Sunday, July 24, 2005

East Aurora, New York to Waterbury, Vermont

11:30 a.m.

Rolled back into Waterbury, Vermont at about 3:00 this morning, the temperature dropping into the 50's along the way, getting downright chilly for me and creating a bit of ground fog. Jeff, Kyle and I had finally departed East Aurora yesterday around 2:00 p.m., after "pigging out" with Priscilla at Taste coffee shop. Drove out to Orangeville, where Kathy was preparing mass quantities of food in support of a basement-office cleaning project.

Lounged on Kathy's idyllic patio, watching hummingbirds, gold finches, doves and chipmunks play at the feeders and around the gardens. Visited with Kathy, Shawna and her son Joe. Priscilla, Becky and Charlie arrived some time later.

Shawna and Joe

Shawna's little guy, Joe

Joe and Priscilla: another annoying sales call

Cousin Kathy!

War of the Worlds: alien spacecraft descend toward unsuspecting Federal Agent

Timtraveler and Cousin Becky

When the real work began, our departure suddenly took on an urgency. Drove the rich rolling hills of Western New York, skirting the northern tips of the Finger Lakes. A brief stop at Wegman's, an amazing super market in Canandaigua, gave Jeff an opportunity to re-stock his supply of Jelly Belly jelly beans. $55 worth! They'll last him a year.

Delivered Kyle from our corrupting influence, stopping in King Ferry just after 6:00. He was just in time for a large picnic that Sharon and Roger were hosting. Jeff and I were, of course, invited, but bowed out, as there were still 7 or 8 hours of driving ahead.

Jeff's grandson Kyle with his new East Aurora hat

I was focused on food once again (probably the most important theme on this leg of the journey), and suggested we pass through Skaneateles. Jessica and I had visited a restaurant there four years ago, en route to Shawna's wedding.

On a second pass, we found Rosalie's Cantina, a brand new red Ferrari parked in the VMP ("View My Possession") Zone out front. But without taking even one step inside the restaurant, Jeff recoiled at the door. Seeing the coat-and-tie-attired host, he said "I'm not going in there." He felt his t-shirt, shorts, sandals and ball cap would draw attention. The wait for a table was running about an hour and 15 minutes, though we could have dined at the bar immediately.

"There's a guy in a t-shirt and shorts at the bar," I noted, but Jeff was emphatic. "Well, I guess we can find an Arby's down the road," I jabbed back.

Jeff's new wheels

In Syracuse, we undertook a near-obsessive search for "the perfect" dining spot. The Dinosaur Grill downtown looked like great fun. There was a long line of people waiting outside, 20 or 30 motorcycles parked along the curb. "Too long a wait..."

After at least half an hour of searching, found our way to "Carrier Circle" - motelsville. Settled on Justin's Grill. Our host said they prefer to be called a "chop house". That should have set off the expense alarm. Our server was ice cold; serving us was obviously abhorrent. "I bathed today..."

The food, was expensive and unremarkable, further tainting the experience.

When Jeff asked her "do you think this steak is 'medium'," showing her the dark purple cross section, she didn't even blink an eye.


Later, when the host checked in to see if we enjoyed the meal, we mentioned the steak controversy. She smiled and informed us that our server is the chef's wife.

I demanded a "Saratoga Springs Starbucks Stop," (a very special kind of coffee stop.) This is clearly the playground of "spoiled rich kids" off on summer break.

"I can play this game too!"

"Tall Dry Double Cappuccino" and "Vente White Chocolate Mocha" in hand, we walked the downtown sidewalks, checking out motorcycles lining the curb, revelers queuing outside the dance clubs, a party flowing down a sidestreet, the police scrutinizing one particularly scruffy rider's Harley, young couples' hormone-driven intensity. "What a party town!"

I'll be ready for the helmeted refuge of my own bike. Jeff and I never did have the same taste in music, so listening to the Rolling Stones, Billy Joel, John Mellencamp and Joe Walsh eventually "got on my nerves." It gave our constant exchange of brotherly insults and criticisms just a little more of an edge.

He lost the bet about "Stewart's Old Fashioned Sodas" and Stewart's Shops being of one and the same corporate entity (we stopped at a Stewart's Shop to confirm this) and I lost the bet whether Tucumcari was on the east or the west side of New Mexico. These were among the highlights of our intellectual exchanges.

I have been growing quite anxious to resume my travels, fearing that I'm growing soft and fat hanging with good-intentioned relatives, and succumbing to my own inertia. I am certainly well-rested (but I felt so before reaching East Aurora the first time.)

My impatience this morning has turned to a slight anxiety; yes, the trip is about to continue. I will need to leave all this comfort behind once again. Surprisingly, I now detect some ambivalence!

Two months and about 14,000 miles since leaving "home".

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