2000s Archive

New York State of Mind

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A night at the Aurora Inn is no less disarming. An 1833 building that reopened two years ago with ten chic rooms wired for high-speed Internet, this Federal-style stunner on Cayuga Lake is the brainchild of Pleasant T. Rowland, the founder of the American Girl doll company and an alumna of Aurora’s Wells College. Over the past decade, Rowland has poured millions into revitalizing the tiny town, and the tourists are starting to take notice.

It’s actually something of a relief to get back out on the road, where the self-service farm stands and hills dotted with Holsteins return us to the Lake we remember. Windows down and stereo up loud, we fly through the undulating landscape, marveling at the years gone by and the details that flood back: the year we dated the guys with motorcycles (“Couldn’t you find some nice lakefront boys?” my grandmother had inquired mildly, not for the first time betraying her disappointment that her eldest son—our dad—had ended up with a townie), and the time Joanne got stranded out in the rowboat. We breeze by silos and satellite dishes, braking behind a slow-moving tractor and again as we approach a group of Mennonites pedaling uphill in their stiff suspenders and hats. Green fields give way to six-foot walls of corn, orderly rows of squat cabbage, and finally the vineyards themselves—mile after mile of vines splayed out sweetly like those construction-paper chains of children standing hand in hand. And finally there’s our beloved Keuka, white sails gliding across its shimmering surface, brown and green farmland checkering its far shore.

Our wheels crunch over Nonny Kay’s gravel driveway and we make our way down to the beach. Out on the dock, Joanne pours two glasses of the Johannisberg Riesling we’ve picked up at Dr. Frank’s. And we sit there sipping silently as the lake laps softly over the stones, giving us back to ourselves, everything and nothing changed.

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