Month: July, 2008

From the sales of Montezuma…

Sunday, July 27th, 2008 | All Things, Friends, Travel

S and I had reserved high hopes for Montezuma, New York, deducing that the northern terminus of the Route 90 Sale — farthest from the city, and with the least picked-over stock — would yield the greatest treasures. The reality turned out differently: Montezuma, population 1400, had little to offer in the way of sales… or anything else for that matter. We breezed through the sleepy town in under 15 minutes.

The local scene may be much more happening next month during the Third Annual “Montezuma Mosquito Fest”…

Even locating a spot for breakfast turned out to be somewhat of a challenge. We passed on the “German Food” truck in Springport, and settled instead on the Be Happy Cafe in Union Springs, where 2 eggs, bacon and unlimited French toast (touted on the menu as “made with real Italian bread!”) set us back just $4.95 per person.

Even our return pass through lakeside Aurora proved a little disappointing, though we did find a cool collection of authentic ship steering wheels, bleached and weathered from years of salty spray, handles worn smooth by countless captains’ hands. No doubt a bargain at $125 apiece, but the prospect of lugging one of those iron-cored hubs onto the Metro North proved too daunting, even for our intrepid crew.

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Cayuga Lake

Saturday, July 26th, 2008 | All Things, Drinks, Friends, Travel

Revived by our late lunch/early dinner (not to be confused with the fried-fest we shared at McMurphy’s Pub much later that night), we hit the road once more in search of treasures. The afternoon hailstorm, though, seemed to have dampened not just the farmland, but the momentum of the weekend’s sale. We passed many closed up tents and tarp-covered tables en route to our hotel. So ended Route 90 shopping for the day.

In Aurora, the expanse of farmland made way for a picturesque village of stately homes fronting Cayuga Lake. Much of this historic town was restored between 2001 and 2006 by American Girl founder (and Wells College alum) Pleasant T. Rowland — efforts which nonetheless were not embraced by all Aurora locals. Familiar laments all.

Eventually we made our way off the route to Auburn, a small city notable for three sites: the Harriet Tubman home, Seward House (the family home of William H. Seward, former Governor of New York and Secretary of State under Lincoln, responsible for “Seward’s Folly“) and The Auburn State Correctional Facility. By 6PM, the first two places were already closed; the third, we discovered somewhat by accident while coasting through our hotel’s packed parking lot, situated directly next door. (The hotel’s proximity to a maximum security prison was not all that off-putting, as it turned out: tonight we encountered a wedding reception and a high school reunion in progress.)

Auburn CF was the site of the first execution via electric chair in 1890; Leon Czolgosz, the anarchist who shot William McKinley during the 1901 Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo was put to death there. It’s apparently a point of perverse pride among the locals; Swaby’s, the pub on South Street where we ended up briefly that night, has on display an actual electric chair used in the prison. (Ew.)

Our exploration of Auburn nightlife began and ended there: when the rains let up, we abandoned our watered-down beers next to their busted pool table, having stayed just long enough for me to get in one play ofJust Like Heaven” on the jukebox.

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Gathering for supper

Saturday, July 26th, 2008 | All Things, Eats, Friends, Travel

By late afternoon, we found ourselves with rumbling stomachs and very few options along Route 90. Our brief detour onto Route 38 improved matters, but only slightly. After passing on a defunct dairy and a Hoffman Hots truck, we came upon Barb’s Diner in Genoa, which seemed promising — going by Calvin Trillin‘s theory that eating establishments named for people have a better-than-average chance of being good — but closed.

Even so, there was zero chance we would be eating at nearby Giuseppe’s Pizzeria. Sorry, Giuseppe.

All of which brought us eventually to The Gathering in Moravia, which we all agreed was a name less suited for a restaurant than for an M. Night Shyamalan film. We were slightly reassured by the handful of cars in the parking lot — a veritable crowd in this sparsely populated region — but slightly perplexed by the presence of a drive-thru. But we pulled in anyway, deciding to take our chances. (Plus, did I mention we were starving?)

And we’re so glad we did! The Gathering turned out to be a charming diner with a stooled formica-top counter, friendly service and a chalkboard on which were handwritten the homemade pie offerings — always a good sign. And on the menu: Chicken n’ Biscuits — made daily from scratch:

A “Rachel” sandwich, i.e., a Reuben with coleslaw substituted for the usual sauerkraut.

And of course, our visit would not be complete without sampling those pies: chocolate meringue (very first slice) and coconut cream (very last slice):

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