Saturday, August 15, 2009

Rochester Ramblings

August 11-12

We are in familiar territory, my hometown, so vacation rules do not apply. We are not seeking out new experiences, but savoring the familiar. So we are at the Super 8 just down the street from Dad's place, where we always stay when we come to visit. If we weren't operating by habit, we might have noticed that there are a couple 1950s style single story motor lodges that look quite tidy right along the same road as our motel. Dad calls them to our attention—they are the kind of independently owned places we have treasured on this journey. Maybe we will be adventuresome and try one when we are back around Thanksgiving.

We start each morning at the café at Wegman's Grocery Store, with lattes and baked goods and the New York Times, which we have missed terribly. If we get there before 9 a.m., there is a good chance they won't have the Times yet. We have always found it puzzling that we can get the New York Times delivered to our front lawn in Savannah, Georgia before 7 a.m., but it is hard to get the Times in Rochester until mid-morning. As we are looking at all the small print to find a phone number to restart our subscription to coincide with our arrival home, I notice that the New York Times we get in Wegman's is printed in Toronto. After our experience with Toronto traffic yesterday, we now understand why it arrives so late in Rochester.

Dick drops me off at Dad and June's, and takes the car to the Lexus dealership. We have an appointment to have our sagging exhaust system fixed. Somewhere along the way, we lost a part that held our exhaust system snug to the bottom of the car, and it has been sagging low ever since. We aren't sure when it happened, but we can think of lots of possible times dating back to early July. We have used our luxury car as an ATV more times than we would care to admit, should any warranty issues arise. We noticed the droop in Michigan, when we needed every inch of clearance we could get to maneuver the logging roads (and drive over the fallen tree). We need another oil change anyway, so the stop at Lexus works out well.

As always, we enjoy our visit with Dad and June. They regale us with stories of their exploits and observations on life at Baywinde, their independent living community. (Discretion prevents us from repeating the stories here—suffice it to say that the plots of the television show "Bay Watch" were tame compared to the reality of senior living at Baywinde.)

After lunch, Dad suggests that Dick and I ride the Irondequoit Lakeshore Trail, a short paved multi-use trail that runs past some of my favorite places from growing up in the Rochester suburb of Irondequoit. We park the car near the trail's start in Seabreeze, a tiny community on a spit of land between Lake Ontario and Irondequoit Bay. Ducks and mute swans hang out by the parking area, expecting to be fed. We are between a marina and a boat launch on the Bay. A cluster of deluxe hot dog stands that have been here as long as I can remember sits along the Bay side of the road, and a line of little cottages lines the Lake Ontario side.

Up the hill, we pass the Seabreeze amusement park, which is surrounded by a wall now, so I can't see much of the rides, but I spy the Jackrabbit roller coaster, still going strong after what must be well over fifty years of service. It is dwarfed now by a newer roller coaster which offers more thrills, as it spins like a cups and saucers ride while it twists and turns on its hilly rails.

The path continues past a miniature golf course that looks just as I remember it from childhood, then enters Durand Eastman Park. There has been a lot of rain here—the woods are verdant green as we swoop through them, and the marsh is thick with cattails as we ride over it on a wide boardwalk. The trail continues along the shore of Lake Ontario, where there are a string of public beaches, all officially closed today, due to heavy rains which have wreaked havoc with the sewer system, causing high levels of bacteria in the water.
As always at times like this, there are many people swimming, wading and jet skiing in the lake, despite the beach closure—they are just doing it in an area not patrolled by life guards. A couple police officers are sitting in their cars near the largest of the unofficial swimming beaches, but they are doing nothing to interfere with the aquatic recreation; we think they are just hanging around to call for help if someone has a problem in the water.

