Daytripping to Ithaca, NY

We, in NEPA, live about 110 minutes away from Middle Earth. If you like taking walks in amazing places, you should visit Ithaca.
Aside from seeing some of the coolest gorges in the country, this college town (Cornell, Ithaca College) has been dubbed “The smartest town in America.”
As I noted in my “Seneca Lake” entry, my husband and I visit the Finger Lake area frequently. About every few weeks, in fact. My youngest daughter just started at Syracuse in August, so we now have even more reasons to go upstate. We love life in upstate New York! Often, when we visit Seneca Lake, we go up the west side of the lake on Rt 14, then come down the east side of the lake on 96 and follow 96 to 89 to finish our day in Ithaca before we head home.
The easiest route directly to the Commons is 81 North to Exit 8 in NY: Whitney Point. Make a right off of the exit, and a left at the traffic light. Follow Rt 79 straight until you get into Ithaca, then go straight until you can’t go straight anymore! Look ahead-welcome to Ithaca Commons! If you make a right right here (N. Aurora St.), in the next block, you’ll see a parking garage on your left with a Black Eyed Susan mural on it-you can park in here for free on weekends. And you should. You should check out the commons-especially American Crafts, The Moosewood Restaurant, The Mahogany Grill, Viva Taqueria, and Mockingbird Papierie. I adore these places! GPS: Ithaca Commons.
But, when I go and take people, we arrive early and I usually go directly to Ithaca Falls. Follow this street (N. Aurora St) past the garage for several blocks to the end at E. Lincoln Ave., make a right and go to the end, and make a left and park to check out Ithaca Falls. GPS: Ithaca Falls. (It was a little dark and chilly this day below in early spring, but the Falls were insane!)

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Depending on your interests/hobbies, you can opt to check out the Ithaca Community Garden and the Farmers Market. If you like these in general, Ithaca’s are very fun! You can follow E. Lincoln Ave back out of the Ithaca Falls area and head to the traffic light, make a left on Rts 34 & 13, and the upcoming signs will direct you to make a right at 3rd St. into this area after a few blocks. GPS: Ithaca Farmers Market.

Once you’re finished there, you can come back out and make a right on Rt 34 & 13, follow it to W. Buffalo St, make another right then follow signs for Rt 89. Cayuga Lake is on your right-gorgeous. In about 8 miles, you’ll enter the Taughannock State Park area (locals pronounce this toh-gan-ah). Follow 89 just past this area and make a left at the “Falls Overlook” sign. This is Taughannock Falls. There are seasonal public restrooms here. GPS: Taughannock Falls.

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When you are finished here, maybe you’d like to hit a few wineries! Make a left back onto 89. Americana and Lucas Wineries are not far up the road. If you’re hungry AND thirsty, I recommend The Boatyard Grill for lunch. You can make a right turn on 89 instead, and head back down towards town. Once you go over the bridge, it’s your first left. Ask to sit outside next to the water and order the Buffalo Chicken Eggrolls appetizer! I really like this place-my husband and I have enjoyed just about everything we’ve tried on this menu, but I’ll warn that the crab cakes are kind of weak. Don’t bother.

Our next stop when we’re taking people is usually the Robert Treman State Park. Specifically: Lucifer Falls (i.e. Middle Earth). When you leave Boatyard, make a left onto 89, make your next right, then another next right then a left onto Rt 13A. You’ll see the river outlet flowing to your left while you travel on this road. Follow 13A to the end and make a right onto Rts 13/34/96. Just before you get to the end of 13A, you’ll see the Ithaca Beer Company on your right. If you like Flower Power, this is where it’s made. They have some darker beers, too and a pretty good burger menu in addition to taproom/brewery tours and tastings if you’re interested.
If you don’t want to make that stop, simply proceed to the traffic light and make that right. GPS: Robert Treman State Park.
Watch for signs to the state park, make the right then bypass the park entrance and follow the signs for Lucifer Falls. The signs are a bit nebulous on this winding, long, uphill road (you *are* traveling to middle earth, you know) but eventually, you’ll see a sign that reads “to park” and it will direct you to make a left. Parking your vehicle costs $8, but that ticket is good for all parks for 24 hours so you only pay it once per day. There are seasonal public restrooms here. Follow signs past the parking lot to the lower rim/falls trails and you’ll begin your journey into middle earth. Wear good shoes. Lots of steps down while walking in, and you have to climb them all to get back out. It is often wet/misty and slippery. Take your time and enjoy this amazing place. This particular view upon turning the corner to enter the gorge made my daughter cry the first time we visited because “it’s so beautiful!” The second photo below is the first sight you see as you enter the gorge…

