July 27, 2012 - Friday night we headed to Lake Placid, NY, and Art Devlin’s Olympic Motor Lodge. We made it before the office closed at 11, so we could actually talk to the night clerk and get our room key. We had room # 39, which included a king bed, little fridge, and a great view of the mountains. (Of course, it was dark when we got in, but we could see the view in the morning.)
July 28, 2012 - We spent the day exploring the Olympic sites in Lake Placid, a tiny town that played host to two Olympic games. First up was the Bobsled and Luge Complex. We took the guided tour, which was great since we were the only ones on it since we got there early. The tour guide was quite funny; he grew up in Lake Placid and says the Olympics in 1980 were a lot of fun – though he has no desire to live through the craziness again. Many people stayed in NYC or Montreal and drove to and from Lake Placid each day. The fields outside of town were flooded to turn them into parking lots, then buses shuttled spectators into town.
The old track was dug into the ground to keep it cool; eventually the sleds got so fast that they built the new combined bobsled / luge / skeleton track. As a side note, Europeans call it the bobsleigh. These old sleighs were on display in the museum; some new sleds were also there, including the Night train that won gold back in 2010. We also got to walk down the new track, which was quite fun and really gave us a sense of how high some of the curves are (particularly the one that’s over 20′ high).
Next we headed back into town and parked at the hotel. The hotel is conveniently located a few blocks from the site of the speedskating oval (in front of the high school); that’s where Eric Heiden won his historic 5 gold medals. Just past the track is the Olympic ice rinks, home of the 1980 “Miracle on Ice.”
We opted to take the guided tour, offered by a gentleman who happened to be working for the Olympic committee back in 1980, and who had seats for that game. He said one of the best parts of his job was he had to drive to Montreal on a weekly basis to deliver reports to be sent off to the International Olympic Committee; he got a new station wagon every 8,000 – before then he’d never had a new car, and suddenly he was getting a new one every few months. But since the cars were the same color, it wasn’t obvious to anyone else that he had a new car unless he mentioned it to them. The guide told us that the ice rink was sold out, but that the guards at the door kept sneaking more American supporters inside (“Are you an American? Come on in!”) until there wasn’t even standing room left. The Russian goalie got benched after allowing an American goal, and the rest is history.
Lunch at Downtown Diner, a small diner right near the hotel. The food is great – we tried the chicken fried steak and gravy (which was fantastic) and potatoes, and the breakfast gyro with scrambled eggs, melted feta, great gyro meat and tzatziki sauce. As a side note, the tzatziki has lots of cucumber and a very mild taste when sampled on its own. But it perfectly complemented the gryo, so don’t let an individual taste be off-putting. They also have good coffee. After lunch we drove over to the Olympic Jumping Complex and caught the last few minutes of up-and-coming young athletes practicing their aerial jumps into the practice pool. There were also a few guys perfecting their routines using trampolines before attempting them on skis.
We and the rest of the crowd then lined up to hop on the chair lift that took us to the top of the mini mountain. A quick elevator ride later and we were standing inside the warming area for the ski jump. While we both enjoyed the view, Tony thought the ski jump looked steeper and more imposing when viewed from below, while Louisa still thought ski jumpers had to be a certain kind of person. We also posed with our hotel namesake’s statue at the base of the landing area.
From the top of the jump complex we could see John Brown’s farm; it was a short drive away so we decided to stop by and see what was there. Brown only lived at the farm for a short period of time (on the order of a few weeks), although he is buried there. The house itself is maintained and restored to be representative of the mid 1800s; for a small fee a park ranger will give you a guided tour and overview of the different household tools and kitchen appliances used during that time period. There’s also a short video on the underground railroad, shown in the small theatre in the barn. A walk through the woods took us around the edge of the property and back to our car.
It was a beautiful afternoon and not quite dinner time, so we took a walk around Mirror Lake. About halfway around we saw a sign for canoe portage, and knew we were close to Lake Placid. So of course we walked across the road the see the (much larger) lake the town was named after.
By now we were more than ready for dinner was at the Lake Placid Pub & Brewery. They don’t serve food in the bar, and there was a bit of a wait, so we we split a dark beer and relaxed on the patio; the Adirondack chairs were quite comfortable, and the wide armrests were perfect mini tables for the beer. Once we got a table inside we split the beer sampler, cheddar cheese chili fries and a French dip sandwich. Everything was delicious, and we especially liked the bread used on the French dip sandwich. What evening would be complete without an ice cream dessert at Stewarts? Specifically, a vanilla milkshake for Tony and a hot fudge sundae for Louisa.
July 29, 2012 - The Adirondack Museum near Blue Mountain Lake has been heralded as one of the finest of its kind in the country. What kind of museum is it? A museum with a comprehensive look at the people and forces that shaped a region. From guide boats to dugout canoes, games such as croquet and horse shoes to stilts, feeding trout, great views… the museum has it all. We thought a full day was enough time to see everything, while still enjoying a nice lunch (their cafeteria is pretty good). We had fun looking at all the exhibits, and learning about Adirondack furniture, guide boats, how people used to travel by boat/train/wagon, then eventually by car (once the roads were built), and the lumber industry.
On the way home we stopped along the Hudson River and Tony spotted some cedar waxwings flying around in the trees.