I don’t know how many times I’ve made the trip to Colgate. It’s a two hour drive from home along Route 20, “America’s Scenic Byway.” It’s a trip that I first made when I was maybe seven or eight-years-old with my family, as we all piled in the car to go to a football game at my Dad’s alma mater. When we were younger, the ride was long and exhausting. I’d fight with my brothers and we’d have to make multiple stops, so by the time we arrived the trip had stretched into two-and-a-half hours, or even three. Yet the football games made up some of my childhood highlights, especially when we’d go onto the field afterwards, throwing a football around and challenging each other to races. Dinner was either pizza from New York Pizzeria (before I knew it was called Slices) or a real meal at the Colgate Inn.
By the time I was in high school, I hadn’t been to a Colgate football game in years, yet I had accumulated tons of sweatshirts and other regalia from the bookstore. However, junior year, I visited officially on a college tour with my Dad. On the drive over, he told me all about Colgate, the stories he hadn’t shared before, the highs and lows of his college experience and his love for the place. I stared at the road ahead, noting the small towns we passed by, including the one where he had received a ticket years ago while speeding through on the way to a football game. I was excited, sure, but also nervous. Maybe Colgate wouldn’t live up to my expectations.
Of course, I’m here, so we know how that turned out. And as I’ve been here for the past four years, I’ve driven that same course along Route 20 (without ever getting a ticket). I’ve driven with my Mom, my Dad, family friends, just myself and eventually my brother once he followed two years later. The drive is so familiar, so comfortable. We go through Duanesberg and Sharon Springs and Richmond Springs and Cherry Valley, past the Petrified Creatures Museum and the TeePee and the turn off for Cooperstown and the Baseball Hall of Fame. The small towns that line the side of the road seem almost like sets, either artfully run down or picturesque in that small town way.
I stopped in Cherry Valley once. I never stop on the way to school, but it was a beautiful day and there’s this point that overlooks the entire valley, where you can see fields and trees and cows and plants meeting up with the blue sky. It’s one of my favorite views, and my car dangerously veers towards the point anytime I drive by when I crane my neck over to catch a quick glimpse. Here, standing over Cherry Valley, I felt such an appreciation for central New York, for this part of the state I went to school in. After a few minutes I got back into my car and continued on my way to Colgate, not even annoyed when I was stuck behind a tractor for a good 30 miles.
Eventually, I will be driving home from Colgate after graduation on Route 20. My car will be packed with my stuff, my family will be with me. It might feel like the last time I ever see the same sites, the same towns. But I know it won’t be, and one day I’ll be racing towards Colgate along the same road.
So, here’s to Route 20, America’s Scenic Highway and my route home.
Contact Allie Aiello at [email protected]