New Paltz Never Changes
By Rob Maxwell
I was born at St. Lukes hospital in Newburgh. I lived
the first ten years of my life in Gardiner. I lived in a classic,
old farm house on 44/55. My dad worked for SUNY in the computer
department. My parents moved our family to Florida in 1975.
I never wanted to move, but you know how it goes. I was a kid--we're
not supposed to agree with our parents all the time.
As life goes, I started growing up. I can say I really
never appreciated the beautiful nature when I lived in Ulster
County. I only knew I was very happy there. I would miss the
change of seasons and I would tell my friends about the mountains.
I would go back from time to time when I was still a kid to
see my sister, who lives in Highland. I'd go by the old house
and remember how much I loved New York. But Florida was home
now. I guess I
made myself accept that.
As I grew up, I forgot about my roots. I never visited
after the age of twelve. I went on to start a career in the
physical fitness field. I have my Masters degree in Exercise
Physiology and have my own personal training studio. While working
on my degree, I got interested in doing the sport of triathlon.
So now I spend a lot of time outdoors. Though my daily visits
with nature, I have become what is called an environmentalist.
This is almost a necessity if you spend a lot of time running
or cycling outdoors.
We runners and cyclists love to find places with few cars and
pollution to train in. In Florida, this is not found often.
Florida is in a constant state of development. New developments
and new roads are coming in monthly. Pretty soon, Florida may
be nothing but concrete and asphalt. I am a member of our Bike/Ped
task force, which is a product of the Metropolitan Planning Organization.
So I do my part to try to keep Central Florida as environmentally
friendly as possible. But quite frankly, it is a losing battle
I saw an add for the Hudson Valley Triathlon in one of
the triathlon magazines. I told my wife how "cool"
it would be to go up and do a triathlon in the area I was born.
I signed up for the race and made all the arrangements and up
we went. I hadn't been back in 23 years! We planned on making
it a vacation and I was going to show my wife all the sights
that I could remember. I thought this would be daunting until
I got off the thruway into New Paltz. My wife Kelly asked, "Does
that grocery store look
familiar?". (We were really just going to wing it and ask
people how to get to certain places). But I was amazed, because
the store in question looked just the same as when mother took
me there as a child. It quickly dawned on me that nothing had
changed! I hadn't been to New Paltz in 23 years and I knew my
way around. Most incredible was that I was a child when I was
there, so it wasn't like I was driving the roads. But it is
easy to remember old towns when new roads and buildings haven't
come in to magnify
it. I was able to navigate us to the right road that takes you
to my old house on 44/55. I was amazed that all of the old farm
houses were still the same. All of the old stores in Gardiner
were still open! All of the little shops in New Paltz were still
vibrant and they weren't all big chain stores. In Florida there
is no such thing as the little shop anymore. The family owned
restaurant in Florida is a thing of the past.
We environmentalists (Kelly and I) became even more impressed
when we ventured up into the "Gunks". How beautiful
it is to have that in your back yard. We noticed cars were so
friendly to the frequent cyclists that enjoy their cycling up
to the top. We were able to take runs around the carriage trails
in the mountains. Quite frankly, we learned what an outdoorsman
paradise New Paltz is. Everywhere we turned there were people
hiking, or cycling. I was very jealous. We noticed that people
take pride in their town. They were friendly and helpful.
As a kid, I obviously had different values. I wasn't a
runner or a cyclist. So I never really knew what I had there.
As an adult, I envy the people now living in New Paltz. I did
my triathlon and Kelly and I headed back to Florida. Both of
us agreed that we would love to move there. We both feel that
we will end up there. I have my business to move, so that won't
happen easily. Kelly would have to uproot her career. We feel
that the challenge
will be worth it. I think too often people are not happy where
they are and they are too afraid to make a change. We see that
area as a perfect match to our life style and values. We don't
know when, but one day we'd like to call New Paltz home.