CHAPTER NINE. THROUGH WESTERN NEW YORK
IN THE MUD
The afternoon was drawing to a close, the rain had partially subsided, but the trees were heavy with water, and the streets ran rivulets.
Prudence would seem to dictate remaining in Le Roy over-night, but, so far as roads are concerned, it is always better to start out in, or immediately after, a rain than to wait until the water has soaked in and made the mud deep. A heavy rain washes the surface off the roads; it is better not to give it time to penetrate; we therefore determined to start at once.
There was not a soul on the streets as we pulled out a few moments after five o'clock, and in the entire ride of some thirty miles we met scarcely more than three or four teams.
We took the road by Bergen rather than through Caledonia; both roads are good, but in very wet weather the road from Bergen to Rochester is apt to be better than that from Caledonia, as it is more sandy.
To Bergen, eight miles, we found hard gravel, with one steep hill to descend; from Bergen in, it was sandy, and after the rain, was six inches deep in places with soft mud.
It was slow progress and eight o'clock when we pulled into Rochester.
We were given rooms where all the noises of street and trolley could be heard to best advantage; sleep was a struggle, rest an impossibility.
Hotel construction has quite kept pace with the times, but hotel location is a tradition of the dark ages, when to catch patrons it was necessary to get in their way.
At Syracuse the New York Central passes through the principal hotels, - the main tracks bisecting the dining-rooms, with side tracks down each corridor and a switch in each bed-room; but this is an extreme instance.
It was well enough in olden times to open taverns on the highways; an occasional coach would furnish the novelty and break the monotony, but people could sleep.
The erection of hotels in close proximity to railroad tracks, or upon the main thoroughfares of cities where stone or asphalt pavements resound to every hoof-fall, and where street cars go whirring and clanging by all night long, is something more than an anachronism; it is a fiendish disregard of human comfort.
Paradoxical as it may seem, - a pious but garrulous old gentleman was one time invited to lead in prayer; consenting, he approached the throne of grace with becoming humility, saying, "Paradoxical as it may seem, O Lord, it is nevertheless true," etc., the phrase is a good one, it lingers in the ear, - therefore, once more, - paradoxical as it may seem, it is nevertheless true that those who go about all day in machines do not like to be disturbed by machines at night.
We soon learned to keep away from the cities at night. It is so much more delightful to stop in smaller towns and villages; your host is glad to see you; you are quite the guest of honor, perhaps the only guest; there is a place in the adjoining stable for the machine; the men are interested, and only too glad to care for it and help in the morning; the best the house affords is offered; as a rule the rooms are quite good, the beds clean, and nowadays many of these small hotels have rooms with baths; the table is plain; but while automobiling one soon comes to prefer plain country living.
In the larger cities it costs a fortune in tips before the machine and oneself are well housed; to enter Albany, Boston, or New York at night, find your hotel, find the automobile station, find your luggage, and find yourself, is a bore.
No one who has ever ridden day after day in the country cares anything about riding in cities; it is as artificial and monotonous as riding a hunter over pavements. If one could just approach a city at night, steal into it, enjoy its lights and shadows, its confusion and strange sounds, all in passing, and slip through without stopping long enough to feel the thrust of the reality, it would be delightful. But the charm disappears, the dream is brought to earth, the vision becomes tinsel when you draw up in front of a big caravansary and a platoon of uniformed porters, bell-boys, and pages swoop down upon everything you have, including your pocket-book; then the Olympian clerk looks at you doubtfully, puzzled for the first time in his life, does not know whether you are a mill-hand from Pittsburgh who should be assigned a hall bed-room in the annex, or a millionaire from Newport who should be tendered the entire establishment on a silver platter.
The direct road from Rochester to Syracuse is by way of Pittsford, Palmyra, Newark, Lyons, Clyde, Port Byron, and Camillus, but it is neither so good nor so interesting as the old roads through Geneva and Auburn.
In going from Buffalo to Albany via Syracuse, Rochester is to the north and some miles out of the way; unless one especially desires to visit the city, it is better to leave it to one side. Genesee Street out of Buffalo is Genesee Street into Syracuse and Utica; it is the old highway between Buffalo and Albany, and may be followed to-day from end to end.
Instead of turning to the northeast at Batavia and going through Newkirk, Byron, Bergen, North Chili, and Gates to Rochester, keep more directly east through Le Roy, Caledonia, Avon, and Canandaigua to Geneva; the towns are old, the hotels, most of them, good, the roads are generally gravel and the country interesting; it is old New York. No one driving through the State for pleasure would think of taking the direct road from Rochester to Syracuse; the beautiful portions of this western end of the State are to the south, in the Genesee and Wyoming Valleys, and through the lake region.