Writers need to have fun in the summer too! Something I’ve discovered over the years is that you don’t have to shut yourself in your office with the blinds drawn every day to get things accomplished in June, July, and August. With a little creativity and a lot of flexibility, it’s possible to enjoy the outdoors, try new things with friends and relatives, and work on your tan, while simultaneously exploring the latest topics and generating new articles for the upcoming year. Let me share my latest adventure with you.
For three years now, I’ve wanted to ride the U.S, Mailboat when it delivers mail to the summer cottages on Skaneateles Lake. Last week I finally got it together, made my reservation for three, and hit the road. I chose my traveling companions carefully, asking my son Cal, a fellow writer and college junior, and my good friend Julie who has worked for the Postal Service for years, to come along for the ride. Both of them like to do unusual things and neither gets seasick so I figured they were a winning combination!
Dressing in layers, I packed my usual writers kit of a notebook and a few pens, my camera, my cell phone, and a few snacks and drinks. The boat was smaller than we’d expected, but quite comfortable, with indoor and outdoor seating. One of the reasons that I’d wanted to take this trip so badly was that I always remember how exciting it was to get mail at our summer cottage on Keuka Lake. That was back in the day when there were no computers or cell phones, in fact we didn’t even have a regular phone or television at our place. The USPS was our only connection to civilization, the lone link that kept us informed about what drama was unfolding back in Rochester. I was curious to see what type of people rode the Mailboat, who worked on it, and how the recipients felt about the aquatic delivery system. Our fellow passengers ranged in age from 8-80. Among them were two older ladies who celebrate their birthdays with an annual Mailboat cruise, a young man with an international friend visiting the area for the first time, and a family with kids. The boat’s captain had grown up on Skaneateles Lake and was full of interesting facts and impressions that he shared freely with us. It turns out that mail has been delivered by boat to the more remote parts of the lake since the early 1900’s so it’s a real piece of history to be part of the experience in the 21st century!
The mood on board was casual and friendly and all of us enjoyed sharing stories about our past and present experiences in the Finger Lakes. An RIT college student completed the crew and was charged with climbing up in the hull and handing off the mail at the various stops, along with biscuits for the dogs and Tootsie Rolls for the kids who were waiting patiently for the mailboat’s cheerful toot.
It’s a “three hour tour” (no Gilligan’s Island jokes please!) which was the perfect amount of time to really get a feel for the personality of the lake and the people who call it home. The three of us had been to the Village of Skaneateles several times but had never been to the other end of the lake, where many cottages are still primitive and some are only accessible by boat. At the other end of the spectrum are the mansions on the west side of the lake some of which almost caused our eyes to pop out of our heads! And we discovered that it’s true, seeing things from the water as opposed to the land offers a whole new perspective.
Riding the Mailboat was inspiring to me on a number of levels. Sometimes we writers forget what’s in our own backyards and sometimes we isolate ourselves for days when we’re writing. Other days we get so caught up in our own thoughts or in our characters’ lives that it’s hard to remember that there’s a real world out there. This summer, make an effort to branch out onto some different paths and see what new directions they take you in.
Any other ideas for other fun Finger Lakes experiences? Let me know!