At no point during the day today did I really know what my next step was. My goal was uncertain: sleep as close to the Adirondacks as possible. My activity list was vague: see the Finger Lakes, drive Route 20, post blog entry, hike, make tasty meal. As a result, I made today up as I went. In reality, that is basically how most of my day has been, just with slightly more structure.
I won’t bother you with the tale of my night spent in the Walmart parking lot, for more on that, read this. Suffice it to say that I got a good nights sleep and was on the road by 7:00 AM. From Niagara, I headed slightly south before turning Sam to the east. Route 20 reaches from Portland, OR to Boston, MA and I wasn’t going to miss taking a drive on that iconic road. Although far from noteworthy, it is a gentle road (with wide shoulders for cyclists) that dances through the New York countryside, showcasing its fields, rolling hills, and open vistas. I even spied a dairy cow or two, which served as a fond reminder of good ole Wisconsin. It was an unbelievably pleasant drive.
My first stop was Geneva, NY, which sits at the northern tip of Seneca Lake and is the home of Hobart and William Smith College. As soon as I saw the campus, I instantly remembered the drive-by tour my parents did way back in 2007. The Finger Lakes were my priority for the day, so I dropped by the visitors center, which incidentally also had free wifi. I hunkered down for 90 minutes of photo processing and posting, while a constant stream of visitors came and went from the center. As each visitor passed through, they were greeted by an amazingly competent woman in charge of helping people navigate and better understand the area. She answered their questions with clear and thorough answers, sometimes giving them far more information than they ever thought they needed, but she never babbled needlessly. After about thirty minutes, I mentioned to her how impressed I was with her dedication to her craft. Our conversation then turned on me, as she began asking what I was doing in Geneva. I told her my story and she grew very excited and hurried off to collect brochures. She walked me through each one and then gave me a piece of advice I will always be grateful to her for… More on that tomorrow.
Armed with her maps, I headed south along Lake Seneca, past countless vineyards and expansive vistas. The wine didn’t necessarily interest me, except the name of a specific winery, but the agriculture had opened up the densely forested hills so that the lakes could be seen far more clearly. A welcome change, even if it did come at the cost of deforestation. 37 miles later, I was parking my car at Watkins Glen State Park. Along with hundreds of other tourists, I climbed the elaborate stone staircases cut into the narrow canyon and watched as water carved its path through the soft layers of stone. A series of tunnels, footpaths, and staircases allowed a steady stream of visitors to gape at the water below. Interestingly enough, the flow of tourists often mimicked the water they were jockeying for position to see. They flowed up the stairs, around the tunnels, and past any obstacles in their way.
After I left the park, I knew I had to find a spot as close to the Adirondacks as possible to sleep tonight. I didn’t want to camp necessarily, so I charted a course for the Walmart Supercenter in Rome, NY. My two-laned road dropped into valleys and followed rivers as it swirled north towards my destination. I passed through small towns with names like Shed and Chittenango. I crossed the Erie Canal. I even stopped by a small, local, produce market that had a whole table overflowing with vegetables that had been given the title of “Seconds”. Now, they were available to me at half price. I stared down at the tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, peppers, cauliflower, peaches, plums, apples, corn, to name a few, and realized that the vast majority looked far cleaner, healthier, and more nutritious than 90% of the produce I had seen at Walmart that very morning. Needless to say I stocked up.
Arriving in Rome earlier than I had expected, I bought my ceremonial banana again and prepped Sam for the night. Once inside, I finally began going through my receipts for the last 5 days. My spreadsheet now tells a story of gas, gas, gas, banana, gas, parking fee, and more gas. Having driven almost 1,800 miles in the last five days, it definitely sounds about right. Tomorrow, I wake with the sun, hoping to have as much time in the Adirondacks before I bed down in Burlington, VT for the night.
Another one for your consideration.