Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Road Less Traveled

We own a GPS for the car, or I should say my husband owns it; I'd rather use a map. We call said GPS Tracey because she traces our route for us and tells us where to turn and when. She does come in handy when we want to find a diner, or some ice cream, but otherwise I think she's rather tiresome.
Still, Tracey came with us over the weekend when we ventured forth on my latest triathlon adventure, at Hamlin Beach State Park, about 30 minutes west of Rochester along the Lake Ontario shoreline. I had mapped out a route that took us west and north from Liverpool along the back roads, avoiding the Thruway and seeing the lush and verdant sights of upstate New York in July. Getting there was no problem, though Tracey didn't agree with my navigation.
It was getting back home that proved more adventurous. Since I was tired, and we still had much to accomplish Sunday afternoon, I told Tracey we wanted to go home, and she led the way. That is, until we got stuck in traffic waiting to get on the Thruway in Rochester. We sat, and we sat, until my husband noticed that traffic after the toll booth was just as slow as before. While I tend to complain about his use of Tracey, I found myself asking him why she couldn't have told us of the traffic jam, so we could have avoided the mess entirely (silly me!).
A quick U-turn later and I decided to take Route 31 home, Tracey be damned! At every chance to turn right and make our way back to the Thruway, Tracey said, "Turn right. Turn right." I just kept making my way through the eastern suburbs of Rochester, noticing the ribbon of Erie Canal to our left, until we escaped Monroe County, and found ourselves in Wayne County, where some of the prettiest canal-era towns awaited with their surprisingly vibrant downtowns. Ontario and Cayuga county still stood between us and Onondaga County, and they made for interesting sight-seeing as we creeped east.
I was especially impressed with Palmyra, a lovely place with parks, canal bridges and a downtown that put Syracuse's Salina Street to shame. Had I not stunk to high heaven (I did just complete a tri), we would have stopped to explore. Then came Newark--not as picturesque as Palymra--and then Lyons, home town of Syracuse University men's basketball coach Jim Boeheim. Man, I thought my home town of Vernon was modest!
As we left each little village, the canal remained a fixture, until we neared Syracuse and it vanished completely. Roadside stands and farmers were selling fresh sweet corn, local peaches, monster zucchini.
It was all lovely, and all so much better than driving the tedious Thruway, fighting 18-wheelers and tailgaters. Sure, it took a good 45 minutes longer to get home, but it didn't matter. We truly enjoyed New York at its most voluptuous, and I, the history major, got to see parts of the canal that I am sorry to admit I had never visted before.
As we neared Syracuse, Tracey finally succumbed and stopped demanding that we get on the Thruway (her default setting is the fastest way to whatever location we seek). Maybe she was enjoying the Sunday drive as well.

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