New York State’s Finger Lakes are close by — literally a four-hour drive from Toronto. It’s a wonderful area with wineries, museums and great scenery.
The lakes themselves were formed when glaciers trundled down from the north, gouging huge fissures that later filled with water. Voila — long, skinny lakes that, when viewed on a map, look like fingers.
Our vehicle du jour was the 2012 Honda Civic — a car that’s been in the top ten in Canadian vehicle sales since its introduction. I’ve owned a couple of Civics and they’ve been bulletproof, economical and efficient, although my mid-70s CVCC suffered terminal rusting and the seats fell through the floor pan.
The base Honda Civic sedan checked in at $14,990, but my press unit was the full zoot EX-L and carried a list of $24,390. For 2013, the Civic has been redesigned and the base model is up to $15,440, while the EX-L is now called “Touring” and goes for $24,840.
The EX package includes power moonroof, leather wrapped steering wheel, 16” alloy wheels, a 160-watt sound system. The “L” also gets you heated leather seats, Honda’s nav system, 8-way power adjustable driver’s seat and Sirius XM sat radio.
Our first stop was the George Eastman Museum in Rochester, N.Y. Eastman was a pioneer in photography and founded the huge Eastman-Kodak Corporation, which is currently in bankruptcy protection. Kind of ironic that Kodak actually developed (no pun intended) the first digital camera and is now almost extinct because if it.
The museum itself was a disappointment, as it was mainly Eastman’s opulent mansion. I really expected more photography and camera displays.
The next morning, after exploring some wonderful back-roads, we arrived at the lower end of Keuka Lake in Hammondsport, home of the Glenn H. Curtiss museum. Born there in 1878, Curtiss started out fixing bicycles as a teenager and then manufacturing his own brand.
In 1902, at the age of 23, he built motorcycles under the “Hercules” name plate and two years later he set a land speed record of 67.3 miles per hour (108.3 km/h) over a 10 mile course.
Four short years later, Curtiss not only shattered that record, he became the “fastest man on Earth,” recording a staggering 136.3 m.p.h. (219.3 km/h) on a motorcycle powered by a 4.4-litre V8 aircraft engine that he designed and built himself. This prototype was the fastest vehicle on land of any type (two wheels or four) for four years and no motorcycle would go faster until 1930.
The museum is loaded with aircraft, cars and motorcycles, including a replica of the V8 land speed record bike. Down at the public boat launch, volunteers from the museum were launching a full-sized replica of a 1912 Curtiss seaplane.
Curtiss went on to become an aviation pioneer and founded the giant Curtiss-Wright Corporation, still a major player in aeronautics today.
The Civic was quiet and comfortable, but that plushness is a disadvantage when you want to get sporty as the steering is a bit numb, there’s lots of body roll and noticeable understeer. Like many Hondas, the Civic has an ECO mode to enhance fuel economy but it’s really sluggish — especially in hilly country.
The “ECO” light surrounding the digital speedometer changes colour depending on the rate you’re saving the polar ice caps. In regular “blue” mode, the Honda is spirited enough, but accelerate gently enough to keep the display in the green and you’re in danger of getting rear ended by seniors in their walkers.
The Civic soldiers on with the archaic five-speed automatic. Shifts are crisp and smooth although in ECO, the transmission just can’t wait to get into top gear: “Hey, you didn’t really want to accelerate to freeway speed on this ramp, did you?”
The leather interior was quite sumptuous — cushy seats, although only the driver’s is power adjustable and there’s no lumbar adjustment. The tilt and telescope leather-wrapped wheel was comfy and pleasant to the grip.
The Corning Museum of Glass is way more interesting that it sounds and we ended up spending half a day there. I expected their cafeteria coffee to be served in Corning Ware instead of tacky plastic cups. Just around the corner is the Rockwell Museum of Western Art where several original paintings by noted western artists Frederic Remington and Charles M. Russell are displayed.
The next day, we did some shopping, checked out a few of the excellent wineries in the area and ended up in Elmira, where in a local cemetery, we visited the final resting place of one of America’s most famous writers, Samuel Langhorne Clemens — Mark Twain.
On the way home, a final side trip took us to Sacket’s Harbor, site of an intense War of 1812 naval and land battle.
Our little excursion through the Finger Lakes covered over 1500 km in four days and my official PCA (Passenger Comfort Analyst) determined that the Civic EX-L is a very nice place to travel. It’s quiet, comfortable and averaged 6.3 L/100 km over the course of our trip.
Transportation for freelance writer Steve Bond was provided by the manufacturer. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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