We pulled the car off on the side of the road and waited for a few more to pass, then I jumped in front of the road sign that read ‘Napoli’. “Hurry up! There are more coming!” I yelled as Diego tried to snap a pic with my phone. Before we got back on the road I consulted the map. “So where to next? If we go toward the lake we will hit Sunset Beach by 3.”
Did you know there are over 100 cities and towns in New York State named after famous places? Diego and I set out to visit all of them a couple of years ago. It started out innocently enough. We were driving around one day and somehow got on the topic of how many places in Upstate New York were named after other places and we decided we had to check them out for ourselves. In an earlier blog I wrote about how this kid had me on a whirlwind 24 hour tour of New Jersey so we could visit his two favorite restaurants, Cheeburger Cheeburger and Quaker Steak and Lube (the locations in our area had shut down, so he was jonesin’.)
So, we went old school and bought a New York State road atlas, started plotting out prospective trips by highlighting all the names we recognized, then began plotting them all on grids by geographic location The harder part was finding time to do all this exploring, with Diego still in high school, and, well, retail.
But we found a sliver of time and we set out Easter Sunday with a basket full of jelly beans and peeps and chocolate bunnies, towards the farthermost western part of the state, Buffalo. We got to the New York-Pennsylvania border of the Thruway and exited to head south, and came across Dunkirk. I didn’t even realize it should be on the list but Diego mentioned the famous WWII battle and how the movie had just come out. So there it was, our first checkmark. We hit several others places before ending up in Jamestown, birthplace of Lucille Ball (Diego claims not to know who she was, but he also says that about the Beatles so I just don’t know.) Most of the towns were shut down because of the holiday, which was too bad because there were some great BBQ places we might have enjoyed. We drove through Barcelona, Salamanca (where a college roommate spent a semester), Westfield (Massachusetts, where I worked for two years after grad school), Portland, Panama, Ashville, Sunset Beach (North Carolina, where I used to go on spring break with Diego’s family years ago), Napoli, and Cuba.
Then there was our trip on Veteran’s Day weekend. By this time Diego had turned 16 and had his permit so I let him drive for the whole trip, though all sorts of terrain: highway, dirt roads full of potholes, country routes, and city streets. It was only a day trip but we still managed to get to several places: Mexico, Texas, Phoenix, Peru, Memphis, Jordan, Belgium, Liverpool, Palermo, and of course Syracuse. We also took a detour to Rainbow Shores, a hotel where my dad and I lived one summer while I was in college, in an apartment over the laundry room. It’s right on Lake Ontario, with the most gorgeous vista every single morning, rain or shine. He indulged me while we walked around the abandoned grounds and I showed him the apartment where we lived, and the cabins where we vacationed during subsequent summers.
Future trip plans got derailed as Diego’s permit became a driver’s license and high school shenanigans became more fun than road trips with Aunt Buddy. So as you may have guessed, we have not hit all the places, or even the top 100. We hit 21 during 2017. 2018 was a wash and now next week the kid is leaving for college. At dinner tonight we talked about taking a day trip sometime this fall where we can hit some of the places in the Eastern part of the state, near where he is attending school. We will be lucky if we hit another 10. The good news is that he and I love to spend time together and don’t mind driving for hours as long as there’s a hotel with good cable at the end of the day, and perhaps a fun restaurant. He’s already trying to figure out how to fit another Quaker Steak and Lube visit in.