Saturday, 5 May 2012

Old Forge Almanac


Nature decreed that much of New York State lies under a green and silver patchwork quilt of forests and lakes. This is the Adirondacks, 6 million sq acres of it, I do have a mountain bike though. One that Gene found in a ditch with one functioning gear, but it proved  invaluable.I'd moved to a motel in Old Forge a very small place bordering several lakes,which at the time were largely frozen.Still beautiful though. Me and ol' one-speeder took ourselves off on many missions, usually just to gaze across the lakes,admire the  wooden clap-board houses nestling in the woods or listen out for wildlife.The roads were mainly clear to ride,but the ground was snow covered and to climb up Bald Mountain proved a little challenging, especially when faced with ice shelves.My biggest worry,much to the amusement of my American friends, was BEARS. It was an uncommonly warm spring and they were coming out of hibernation early, hungry and with their young. Starting my walk up Bald Mtn 2,350 ft, I was constantly stopping, to check out tracks: human,dog,deer -ok ,and relax, listening for movement in the trees-even sniffing the air! It's really not that hard to take yourself back a few centuries and get a feel for the life of indigenous people or frontiersmen. 
At summit of Bald Mountain
I've always hankered to just sit at the bar in real backwoods America,so I wandered into Tony's and took my place amongst the lumberjack shirts and baseball caps.No one batted an eyelid at my accent,and talk went on about work,Obama and the horrendous price of gas (£2.50 a gallon!). There's wild tales of a guy's first car,a Camaro, and it's engine still alive,now installed in a cherry-picker of all things. I chip in with my story of performing a van engine swap, at night, with only a cigarette lighter for illumination to align the clutch.The international language of grease monkeys: my drinks are promptly paid for and am invited across the street to the Tow Bar Inn whereupon I'm introduced to countless people,every drink is bought for me,offers of lifts back to the motel come and go 'til in the end I'm bouncing down the road at 2 am in a pick-up with open pipes,rock music blaring & drinking beer. Yep, Americans are pretty friendly..Second night out ,I'd popped into Greco's for one drink at 4 pm,come one am I'm back in the Tow Bar with a group of guys/girls I met from ONEIDA and made plenty more local friends too. Good job Amy, Greco's vodka- lovin' bar manager, taught me a hangover cure (PediaLyte/Dioralyte in UK). The folk are like the area, wild & wonderful :-)

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Champlain Breakfast

From MONTREAL, Canada to SCHENECTADY, USA is 200 miles. Lake Champlain is 125 miles long and so most of my Amtrak train journey is spent hugging it's shoreline.Never has 6 hours looking out of a window been so interesting! The train's mournful whistle,the clapboard houses, the isolated farms: an American dream held for 30 years now fulfilled. Upon arrival & 2 hr stopover in Schenectady NY, despite the snow,my first Stateside beer is called for and within minutes I'm engaged in great conversation with a top lad called Mark complete with phone photos of his KX125. Taken off to another bar to discuss the merits of side-valve engines,vintage tractor pulls,the local girls.. and all too soon I'm off to UTICA.
I'm met at the station by Gene & Kathy, I'd never met Gene before- just emails and some mail exchanges concerning our mutual ownership of Dalesmans. The bag round Kathy's neck contains a tiny flying squirrel; somewhat unusual, but takes more than that to concern me. We slide through the snow to Wal-Mart get food & beer and head to their abode. It's a trailer in the back of beyond and whilst I do have some bike parts & magazines in my house,these guys are US clutter champions! Anyways,you can get to the fridge,sofa/bed & the toilet so we have some good late nights staying up talking. A trip to the Saranac Brewery was better than expected; interesting,funny and anyone who thinks US beer is only Buttwiper,Coors etc check out their lush range of ales from dark to blond. Free beer too at the end! Through my new friend's kindness I get a tour of the area, ROME, Oriskany battleground,and the peaceful Welsh settlements around Remsen .Sad to say farewell but more of backwoods America awaits. 
Who needs a fancy lakeside retreat?