Historic US Route 20

“In New York State, 108 miles of Route 20 from Duanesburg (Schenectady County) on the east to LaFayette (Onondaga County) on the west is designated as a New York State Scenic Byway because of its spectacular beauty and unique history to the westward migration of the state and the nation. “

20_PostcardThe federal highway that is the longest in the United States was developed well before the Interstate system. That is Route 20, which starts in Boston, Massachusetts, and ends in Newport, Oregon.

About three years ago, a fellow named Bryan T. Farr decided to drive the length of the highway, which he found to be quite beautiful, as he trekked through a dozen states. After he returned, he took no action about this experience for over a year, but he realized that he had to either do something with the hundreds of photos he took, or move on.

He ended up starting The Historic US Route 20 Association Inc., a 501 (c)3 nonprofit, educational organization. Moreover, he wrote a book, Historic US Route 20. Ambitiously, he decided to make another trip across the country, contacting towns along the way to see if they might be willing to set up some meet-and-greets.

When he got to the Sharon Springs area, the powers that be decided to add him to the schedule of the annual Sharon Springs Garden Party. The intermittent rain held off long enough for him to give his talk on May 24. The Wife and I just happened to be there for the event, and that was the only special talk that day we actually attended.

The next day, we, along with The Daughter, went to the Cherry Valley Museum. Among the factors in its history is the decision by the state in 1952 to have Route 20 bypass the village, which was economically devastating at the time. The Historic US 20 group, not incidentally, is working with locales to provide signage, even if the road was relocated. Later that day, we drove home along much of Route 20 and saw some tornado damage in Duanesburg, Schenectady County from a few days earlier.

I recall that Western Avenue, around Manning Boulevard, began the Great Western Turnpike. And it’s lovely:

US Route 20 is also New York State’s longest highway; 372 miles from the border with Massachusetts to the border of Pennsylvania.
In New York State, 108 miles of Route 20 from Duanesburg (Schenectady County) on the east to LaFayette (Onondaga County) on the west is designated as a New York State Scenic Byway because of its spectacular beauty and unique history to the westward migration of the state and the nation.

The First Presbyterian Church in Cherry Valley is the first church west of the Hudson River to have services in English, which I only recently discovered on our trip there.

As it turns out, we live only a couple of blocks from Route 20 in Albany. I thought it would be neat if some of the merchants on Western Avenue and Madison Avenue in Albany, and on Route 20 in East Greenbush, had signs in their windows signifying that they are part of something greater.

The Beekman Boys; and my librarian ways

I had a margarita, one of the few times I want added salt.

beekmanboysAfter breakfast at the Limestone Mansion in Cherry Valley, NY, the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, Loretta, the co-owner, asked The Wife and me if we were going to the Sharon Springs Garden Party. We had no idea what the heck she was talking about. In the nearby town of Sharon Springs, there have been events in the spring and fall that the whole town is involved with.

But before hopping into the car, we decided to stroll, first uptown to the library, which was closed because there was a book sale downtown. (These are not great distances; the population of the village was 520 at the 2010 Census.)

No, I DON’T need any more books. Still, in addition to signs for buy different books based on various criteria, they had one that said. “Book bag – $10. Bookbag filled with books – $10.” I cannot resist. Got some books for the Daughter. The Wife’s great find was a recipe book of the great inns of the area. I always wanted to read The Hornet’s Nest by Jimmy Carter, the first work of fiction ever published by a U.S president. Somehow, I find myself helping one of the organizers put together the books by Nora Roberts, James Patterson, Patricia Cornwell, and other fiction authors. I had such comradery with these people who, twenty minutes earlier, were total strangers. My efforts were appreciated, which was extremely affirming.

Then we drove about seven miles to the Sharon Springs school, where buses brought us the mile or so into town. Lots of great vendors. At least two of them were using something called Square to accept my credit card, whereby I sign using my fingertip. Unfortunately, the rains came, but we hung out on the lengthy front porch of The American Hotel, a once-beat-up old building that has been revitalized, as has the town.

As the rains let up, we wandered over to Beekman 1802 Mercantile, this upscale chichi store with goat cheese, fancy soaps, and the like. It was really crowded, and I stood off to the side, as I watched who I thought was one of the salespeople, most clearly from New York City. In fact, it turned out to be Brent Ridge (above right), one of the owners, with Josh Kilmer-Purcell, of the store. Ah, these were The Fabulous Beekman Boys, who bought a farm in 2007, have had a reality show about the said farm (which I haven’t seen), WON the reality show The Amazing Race in 2012 (ditto), and got married in the spring of 2013. The Wife enjoyed the store experience more than I, who was feeling a tad claustrophobic.

We returned to the Limestone, then planned to make reservations for dinner, but our cellphones NEVER worked in either Cherry Valley or Sharon Springs; Verizon, si, Virgin Mobile, no, we later learn. Decided to chance walking to The Rose and Kettle, based on its great reviews, but, already at 6 p.m., it was already booked.

We went across the street to the Cantina de Salsa. It too was booked, but we could, and did, sit and eat at the bar. I had a margarita, one of the few times I want added salt. My bride had a Sangria, with orange juice squeezed fresh in front of us. He had just a little left over which he put in a mini shot glass for me; can’t tell you why, but it was funny, which was what he was going for.

The guy next to me, obviously a regular, left for a time to see a lady about a cat; his mom’s cat had died after 18 and a half years. He came soon thereafter because the lady was making a pot pie.

Somehow, the lyrics from a song from Oklahoma! came up: “It’s a scandal! It’s a outrage!” I noted the intentional linguistic error, and Cat Guy asked if I were an English teacher. I said, no, but my wife is. He concluded that her skills have rubbed off on me.

The bartender, who I suspect was an owner, or THE owner, was bright, attentive, and entertaining. I can think of only one specific example. Cat Guy made some comment, and just then the Stray Cats came on the radio, which he noted, and I appreciated the segue.

The food was good too and filling. At the end of our time there, the bartender said that he really appreciated serving us, and that was not “just a default line.”

We needed to walk off dinner, so we wandered around town looking for an apparently non-existent payphone. As we came back by the Cantina, Cat Guy was out front, so I asked if HIS cellphone worked here. It did, and I called my in-laws to make plans for Sunday brunch. I didn’t hear this, but Cat Guy was so impressed that I remember that his mom had had the cat for 18 years; I actually remembered the half, but it seemed too weird. In any case, he said that she must be lucky to have such a great listener as a husband. What else could she do but agree?

That was the second time that day we had borrowed a telephonic device. The first was a table at the Garden Party when a young woman offered to call the Tryon Inn so we could make Sunday reservations; she is friends with the new chef. That meal was also quite good. Afterward, we got to meet the sous chef, who has been cooking for 13 years, though she’s but 20; and the aforementioned young chef.

A lovely weekend. (A sidebar story to come.)

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