Saratoga Springs to Syracuse – Following the Erie Canal

Riding a motorcycle through upstate New York in late October is a crap shoot when it comes to weather and overall rider comfort. To be sure, I have no issue with weather as I’m fully prepared, especially since I added those heated Gerbing gloves to my arsenal. Fact is, weather and its cloud of undertainty adds a little drama. Not only to the writing here at — but to the adventure. Cold weather is actually more easier to contend with than the blazing heat of African deserts or other equatorial regions. One can always add layers to keep warm, but shedding layers in the heat is a finite proposition.

The only problem with more layers on a motorcycle is mobility. With each added layer riding becomes more clumsy. In extreme temperatures a rider might feel and look like the Michelin man in an effort to tame the chill and wind. Fortunately I have not had to deal with temperatures much below freezing. Though large gloves and a billowing chest of vest and layers tends to make simple stops for fuel or rest more calculated. In either case, the proposition of stopping does tax patience and process. Taming the layers of clothing means taking a logical series of steps — preferably in the right order. With biting wind whipping down my neck and fingers slowly becoming numb, it’s often tempting to just go as fast as possible. But this is where mistakes can happen. Such as fitting the big gloves over hands and fingers before either attaching the wiring harness, or worse, securing the chin strap on your helmet. And don’t even bother trying to use a zipper on pants, jacket, panniers or tank bag. The guy who designs heavy gloves that will allow one to manage a zipper will likely reap many awards and recognition.

The chill set as the sunset outside Saratoga Springs. A warm bed, hearty meal and nice glass of chianti made for the perfect stop, though I knew the following day would be a long and cold one. The motel clerk pointed to the weather map on her television screen as I settled my bill. “Looks like you’re in for a nor’easter,” she cautioned, referring to what is typically a windy and wet storm in the northeast. I shrugged off the travel advisory warning and headed southwest on 147, a small two-lane road that winds just south of the Adirondack Mountains through Gloversville and many smaller towns until I hit Dolgeville when I started south toward Herkimer and the Erie Canal and onward down side roads through Utica, and then south passing by the Oneida castle, through Sullivan and Fayettevile and ultimately arriving in Syracuse in the early afternoon.

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Riding through small towns with classic homes and fall foliage in full bloom.

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The long lonesome roads of upstate New York.

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Along the Hudson River many old plants and mills still dot the landscape.

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The Erie Canal guided my route toward Syracuse.

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Sadly the lighting hasn’t been the greatest for photographs, but the skies certainly evoked drama and curiosity of impending weather.

Still recognizable, but I noticed immediately that Newhouse, the communications school I attended at Syracuse University, had grown and now contained not two, but three buildings: Newhouse I, II and III. When I attended classes here going from Newhouse I to Newhouse II required crossing an often windy, cold and snow or rain plagued patio forcing one two bundle up just for the 50 yard sprint across the patio, only to shed layers of clothing in class on the other side. Today, Newhouse I and II are connected by glass concourse and with the new building, Newhouse III. The campus radio station has been moved and the top floor of Newhouse II now houses dozens of online and offline video and audio editing suites.

Over the last month I have been exchanging e-mail with my former screenwriting and TV/Radio/Film criticism professor Dr. Sharon Hollenback, so I made through hallways, which seemed much more narrow now than they did during my days at SU, until I found her office in Newhouse II. Extremely busy due to mid-term exams and student reviews, I found Sharon wedged into her office surrounded by mountains of papers and books, some of which I was sure were there when I attended school here more than a couple decades prior. Last time I saw Dr. Hollenback was in the summer of 1999 when I made my way through Syracuse en-route to Quebec City in Canada to see Roger Waters perform there in the old city. With a glowing aura of warm energy punctuated by an easy smile, we hugged and agreed to grab dinner the next night. She quickly brought me up to date as to developments at Syracuse, projects she’s involved and those professors still teaching since the days I roamed these halls as a student. She noodled a bunch of phone numbers and e-mail addresses onto a scrap paper before one of her students, who was gracious enough to let me barge in, took the photo you see here. And after I left, I’m sure, sat down with his advisor for sage words of wisdom and encouragement.

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From left to right Newhouse I, II & III

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Syracuse University’s Dr. Sharon Hollenback, one of my favorite professors and who I’ll always return to visit.

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High on the hill is Crouse College home of Syracuse University’s School of Visual and Perfroming Arts and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

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Looking a little eerie just in time for Halloween, the Hall of Languages could stand in for a horror film location on this dreary and moody Syracuse day.

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Hendricks Chapel on Syracuse University’s Quad.

I spent the remainder of the day searching for old professors, while bantering with students in several of the studios and work areas before retiring to a downtown hotel and finding a great BBQ dinner and live music at the ‘infamous’ Dinosaur BBQ.

I was amazed to find, while battling bouts of pouring rain the following day, that the pizza parlor where I purchased and consumed many late night slices was still satisfying the needs of students after all these years. Even better, the guy tossing pizza dough, ladling homemade sauce and layering the cheese on those tasty, if not always healthy, pizzas, is the same familiar face that was serving slices when I studied here. Now 84 years old, George, one of Cosmo’s owners works an easier schedule, pretended to remember me, which is just fine, looks much the same and only moves slightly slower, but still services the slices to a new generation of Syracuse University students.

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Legendary Cosmo’s Pizza Man George, at 84 still spinning and selling the slices.

IMG_0543 - Version 2.jpgThat night after a cozy meal of a local’s favorite chinese with Dr. Hollenback and her husband, Dr. David Hollenback, also a communications professor, we carved halloween pumpkins on the kitchen table of the Hollenback’s classic mid-1800’s home just outside Syracuse. We joked about our obsessions, David’s massive collection of old books, Sharon insists there’s no more room in the house, but Dave keeps finding more, and mine with wine–there’s always that ONE bottle I just must find. During our carving ceremony the Hollenback’s only daughter called from Washington DC to check in with mom & dad, who I’m sure wished she could join us amidst of pumpkin guts and seeds. To be sure, I can’t think of a better way to bond, catch up on life and just connect with old and new friends than while creating your Halloween masterpiece. Can you guess who carved which?

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After working on these pumpkins for about an hour, we had to take the ceremonial photo. Who carved which?

The next morning after Sharon and Dave probed the local farmer’s market, I shared one last meal at a local diner with some of their other friends before making tracks toward Rochester to meet up with Lyn and Art Elting, the owners of Country Rode Motowerks and the hosts of my next Worldrider presentation.

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Rochester bound.

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