Having grown somewhat weary of sleeping in tents beneath rain showers, we arose Tuesday in good spirits after an overnight stay at the Econo Lodge in Ithaca. This was the beginning of what will surely prove to be a long relationship with William Shatner and Priceline, whose assistance landed us a better-than-decent, two-bed room for about $45. Still more expensive than camping, but certainly more comfortable, given the rainy weather we’d been experiencing. Our (my, as the driver) first move was a mandatory trip to nearby Cornell University. The deadhead in me would not allow a visit to Ithaca to transpire without at least a snapshot at historic Barton Hall, site of one ever-so-famous Grateful Dead concert back on May 8, 1977. Give it a listen, the Scarlet Begonias will make your teeth chatter. Venturing further southwest brought us to Corning, where our appetites called out to us and led us to an unassuming little spot called DeClemente’s. There wasn’t much of a crowd, and Joey wanted to shoot for a $20 lunch between the three of us. It came out a little over, with splendid results. I got some sort of corned beef and pastrami masterpiece, as did Sarah, and Joey had a bowl of hearty tomato soup. As it happens, this region is responsible for the creation of Thousand Island dressing, which graced the bread on my sandwich and made me smile all throughout the meal. Smart people, these New Yorkers. All lunched up and ready to go, we bopped a few blocks over to what sounded like an extremely intriguing attraction, the Corning Museum of Glass. Joey came along, of course, but was noticeably indifferent, expecting some hole in the wall, family-owned museum the size of a dining room. That is, until I mentioned that this is the largest glass museum in the world.
Boy howdy. This was no hole in the wall. This museum was brilliant, spacious, and seemed to go on forever. A gift shop like none I’ve ever seen before gave way to an endless exhibit space, winding through rooms and around a tremendous hallway filled with contemporary works, as well as glass specimens from all over the world and hundreds, even thousands of years old - most of which were in remarkably good condition, given their age.
Let me say, some of the most wildly colorful, intricate and absorbing artwork I’ve ever seen lay between these walls. Click on the photos below to see some of what we saw – as you can tell, this was one terrifically photogenic museum.
After we’d explored the stationary exhibits, we wandered into a seating area, where a group of visitors had collected to watch a live glass blowing demonstration.
One guy did most of the work, carefully heating and shaping the molten glass while another fellow talked the audience through the process. A few well-placed cameras gave us views from within the oven and overhead, and when the duo had completed their impressive glass receptacle, they (cautiously) smashed it to be reused in the next demonstration. Pretty cool stuff.
After we explored the rest of the building exhaustively, we walked out the door and weren’t quite sure what to do. That was a tough act to follow. But after a short spell of brainstorming, we decided that the best use of our time would be in wine country. In a post-“Sideways” society, Napa and Sonoma Valleys have moved to the forefront of commonly recognizable wine-producing regions of America. But as I’ve recently learned, dozens of wineries await eagerly along the banks of the Finger Lakes. Today we found ourselves near beautiful Seneca Lake (shown here), so we looked up the closest to our present location and made tracks. Our timing offered us a minimal amount of time to devote to the upstate New York wineries on this particular day, arriving at the Castel Grisch winery at about 4:15. We went in and enjoyed wine flights for $1 a pop, tying ourselves up until almost 5:00, which is closing time for most wineries around here. But our server informed us of a few places up the lake that stay open slightly later, so it was onward and northward for us. We bopped up to Glenora Wine Cellars, wherein the staff informed us that their tastings would go on for several more hours that night. I must admit, I’ve never been too much of a wine guy, due in part to a nasty case of acid reflux disease. Wine (especially dry) leaves me with some godawful heartburn almost without fail. So I concentrated on samples of sweeter wines, which I was quickly able to identify based on each wine’s percentage of residual sugars (%RS). Just as beers are measured in IBUs (International Bitterness Units), dry wines like Cab Sav or Chardonnay usually register in the %0-%2RS, and sweeter wines like Riesling or Gewurztraminer end up higher. Try to say it three times fast – Gewurztraminer.
As we left, Joey got off his cell phone with the news that our good friend Bill (Dolla Bill, to his friends) was expecting our arrival at his house, and that his family would be serving us steak, baby back ribs and chicken – if that was okay (!). Of course it was more than okay, so we drove south to Sayre, Pa., just minutes past the N.Y. border.
Here’s Bill. Bill was our fellow collegian at Susquehanna, two years behind us but light years ahead of most anybody I know. Just that day, Bill had nailed a job interview and secured himself some gainful employment, having just graduated a few weeks before. And even better, he’s getting featured on America in 100 Days. What a lucky guy.
... Aaand here's a shot of one of the most satisfying meals I've ever eaten in my life. Bill's parents cooked up a storm and ate with us on the deck, watching as I gradually slipped into a state of food-induced lethargy.
We digested as we sat around an artfully crafted fire in Bill's backyard, enjoying the night and talking about college. Bill's lovely lady friend, Emily, joined us for a spell before we called it a night, sleeping snugly on fold-out couches.
Thanks to Bill and his family, and frankly, to everyone else along the way who contributed to our enjoying such a fantastic day. How much more of this can we handle?