Okay, we did the annual apple picking trip Sunday. Last year (and it seems like only yesterday) we ended up at a find-the-apple apple orchard. There were no pony rides, no hay rides, no entertainment.
This year, we went for the gusto. We went to a major league orchard in New York state, as opposed to New York City, which of course has LOADS of apple orchards, but who wants to fight the traffic, y'know? So we went to a place in Warwick, NY. It has all the accoutrements, or should I say trappings, of a major league apple orchard--the ponies, the pumpkins, the "general store," the country singers. And of course, a 4,000-acre apple orchard.
I was thirsty when we left the house so I had a bottle of water on the way up. Then, in lieu of lunch, I had a Slim-Fast shake. On the way up to Warwick, we stopped and picked up Cara's friend Rita, and continued on. The water was working its way through my system. Then, we hit a little Renaissance Faire traffic. Which of course meant we ended up following a pickup truck whose license plate spelled ABNORMAL and had a skull hitch cover with eyes that lit up in red whenever the driver braked. Of course.
Before too long, (tell that to my bladder, which was now feeling the effects of the water and a shake), we pulled into the orchard. Only, I didn't realize that a) it was a 4,000-acre orchard, and b) there were multiple ways to get in the place. I just followed the line of cars. Just blindly followed the line of cars. Bad move. Especially when you need a restroom FIRST.
This orchard is different from any others we've been to. In fact, it's really the ONLY place in the tri-state area I've been where an SUV could actually come in handy. You drive your car through the orchard and park in whatever -- I don't know what it's called in an orchard -- a lane, an aisle -- that you want. Sadly, the car in front of us looked to be a '79 Datsun, and immediately bottomed out and then spun out on the gravel dirt drive. It churned up a dust storm Kansas would've been proud of.
Yeah, that's one thing about orchards, they're not paved. And when a rest room is needed, you can really FEEL the unpavedness of it all. Especially when the orchard just keeps GOING and GOING. About five minutes into it, Cara announced the strong possibility that she was going to barf. Ryan started yelling, "Open the windows, open the windows," and Rita told Cara to stick her head out just in case. After--seriously--20 minutes, we got to the other end of the orchard and that holy grail of a restroom.
The restroom was conveniently located in the entertainment area. Ryan wanted a pony ride. But first, there was the ol' timey singers to pass by. The singers were calling all kids to come up front for an apple version of hot potato. I said to Ry, "That kid up there looks like Donald (a boy he went to pre-K with)." The kid turned around and, sure enough, it WAS Donald. Up there in the country orchard. Ready to play hot apple. So Ry joins him and they're having a blast while I chat with Donald's mom. Within a couple of minutes, Cara and Rita ask when we're going to start picking apples. I'm like, "We came to this place for all the other stuff it has: the pony rides, the entertainment."
Cara: "You call this entertainment?!"
Rita: "It's what I call boredom."
And they're 10. That's why 16-year-olds are dropped off at the mall.
I told them they could go to the first row of apple trees where I could see them, but let Ryan continue with the apple fun. He and Donald got caught with the hot apple, and were ready for the pony ride, which was $5. That's right, FIVE DOLLARS. In the country. Where costs are lower than in Manhattan. But those country folk see our cars a' comin', and they squint their eyes and say, "City folk. Let's git 'em."
And WE'RE NOT EVEN LIVING IN A CITY. But people in areas like Warwick, NY or Sussex County, NJ consider anyone from outside their immediate proximity to be city folk, a.k.a., suckers.
So, I get Ryan a ticket, because this is going to be his FIRST EVER pony ride. Donald goes right before him. We moms have our cameras ready. And then the ride ends. In ONE go round the ring. Donald's mom asked, "It's one time around, because they only went around one time." "Yep. Once around," the country guy said. Donald's mom and I looked at each other like, "Holy @!!
I would have put up a fuss or gone back to the ticket window to get my money back, but Ryan was already trying to get over to Rita and Cara. Who had spent the last 20 minutes picking TWO apples.
The orchard kind of runs up a big hill, a very big hill, and the restrooms, general store, etc., are at the bottom of this hill. So, we start up the hill, with the kids picking as they're going. We pass people who had coolers, blankets, lawn chairs spread out around their cars. I heard the distinct clink of beer bottles. People were playing frisbee and soccer among the trees. We didn't know you're supposed to park your car and pick in the area around your vehicle. Nooo, not us. We were keepin' it real.
At one point, Rita's foot went into a ditch and she stood up with burrs all over her sweat pants. Cara went over to help clean her off, and she went down, twisting her ankle in the process. Which is a habit of hers at this point--see previous entries. Of course, Ryan had to help her, and he went down, too. All of them, covered in burrs, hobbling, and our bags were only half-filled.
Rita was a real sport and insisted on carrying her bag of apples. Ryan had long-since given me his, and Cara now was in too much pain to deal with hers. I told them to just keep picking to the end of the row, and then we'd head back downhill to the car. Well, by the end of the row, all three of them literally had their thumbs out in an effort to hitch a ride to the bottom from passing drivers. The people smiled like, "How cute. How funny." Which only made the three of them more frustrated. Rita decided enough was enough with carrying her apples, and gave me her bag. I condensed Ryan's and Cara's into one full bag, and we dodged cars, teenager apple fights and mysterious holes in the ground, and made it back to the car.
After buying our two bags of apples (paying roughly what you'd pay for dinner at a family restaurant), we were out of there. Only to pass a humble country crafter who was selling dolls in homemade outfits (you could almost hear her saying, "Come and get it, suckers!") Luckily 10-year-old girls aren't into dolls with crocheted gowns. We passed the woman and her dolls, only to hit traffic. Which Brownie the Bear, of the local fire department, took advantage of--by standing in the middle of the street hitting up the city folk for donations.
As we drove through, I told the crew, "You know, Dad and I looked at houses up here years ago."
Ryan: "Too bad you didn't get one. They have big yards."
Cara: "And we'd have a big house, too."
Rita: "And you could take advantage of all the city folk."
--Catherine Schetting Salfino