Our 2022 Road Trip #28: Utica’s Golden

A shiny gold dome amid several tall buildings on a cloudless day.

New York has a cool gold dome like numerous other states, but it’s neither in their capital nor on their capitol.

Fun trivia: billboards have been banned in Vermont since 1968 — one of four states to do so, along with Maine, Alaska and Hawaii. Among other benefits, their lawmakers’ efforts definitely helped improve all those Green Mountains pics we’ve posted throughout this series. Alas, not long after we crossed the border back into the east end of New York State, we found ourselves in the middle of another batch of mountains covered in lush forests from peak to base, but with one (1) great big Denny’s ad in the middle, jutting out like a zit newly erupting on a teenage forehead an hour before prom night.

Moving past that, upstate New York had more sights we actually wanted to see, including a return engagement with a city that got short shrift on one of our previous road trips.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Since 1999 Anne and I have taken one road trip each year to a different part of the United States and seen attractions, wonders, and events we didn’t have back home. We’re geeks more accustomed to vicarious life through the windows of pop culture than through in-person adventures. After years of contenting ourselves with everyday life in Indianapolis and any surrounding areas that also had comics and toy shops, we chucked some of our self-imposed limitations and resolved as a team to leave the comforts of home for annual chances to see creative, exciting, breathtaking, outlandish, and/or bewildering new sights in states beyond our own, from the horizons of nature to the limits of imagination, from history’s greatest hits to humanity’s deepest regrets and the sometimes quotidian, sometimes quirky stopovers in between. We’re the Goldens. This is who we are and what we do.

For 2022 we wanted the opposite of Yellowstone. Last year’s vacation was an unforgettable experience, but those nine days and 3500 miles were daunting and grueling. Vermont was closer, smaller, greener, cozier, and slightly cooler. Thus we set aside eight days to venture through the four states that separate us from the Green Mountain State, dawdle there for a bit, and backtrack home…

A green "Welcome to New York" sign along US-4 West as we left Vermont.

Whenever I see this phrase, my next thought is never of Sinatra, but of the Taylor Swift song.

The drive from Rutland to Utica was three mere hours, but might’ve felt shorter if we’d departed the former for the latter a bit earlier. We’d expected nothing eventful along that leg yet found ourselves proven wrong without warning.

Windshield view of a large theme park on our left.

Suddenly out of nowhere: surprise theme park!

The front of the theme park, with lots of flags and an iron-bar fence spoiling our view.

Please welcome an unplanned cameo from Six Flags Great Escape in Queensbury, NY. We had no idea it was along the way.

Sign for the Glen Drive-In Theatre showing "Lightyear", "Jurassic World: Dominion", "Top Gun: Maverick", and apparently the original "Top Gun" as well.

Other entertainment in the area included a drive-in showing the same new blockbusters as the theaters we’d passed in Finger Lakes and Montpelier, plus a repertory showing added to the mix.

We did not chuck our plans, pull over and go ride some coasters, but we were so distracted by the sight of an unexpected Six Flags that I missed the poorly labeled entrance ramp to I-90 West and had to double-back for a course correction.

Our stopover for this evening was in Utica, which we last saw in 2018 for only a few hours. Our primary objective that day had been the Munson Williams Proctor Arts Institute, which had a fantastic modernist collection that was right in my meager art-appreciation wheelhouse. We checked into our hotel first thing, though this took a bit longer than expected because their driveway was clogged with cars arriving around the same time as us. Curiously, we never saw anything indoors resembling a crowd for the entirety of our stay — only those several minutes of gridlock.

Between our morning hop through Calvin Coolidge’s hometown and the awkward afternoon in Rutland, we were exhausted and decided to keep the evening short and simple. We grabbed dinner from Shade, the hotel’s own restaurant and sports bar whose origins and namesake involve Connecticut and tobacco. The tables were mostly empty, but service took a while because our very friendly waitress was on double-duty, delivering room service to all the other unseen guests as well as for us. We understood, times being what they are. If we’d been upset by it, we wouldn’t have stuck around to split a chocolate torte for dessert like we did.

A plate of Chicken Rigatoni with large parmesan shards on top.

While Anne contented herself with chicken tenders ‘n’ fries, I dug into their “Chicken Riggies”, which mightve seemed like standard rigatoni but was livened up with hot cherry peppers.

From our hotel we could easily see one of Utica’s brightest landmarks, as shown in our lead photo — a 23-karat gold-leaf dome atop a building that opened in 1900 as the Savings Bank of Utica. Since 2007 the place has been an M&T Bank, who are merely lessees today. The legal owner is registered in Delaware as a foreign LLC that was previously headquartered in Cincinnati but now keeps a mailing address in New York City inside the skyscraper formerly known as One Chase Manhattan Plaza, a brick’s throw away from Wall Street.

I realize none of that matters. Sometimes I’m just fascinated by online corporate paper trails. Regardless: cool golden dome.

Utica buildings with the dome in the middle. Part of the hotel roof is visible below, mostly skylights, I think.

The view from our hotel window upon arrival.

Same shot as the last one, but at night with everything lit up against the darkness, including those skylights below us.

That same view was much prettier at night.

An old-fashioned bank with Greco-Roman columns, ornate wooden door and that same gold dome on top.

No zoom lens was needed the next morning as our walk up and down Genesee Street took us past that bank.


