Wednesdays Are for Fish Fry.

25 March, 2010 § Leave a comment

rubber boots suck along gouges
trucks ground into the land’s long curve.
we stomp past overturned oil drums,
climb a low hill, toward town,
looking for blue to open
behind rain’s greased rags,
to wring the sky’s last drops
beyond the forlornness of puddles,
to open
fistfuls of gold.

– – susan ioannou, “treasure hunt” (2005)

Work called me back to the road this morning and I gladly heeded the clarion tones, hopping behind the wheel with “Upstate Roadtrip Tunes” at hand, and drove from Houghton to Rochester – – and then Rochester on to North Syracuse (via an accidental detour on back-roads because I forgot to turn off the “toll road” avoidance feature on my GPS; it turned out to be a beautiful section of road with steep lines of silvery firs on either side of the disappearing yellow pavement lines, however, so I wasn’t complaining) – – North Syracuse on to Watertown – – and Watertown to Alexandria Bay – – before finally ending in Ogdensburg around dinner-time today.

This is my first time in the North Country, a place whose boundaries are defined as outlining the “extreme northern frontier of New York, bordering Lake Ontario, the Saint Lawrence River (across the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec), Vermont and the Adirondacks.  Generally speaking,” our useful friend Wiki continues, “the North Country is understood to be that portion of northern Upstate New York which lies outside the Adirondack Park and consists of mostly level lands or Adirondack foothills, but is not within the Adirondack range itself. The region is the most sparsely populated, but also one of the geographically largest, in New York State. At the 2000 census, the population of all six counties was around 422,000.”

My impressions thus far? In addition to the beautifully weathered pines that proliferate the coast of the St. Lawrence River, the expanses of golden bogs and lichen-covered boulders remind me of Maine in the fall. Once I left Syracuse behind, fast-paced highways soon turned into long stretches of winding country routes – – crowded suburban sprawl became comfortable quilt squares of rambling farm lots – – fast-food restaurants were replaced by rugged diners – – and I passed more than one camo-clad, pipe-smoking, John Deere farmer’s hat-bearing grandfather chugging along in a rusty pickup truck. Naturally, both parties involved raised a cordial hand of greeting every time, although I couldn’t help but wonder if my brightly-colored scarf from Spain gave my non-native identity away…

Besides local flavor and the innumerable delights of the landscape outside my window, other highlights of the trip today included:

condensation down the side of iced coffee (black, of course)
flaking billboards offering promises of brimstone, Scripture-like
several off-roading adventures through river-side harbors and fallow fields
three deer roused from sleep next to an abandoned barn
the unexpected bonus of French jazz, courtesy of Canadian radio
a violently magenta-colored Victorian home
and, last but not least,
genuine fish fry, complete with crispy battered chips, alongside the St. Lawrence River

Yes. It’s been good to welcome this day.

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