York State atlas, with no maps of its next door neighbor. We were lost. Very, very lost.
So we asked a kid standing in the driveway of the YMCA camp, “Do you know where Mt. Alander is?” “No, but it might be right behind you in that State Park there.” Yeah, uhm, maybe, thanks. Well, at least he was right.
So we parked and covered ourselves with bug spray (didn’t help, I still managed to pick up a tick, dammit … my first no less!) and set out. Almost immediately we knew this was going to be a great hike. You begin the trail through a beautiful, low-growing meadow simply covered in low bush blueberries. And then you enter the woods and follow a giggling rill nearly all the way to the top.
And then when you get to the top, forget the stunning 360 views, there’s more blueberries! Two kinds no less! Low and high bush! We ate and ate and ate and ate and ate them, until I felt sick. So we sat down and ate some fig bars, and then we headed back down.
Mt. Alander is a really great hike. It’s never just-walking-along-easy, but it never gets Mt Ampersand hard (though that might be only because the incessant rain seems to finally have stopped), and the getting down is nice and strenuous too. It’s the kind of hike that makes you feel like you deserve a great dinner.
So it was a great dinner we had. Sausages and onions and salad. It was all supposed to be cooked on the grill, but, you know how just one paragraph above I said the rain had stopped? Yeah, not so much. It rained and rained and rained Saturday night, but at least it was after we had hiked and before I went to the horse sanctuary.
I fried¹ some beer brats from the greenmarket² until they got all nice and sticky and delicious, and I made onions a la Michael. I chopped up the garden’s first zucchini and cucumber, and tossed them with some herbs and mustard greens and a garlicky, buttermilk dressing. It was delicious, especially with a nice crusty bread and a bottle of Polish horseradish mustard and it didn’t involve an ounce of fuss.
Or the internet.
¹ Lightly brown the sausages in a hot pan with a little olive oil. Add a glug of water and bring to a boil. Let the one side of the sausages get deeply brown and sticky then flip. By the time the water has cooked off entirely, the sausages will be perfect. I thought I picked this technique up from Nigel, but I can’t find it in any of his books. So naturally I thought I picked it up from Jamie, but alas, can’t find it in any of his books either. Maybe I just made it up. Regardless, it’s a great technique for cooking sausages inside.
² I’m not sure what the name of the farmer is that I bought the brats from, but it’s the guys that have the Bacon Hypnosis sign on Fridays at Union Square.