Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The New York State Thruway Tour

We have completed the Pittsford-to-Pittsford-to-Pittsford round trip and are back in Pittsford, New York having left Pittsford, Vermont yesterday. Rather than go all the way east to catch the six-lane Northway, we drove the back roads through Saratoga Springs and Ballston Spa for a while and seemed to make better time by cutting off a fair number of miles.

An interesting thing happened in Ballston Spa. I knew I should take Route 67 but when we came upon the intersection I wasn't sure in which direction. Navigator LK, who had been through this town once before coming from the other direction, said to go right. I didn't go that way.

Of course, when I pulled into a service station to find out which way to go, LK was proved correct. As we backtracked, I told her that she had my full permission to make navigational choices when we are driving. I told her if I debated the decision in any way, she was to say, "Donald, when we were in Ballston Spa, you told me to remind you that I am always right about these things."

In an unexpected moment of modesty, LK responded that she wasn't always right but she did happen to remember going down this street the other time we went through.

The four-hour trip on the New York State Thruway is like a quick tour of Europe without any of the old buildings or charming sites. In the case of Amsterdam, where we entered the Thruway, it was very disappointing not to be able to order marijuana brownies at the Starbucks. Realizing that these places were similar in name only, we whizzed past exits for Rome, Danube, Frankfort, Syracuse, Liverpool, Geneva, Lyons and Palmyra.

Since these places in New York are not even geographically much like their European counterparts, it is pretty easy to guess that the folks who named them either came from those places or had taken a really memorable holiday there back in the late 18th Century. (In the case of Syracuse, it must have been a package holiday tour, because when they named it they first applied for Corinth which was rejected because some other place in New York had already grabbed that bit of Olde Europa.)

And there are plenty of traces of some ancient history and classics buffs wandering across New York giving places names that sound pretentious enough to belong to be on an Ivy League university campus - Homer, Ilion, Minoa, Seneca, Tyre, Camillus, Manlius and Junius.

Mind you, not every place name is snooty, as we also passed on the opportunity to stop off and check out such places as Little Falls, Jacks Reef, Root, Weedsport and Wampsville. At least those seem to have been named in an attempt to describe the place itself, although I am not exactly sure what a Wamp is.

But the drive across the state makes it pretty clear that when it came to naming places, most of the early New Yorkers either added the word "New" to some European place or just skipped the "New" and gave it the same name. So it is no surprise to discover that Pittsford, New York was named by a guy from Pittsford, Vermont. But that was talked about in an earlier post.

Our micro-European vacation across New York State ended at the Thruway stop for Victor. This is the town where the mall with the Apple store is located. And we had made the trek across New York because we had an appointment at the Genius Bar to get our MacBooks back up and running.

LK had never exited the Thruway at this stop, but agreed it made sense to get off here rather than shoot past the mall and backtrack. Despite growing up just a few miles away, she had no memory of ever having been in Victor. And it became clear pretty quickly that we were doing the equivalent of driving around aimlessly hoping we either A) stumbled upon the mall or B) saw a big sign "Mall This Way, Dummies". Neither happened.

As we continued on our way I saw three road signs. One was to continue on the road we were on. One went to the tollbooths of the New York State Thruway, and the third was onto a highway that I knew would at least take us to Bushnells Basin, familiar territory and from which we could find our way to the mall.

LK suggested I just stay on the road we were on. "I'm pretty sure this will take us to the mall," she said. Have you ever been here before, I asked. When she said no, I made an executive decision. I had been driving six hours and didn't feel like taking the chance of wandering for another hour, so I got on the highway to Bushnells Basin.

LK sighed and said, "We're going to go right past the mall on this road. In fact, look, there it is." And, despite my best effort to convince her it was another mall, She-Who-Knows-Shopping would not be wrong this time. Of course the nearest exit was at Bushnells Basin and we sped well past the mall. I won't even discuss the brief detour onto an old rest stop in the vain hope there was some connecting road to the mall. Let's just say when the sign says "No Trespassing by Order of NY State" you're pretty sure this isn't Alternate Exit 3B.

When we got off, we headed back to the mall. I couldn't help myself as I pointed out that it was in fact on the route we had been driving on before I got on the highway. So, yes, LK was in fact correct when she said to stay on it. But I do blame her in this instance. After all, I had told she should say, "Donald, when we were in Ballston Spa, you told me to remind you that I am always right about these things." But she didn't remind me, and I made the wrong choice.

At the mall we went to the Apple store with our laptops. But that's for the next post. But here are a few previews:


LK: "I think I am about to go postal."
Apple guy: "Oh, this is embarrassing . . ."
DK: "Trust me, it wasn't this way before."

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