Thursday, June 16, 2016

Chatauqua or Bust!

Hey, Friends.

Last week I got to go to a conference for work at Chatauqua Institution.  I was very excited, as normally I don't get to go to conferences that involve a lot of traveling. Like so excited that when my guy at the Valero station (which I obviously go to way too often) asked me what was going on I told him about getting to go to the conference, and being a little worried about getting lost on the long drive.  He joked that next time he'd go with me to make sure everything went all right.  It was sweet.

It was a long drive.  There was a lot of driving.  Thankfully I wasn't making the trip alone. I had a friend (and coworker) riding shotgun with me on the way up, and she would be in charge of navigating with Google Maps.  Yes, again with the Google Maps.  If you've been following along here for a while then you might remember Google Maps and I sometimes have issues.  At least there would be another person on this adventure!

I did the math.  From the time we left last Wednesday morning until the time we returned home last Friday night we drove 820 miles.  820 miles in 61 hours....with a conference squeezed in the middle. That's a lot of time in the car.

I realize, Friends, that the vast majority of you do not give a shit about what happened at a library conference.  You just don't care, and why should you?  So I'm going to skip all of that and just tell you about the more interesting free-time parts. With pictures.  Lots and lots of pictures, cause that's how I roll.

The drive up was very pretty -- lots of green trees, hills, farms -- very picturesque.

Enjoy the trees!

There wasn't much traffic, which made driving very nice.  There also weren't any signs of life anywhere.  After a while we were noticing that there were no people outside any of the businesses or farms we could see from the road.  Not even any horses or cows out in the farm fields.  It was a bit we thought we missed an evacuation order, or maybe the zombie apocalypse had started and we were driving right into the middle of it.

We decided to pull over at a rest area and stretch our legs.  When I think "rest area", I tend to picture the areas on the New York Thruway with gas stations, bathrooms, restaurants, etc.  At the very least some place with picnic tables and bathrooms.  I literally almost drove out of the thing before I realized we were in the rest area, not just on the entryway.

That's literally it, kids.

"Dumping household garbage prohibited".  

The garbage dumpster was the most exciting thing there.  And what other garbage would you have with you in your vehicle to throw away?  Like "household garbage" is bad, but if you randomly happen to have toxic waste with you -- go right ahead? There were also a lot of tires, which I think technically could have gone in the dumpster since they wouldn't be household garbage.

Why aren't you in the dumpster?  Are you "household garbage"?

We continued on our way, and this next picture is literally only because we drove near my BFF's home town.  

What's up, Deposit!

Iced coffee is a very important part of a long drive. didn't know that? Well, it is if you're me.  It really shouldn't surprise you either, Friends, since I have written a love letter to my coffee pot before.  We stopped at a Wendy's as I was sure I could get my iced coffee fix there and because it would have a bathroom.  I seriously wasn't going to depend on finding one at a rest area after that last experience.  Somehow, we managed to find a Wendy's that did not have iced coffee.  How is that even possible?  I thought that was like a menu staple.  It's on their website.  They have their own brand for it.  We've had it at home for years.  How can they not have iced coffee?!  I was not amused.  

We soldiered on and eventually made it to our destination about 7 hours after leaving home.  It was a long drive, with a lot of time watching trees.  We arrived with just enough time to catch the boat for the first evening's activity: dinner cruise. Like we were literally racing to the dock before we missed the boat.

We got to sit on the upper level, which was cold but had great views.  Did we want an alcoholic beverage?  Yes, yes I very much did.  

Not even sure what body of water we were sailing on at this point, but I did not care.

After the cruise we finally got registered and checked in.  As there were no other activities planned before the conference started the next morning, we decided to go out and stroll around the area.  It was a chilly evening, but there had been too much sitting all day long and we needed to stretch our legs and explore.

I hadn't paid attention the night before, but was horrified to discover that there was no coffee pot in the room.  The next morning wasn't pretty.  The only coffee I could get my hands on was at breakfast, and those were just little cups.  It was a rough day for me, Friends.

At lunch we were given time to explore the institution grounds.  It really is a gorgeous place.  It kind of creeped me out a bit because it was almost too perfect, if that makes sense. It was totally ridiculous, but the whole thing was giving me a Stepford Wives kind of vibe: everything looked so perfect, everyone we met was just so happy and helpful.  It's not normal for every single person to be in a good mood.  The majority of the residents weren't there yet, as it wasn't "the season".  All of the homes and businesses looked immaculate though, and the gardens were all beautiful.  They are like their own little community behind closed gates -- their own post office, library, movie theater, dance hall, churches.

Little garden area

There were a lot of pillars

View from the second floor of the library

Paintings in the post office

Another view inside the library

Also in the library

In the gift shop.  I found it amusing.

Fish fountain

That evening we got to go to the Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz Museum, and have dinner in the Tropicana room. That was actually really interesting and a lovely time.

Tropicana Room

Outside the museum

 Original Movieola.  Description below.

The "Three-Headed Monster" and tribute to Dann Cahn

Just a few Emmy Awards

After dinner we had been given a map, and we set out to find Lucy's childhood home.  I think we least we found the address that was listed.  We were expecting a plaque of some kind to be there marking the place, but it wasn't so. The only hint we had the right place was a small poster on the door and large signs that the property was under video surveillance.

That's it, folks.

We had also heard that there was a scary Lucille Ball statue in existence, and it was due to be removed and replaced with a more accurate version in the near future.  It had upset people greatly since its unveiling.  That was not labeled on our little map, but the people at the museum had pointed out the general location.  We made it our mission to find the controversial Lucy statue.  Let the adventure begin!

And find it we did.  We also found Ribfest going on in the same park, and got some pretty sunset views.

The Lucille Ball statue.  Won't be there much longer.

 Sunset views from the park

We also found a Tim Horton's, which might have been an equally great moment for me.  Lesson learned -- I was not equipped to go through another coffee-deprived morning.  I was buying coffee now.  I didn't care that it would be cold by the morning.  There would be coffee in my room when I woke up, and I fully intended to refill that cup at breakfast and have coffee during my morning conference sessions.

No lie, I kind of loved Tim Hortons at this point

After the conference the next morning, we were back on the road headed home.  We had another travel buddy for the ride home, which just made it more fun. It made the miles and miles of trees much more bearable.

View from my window the last morning in Chatauqua

Flowers outside of our building on our last morning.

Mural we saw in Jamestown the previous evening.  Thought the message was appropriate.

We stopped for lunch on the way back in Olean.  I'm not sure why, but they had these giant squirrel statues all over the place, and each one was different.

Hi there, new friend!

Lunch was delicious!  If I'm ever in Olean again, I'm going back here.

I'd like to say that it was due to my super-awesome planning skills that we ended up going over the Shawangunks just about at sunset, but that would be a lie.  We were nearing the end of our fantastic journey, but had to take a break to take in the sights.

Finally, blessedly, we returned home around 10pm.  Our magical voyage across New York State had come to its end.  61 hours, a conference, and 820 miles after it had begun.  Other than the serious lack of coffee, it was fun.  I enjoyed it and learned some things at the conference.  

It only took me until 2 pm the next day to convince myself that I was eventually going to have to get back in the car, if only to acquire an iced coffee.  And when I saw my Valero guy a couple days later? He totally asked how the trip had gone.

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