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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Garage sales galore

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

After a hearty homemade breakfast in Croton-on-Hudson, we piled into the Honda Pilot and set our GPS course for the 50-mile Route 90 Scenic Byway sale in Central New York. This annual July event began in 1989 as a means to draw visitors to the rural east side of Cayuga Lake, which is far less traveled than the vineyard-lined western edge.

S & I first learned about this event in our home state during last year’s road trip through the South for the World’s Longest Yardsale. An antiques dealer near the heart of the 127 Corridor Sale tipped us off to the similar event near New York’s Finger Lakes that he had participated in just before setting up shop in Jamestown, Tennessee. Hmm: shorter, more manageable, closer to home… I think it was pretty much decided last August that we’d be making the trip upstate this year.

The Route 90 sale wends through the historic farmland of Cortland and Cayuga counties, from Montezuma in the north to Homer in the south. Along the way, there are bucolic fields of corn and what we later determined to be soy, a few picturesque small towns, and several less-picturesque trailer parks scattered along the shores of Cayuga Lake.

Just a few hours north of New York City, it’s an entirely different world.

We started our shopping at the southern end of the route, stopping in at a few family-run barn/garage sales en route to the fields of dealers we felt sure to come across throughout the weekend.

Except such fields of treasures never materialized. Not today, anyway. The sale, such as it was, was comprised of a string of garage sales of widely varying quality. On several occasions we rolled the car slowly past the roadside tables — drive-thru style — before opting not to even bother exiting the vehicle.

If I were to have made one purchase today, it would have been this vintage Smith-Corona. I’ve always been fascinated by old typewriters — those loudly clacking, hefty relics, so economical in their keys that the lower-case “L” does double-duty as the numeral “1,” and exclamation marks are made by typing an apostrophe over a period. This one was in reasonably good working condition, too — needing only a new ribbon.

Oh no… is this what’s known as non-buyer’s remorse?

No, no. Perhaps one day I’ll have a shelf lined with these in my library or home office, but for my now, it’s enough of a challenge just to find a place to keep the towering stacks of books in my apartment.

Amish family, walking the route. I snapped this from quite a distance away, with my 6X optical zoom — is that bad?

Soon after taking the photo, as my friends and I were browsing a nearby barn sale, a flash thunderstorm rolled in and pellets of hail began to rain down from the darkened skies. I’m reasonably sure that was just a coincidence.

Check out the rest of the Route 90 Sale photos on flickr.

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