There isn’t much more beyond the point at which you’re looking at the still water straight down 150 feet under Lucifer Falls, so you can start heading back up. Slowly, carefully! Once back on your car, drive back to Rts 13/34/96 and make a left. In about 3-5 mins, you’ll see a walkover bridge in front of you. The next right after that bridge is Buttermilk Falls. There are seasonal public restrooms here. And you’ve already paid to park, so show the attendant your receipt and find a spot. There is no hiking necessary here-the Falls are visible from the driveway into the park. GPS: Buttermilk Falls.

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Now is usually when we decide if we want to go home or go grab something to eat/shop on the commons. GPS: Ithaca Commons. Once you get to the commons, you can jump back on 79 and head home, or park and stay. There are lots of things to do I haven’t mentioned : a science center, great colleges to tour, lots of community events, etc. Plan a day and do it exactly the way you want to do it, but get to Ithaca before the winter. It’s amazing. Have fun!!

 

 

 

 

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ENS: Empty Nest Syndrome. 


I suspect this blog entry will read like a journal because I think writing will be how I process what I’m feeling as my kids prepare to leave for college. Each year I’ve sent my kids away to school has been difficult. Yes, it’s what I raised them to do, but it doesn’t make this month any easier. 

This year is a little different because all three of my kids (of 3) are leaving to go to school. I’m facing my first ever EMPTY NEST. 

Oh, this term. 

During my first pregnancy, which, incidentally, I remember like it was yesterday, I had a surge of restlessness in my third trimester. It was NESTING. I FEATHERED MY NEST immediately with all of the gigantic things a teeny newborn might need: a crib, a bassinet, a pack-n-play, a swing, high chairs, infant carriers for every person who might possibly ever transport my child, car seats for all those same people, diapers, burpcloths, so SO many clothes. I guess I should be grateful I delivered him in 1995, because that list of “feathers” was much shorter than new mothers believe it has to be now. 

This year, that same child will (God willing) graduate from college, and his plan is to drop himself right into an area where he can use his major (Theatre.) So, in addition to the great tragedy that is my imminent empty nest, I’m feeling the pressure of my last summer with all 3 of my kids living here with me. Unless Northeast Pennsylvania launches itself into some amazing movie deals and wants to exclusively cast locals for our authentic pronunciation of “cup of coffee” or “Throop,” I’ll assume my oldest son will not come home next summer. 

My husband, the kids’ stepdad, has been very supportive this summer and is mostly leaving me alone about how I feel. But he posed this question when I wondered what I’d do with myself when they left : “What did you do before you had kids?” 

The answer is: I really don’t know. I was pregnant when I was 22 years old and I was in my last year of college as a full time nursing major. During my very last final exam, I started bleeding, and was on bed rest for the remainder of my pregnancy. I missed graduation, I missed my nursing pinning ceremony, etc. I was isolated and in bed. I was 23 when I delivered my oldest, and grew up very quickly as I was suddenly a new mom and an RN-responsible for a lot of human lives. I really never was an adult without being someone’s mom. Ever. I don’t know if I know how.

I’m about 2 days away from my oldest moving in early to his apartment on campus in Philly. He will move Saturday, August 19th, my youngest daughter will move Wednesday August 23rd, and my middlest will move the 29th. 10 life changing days for all of us.

I’m sure I’ll write again after the moves are over. To all of the moms facing their first empty nest: where should we hold the support group meeting? The gym? (Nah) The bar? (Woo!) Or are we all going to spend our time getting doctorates or running for office? I’m game for anything! Just give me a month to regroup and compose myself. 

Healthcare: Go big or go home

It blows my mind that there are people who make a living in the field of healthcare who believe receiving care is not a basic human right. It’s simply another way of saying that some people don’t deserve healthcare.

