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Hitting The Road: Curing Wanderlust In A Trip To The Northeast

A train crossing a bridge over Lock 19 of Erie Canal in Frankfort, NY. Photo by Beverly Kehe-Rowland

We are on the road again!

Because we haven’t traveled farther than Buffalo and Erie over the last 17 months, with the exception of two trips to Phillipsburg, Pa., to meet our daughter’s family at the halfway point between her house in Maryland and ours, we have set out. The wanderlust has been so thick, it could be cut with a knife. You might say this was an emergency getaway. My husband never stopped looking at cruise ads throughout the shutdown and I never stopped dashing his hopes by saying “I may never get on a ship again.”

Our intention was to go to an area where it was not swelteringly hot and because Canada is closed, we headed east with New England in our sights. Where in New England? We do not know. Being meanderers and lovers of secondary roads, dirt roads, dead-end roads and glorified cow paths, we were certain we didn’t need an itinerary.

We started our adventure by traveling on I-86, but by the time we were nearing Cuba, I suggested we get off and drive through Angelica, which has some interesting architecture. After we drove through the little village, we never returned to the Southern Tier Expressway, but continued on secondary roads until we found ourselves at Keuka Lake. After driving up the western and longest side of this Y-shaped lake, ending at Penn Yan, we drove over to Dresden. Dresden is a little more than half-way up the western side of Seneca Lake. We found a room and dinner in Geneva, at the northern end of the lake. After dinner, we drove to a pier. A Blue Heron was waiting and watching from his perch on a rock near the shore. Small groups of two and three people were talking as they walked the one-tenth mile pier. A few men were fishing, but the one that caught our attention was a man and his dog who were balancing themselves while standing on large rocks. When the German Shepherd saw a fish, he would look in its direction, his way of telling his owner where to drop his line. All of this took place with a beautiful sunset backdrop reflecting on the water.

On the second day, we drove to Waterloo. In 1966 the federal government declared Waterloo the official birthplace of Memorial Day, because they had first celebrated the day one hundred years earlier on May 5. While we were there, we encountered a lock of the Cayuga-Seneca Canal. Today the canal is mostly used by recreational boats, rather than barges carrying goods.

The owners of this home have their own waterfalls. Photo by Beverly Kehe-Rowland

After staying a night near New Hartford, we drove over to Seneca Falls on Cayuga Lake, thinking we would see waterfalls We learned there have been no waterfalls since the Cayuga-Seneca Canal was redone in 1915, which raised the water level causing the manmade waterfalls to no longer exist.

The woman suffrage movement was launched in Seneca Falls in July of 1848. In 1969, the National Women’s Hall of Fame was created and is located in this Finger Lakes community. Seneca Falls may have been the inspiration for the fictitious Bedford Falls in “It’s a Wonderful Life” starring Jimmy Stewart. This is believed because the movie’s writer, Frank Capra, visited Seneca Falls while writing the script. The cities of Elmira, Rochester and Buffalo are mentioned in the movie and much of the architecture in the film mirrors some of the structures in the New York hamlet. There is a scene in the movie similar to the real-life story of twenty year old Antonio Varacalli who on April 12, 1917 drowned after he saved the life of a woman that fell into the water. A plaque honoring Varacalli remains on the bridge in Seneca Falls today.

We continued on to Auburn where we decided to check out the Owasco River. After I noticed the Hunter Dinerant precariously perched over the Owasco, my husband thought we should go inside to find out how a dinerant differed from a diner. Even though we had eaten not long before and explained this to the lone, unbusy waitress, she was happy to answer our questions. She told us it was a combination of a diner and a restaurant, but it appeared to be a regular diner to us. Since we had no intentions of eating, we didn’t read over the menu to see if it had more choices than a diner.

Before we left, the waitress told us an interesting story and then sent us to read a framed newspaper article on the wall.

Mr. and Mrs. Robert Hunter started the business. While their daughter, Neilia Hunter, was in the Bahamas during spring break from Syracuse University, she met Joe Biden. Biden fell for Neilia and then moved to Syracuse where he attended law school. The couple married, had three children and named their youngest son Hunter, his mother’s maiden name. Sadly, Neilia and the Biden’s 13 month old daughter, Amy, were killed in a car accident in December 1972.

This dinerant in Auburn, N.Y., was owned by Joe Biden's in-law's. His second child was named after the Hunter family. Photo by Beverly Kehe-Rowland

After leaving the dinerant, we made a brief stop at Skaneateles Lake, very brief, having put just enough money in the meter to give us time to walk the length of the pier and back before moving on. We moved away from the Finger Lakes Region continuing on our uncharted course. As is almost always the case when we stay off of the superhighways, we came upon another unexpected, but interesting find. As we were rounding a curve on Route 174 near Marcellus , I saw something in my peripheral vision that caused me to ask the driver to turn back. The scene was quite amazing. There was a house with a waterfall in the front yard. A broken water wheel was propped up against the cement foundation of the home. An elaborate arched footbridge had been erected over the falls in order for the residents to reach their garage.

We continued to drive until we reached Utica where we spent the night. Much of the following day was spent driving to various locks on the nearly 200 hundred year old Erie Canal, beginning with Lock 19 in Frankfort, NY. An interesting feature of this location is a railroad bridge that crosses diagonally, just beyond the east end of the lock. We had barely walked up to the visitor viewing area behind the railing, when we heard the whistle of a westbound train. Before that train was completely through the bridge, an eastbound train passed by. My husband, a train enthusiast and a retiree of General Electric’s Erie Locomotive Division, was happy to witness these. We actually backtracked 17 miles to Lock 20 in Marcy and then continued on our way to Lock 18 in Jacksonburg.

We moved on to Little Falls to see if there were any falls there. When the AAA Travel Guide and Google didn’t help, we spoke with three men who were working in a city park. The youngest man, a high school senior, gave us specific directions. After turning left at the end of the street, rounding a curve, turning right after the Christian school, left at the ball fields, parking at the public pool building, finding the path into the woods and hiking two-tenths of a mile over tree roots and very large rocks, we found a high, wide rocky wall with a narrow stream of water rushing to the little creek below. Once again, it was worth getting off the beaten path!

To be continued.

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