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Syracuse and Rochester

Oreo cows

My favorite sign, in Becket on the Mass Pike

With a full tank of gas, a good book and an unopened package of parmesan crisps, I was feeling pretty free as the Charlton exit on the Mass Pike disappeared in the rearview mirror. So nice to see the touchstones from Tanglewood days - 3 lanes decreasing to 2, the halfway point at Ludlow/Belchertown, Friendly's "living billboard" but, sadly, not the Oreo cows before Springfield, who must have roamed to greener pastures. But the best is the Becket sign telling drivers that the next highest elevation on I-90 is in Oacama, SD. Grammatically, the sign doesn't make sense but it's the spirit that I love anyway (grammarian friends out there, what say you?) Got to say that I was tempted to go and measure for myself in SD, but the extra 48 hours of driving put me off. It's on the list, though.

I was looking forward to stopping in Amsterdam, NY, nestled in the valley with a big chimney, perhaps it was a hidden gem. Sadly no, lots of poverty, buildings in disrepair and a mini statue of liberty. Syracuse was the next stop.

Amsterdam, NY

I have a friend who I love so dearly, perhaps in part because we come from the world from different places, her viewpoints are refreshing. Because I love her so dearly, I tend to forget that this difference extends to taste, so it was with a laugh that I pulled into a newly built big box hotel situated on a swamp, surrounded by overgrown parking lots and abandoned warehouses, in close proximity to a Dollar Store AND a Dollar General. In the brightly lit generic lobby, there were gangs of boisterous mid-western looking people boozing it up, dogs everywhere. The hallways and rooms had that lemon smell that I have come to think of as the new lost-cost hip "cover up the smell of mold" deodorizer, which I suppose is better than the fake strawberry aromas that I breathed in NYC cabs in the 1980s.

View from the hotel. At least there were daisies

A story goes that when I was four years old, I had a "bad egg" and threw up, and have never been able to get near them since, although I've somehow found my way around avoiding them in baked goods.... So, I passed up the microwaved breakfast burritos offered at the hotel and hoofed it downtown to a millennially named place that gave me confidence they'd offer at least some whole grains. When I ordered the avocado on toast with all kinds of things on it, I asked if the Green Goddess dressing had mayo in it and when the 12-year old guy taking my order said yes, I subbed it out. After taking a bite, I could tell that mayo had been mixed into the avocado, who does that? I would have thought avocado rich enough on its own. The child must have thought the aversion I'd displayed wouldn't translate to actual food. I doused it all with half a bottle of hot sauce rather than making a fuss, but a few minutes after I'd finished, felt sick, so had to buy a rhubarb and ginger drink to wash the flavor away. Somehow the smell of mayo stayed on my hands all day. The struggles..

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles catching a ride in downtown Syracuse

One of many abandoned buildings in Syracuse hinting back to better times

I was lucky enough to show up at the Erie Canal Museum right when a 5th grade field trip was arriving, so hopped right in there. The tour guide was as old as the hills but pretty engaging, the kids responded, at least until I left, a few minutes later. Unfortunately much of the canal has been filled in around Syracuse, so it was a lucky thing I had stopped previously to have a look at a place with locks.

The Erie Canal and locks

My friend who had grown up in Rochester told me about the Eastman Museum. While I didn't think I'd be staying in Rochester more than a few hours, I found myself enchanted by the beautiful wide, leafy streets with well-maintained huge houses, mature landscaping and plentiful flowers, reminiscent of Chicago northern suburbs. I could stay here a week I like it so much.

Bathroom at the George Eastman House

Hat boxes at George Eastman House

Library at George Eastman House

Two new dads who had busted out for the day to do a brewery crawl, they were deliriously happy to be out

Vendors at the Farmer's Market posing for me

Not sure what this guy's deal was

Debbie mans the breakfast counter next to the elevator and says hello every time I go by. She gave me free blueberries on my oatmeal and a free iced coffee. She couldn't be nicer and when I told her os, she asked me to tell her manager, which I did. Here with her colleague Sohe, she wanted to know if she was going to be "all over Facebook".


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