Driving along the Southern Tier. I still had the bad taste of Bath in my mouth, and as we passed Corning and Elmira I didn’t want to even think of stopping to go through and do some sign-spotting. Instead, as we skimmed along the Pennsylvania border, the sign-spotting came to us.

Somehow, I had completely forgotten about O’Briens Inn. From the eastbound side of NY 17 (or future I-86, or whatever it’s being called on a Tuesday), you can see some lettering high up on a hill for at least five miles. OBRIENS. We both gazed up at it. I reminded myself every moment that the road needed more attention than the sign. (Here’s a good collection of pictures on TripAdvisor, to give you an idea of the location).


“Can we get to it?” Laura asked me.

“Oh, I’m going to try,” I said.

We got off the US 220 exit and headed slightly toward the town of Waverly, then made a turn left up the hill. Up ahead, the sign was right in front of us, and as we got closer, I mapped out what I had to do to get the shot I wanted. I was going to get as close as I possibly could to those old beauties, letters 15 feet high with the full weight of the afternoon sun beating down on them! It’s Christmas!

I saw a dirt road off to the side and I swung the car into it. All I had to do was climb the hill and I would be on top of it. It was a bit steep but not bad, and when I got to the top, I knew I had found the mother lode:


What can I say? I’m a sucker for big letters.

These were two of the best, but I probably snapped off about fifty all tolled between my iPhone and my K-5. I had just finished getting some shots from the left side and I was halfway down to the car, when I turned and thought about getting a few more. I raised the eye-piece to me eye and was just about to hit the shutter when…

“You’re on private property. Get off!”

I turned. There was a guy on the second floor of the hotel. He wasn’t actually shaking his fist at me, but there was every chance he might. “Okay,” I said, and slid back down the hill, my heart thumping from being startled in the midst of my reverie.

The first time I’ve ever been told to leave. Oh, well. It was bound to happen sometime.


A rare photograph of the Sanders in the wild.

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