Back from Syracuse last night after a somewhat harrowing drive. I'd decided to rent a car because of the horrible holiday price gouging on airfares, but I also like driving back so I don't have to ship presents back and so I can stop and eat junk food at my leisure. Unfortunately, I'd gotten a nasty stomach bug on Christmas which sent me to bed all day (bah!), so Waffle House in Clarks Summit, PA was definitely out of the question. Although I really wanted to drive through the Poconos because of the scenery, I decided to take the Thruway instead so I could have the option of stopping on a regular basis if nature called.
National Car had also run out of actual cars so they gave me a gigantic SUV, which I was a little worried about navigating on mountain roads and smaller highways. I figured I was safer on a multi-lane interstate. Unfortunately, I encountered a TON of traffic. And lots of trucks.
My back massager didn't work in the cigarette lighter of the car so I was on my own with the leather bucket seat, but it was actually really comfortable and I made it all the way past the Tappan Zee Bridge without stopping, a good four hours into my trip. By the time I got past it, though, I was really dying for a break so I finally stopped at the mythic towering Stew Leonard's, which I've passed so many times and never explored.
Stew Leonard's is the family-run, down-home grocery store that's mecca to residents of Westchester. I really thought I was going to come out with armfuls of groceries to bring back, but instead I only got a little Italian take-out sandwich as a snack. Of the store-made Italian specialties, meats, cheeses, dips, chips and everything else, the portions are HUGE - definitely family-sized. Even the packaged goods are gigunda and extremely inappropriate for single little me in a studio apartment. I don't even have room for all those big multi-packs.
But it's cool to walk around there, and they have a whole liquor store inside with really good wine prices and a decent (though relatively mainstream) selection. Still, I was wishing it was Wegman's, with all the free samples and the smell of food cooking in the aisles. Although I did manage to get one of their famous peanut donuts while home, I didn't actually get to go there.
The rest of the drive home was ok, though it was hailing when I left Yonkers. I saved some time by skipping the traffic-ridden and tolled Triborough Bridge and taking the free and empty Third Avenue Bridge instead (genius shortcut taught to me by Eric), but the entire trip still took about six hours, a good hour and a half longer than it should with normal traffic and weather.
By the time I got to my apartment and unpacked my stuff, I was so sick of that huge car, I didn't even bother trying to park it on my block. I have a hard enough time parallel parking compact cars, so I returned it early and tried to immediately reclaim my normal life. I got a last minute pedicure at closing time, and had dinner and some frozen margaritas at Rodeo Bar. Ah...home.
I had a great time hanging out with Maria and her family while in Syracuse, but I desperately need a manicure, a massage, and a pilates class. Thank God I don't have to go into the office this week (though I do have to be reachable).
And as glad as I am to be back in NYC, I've already started planning my next trip: to one of the country's best cities, San Diego. Hopefully a nice weather vacation in March will help chase away those winter blues that always dog me.