The February Escape to Montreal, Part 2: Upstate New York/Asbury Park

Westport, Port Henry, Crown Point, NY; Asbury Park, NJ (Map)

Winter 2013-14


Going south from Montreal, you have about an hour's drive before you reach the border agents that guard the entrance to upstate New York. From there you merge onto I-87, an interstate which doesn't have the volume of traffic or number of lanes as some of its counterparts, but it'll still quickly move you past the Adirondack Mountains and Lake Champlain, as you flank the scenic, snow-covered hills and curve down winding, valley roadways.

Flying past Plattsburgh and that highway to the west that I took the one other time I was up here, I stretched my neck at all of the cool towns passing by in this state with cities that I adore, longing to get off this damn interstate now that I was around and now past Plattsburgh.

Time was of the essence today, so after making an hour's worth of driving progress at 70mph, we could only now exit onto NY-9 towards Westport, myself deciding that this was where I wanted to spend the tiny allotment of today's extra time.

This was still really far north and while Westport was abundant of that typical, mid-sized city beauty of New York State, it also had some rough edges.

But because it's New York State, every city/town/village has amazing buildings lining the street apparently.

Maybe it was better that we took the interstate for a bit, because it was hard to fight stopping in downtown Port Henry and it was then impossible to not stop at their city hall at the edge of town.

The reason Port Henry had this amount of wealth was because of the nearby iron mines that provided needed ore as far back as the Civil War.

The Witherbee & Sherman Company were the one who ran these iron mines since 1851, building homes for the workers, mansions for themselves, along with parks, cemeteries & many other civic pieces during their prosperous tenure. Their city hall wasn't built like an Italian villa to host the town offices, but rather as the headquarters of this Witherbee & Sherman Company. It was only after the mining rights were sold to Republic Steel, that the city came along for the headquarters building & the local iron museum took over the adjacent carriage house.

The reason we were driving through Westport, Port Henry and the rest of Essex County was that I had obviously looked up the lighthouses along Lake Champlain and the Hudson River already, planning around where we could get off the interstate to see one or two of them.

Now look at Crown Point Lighthouse. Can you blame me? It was pretty funny to see Shahlene's reaction as she's used to the more utilitarian lighthouses of Newfoundland, while myself, I've found all four of my New York State lighthouses to be awfully special & memorable. I want to see more of them.

Crown Point Lighthouse was built in 1858, the same year that they built the more northern Point Aux Roche Lighthouse up outside Plattsburgh. The two lighthouses were built of the same style originally, but in 1912 the state of New York and the Federal Government came together to build a memorial here for Samuel de Champlain, to celebrate his navigation and exploring of this region 300 years prior.

Surrounding the original lighthouse with eight doric columns, a Rodin sculpture was also incorporated as a gift from France, along with a sculpture from noted American sculptor Carl Augustus Heber.

Crown Point would continue life as a lighthouse until 1929, when the completion of the Crown Point Bridge - the first bridge to connect NY and Vermont across Lake Champlain - meant that Crown Point Lighthouse was no longer needed for navigation.

And sure enough, looking below the 2011 version of the Champlain Bridge, we could see a car navigating to Vermont without the use of a lighthouse.

Leaving the Crown Point peninsula behind, a raptor soared up ahead, an exciting thing when you're not in Newfoundland and the bird can be something different than the very few birds that we see in the winter up there.

Then it ended up being a Northern Harrier - something we get in Newfoundland.

The Northern Harrier's field.

Ticonderoga was only a short distance up the road and while we sadly found their famous fort closed for the season as a statie drove the roadway, we did stop for a meatball sub and mashed potatoes in town.

After what seemed like forever, as I rethought my decision to stop at this small-time restaurant in upstate New York, we were finally back on the NY-9, then I-87. The GPS now said that we would be late getting to Lakewood NJ, meaning there was no time for Glens Falls, Albany, Poughkeepsie, Newark or Marlboro - this trip was accepted to ride indoor skateparks and indoor skateparks were the priority!

So I reached the Incline Club in Lakewood NJ with a little over an hour left before the 2-hour night session ended. This is of course the famous New Jersey skatepark you see in tons of videos, with box jumps, vert walls & bowls, where I sessioned the ledge-rail-rail portion for the duration of my hour. I would celebrate this crooked grind that was scaring me with wandering over to the box jump part, where I then wondered if the dudes were confused when I could barely get over the coping. I rode the curved wallride for a bit as well.

Night had fallen even before I made it into the Incline Club, but thinking about New Jersey's wacky roads, I was thankful afterwards that our motel wasn't all that far away in Asbury Park. I passed a Taco Bell I desired along the way, but not enough to return after getting our room (the motel was closing for the night & we had to rush). Instead, we ended up simply going for the decent pub they had along their main street, happy with the beer choices and college basketball. Afterwards, it was off to a different bar in a strip mall to pick up a 6-pack, partaking in that funny thing they have in some states where you can buy takeaway beer from a bar.

So anyway, Asbury Park was the destination tonight mostly because Shahlene likes The Boss, and The Boss sings about Asbury Park (he has an album named Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J.). For me, I knew that Asbury Park was popular in the past as a seaside resort town and that it had some remaining buildings to prove so.

The above building is the Asbury Park Convention Hall & Paramount Theatre.

The theatre and the convention hall are connected by a grand arcade, which I was surprised to find open in February.

Away from a few workers doing something on the south side exterior of the building, there wasn't another soul around.

Where there was work on the south side, the north side spilled out onto a pleasing boardwalk that was a bit brisk today, but nice and quiet save for the odd jogger and the gulls.

The shore reminded me of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, even though I know that was Montauk, not Asbury Park.

(Maybe when I finally make it to Montauk NY I'll realize the differences. Or maybe if I ever watch Eternal Sunshine for a second time, I'll see that it's actually nothing like this, ha.)

Our motel was across the street from another old vestige of Asbury Park's past, the Berkeley-Carteret Hotel, built in 1925.

As the hotel is only a small grass lot away from the convention hall, I couldn't help but take a closer look.

The interior was fine, but I suppose I'm spoiled by elaborate Detroit hotels. I initially thought about staying here instead of the Oceanic Inn, but at an additional $75 for a non-oceanfront room in February? I think not.

We walked past the front desk and wandered a bit, up until it was time to leave Asbury Park behind, attack the New Jersey coast some more, then head north.

Continue to Part 3!


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< Older Update:
Backcountry Snowshoeing to Bakers Brook Pond

< Older Update (this series):
The February Escape to Montreal: 2 Days In
Montreal Itself

Newer Update (this series): The February Escape
to Montreal: New Jersey Seashore & NYC

1 - A Walking Tour of Port Henry - Adirondack Architectural Heritage
2 - Champlain Memorial Lighthouse - Lake Champlain Region
3 - Champlain Memorial Lighthouse - America's Historic Lakes
4 - The Berkeley-Carteret Oceanfront Hotel -

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