Friday, June 27, 2008

Day 20 - New York Air

June 26 - We spent almost eight hours making what Sac estimated to be a five-plus hour journey from West Chester, PA to Oneida, NY. The trip didn't involve quite as much adventure as the above statement implies. After one last round of cheese steaks, we drove smoothly to Exit 95 of the Northeast Extension of the Pennsylvania Turnpike (I-476) at which point we left the highway to find Big Pocono State Park, supposedly about 15 miles away. Their website mentioned twisty roads and mountain views, which would satisfy Kay's need to see the Poconos. There were even two signs after we left I-476 directing us to the park, but when we arrived where the park was supposed to be - nothing. Either the park had closed, changed names or we just missed it. Well at least we could stop and go to the bathroom. Well, almost. The gas station we found at the end of the search for Big Pocono had portajohns instead of inside bathrooms. Half of our party passed on the opportunity. At least the search caused us to double back toward I-380, a second interstate highway that almost paralleled I-476 toward Scranton, PA and I-81, which would take us the rest of the way to central NY.

Unfortunately for our time on the road, much of I-380 and I-81 in Scranton was under repair, with traffic limited to one lane at evening rush hour. At about 5 p.m. (four hours after our departure from PA) we arrived at Clark's Summit, PA, just north of Scranton, where the PA Turnpike meets I-81. We stopped here as a family on our trips from PA back to see relatives in NY and ate at Elby's Big Boy restaurant. I didn't see Elby's (commercial establishments have a nasty habit of changing drastically in 30 years), but there was a Damon's Grill. Oh boy, trivia to go with our dinner. And maybe we could outlast traffic. It was "Bike Night" at Damon's - but that didn't start until 6, so we cruised right in and got our menus and game boxes.

The food was better than expected, based on our experience with the now-defunct Damon's in Baton Rouge. Trivia worked out well to as I now hold the top two places on their top ten for June. Kallie finished a strong second in each game, mostly due to her sitting next to me. A lack of pop culture questions put the girls at a disadvantage. My second score ranked 21st in the country and led Damon's to a 46th place finish.

Back on the road, traffic had more or less cleared out but we were still a long way (more than 150 miles) from Oneida. At the PA/NY border we opened the windows and breathed that great NY air, just as we did when we were kids "driving back home" after we moved from NY to PA. Kallie howled because the open windows put her in a "wind tunnel".

Our next stop was in tiny Marathon, NY (pop 1,107) just south of Cortland, NY. Kay thought it was precious and quaint. It looked pretty threadbare to me. Otherwise, the scenery in northern PA and southern NY was lovely - forested with a slight haze from a abnormally humid day.

We got off I-81 and loop road I-481 south of Syracuse and took the "back roads" the rest of the way, passing through towns I remember as a kid - DeWitt, Fayetteville, Chittenango and Canastota before we arrived in Oneida. Given the loss of population by the region, these little towns looked pretty good, especially Chittenango, which is quite proud of being the birthplace of "Wizard of Oz" author L. Frank Baum. Driving in northern latitudes just a few days after the summer solstice, we were able to make almost the entire trip in daylight, another plus for sightseeing.
There should be plenty to do in this area. We plan to visit the old neighborhood and school today and go to Chittenango Falls State Park, where I remember a rocky creek. Cazenovia Lake, a minor Finger Lake, is also nearby. The real five Finger Lakes are too far away for us to both "sleep in" and be back by 3 p.m. for the Zimmerman picnic on Oneida Lake. Tomorrow we'll check out the local Erie Canal Museum and enjoy hot ham sandwiches at Eddie's Restaurant in Sylvan Beach. I should also be able to show everyone the area where my mom grew up and where my some of my cousins on her side still live.

No comments: