It’s Saturday morning and the air is a perfect 75 degrees with a light breeze and puffy clouds. No social commitments on the calendar, no pressing chores…what to do? The day is a blank slate, and I feel a tug to get out of the house. The feeling is wanderlust, so we gas up the car for that summer classic – an impromptu road trip! As my dad used to say, we’re going where the front end the car takes us.
Going way back to our early days of dating, The Husband and I would set out on day trips that took us miles out of town, winding up and down the old routes that crisscross western New York. We would stop at farm stands, little antique shops, barn sales, flea markets, ice cream stands, and explore unknown-to-us one-stoplight towns.
With sunshine streaming through the windshield, and the windows rolled down, we listen to loud 80’s stadium rock, or just the sound of tires on pavement. Yesterday, we set out on an eastbound route to have a late lunch at a fairly authentic Mexican restaurant hidden out in orchard country.
Full on nachos, salsa, and chicken, pork and beef that had been seasoned, slow roasted then simmered in singular sauces, we set out further east. Our smartphone map was a little off, but with the aid of the sun’s position in the sky we navigated our way to Sodus Point. Located on Sodus Bay, a decent-sized bay with an outlet to Lake Ontario, Sodus Point was, for us, a revelation. We slowly drove “the strip,” making mental notes of beaches, break wall, restaurants and “beach house for rent” signs – and vowed to come back.
Since the clock showed we were about 2 hours from dog-walking zero hour, we decided that it was time to point the car west and make our way homeward. A wrong turn took us away from the route that leads to a famed farm market and ice cream stand, but the sun+smartphone navigation system got us back on track. If you want to know where New York state’s apples are grown, we can point the way.
It felt good to get out of town, with no itinerary and just the notion to make it to one destination and see what we can see on the way there and back: Rows upon rows of cultivated fruit trees, vanishing over rolling hills with a backdrop of impossibly-blue sky and impossibly-fluffy clouds, here and there an awe-inspiring windmill.
Tracking along the shoreline of a Great Lake, looking out over the deep blue water and white-capped waves. We also passed the local nuclear power plant…
Houses ranging from dignified, 150 year old farmsteads with lookouts undoubtedly in view of the lake, to famed cobblestone homes, past stunning newer planned estates, and shacks where it’s not clear if the occupant just left for the store, or left for good years ago.
A few summers back, a friend turned to me after church one Sunday morning and said, almost cryptically, that The Husband and I should take a drive out westward along the lake to a little shore town, Olcott Beach, where a band organ rally was taking place. A what??
[A band organ is the type of whimsical machine that produces that self-contained orchestration of music associated with carousels. Only, they don’t have to come attached to a carousel – the band organ might portray an alpine scene or some other historic and geographic oddity. Wurlitzer made these for years not far from Olcott Beach.]
At Olcott Beach we saw nearly two dozen of these band organs, all blaring their compositions on pipes, strings, brass, and drums whirring and beating from the power of a bellows. Some were restored antiques, others were meticulously handmade reproductions. Who knew??
The band organs were spaced just right so that none overpowered the song of another, and were arranged in the park of a grassy bluff overlooking the big lake, under the shade of century-old oak trees.
We ate impossibly large ice cream cones bought at a price we thought lost to the ages. Then we ate an early dinner at a Mexican-Italian restaurant/bar (really). In between we visited the tiniest amusement park we had ever seen.
I played skeeball and The Husband showed his might on an antique coin-operated strength tester in a vintage arcade stocked with mid-century amusements. The carousel and vintage kiddie rides cost only 25 cents per ticket. As The Husband said that day, it was one of our more unusual excursions.
These summer road trips are liberating. The sights, flavors and smells deeply imprint on my memory – so deeply, that I wonder if my subconscious is weaving the plot of a quirky book that will someday bubble to the surface.
Maybe the book will be about a lazy car trip along back roads, past orchards and along lake shores, on a day so temperate that the whole thing might really just be a dream.