I have questions for these people: What are you doing in this field? How do you decide for whom you will go the extra mile? Do your beliefs affect how you deliver care? If your answer is “no,” how can they NOT affect the quality of your care? And the question I have to ask myself is this one: do I really want you on my team?

My short answer to this question for myself is NO. I cannot see any room on my team for anyone who believes that only certain folks deserve good healthcare. Whatever your reasons are, it’s not a belief system that I can work with.

If I cannot trust that a colleague is giving his/her best efforts to every single patient every single time, then that colleague is my liability, my weak link. You cannot devote your life to the higher calling of caring for sick people by defining those who will receive more of less of your care. If you’re not “all in,” please don’t waste my time.

Nashville, November 2016

NEPA Blog of the WEEK!! you say?  Wow! Thank you! 
     Music has always filled our home. Often it’s much to my dismay, but our home is a loud one thanks to my “house band.” My husband, Jeff, plays everything and has rooms full of recording equipment, drum kits, guitars, etc., has written hundreds of songs and possesses lots of music in various formats. My oldest, Teagan, also plays everything and has a budding career as your upcoming favorite local musician, or he’ll be world famous-you just never know. My middlest, Brody, started to learn, but has too much of his mother in him-his onstage presence was abrupted by my genes which prevented any music from being easy for him. And then there’s my youngest.  Last but not least, my daughter, Mollie, has been writing and performing since she was 10 years old. 


     Today’s blogpost will be about how my seventeen year old daughter brokered her own opportunity to record an EP in a world famous, Grammy Award winning recording studio in Nashville. Taylor Swift’s first album was recorded by Jamie Tate of The Rukkus Room, and now, Mollie Edsell’s will have been as well. She reached out to Jamie, listened to his advice, wrote, recorded, submitted her songs to him for feedback, scheduled phone calls with him, edited songs, and finally reserved studio time in Nashville. By herself. Then it was up to her stepdad and me to try to make the rest happen for her. 


     We treated it like a family vacation. We were missing our sons, but they were at school, and that made us feel slightly less guilty. We flew down the Saturday before Election Day 2016, and stayed in the Opryland area for a lot less money than attempting to be downtown. Our hotel was one minute from the interstates that took us downtown quickly, about 4 minutes from The Grand Ole Opry and Opryland Mall, 3 minutes from The Willie Nelson General Store and “Cooters Museum” and lots of restaurants, shops and things to do. It was a good decision to be in that area.


     The next day, Sunday, we daytripped to Memphis. It is NOT close. It was about 200 miles each way on the most boring stretch of road, Rt 40. And I thought driving on 80 West in Pa was boring! But, once we arrived at Graceland, we forgot about that drive until it was time to return to Nashville that evening. It was our favorite day of the trip. My daughter and I did not enter Graceland as Elvis fans, but left his home in tears and in love. It was a wonderful experience. Our next stop was Sun Studios and my husband was now the one overcome by emotion. And our last stop was the Civil Rights Museum at The Lorraine Hotel-the site of MLK’s assassination. It was an unexpectedly amazing day. 


     On Monday morning, my daughter had the chance to start pursuing a dream she never really dared to take too seriously. We all remain cautiously optimistic, to be honest. We arrived at 9:30am for a 10am studio appointment, and had a chance to meet her Nashville Musician’s Union band. A super-sweet, very supportive, professional group of gentlemen who were kind and encouraging to my 17 year old kid. We loved everyone: the musicians, Jamie Tate, Joe, Nick and especially Lexi who took Mollie out that night to play around Nashville. Lexi is Lexi Lew (lexilew.com) and she’s a fantastic musician herself. She made sure my kid could say she played on Broadway in Nashville, got us free downtown parking, let her use her sound equipment, put a coat on her when it got cold outside, then gave Mollie all the money they earned. You should all buy her album on iTunes. She writes, composes, plays an instrument and sings-all the criteria met for my definition of a real musician. And she is as kind as she is talented.



     Tuesday was Election Day, and Mollie’s second day in the studio. She had another fantastic day with that crew, and at night we ate a million snacks and watched CNN like it was our job. Trump won, and we found ourselves right in the middle of a very red state. With apprehension, we walked into the hotel restaurant for breakfast that next morning, and everyone there was just as upset as we were. There was a lot of wounded disbelief at the studio that morning as well. We were relieved that this was the case. It would all have been too much to bear if the mood was celebratory instead of reassuring and supportive. 

