Photo Credit: Tony Cenicola
By Chuck D'Imperio email@example.com Contributing writer
The route from Binghamton to our state capital, Albany, used to zig-zag all over hill and dale, a trek of up to four hours. The route took you through many old, historic towns and villages and small cities.
When the venerable Upstate politician Senator Warren E. Anderson of Binghamton decided he needed a more direct (and less maddening) way to get from his home district in the Southern Tier to Albany, he deigned an Interstate to be born. I-88 is that highway, a veritable straight line freeway from Binghamton northeast to the Capital Region.
Old NY Route 7 still exists. For those with a little time on their hands, the route can be quite interesting and take you through some charming and historic parts of the region. Here is a guide to 11 interesting places along the "old Road to Albany."
Binghamton has a lot to offer for those who love history, from being the hometown of Rod Serling, IBM and Endicott-Johnson shoes to the many amazing carousels that dot the region. But before starting out on your trek to the Capital Region along Rt. 7, it you would be wise to "fill up" here in the "Carousel City." There is no better place to do this than at Lupo's S&S Char Pit. Here you can sample the city's legendary sandwich, the spiedie. The Lupo family has been serving up this local, legendary sandwich for decades. Chicken and pork are the most popular spiedies today, but it was all about lamb when the sandwich was born here in the Triple Cities over six decades ago. They'll grill your spiedie here right in front of you, then serve it up on a plain white roll just like they always have.
If you have a day to spare, visit some of the city's most popular attractions, including the Roberson Museum and Science Center, the Bundy Museum and the Binghamton Zoo. Once you're done with Binghamton, hop on Rt. 7 and start your road trip.
2. Animal Adventure Park in Harpursville, N.Y.
Just 15 miles east of your starting point in Binghamton, this is the site of the wonderful Animal Adventure Park Petting Zoo Farm. Located just off NY Rt. 7, this is an old-fashioned kid pleaser of a park. Hands-on is the operative phrase here as kids are welcome to get up close and personal and get their photos taken with a whole menagerie of four (and two) legged critters. Deer, American Bison, Arctic wolves, zebras, mountain lions, alpacas and more are all on display for the little ones to gawk at. There is even a giraffe and a camel here, and they are hungry and waiting for the kiddies to feed them.
3. Nineveh Presbyterian Cemetery
Just three mile east of Harpursville is the little map dot of Nineveh with an interesting grave that is worth visiting. Johnny Hart (1931-2007) was one of America's most beloved cartoonists. He created the funny cavemen of B.C. as well as the crazy antics of The Wizard of Id. At the height of his career, Hart was one of only four cartoonists to have two comic strips appearing on more than 1,000 newspapers. Johnny Hart died at his drawing board here on April 7, 2007. He is buried in the tiny Nineveh Presbyterian Church graveyard on Rt. 7. His unmistakable grave marker carries images of his two most famous creations, the loincloth wearing caveman from B.C. and the flamboyant robe-wearing magician from The Wizard of Id.
4. Bainbridge, N.Y., home of Elmer's Glue
The signs at the entrance to this little village located just ten miles east of Nineveh says it all: "Welcome to Bainbridge. Home of Elmer's Glue. Stick With us!" The glue was made here for decades before moving on to better (and cheaper) pastures. The Bainbridge Museum on Main Street tells the story of the history of America's most popular glue as well as the other highlights in this cute little community's past (they made the first milk and cream separator, American Plastics here made plastic toys including Fisher Price Pop Beads, the first instant breakfast started here, Hansmann's "Just Add Water" pancake mix, and more).
5. Sidney, N.Y.
Next on the road trip is Sidney, five miles up Rt. 7. The Sidney Historical Museum has many artifacts and memorabilia from this village's halcyon days as a manufacturer of aircraft and space parts. The Scintilla Magneto Company began here in 1925. Col. Charles Lindbergh's "Spirit of St. Louis" used a Scintilla magneto during his historic cross-Atlantic flight in 1927. After World War II the factory transitioned from defense manufacturing to peacetime manufacturing. The Saturday Evening Post dubbed Sidney "The Village We Can't Do Without" in a full feature article in 1951.
6. Unadilla, N.Y.
Another five mile jump up Rt. 7 and we meet the third of the "Tri-Towns." Unadilla has the unique honor of being the "Home of Boy Scout Troop #1." It was formed here by Rev. Yale Lyon in 1910, and although there were several "Troop #1's" at the time, Unadilla's is now recognized as the longest continuously active Boy Scout troop in the country. The Unadilla Museum is located in an old church at 131 Main Street.
7. Otego, N.Y.
On your journey to the Capital Region, pull off at one of Upstate's most beloved ice cream stands in Otego, N.Y. Pie in the Sky has been dishing out homemade "Polar Bear" ice cream for decades. Actually situated inside a big old red barn on Rt. 7, this is a place where nostalgia lives on, good times are had, old friends gather and ice cream dreams come true.
8. Oneonta, N.Y.
Just about the time you are finished polishing of your ice cream cone, we enter the largest city on Rt. 7 between starting point Binghamton and ending point Duanesburg (before the route heads through the Capital Region). Oneonta is the home to two major colleges -- SUNY Oneonta and Hartwick College -- and one of the most famous family-owned chicken barbecue restaurant in Central New York: Brooks House of BBQ, home to Frank Sinatra's personal pick-up truck. Oneonta is a historic railroad town at one time hosting the world's largest railroad roundhouse. In the city's downtown park is a treasured railroad icon. "The Little Red Caboose" is the actual railroad car that was used for the 1883 organization of the first railroad union in America.
Seth Flint was a son of Central New York and gained fame during the Civil War. After fighting in 18 battles during the war, injuries prevented him from participating in any more combat roles. He took up the bugle and rose to be General Ulysses S. Grant's personal bugler. Flint became immortal when he was tapped to be the man who blew the surrender at Appomattox and thereby officially ending the Civil War. He died in 1943 at the age of 93, one of the oldest Civil War veterans still around. He is buried in the village's Maple Grove cemetery and his famous bugle can be seen at the Worcester Historical Society Museum on Main Street (Rt. 7).
10. Howes Caverns
Take Exit 23 just east of Cobleskill and the signs will lead you to one of the most famous landmarks in the Empire State. Howe Caverns is the second most popular natural tourist destination in New York, just behind Niagara Falls. New York's most famous "hole in the ground" has welcomed millions of visitors over its near century old history. Highlights include the underground boat tour on the Lake of Venus and the Bridal Altar, a red-lit calcite heart stone upon which more than 600 weddings have been performed over the years (including that of founder Lester Howe's own daughter in 1854).
We come to the end our our journey temporarily in Duanesburg where NYS Rt. 7 and U.S. Rt. 20 intersect. This would be a perfect place to celebrate the completion of your 100-mile trip with a great meal at an original 1950s diner. Just down the road a piece from the aforementioned intersection you will come to the historic Chuck Wagon Diner. You can't miss it, with it's retro neon cowboy calling out "Howdy, Folks!" This vintage 1956 diner has had several homes over the decades before ending up in Princetown in 2007. Old leather booths, "Happy Days" jukeboxes, a menu heavy on burgers, fries and malts -- this place has it all. It is fun to step back in time at the Chuck Wagon Diner. Oh, and here is an interesting piece of trivia: The original Col. Harland Sanders once cooked up his Kentucky Fried Chicken here when the Chuck Wagon Diner was located in New Hersey in the 1950s.