Rolling Down Rural 104

Sunday, 03 October 2010 11:04 AM Written by 

ROUTE 104 -- Mexico, N.Y. to Niagara Falls

New York state Route 104 skewers what's left of the poor city of Rochester as it runs through the rural countryside under Lake Ontario between Mexico, N.Y., and Niagara Falls.

Except for in central Rochester, where its number 104 was swiped and put on a freeway, the road's signs still mark the path Steinbeck would have taken Oct. 2 or 3, 1960.DSC_1995

The highway -- like 95 percent of the ones I've racked up 2,000 Steinbeck miles on -- has barely changed in 50 years. 

The 90 miles or so from Rochester to Niagara Falls is rural, empty, old and healthy looking.

The few eyesores only add to its character. It's essentially a super-stripmall for anyone who wants to buy an antique, a pumpkin, a pickup truck, a snowplow or a unique farmhouse made of cobblestone.


Medina, the town Steinbeck says he thinks he got lost in during a rainstorm, is about 5 miles off Route 104.

It's midway between Rochester and Niagara Falls and next to the Erie Canal, which spawned the town in 1823 and turned it into a thriving industrial and fruit-exporting town by 1900.DSC_1989_copy

After Route 140's endless rurality, Medina's impressive collection of brick buildings, apparently healthy business district and large residential neighborhoods is kind of shocking.

I no longer wonder how Steinbeck managed to get lost there that rainy night.


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