We ride a little bit past the end of the official Trail, so we can stand atop a bridge over the Genesee River, and take a picture of the muddy brown river water meeting the deep blue lake. I can remember the first time I rode over this bridge (actually, this bridge has had a total make-over since then, but the old bridge was in the same spot as this one). On a Girl Scout bicycle outing to Charlotte Beach, the big beach over the bridge, I was afraid to ride over the metal grate bridge. I hung back to the end of the group, and walked my bicycle slowly and carefully, encouraged every step of the way by the Leader. On the way back, I think I rode my bicycle over the bridge—at least that is how I like to remember it.
Today, I ride both ways. No problem.

We reward ourselves at the end of the ride with cups of frozen custard from Abbott's, a local summer tradition from as far back as I remember. My sister and I went to school with Abbott boys, whom everyone knew would grow up to be in the business. Our nephew Vinnie has a summer job at Abbott's—we learn that now the Abbotts have franchised their ice cream stands, so there are lots of owners, not just the Abbott boys. So, I guess this breaks our vacation rule of not eating at franchise food operations, too.

We have dinner with Dad and June at Baywinde. June has a compression fracture in her back, and hasn't been out and about too much lately. It is wonderful to see so many of her friends and neighbors stopping on the way to dinner to tell June how good it is to see her again, asking about her recovery, and wishing her well. This feels like a very warm and supportive community. And, they eat well, too. Every night they serve soup, salad, a big selection of main courses with vegetables, a starch and rolls, followed by dessert. The food is really good. If we lived here, we would have to develop a little will power (and we wouldn't eat frozen custard shortly before dinner, either).

After dinner we visit my sister Marcia and her family, where we always enjoy catching up on what is going on new in their busy lives, and learning what is new in popular culture. This visit we learn about their internet radio, which uses their wi fi router to bring them 16,000 radio stations from around the world. As they search the dial to sample music from other countries, they have found that many stations around the world are playing American music, which is a little disappointing when they are looking for some cultural diversity.

The next morning we ride from the nearby town of Pittsford to Macedon on the Erie Canal Heritage Trail. The trail pretty much parallels the old tow path along the shore of the canal. It is seventy miles in length, and we sample about 15.5 miles of it (round trip, including off-trail diversions = 33 miles). The path is packed gravel and almost absolutely flat, so we have an easy ride. It passes through a couple very quaint port towns which put their best face forward to lure canal boaters to stop awhile.
We pass through some wooded sections where we have to peek through overgrowth to see the canal, and in one segment, our trail is sandwiched between busy railroad tracks and the canal. We watch lots of boats travel by, and think it would be fun to rent a canal boat sometime to combine biking with boating for another great adventure.

We ride to Lock 30, where the chief lock tender is busy painting the metal rails around his lock. His station is spic and span clean and neat, and the metal work gleams in the New York State colors--blue with precisely painted goldenrod trim. He tells us he has been working the locks for thirteen years, ten years at Lock 30. He figures no matter what happens to boat traffic on the canal (and there is very little commercial traffic here anymore), he has job security, because the locks are needed for flood control. While we are chatting, a boat radios him wanting to lock through. We have been through hundreds of locks on Starsong, but appreciate this opportunity to stand on the lock wall watching the big gears at work opening and closing the lock gates and the water valves. We are glad that Homeland Security hasn't gated off the Erie Canal locks from close public access.

On a tip from the lockmaster, we stop at the Macedon Marina on our way back to Pittsford. He told us they made most of the canal boats that are plying the water here, and their boats are well-maintained and dependable. We get information about the boats, tour one, and talk to a family arriving at the dock after spending four days out on what they describe as "one of our best family trips ever." We resolve to rent a canal boat for our own adventure someday.

We lunch at picnic tables along the canal.
The restaurant has white hots, another Rochester tradition, so I can check this delicacy off the list of foods I need to consume before we leave my home town. Yep, it is as good as I remember it; no other hot dog compares.

Our day ends with a family dinner at a terrific Italian restaurant chosen by Marcia's family, who are authentically Italian, and experts in the best Italian cuisine Rochester has to offer. Our two oldest nephews are both working, and June stays home to rest her aching back, but the rest of us enjoy a fine meal and lively conversation. It is good to be together.

No comments:

Post a Comment