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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 little
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 here.

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 running, or
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.