     Jeff and I toured the campuses of Vanderbilt and Belmont, followed in the footprints of so many of our most favorite musicians as we walked around Nashville : Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, etc. We ate in restaurants with walls adorned with autographed pictures of the greats, stopped and had drinks all along Broadway where live music starts at 10am, and had a fantastic time while Mollie got a chance to try something she’d have regretted not doing her entire life.  I’ll be paying for this dream of hers for a long, long time, but I’m really happy that she has a chance to try. 

     Watch social media for the Release Party in 2017! MollieEdsell.com 

I’ll eventually get to Seneca Lake, Part II!!

Daytrip Destinations: Seneca Lake Wine Trail February 2016

My husband and I, when we first started dating, discovered how much we love upstate New York for “Date Days.” We’re both morning people, and late nights out are not our favorite thing. Our alarm goes off at 530am five days a week, so the consequence of severely changing our weekend schedule for a late night out is something we feel for a while. On top of that, his commute some days is over an hour, depending on which campus needs him that day, and I’m a nurse. Being tired at work isn’t something either of us wants for ourselves.

Which leads me to the day trips. We leave early in the day, get where we’re going, head home after dinner, and are in bed at a decent hour.

From Northeast Pa, Seneca Lake is about 2 hours and 10 minutes.

We usually leave around 8am, and arrive a bit after 10. The wineries open at 10!
We take 81 North to 17 West, and, when you start seeing signs for Corning, look for the Watkins Glen exit. Take that exit and use Rt 14 all the way into the downtown area. If you stay on Rt 14, you’ll start up along the West Side of Seneca Lake.

 

But, WAIT. Just before you start up the left side of the lake, park your car in either The Harbor Hotel or Seneca Station restaurant parking lots (Harbor Hotel has beautiful, CLEAN bathrooms because, by now, you need one.) Walk around the Marina Area outside, take pictures on the decking, look at that beautiful lake! Breathe it all in. So pretty.

Ok. Get back in your car. Now we start your wine tour! When Jeff, my husband, and I go, he’s the official drinker, and I drive. If he tries something new and thinks I’ll like it, I sip his tasting. We only buy one tasting at each winery (usually $3-$6.00 per winery) and, if I try what’s in his glass, nobody says a word. I’ve taken several people through the area. This is always how I handle the drinking/driving situation. By the end of the entire day, I still haven’t even had a full glass of wine over many hours. And I’m really happy when the people I’m with are having fun, so I definitely don’t feel left out as the DD!

West Side of Seneca Lake: These are a few of our favorites. I’m writing about these wineries as I’m imagining driving north on Rt 14 alongside the lake toward Geneva.

Our first stop is usually Lakewood Winery. Its just a few minutes up Rt 14 on the right overlooking the lake. It’s almost always where we start our day. If you’re going to start drinking at 10:30 in the morning, you want to do so with these sweet people and their friendly dogs. Jeff and I tend to prefer semi-sweet to semi-dry whites, and The Finger Lakes are known for whites, but each winery has a variety of sweet and dry reds, blushes, and whites. You’ll find something you love at most of these wineries.

Up ahead on the left is Magnus Ridge. This is a gorgeous winery with a great gift shop. Their tastings include food items (cheese, pasta, etc) and was a little more expensive than many. My mom and her friends claim this winery has the best bottle of Pinot Gris they’ve ever had, and it’s their best seller. So much so that it is currently out of stock.

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Magnus Ridge Gift Shop

You SHOULD explore the other wineries I’m not talking about, too. Jeff and I have perfected what we like, and go to restock our supply, but we love revisiting an old one we had dismissed to discover new wines. These are our favorite “restock spots.”

Pompous Ass Winery is on your left. They have some great table wines: Kiss My Ass white, blush and red. Conversation starters for sure.

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The Pompous Ass Winery

Glenora is on your right. We hadn’t visited this winery in a few years, and we were pleasantly surprised when we visited this time. Fantastic new wines! If you follow the road just past the parking lot, you come to a home at the bottom near the lake with the best backyard waterfall you can even imagine.

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How about THIS for a backyard?

