When I was about 13, my parents moved us to Western New York, in the middle of the Finger Lakes Region. It was a beautiful contrast to the gray skies of NW Indiana which boasted smokestacks and refineries, and replaced it with rolling meadow of hay fields and budding wine vineyards. 18th century Victorian homes dotted the landscape, and vied for architectural attention with the carriage barns that stood in the background as a reminder of a simpler time. Small highways replaced the major expressways that we were used to, and the skies and lakes had a hew of blue that I had not encountered up to this point.
As we drove our mid-sized Ford sedan to what would be our home for the next 6 years, I recall many a bumper sticker and billboard that read “I Love NY!” Of course the Love was actually a red heart, and as a young naive kid, I read it as “I Heart NY!” I thought, “What an odd thing…who would (heart) love a state?” It’s certainly not something we would ever see on a car in NW Indiana.
When I would tell someone that I was from NY, they always, without fail, would ask me what it was like to live in a huge city, or what was the Statue of Liberty like, or had I been to Central Park? Before I let them get too far ahead of themselves, I would always interrupt and say, “No, I’m from upstate!” “You know, where there’s land and farms and lakes and hills and trees!!” Little did I know that even that phrase meant something entirely different than “Western NY!”
I love NY. Still such an odd statement to me, at least from a marketers point of view. Who knew that this little phrase would transcend time and still be one of the biggest and most successful tourist promotions in NY’s history? It almost hails as the states mantra since it was introduced in 1977, with a song to accompany it!
NY is diverse, there is no doubt about that. From religion and politics, concrete jungles to family owned farms, there is hardly a state that can boast it’s differing opinions about everything, and if you doubt this, just ask a New Yorker!
Fast forward about 30 years. My family and I always try and make it a priority to take a family vacation every summer, and with my own children getting older and starting lives of their own, we realize the importance of this more and more as each summer creeps upon us.
This year, we decided to take a trip to my sister’s home town of Penfield, a beautiful community tucked in the path of the Erie Canal. Lots of history, and small Eastern-town- like atmosphere competing with big box super centers like the rest of Americana. Nights were spent around real bonfires (we don’t get to have these too often in Colorado) chatting and talking about the past and the future as well. My nephew had just graduated from HS and my parents were celebrating their 50th anniversary, so we combined the two into a fun filled weekend.
Sunday morning was met with a smell of coffee and bacon wafting in the morning mist, as my sister, wife and mom were all busy working on their craft in their respective breakfast specialties. We gathered around the kitchen table in my sisters almost 150 year old home, which I don’t think the builders had intended for so many people to occupy! Although cozy, we found ourselves laughing and sharing even more stories, and loving our time together.
This was just the first leg of our journey. Teresa and I had rented a car in Rochester to make our way down to NYC. In all the years I had lived in NY, I had never been to the Big Apple. As a matter of fact, when someone in Western NY talked about NYC, they would tell you they wanted to take a chainsaw to it, cut it off the main land, and let it float away in the Atlantic!!
We punched the hotel address that we were staying at just off of Times Square into the map app, and headed south to the City that Never Sleeps! I was super excited to drive, as anyone in my family can attest, and was ready for the 6 hour ride!!
We found ourselves heading south, through some of the Eastern seaboards most luscious hills of New York and Pennsylvania. We went through the Poconos and even took a little detour to avoid some heavy traffic which landed us in a little off the beaten path town where we were able to re-fuel and get snacks.
New Jersey was on the horizon and traffic almost instantly slowed to a crawl. We knew that we were getting close…
*Stayed tuned for part two of “I Love NY”*