We arrived in Syracuse via Cleveland (where our plane was so tiny we got to walk on the tarmac!) around 12:30, got our car (a Kia Soul called ‘Scar’, according to the keytag), and drove to Armory Square for lunch at Empire Brewing. I had empanadas, poutine, and we split the beer sampler. Win.
We saw a bit of downtown, then drove to see the university and stop at the bookstore for souvenirs. Bally got himself a new orange friend named Otto! (Yes, I did decide to like Syracuse basketball a few years ago primarily because of the color.)
We headed east on US 20 toward Hamilton, home of Colgate University. Matt was going there for work; they have a yearly conference in the area, and he teaches a seminar about technology. We got our room at the Wendt University Inn (one of two hotels in town), met a couple of his coworkers from Boston, then drove the mile into Hamilton to find food. We ended up at a little tapas place that had weak margaritas, but awesome food.
We didn’t have cell signals the entire time we were in Hamilton. That was kind of mindblowing, considering we don’t even have that problem anymore in Matt’s hometown! It was really disconcerting to feel so disconnected.
Around 6:30, we went over to Reid Athletic Center at the university to see Colgate vs Brown!
We’d looked into tickets a few months ago and figured we could risk buying at the door, but didn’t realize how far off our expectations were. First of all, we were able to park in a lot right next to the rink, for free. Tickets cost $6 (or $12 if you wanted a reserved seat with a back). There were maybe 500 fans there. We sat in the front row. I couldn’t believe that these were teams on the same level (in the NCAA, at least) as the ones we’re used to seeing here. It was fantastic, and made me appreciate the Mariucci experience a lot. I’ll try not to complain too much when we have 8,000 fans in the building instead of a capacity crowd.
We got to see a penalty shot, too!
After the game, we went to a couple of bars in town. At that point, it was very hard to differentiate upstate from Wisconsin (in all the good ways).
We got up bright and painfully early the next day (6:30 on a Saturday? Ow.), checked out, and I dropped Matt off at Colgate. Due to the lack of signal, we had to revert to the olden days form of communication: “I’ll meet you here at 3pm. If I’m not here… well, maybe assume I’m dead, because there’s no way to get a hold of me.”
I got back on highway 20 and headed toward my 48th state, Vermont! There were 90 miles of small towns before I got to Albany, and I was nervous the entire time due to my lack of signal and very few cars around me. I decided that even though it’d be slightly farther, I was taking the interstate back.
The area east of Albany is gorgeous, and I reached Vermont around 10am. My first stop was at the tallest structure in the state, Bennington Monument:
I drove around town a little, then stopped at the general store for my obligatory Vermont souvenirs. The place was exactly as hippie-esque as I was hoping. Also, the lady behind the counter demanded that I stop in at the Crazy Russian Girls Bakery across the street before I left, so I picked up an awesome scone for myself, and a cookie to bring back to Matt. Then I was back on my way to New York!
I got into Utica before 2pm, so I had some time to kill before going back to Hamilton. I decided to find a liquor store and pick up some local beer for the evening. The first one Google sent me to was closed (what??) , so I found another one nearby. Upon walking in, though, I realized that they didn’t sell beer, just wine and liquor. I asked the guys at the counter what was up, and they said they weren’t allowed to sell beer. Most groceries had it, but the cheapest could be found at Rite Aid. I headed there instead.
Rite Aid had the cheapest, for sure: Bud Light, Coors, and Milwaukee’s Best. Not exactly what I was hoping for. I thought the booze laws in Minnesota were strange!
I drove back to Hamilton, took some pictures around town and on campus, then parked and waiting for Matt. He arrived right on time, and I went in to help him pack up. What I learned while there is that his coworkers adore him. And why wouldn’t they? They’re obviously smart people.
We packed up and headed to Oneida in search of food, but there was little to be found there. We decided to go check in and find something at our hotel instead. On the way, we stopped at a grocery store to examine the beer situation, and were delighted to find a sampler pack of Saranac there.
We were staying at Vernon Downs, a casino and harness racing track near Utica. I knew it would be entertaining, but it was even better than we’d hoped. We had a quick dinner at the buffet, then went to play video poker (they don’t have tables there). I tripled my money very quickly, which has never happened to me on those machines before. We then hopped the shuttle to the racetrack, where they were giving out free tshirts since it was the last racing of the season. Over the course of a couple hours, I won $90 on horses, too. I loved it.
We went back to the hotel, laid on our bed drinking beers and watching the racing (we overlooked the track), then returned to the casino to watch the cover band, which was being cheered on by a large group of Canadians and the Elvis impersonator who’s performing Thanksgiving weekend. Amazing.
Sunday morning, we got up at 8 and drove to Cooperstown, about 70 miles away. I’d been there as a kid, and had since forgotten how cute the town is. We had a quick breakfast at the Cooperstown diner (where the locals were all arguing about the merits of small town vs city), then went over to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
My favorite thing at the hall of fame? Joe Mauer’s sideburns!
We had to tour the museum pretty quickly because we only had a couple of hours there, but we made the most of it. The Twins displays were the best, of course. We’ll have to go back when they induct Bert Blyleven and add Target Field to the stadiums exhibit!
We did some souvenir shopping in Cooperstown, then got back on the road to Syracuse. (In case you’re considering following Google’s directions and avoiding the tollway, don’t: it’s way faster.) We arrived in town around 3pm, and headed back to Armory Square for lunch. The place we’d chosen was closed, so we ended up at Empire Brewing again. It was hard to be too sad about that.
After lunch, we drove to the airport and dropped the car off. We had flights on a couple tiny Continental Express jets again, which were fantastic. I really hope they can maintain that awesomeness after the United merger.
Since this conference happens yearly, it’s entirely likely we’ll be going back next year. I didn’t think I’d be very excited to return to upstate, but now I’m looking forward to it!
(The entire photoset is here on Flickr.)