Monday, September 28, 2009

Far Above Cayuga's Waters

We are at the Wal-Mart in Ithaca, New York (map). It was raining when we arrived, and is raining again now.

Before I go any further, seeing as our bus is named Odyssey and this web site is "Our Odyssey," I want to hasten to point out that, just because we have reached Ithaca, our journey is most decidedly not over, and we will continue on from here, heeding, if you will excuse the allusion, the siren call of the road. In the words of Greek poet Constantine P Cavafy,
As you set out for Ithaca, ask that your way be long, full of adventure, full of instruction. The Laistrygonians and the Cyclops, angry Poseidon - do not fear them: such as these you will never find as long as your thought is lofty, as long as a rare emotion touch your spirit and your body. ... Ask that your way be long. At many a Summer dawn to enter with what gratitude, what joy - ports seen for the first time; ... to visit many ... cities, to gather stores of knowledge from the learned. ... But don't in the least hurry the journey. Better it last for years, so that when you [arrive] you are old, rich with all you have gained on the way
That said, it is therefore fitting, perhaps mandatory, that a bus named Odyssey should visit Ithaca, and Cavafy's poem was even a reading at our wedding. Of course, Louise is also a Cornell alumna, and so naturally we were going to make the ~130 mile detour here from our route along the Great Lakes for a visit.

We had a thankfully overpass-free drive yesterday along Lake Shore Drive from Webster all the way to Sodus Point on the northwest edge of Sodus Bay. NY-14 then took us south along the bay, a lovely drive, and nearly all the way to Geneva on Seneca Lake. Just south of the Thruway (I-90), we turned east on NY-96, which turns south at Waterloo and heads right between Seneca and Cayuga lakes, the two largest Finger Lakes. At Ovid we again turned east, until we hit Cayuga's western shore, where NY-89 brought us south past Taughannock Falls and into Ithaca.

We had briefly toyed with the notion of camping at the falls, where there is a state park. But the reason for our visit was to ride around town, with Louise showing me the campus and her old haunts, and seeing what's changed in a quarter century, and the Wal-Mart is certainly more convenient for that, especially considering the crappy weather. Incidentally, when I observed it would be raining for most of our visit, Louise informed me that bad weather is routine, and is known locally as "Ithacating."

Eventually the rain let up enough yesterday afternoon for us to pull the scooters out, and we set out on what ended up being a good two hours of just riding around town and campus. Louise pointed out several of the places she lived during her four years here, and we even visited the Beta Theta Pi fraternity house where she ended up spending a great deal of her free time (our current circle of close friends includes several Betas, including the dads of three girls who call us aunt and uncle). The Cornell chapter was on the brink of extinction last year, and it was good to see they are coming back, and managed to save the house. Photos on the wall also confirmed our friends once had hair -- really bad, 80's hair.

We had dinner at one of only a small handful of establishments still in business two and a half decades later, The Nines Pizza. Deep dish there was as good as she remembered, if twice as expensive, and even to my eye, the place is unchanged in that time. Of course, they're not selling pitchers of beer to underclassmen any longer, but don't get me started on that.

I have to say, I really enjoyed the tour of the Cornell campus. Even never having been there, the place was oddly familiar, between all the stories I've heard, and just the fact that institutions of higher learning everywhere have, despite all their differences, a sort of sameness to them, and I've spent more than 20% of my life among three of them. Incidentally, the title of today's post is indisputably the first line of a song. What the second line is depends on whether you went to Cornell or one of its rivals, Ivy League or otherwise. I went to Stevens Tech and my folks went to NYU, so the next word I learned was "comes" -- there is apparently a version where the next word is "with."

The weather managed to clear up for most of our ride yesterday evening, and is even clearing up again now. I think we've seen most of what we came to see, though, and we will likely move along from here just as soon as Louise finishes the conference call she is on right now. The current plan is to head back up towards Lake Ontario, and continue a process we started five years ago of driving along the outermost routes of the continental US. At this writing, the only sections we've missed are the northernmost edge of New York and New England, and the New England coast.


  1. I'll never forget a business trip about 25 years ago to Seneca Falls where our company was installing a new telephone system in the small telco there. My boss and I had lunch in the local restaurant/bar where each customer rang up his own tab behind the bar at the old cash register! What a hoot! I really want to get back there before I'm too old to enjoy it.

  2. Thanks for the link to Webster Park, Our daughter goes to RIT in Rochester and we have been looking for a place for our motorhome, I did tow a load of furniture up there and spend a couple of nights in a campus parking lot.
    You should enjoy the seaway and the thousand islands area we live in Connecticut and go up there all the time and stay in varous state campgrounds.

  3. Glad to see you heading towards New England! Fall colors are starting to turn 'As we speak" Starting in the northern regions and working down south. Looks to be a wet fall.

    Concord, NH

  4. Hi Kids!

    I just have to pipe up here, since you're in our "neck of the woods" so to speak, even though our house is in Burlington, Ontario, (um, Canada) for a couple years we also kept an apartment in Horseheads, N.Y., and it looks like you're just up the street from the VW dealer where we used to take the Jetta for an oil change. (also a diesel and yes, getting fuel can be a challenge)
    I've always loved the countryside in and around the fingers lakes. Hope you have a fabulous time.
    Although Watkins Glen is now more or less behind you, it would be a place I'd recommend. There was RV parking at the lower end of the falls. For what it's worth.
    Best to you both.



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