Park Ridge, IL to Skaneateles, NY

Amtrak #2 (of 4) had us taking the Lake Shore Limited from Chicago to Syracuse. We hemmed and hawed, but in the end decided to leave our bikes behind. That simplified the travel, and while we still got dropped off and picked up by our dads at both ends, we did most of the ride into Chicago’s Union Station via the Metra commuter rail line, our 3rd public-transit mode used in the city.

We’re much more experienced with the Neil’s-parents to Rett’s-dad train line, though with our last two Amtrak trips being on long-distance West Coast routes that have two-level Superliner cars, it was almost a surprise to see the squat one-level Amfleet cars waiting for us on the platform. Still roomy and comfortable though, and like Denver-to-Chicago, most of the 13-hour travel is overnight, so it feels relatively-efficient.

Last year we stayed with Ken for nearly a month from mid-June to mid-July, and then again for nearly two months from early October to the end of November. This time we’d have only nine days, but the late-September/early-October timeframe lets us fill in a micro-season we didn’t experience last year. While it isn’t yet the full-color Finger Lakes fall, it’s still a beautiful time in a beautiful place.

Rett and her dad hunting for vegetables in his garden.
Initially I was just going for the warm early-autumn feelings of kids playing in a small-town park, but then noticed this little girl who completely smoked the boys a couple years older than her with her dribbling skills. A little off to the right is the pavilion where at last year’s town Labor Day fest, Jason Newsted (yes, the Metallica bass player who played in front of millions), berated a crowd of 100 for not shutting up and listening to his band’s songs. Skaneateles!

Last summer we climbed an aluminum ladder up to the second floor and slept on the unfinished floor on top of our camp mattresses and sleeping bag. This time we can climb a permanent (if still steep) staircase, and now have a custom built-in bed to sleep in! It’s always been a comforting and welcoming place to stay for me, and now it’s even better. As nomads frequently taking refuge with our families, I expected we’d have begun wearing out our welcome by now, so we’re very grateful to feel the opposite.

We did comparatively little around the still-impeccable tourist town this time, prioritizing togetherness in this briefer period, best exemplified by Rett and her dad’s nightly excursion through a big box of old photos that he’d recently unearthed.

The backside of St. Mary’s of the Lake, where Joe Biden and his first wife got married, is a short walk across the park from Rett’s childhood home.
Mary, not quite on the lake (unlike much-fancier St. James Episcopal), but she can almost surely claim that she once got a low-five from a future President.
Some nice lakefront houses on Skaneateles Lake. Out-of-frame five houses to the right is Joe Biden’s first wife’s house.
Full moon over Skaneateles Lake.

Our one big excursion was a country drive two lakes over to the eastern shore of Cayuga Lake and the small town of Aurora. Over the last 20 years, the founder of The American Girl doll company has poured a bunch of money into the town, renovating a bunch of historic buildings and turning them into a distributed high-end inn. The original Aurora Inn houses their fine-dining restaurant, a perfect place to celebrate our 5th wedding anniversary. It was a little early, and really expensive, but we figured it would be a better value than we could get in Chicago on our actual anniversary. The close attention we got from four servers as one of the few couples out on their back porch, overlooking the lake, is an experience we couldn’t have gotten in the city for any price! Five years is both a surprise that snuck up on us, and a lengthy stretch of our lives. It’s wild to think that if we’re still out roaming at this time next year, more than half of our married life will have been our life on the road together!

Rett nearing the center of the labyrinth. The fact she does stuff like this is a big reason why I married her five years ago, and the fact that she still does it five years later is why I love her even more now.
The castle bell tower at Wells College, founded by Henry Wells, who was also responsible for Wells-Fargo and American Express.
I’m sure the red vine is some sort of invasive species, but it sure makes the tree look cool!
The public library in Aurora, NY. The Finger Lakes, ladies and gentlemen. Otherwise the town is oddly-undeveloped, with almost nowhere for the Inn’s guests to spend their money and time, but I guess the idea is they just do day-drives through Finger Lakes wine country.
The view from our anniversary dinner.



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