Fulkerson, my favorite winery EVER!, is on your left. Again-they have a range of whites, reds, blushes, blends. This is a major budget busting stop for us. But, it’s because they have amazing wines which are inexpensive. I cannot even tell you how many dishes I have made with their Airship White or Red ($7.99) because if I’m going to open a bottle to cook, I’d like it to be drinkable, too! (I prefer the white to drink, but all of it cooks really nicely.)

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Fulkerson.  How I love you.

There are so many more as you go up Rt 14, but it’s about now that we’re REALLY hungry. It’s probably about 1:30 or 2pm by now, and my passengers have been drinking lots of wine, so we’re looking for a great lunch spot. Guess what? Hardly ANY restaurants on the trail. You can grab food at Magnus Ridge, and there are some diner spots along the way, but not a lot of choices on Rt 14 next to the lake.

We try to hold off for a bit until we get into Geneva to go to Belhurst Castle. The castle has a bar/gastropub called “StoneCutters.” It has a great lunch menu, and it’s just the right mix of bar food or something healthy so everyone is satisfied. They have amazing grounds overlooking the lake, a cute gift shop, and there’s always a gorgeous afternoon wedding somewhere in the castle by this time of day. It’s a great place to eat, then walk around for a bit and enjoy being out of the car and not belly up to a bar tasting wine.

Once, Jeff and I waited until we got to the north tip of the lake to have lunch at the Ramada, It was ok. We missed our afternoon at the castle. You’ll love it.

I’m many words into this entry. I’ll bring us through Geneva and down the East Side of the lake in my next entry. But know this: in the “off season,” many wineries close by 5, and in peak season, most close around 6. You have to plan your day accordingly.

Til next time!

Daytripping Out Of NEPA

When I first quit Facebook, and decided to blog, my intention was to write about NEPA day tripping. Like, when we, as Pocono Northeast residents need to blow this taco stand!, I wanted to share where my husband and I have gone, what we’ve done, etc. Jeff and I day trip often, and I thought it’d be a worthwhile topic.

When one reads about the Scranton area, one will discover ours is a depressed, unhappy, unhealthy and unwealthy area. I have to argue that this isn’t quite true for the most part.    I generally love life here.
Our politics are corrupt and dirty which serves as a deterrent to some of our more fantastic residents running for local offices. Those same elected officials have made horrific decisions, have compromised our area in terrible ways, and say/do such stupid things we continually look bad in the public eye. Our cops and firefighters are “the bad guys” and, when one follows that logic, I’m not even sure who the good guys are supposed to be. But there are a lot of people who persevere in this area in spite of decades of bad leadership and long term ignorance. I have decided to stick with local positivity after years of trying to help change our area’s political history. Our local voters don’t want or trust anything new. Changing the political climate here is futile, but we are lucky because our local art scene and the people involved help soften the blow of our bad leadership. But I’ll sing their praises in another entry.

One of the things that IS true about our area is that there is not a lot of wealth. Exotic vacations would be great, but many, like our family, are on tight budgets.
I have wanderlust. I have lived in Northeast PA my entire life, but it does not mean I’m content to stay in my own backyard. Like, at all! We live just about two hours away from a lot of fantastic day trip destinations, and my husband and I take advantage often. NEPa rests amid the crossroads of several major highways (Rts 81, 380, 80, 84, 6, 11, the PA Turnpike). I have been overseas to England, Spain, Italy, France, and all over North America, but with 2 of our 4 kids in college, day trips are just about what we can afford these days.
We have two weekends a month together (the other two, we have my eleven year old stepson), and we try to go SOMEWHERE each month with just the two of us. But we have my 16 year old daughter at home, and often can’t do overnights. We’re just about 100 miles from NYC, Philadelphia, Ithaca, New England, The Finger Lakes Area, Hershey, The Hudson Valley, Woodstock, New Hope and just slightly more or less than those 100 miles to the Lehigh Valley, Lancaster Co, the New Jersey or Delaware Atlantic coast. I try to keep our day trip destinations under about 2.5 hours of “drive time” each way. And, now that gas is so cheap, these excursions are even more affordable.

If I can convince my husband to try the Culinary Institute of America or return to Seneca Lake wineries (our supply is low!) next Saturday, I’d like to start blogging these trips in real time. See you next week!