To Ithaca

Cayuga Lake

Just returned from the annual writers’ weekend with my friend Betsy McMillan. As a change of pace from Williamsport, we decided to meet in Ithaca, New York on Friday. It was for the most part an improvement.

Waze helped me escape the worst road construction, except around Waterbury, which remains stuck in permanent gridlock regardless of time of day or day of week.

The route took me through one-intersection towns, into the Catskills, and past miles and miles and miles of farmland, mostly growing corn.

Some of these places have wrecks of barns that would make a great photo collection. In a couple of places I drove parallel to streams strewn with small- to medium-sized stones that reminded me of the approach to Lake Placid. The water level testifies to the drought that has been plaguing the Northeast, along with good chunks of the rest of the country.

The Catskills are of course baby versions of the Placid’s Adirondacks , but there were still places where tractor trailers crawled in the right lane, flashers blinking. Even sedans faced a challenge. Once I left the interstate, I encountered an oncoming car maybe every twenty minutes with none visible ahead or behind. A little unnerving for someone used to speed demons or endless delays.

As I crossed the Susquehanna, I realized I had traversed it in  Williamsport. It’s a whole lot skinnier in the northern reaches.

I staggered into the hotel – having taken two breaks but not long enough to keep my leg muscles from screaming. The pain dissipated by the next day.

We ate lunch at Sumo, a Japanese restaurant across the street from the hotel. It’s wedged in a strip mall with a party store, True Value and Rite-Aid. Excellent sashimi with the usual plus shrimp and two slices of a mystery vegetable, perhaps Kiiro Ninjin.

Then we began work – Betsy’s editing project and my fits and starts for a new book.

We broke for dinner, since I still had a food deficit. We found our way to Maxie’s Supper Club, a Creole-style place. It occurred to me as we were looking for restaurants that Ithaca is a serious college town and thus offers terrific variety.

Maxie’s proved excellent if loud. It was far from traditional, though, as the accompaniments to my blackened catfish included red beans and collards sans pork. The fish could have used more kick, but that’s what one gets for eating bayou food in New York. Appetizer was two small, briny, excellent Cotuit oysters. Betsy loved the corn bread and was thrilled when the waiter brought her a full basket to go.

The one downside to this new venue was the hotel, a Ramada Inn. It hadn’t been renovated since the Middle Ages. The power strip was well hidden, The Wi-Fi was low speed, not high. The exercise equipment needed replacement even more than the rest of the place. I couldn’t get the shower to stop dumping most of the water into the tub. Betsy couldn’t turn off the cold water. Lumpy floors under the hallway carpeting kept everyone on their toes, sometimes literally.

I woke up every few minutes because the compressor on the air conditioner groaned every time it kicked in.

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