Opinion: Best road trip ever! Massena, Batavia, and beyond in 2022

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I’ve kept a journal for many years, but for 2020-21 it could have been written on a sticky note.

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So with an opportunity to write a 2022 year-in-review column, I had visions of leafing through my diary, being overwhelmed with so many momentous experiences and awakenings, and challenged with whittling it all down to an awe-inspiring retrospective for the ages.

Well it turns out I remained a dull guy with a boring existence. Still, the banality of life was never so sweet and rewarding.

And if I could distill all of the mundane to a few magical moments, 2022’s zenith definitely was a late-summer day, the last one in August, when embarking on a first football/baseball road trip in well over two years, and stealing some quick glances on either side of the south channel of the international bridge, the regal beauty of the shipping lanes glistening below.

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With great pleasure I told the U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer my travel itinerary, providing way too much information— but hey, we had some catching up to do.

Next stop: Price Chopper in the Harte Haven plaza in Massena, to collect groceries and refreshments for the cooler and its role in the upcoming tailgating process. Things went from good to great when the cashier rang me through on the store discount code and my bill went down a solid 25 per cent – must have been my post-pandemic, good-vibes-only policy!

I vividly remember that day’s sudden downpour in Ogdensburg N.Y., that required a brief pullover, and a couple of hours later the uber-inviting metallic red neon Cheesecake Factory sign appearing in the distance in Syracuse, N.Y.

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Yes, life was finally back to normal.

This was the trip when I rediscovered the magic of hotels – even the discount one just off the New York State Thruway in Batavia, N.Y. And while the TV didn’t work in my room, the pool was off-limits and the front-desk person had me wishing I was still chatting with the customs agent, it didn’t matter much at all. I was only there seven hours, and on my way to Pittsburgh, Pa., the next morning, for the season-opening college football game, in a surprisingly beautiful city where the Blue Jays also happened to be for the weekend.

Oh, travel is never entirely smooth, and highway weariness can lead to some peculiar decision-making, like when I stopped the next day for gas in Fredonia and noticed a 2023 Rand McNally Road Atlas that might come in handy – and can be harder to find as paperless predominates.

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In this case, my first new book of maps in 12 years was now accompanying me at the same time I was familiarizing myself with the first new iPhone I’d purchased in seven years. And literally 60 seconds after paying for the atlas, I used the Maps app successfully for the first time ever – it guided me to a great breakfast spot, where the waitress and I had a lovely chat about Buffalo’s Super Bowl chances this season.

Look Rand, and McNally, you’ve been great company for so many excursions, and I used to love you. But this lady I listen to on Maps is decisive, and maybe a little bit pushy  – “turn left!” – but always right. I think we may have a future together, so I’m replacing you.

Oh, there were plenty of personal highlights in 2022 that I could go through, none of them detailing any massive lottery win, a decade-in-the-planning lion safari, or a Porsche purchase. They all go into the “it never felt so good to…” category. To step through the gates at the Glengarry Highland Games. To check out ribfest. To take some pictures at CAPE. To go have a workout without too much worry the gym will be shut again a week later. To make a big purchase, something I had refused to do with a mask on.

Biggest purchase of 2022? A 75-inch TV. Yes, I ran the risk of having the TV room become the TV’s room. We’ve set some boundaries and so far – other than the few occasions I’ve had to push its buttons to make the sound come on – no issues.

So, to recap, one of the best years in quite some time!

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