Skaneateles, NY

Home: Rett’s childhood home

We had two weeks of “vacation” staying with my parents in Illinois, then went back to “work” for twenty days riding from Illinois to New York, and now will have another few weeks of “vacation” staying with Rett’s dad. Summer is nice, isn’t it?

Ken’s house and yard and our home (sleeping on the triangle of the second floor) for a few weeks.

First, let’s see how our “duplicate tour” in 2022 compared statistically to the 2014 edition:

Total Miles709750
Total Riding Time62.5 hours77.5 hours
Total Climbing11773 ft.10261 ft.
Days of Riding1614
Off Days42
Average speed11.3 mph9.7 mph
Days with <11mph average313
Days with >11mph average131
Nights camping124

In summary, we did a 5.5% shorter route this time (began south of Chicago, skipped the Erie Canal trail), but it was 15% hillier (because we skipped the Erie Canal trail). Our moving speed was way faster, reflecting Rett’s improvement from her first year of bike-riding (despite being on a much-heavier bike this time), but it took us 20 days this time vs. 16 last time? Huh? Well, we have both the ability and wisdom to rest a lot more than we did in 2014, when we had jobs to get back to, and I was still working to wipe clean my “bike touring is primarily an athletic feat!” mindset. So it’s the extra rest days, and shorter days in the saddle, that then enable those faster speeds, because Rett’s body wasn’t getting wrecked by 6-hour death-march days like it was in 2014. And then that enabled us to do camping more like we had planned into 2014, but were forced to abort because Rett’s body couldn’t take the strain of sleeping on the ground after the strain of stomping on the pedals.

I was interested to see the changes in the land and cities and the randomizing effects of different weather conditions, but what I hadn’t thought of was how this re-do would reveal changes in us: physical, philosophical, and psychological. Either way it was a fulfilling experiment, and it did not at all feel like a waste of our time or energy to send our old and wiser bodies chasing our 2014 ghosts.

This “summer vacation” to visit Ken, my father-in-law, would be another repeat, a near-annual tradition for me since 2013 (and much longer for Rett), with only 2018 skipped (that’s the one year that Ken came to us, in Chicago, for our wedding), and then after our 2019 visit, COVID+Washington meant that it had been an unprecedented three years since we had seen Ken. And that’s stated literally: not even via photograph had we seen him; with no Internet, or even a camera to snail-mail a print, eyes-on is the last-remaining fully-analog method to see. Now withing viewing distance, I was happy to see that he looked relatively-unchanged over that period, especially since he’d recently had an emergency gall bladder removal.

In addition (er, subtraction) to no Internet, he also has no microwave, dishwasher, dryer, or central heating either (though he recently acquired an air-fryer!) So our camping road-life had us especially-prepared this time! (in fact, we just slept with our normal sleeping pads and sleeping bag on the attic floor, accessed via step-ladder).

Ken’s country-charismatic hand-built house from the front.

But with that simple, rustic home life came a comfortable return to our traditional, vacation-visit routines. Morning labor for Ken (guitar scales, followed by some form of house-work: gardening, rebuilding/staining the porch, bathroom plumbing, etc., a bit of which I assisted on, appreciating the opportunity to do home-improvement, something I find very satisfying, but have no home of my own on which to practice). Then by mid-afternoon, thinking about a dinner creation, with Rett doing the main assistance there, then settling in for the evening’s movie while eating, turning in to bed immediately after the credits roll, Ken waking up the next morning to clean up the mess, at which point we descend the ladder to make some breakfast, and repeat the whole thing. I’ve always loved these vacations, and being able to do an extended version was even better.

On the back of the house, the newest addition (and a sanity-saving 2020 COVID project), a second-floor balcony!
Baking this tower of cookies was a multi-day project.

One of my big projects was repairing/upgrading Ken’s whole A/V system, once I broke his frog-in-boiling-water spell and pointed out that everything on his TV had slowly turned blue without him realizing it. So we got him a fancy new TV, but the big challenge was finding a middle-man (the receiver) who could talk to both a 2022 TV, and a 1996 VHS player. Somewhat miraculously, one of those very-rare middle-men who could do the translation was for sale on Facebook just two blocks away in this small town. Now he has 4K OLED picture quality to match his already-good sound system, and now will be getting Netflix Blu-Ray discs in the mail instead of DVDs (yes, Netflix still sends discs through the mail, which, for the youngsters, is actually how the company started!)

One of our excellent dinners: fried scallops, biscuits, and coleslaw. Served in our traditional troughs (rhymes with “cows”) and a local wine with grapes grown on the shore of Skaneateles Lake.
Rett and Ken inspecting his garden.

Outside, the perfect small-town summer tourist-destination of Skaneateles was also largely the same, with some minor changes: there seemed to be more downtown tourist-traffic than ever before (former Metallica bass player Jason Newstead recently joined the Baldwins as owners of lakefront real-estate), Bluewater Grill had removed Rett’s favorite soup from their menu (which meant we left without ordering anything), and there was now finally a brewery!

Skaneateles was long overdue for a brewery, and one finally opened, out on the north edge of town, in the three years since we’d last been here.
Us on the ruins on our traditional visit to the Skaneateles Nature Trail.

Rett’s scars from our last day riding in to Skaneateles meant that our plan to keep up regular riding sat on the back burner for a while, but eventually she fought her way through a couple of short rides on the gorgeous country roads. Though it took quite some time for her to see those surroundings herself, as she was nearly relearning to ride from scratch and needed to put all her focus into pushing forward. It’s a bit like a baseball player getting a case of “the yips”, and to see how hard she needs to work to overcome those mental blocks is both painful and amazing.

One of the many flowers in Ken’s yard.



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