Watkins Glen seems to be a very small town and the number of hotels very limited and not inexpensive, so I looked further afield and found what looked like a nice place in Penn Yan, about 45 minutes' drive from Watkins Glen. We set out from home and after crossing the border in Gananoque turned east along the New York Thruway towards the Finger Lakes region.
Our first stop of the day was an artisan cheese place, the Muranda Cheese Company, in Waterloo, New York. The Murray family has been dairy farming the property since 1991 and began cheese production on their own account in 2007 and offer 17 different varieties of cheese. We were the only people when we arrived and Tom Murray led us through an excellent cheese tasting session. We left we a good haul, although with the punitive exchange rate this might have been the most expensive cheese we have ever purchased. Mind you, the blue cheese may be the best one we have had so you get what you pay for sometimes.
|The Finger Lakes Cider House|
|Loading up the cider...|
The tasting room was rustic and cheerful and we were offered a nice range of ciders, both from Good Life Farm, but also other producers in the region. The food offerings were pretty limited, basically cheese or charcuterie platters, but it was the cider we had come for and we were certainly not disappointed. We bought a number of bottles and particularly enjoyed a cider that had been stored in rye barrels.
Still sober, we continued onwards to Penn Yan, which required circling around Seneca Lake but still only took about an hour. We passed numerous wineries, for which the region is noted, and came to our destination for the day. Penn Yan is a village of around 5,000 people, incorporated in 1833. It was a trading centre for the agricultural county and had mills for lumber, as well as buckwheat and other grains, and was situated at the end of a canal that connected Seneca Lake and Keuka Lake. The canal, which operated from 1833 until it was abandoned in 1877, spurred economic growth in the area but was never very profitable itself.
The Birkett Mills is responsible for building a 28 foot in diameter metal pancake griddle that was used to cook the world’s largest buckwheat pancake on September 27, 1987. Such a task requires the largest tools and that meant mixing batter in a cement mixer, using a crane to flip the flapjack and having to place the entire thing on a bed of hot coals.
The entire affair took place during the 12th Annual Buckwheat Harvest Festival (which doesn’t appear to happen anymore) with a parade, tours of the mill and buckwheat pancakes all for a $6 admission ticket. 15 gallons of cooking oil, 2,000 pounds of buckwheat and 2,000 gallons of water were required to feed the 5,000 people who each got an opportunity to take a bite of the record setting flapjack. After a 2 foot by 3 foot pat of butter was spread and covered in 15 gallons of maple syrup, the record breaking buckwheat pancake was divided into 7,200 pieces and sold for a $1.00 a serving.The giant griddle is still to be seen in front of The Birkett Mills, perhaps a reminder of Penn Yan's glory days. The choice of restaurants was not very impressive, so I settled for a submarine sandwich from the shop around the corner from the hotel.
|The Grist Iron Brewing Company, established 2015|
|Daimler 2.5 litre hemi-head iron-block V8, 140 hp and 155 lb-ft of torque|
We enjoyed coffee and doughnuts and listened to a briefing by the organizers. Our program was to begin with a visit to the famous Watkins Glen International racetrack, which was opened in 1956, but we would drive there along some of the roads used in the first races in the region. This 6.6 mile/10.6 km course was used from 1948 to 1952 and includes the stone bridge of the club's name. The route is on the National Register of Historic Place as the Watkins Glen Grand Prix Course.
Everyone rolled out in good order and we reached the track after a short drive. Of course, it was then "hurry up and wait" as the track was in use and we had to wait for our scheduled time. We had been given instructions about not passing and driving at around 60 mph for our three circuits of the 3.4 mile/5.4 km course with its 11 turns. I could see that there was a considerable elevation gain over the length of the track, which makes it quite interesting. Formula One races were held here from 1961 until 1980.
Once on the track we had a nice cruise around the course but it was tricky as a few cars ahead of us was a VW Beetle convertible that was not going to make 60 mph on the uphill bits so the chain reaction meant everyone, including the impatient Corvette drivers, were slowed down. No matter; at least we saw the famous track and the photograph of us at the finish line does not indicate how slow we were going!
|Waiting our turn for the track, Watkins International raceway|
|After admiring the beautiful paint finish on this blue Miata, the owner told me that it was a repaint as the finish had been destroyed by a crow!|
|Crossing the finish line, Watkins Glen International raceway|
|She-Qua-Ga Falls Park, Montour Falls, New York|
|Montour Falls Public Library|
|Havana Glen Park|
|Havana Glen Park|
|Aunt Sarah's Falls|
|Taughannock Falls, the highest single-drop waterfall east of the Rockies. At 66 m (215 ft) it is higher than Niagara Falls, which is 51 m (167 ft) but has a much smaller volume of water.|
|Rocky Falls on Falls Creek, Ithaca|
After our tour of the waterfalls, we headed back to the Grist Iron Brewing Company, where we received a giant can of beer to mark out participation. There was a car show by participants but we did not enter it but instead decided to get something to eat. Unfortunately, the brewery was packed and after a while we realized that getting service would be impossible so instead we got back into the car and drove to Syracuse, where we had dinner and stayed in our pre-booked hotel near the airport. It was an easy drive home the next day and we will be sure to return to the Finger Lakes for more driving (although I think I hit the front spoiler of the Corvette more times in this weekend than I have in the two seasons of owning it!) and to enjoy the gourmet food, wine, beer and cider offerings!