We’d chosen our breakfast joint weeks in advance during our pre-vacation prep. Across the street from the bank was a solid blue-collar diner called Golden’s. As you might imagine, the name really spoke to us. One owner/chef, one table, and a counter lined with stools — that’s all we found and all we needed. Three other lonesome customers sat apart around the place, no doubt before their workdays would begin. On TV, the local news reported about a film crew that had hung around in Utica the previous night to shoot skateboarding footage for some project.

We’d arrived just in time: the owner was getting ready to take the rest of the week off. If we’d stayed in Vermont one day longer, we would’ve missed out on some primo breakfast fixings.

Diner with "GOLDEN'S" stenciled on the window and a neon OPEN sign. Two empty patio tables are outside behind a white chain.

Golden’s shared an older building with other small businesses. Naturally we walked up to the wrong side of the building first.

A framed photo of the owner himself wearing a pandemic mask and blue baseball cap, holding a large knife. The frame labels him "Employee of the Month".

The award-winning owner himself, sharing our sense of humor.

What the caption says, merrily drenched in syrup.

For Anne, an order of cannoli-and-strawberry-stuffed French toast.

A cornbread waffle with bubble shapes poking out of the top. Eggs and sausage share the plate.

For me, something different: a Cornbread Bubble Waffle complemented with classic morning proteins.

After we were as stuffed as our food, we returned to the hotel, checked out, then diverted south so Anne could catch sight of one history-related point of interest from one of her favorite recurring categories, American War Hero Statues. In this case the subject was Brigadier General Casimir Pulaski, a Polish freedom fighter who was recruited by Benjamin Franklin and the Marquis de Lafayette to come aid our side in the American Revolution. He arrived in Boston in 1777 and was invited to join the Continental Army cavalry, only to learn they were terrible at it. He committed to showing them everything he knew about the cavalry skill set, becoming the Walter Matthau to their Bad News Bears, the Denzel Washington to their Titans, the Emilio Estevez to their Mighty Ducks. Two hours and three acts later, Pulaski died in combat in 1779, but his cavalry lessons weren’t soon forgotten for as long as America continued having cavalries.

In 1930 a statue by Joseph P. Pollia was erected in Utica in his honor. To this day the Polish-American community holds regular ceremonies to commemorate Pulaski’s heroic sacrifice and his critical role in our fight for independence.

Anne in front of a statue of a Polish military commander on a five-foot pedestal surrounded by pretty flowers.

Anne with her immobile quarry.

Pulaski’s statue is located at a fairly busy highway intersection. To access it, we parked a few blocks down at a recreational complex surrounded by fifty acres’ worth of three contiguous parks. No one seemed to mind as we parked in the complex’s lot alongside numerous residents who use the place for their daily exercise regimens, then walked away to go see the statue. The more we walked, the more statues we found in the vicinity of Memorial Highway, the larger of the two roads at that intersection. So it wasn’t just a randomly catchy street name.

An entire empty ski lift suspended above a small, grassy hill. The cables run down toward a fenced building containing innertubes and other outdoor accoutrements.

Amenities on site include the Val Bialas Ski Center, which was closed on this fine June morning.

Sign in front of hill reading "Sledding and Skiing at Your Own Risk"

Caution: no grassy knoll lifeguard on duty.

Statues of soldiers on a triangular pedestal in a circular garden surrounded by sidewalk. In front of the pedestal stands a red, white and blue wreath.

Put up in 2000, the Central New York War Memorial honors veterans of the two World Wars and the Korean War.

A statue of an emaciated P.O.W. on a rectangular pedestal surrounded by flowers.

A separate statue for POW/MIA soldiers was dedicated eight years earlier by the same organization.

A tiny Statue of Liberty atop a pedestal surrounded by red flowers inside a starburst-shaped cement-walled garden.

From 1950, a Boy Scouts-funded 7-foot Statue of Liberty on an 8-foot pedestal.

A lone soldier statue atop a round rock nearly covered in greenery.

A 1915 Spanish American War/USS Maine memorial by Allen George Newman.

A fountain with two goats in the bowl and a baby god Pan on top.

The Swan Memorial Fountain, sculpted in 1910 by Frederick William MacMonnies at the behest of a local lawyer’s widow.

Statue of an older gentleman in a long coat on a pedestal with short walls jutting out from two sides. A forest is a few hundred feet in the distance.

From the hands of George Thomas Brewster, a 1921 salute to Thomas Redfield Proctor — a banker, hotelier, and philanthropist whose land acquisitions and donations made Utica’s pretty parks possible.

A three-tier obelisk with a robed woman on top, two soldiers flanking her on the middle level, and steps all around the base. It's in the middle of a roundabout.

Heading back the way we came, inside a roundabout was an 1891 Civil War memorial.

(Addendum for the record: Utica also has a separate Vietnam War memorial, but we didn’t chance across it.)

Mural: blue exterior wall on a building; at lower right is the sun, with large yellow rays emanating outward across the rest of the wall.

The Utica Sunburst Mural by by Charles “Corky” Goss and Chip Miller had been around since 1998, but due to structural issues its takedown commenced on April 21, 2023 (the weekend before I’m writing this), for repair and replacement by a new mural TBD. We caught it just in time.

And so, with one last errand…


…we bade Utica farewell again, took three tries to find the correct entrance ramp to I-90 West, and continued onward toward one more stopover in upstate New York before moving on to Ohio.

To be continued!

* * * * *

[Link enclosed here to handy checklist for other chapters and for our complete road trip history to date. Follow us on Facebook or via email sign-up for new-entry alerts, or over on Twitter if you want to track my faint signs of life between entries. Thanks for reading!]

What do you, The Viewers at Home, think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: