September 03, 2004

Lake Placid, New York

Do You Believe In Miracles?

The short Labor Day weekend trip to Lake Placid offered pleasant bookends to the New York state highpoint hike. With a nearly 15 mile hike on Saturday, it was imperative that I treat Hoang right with a few nights of good food and a nice hotel. You can read all about the hike here if you wish, but if you go there and don't come back to read this whole report, you'll miss our brush with faux-fame on the drive up as well as my ringing endorsement for what could be one of my favorite vacation villages in America.

As if America is full of "vacation villages." Neither of us had ever been to Lake Placid before so we didn't really know what to expect. This is going to be one of those reports that I only have the pictures and a faded memory to rely on, so bear with me. And with the plethora of brewpubs and wineries in Lake Placid, that memory is perhaps a bit more faded than you'd wish.

The four hour drive up took place during perfect sunny early September weather. We hit traffic in one spot near Latham, NY but nothing too bad. Then, as we were cruising along discussing how much fun Hoang would have the next day climbing Mount Marcy, we were passed by none other than Officer Poncherello! Awesome! He was moving at a pretty good clip and I debated trying to catch up to him, but my need for funny pictures overcame any safety concerns and before I knew it, I was weaving through traffic at 95mph. This was, after all, a once in a lifetime opportunity - how many more times will I ever see a fake TV star from my childhood? In action, no less!

Fake Ponch!

After a few miles of dodging and bobbing and yes, severely breaking the speed limit, we were in position to nab our prey. Hoang had the camera in position and started snapping away. This guy was totally into it; note his vanity plate says, "7MARY3" which as you all remember, was Ponch's dispatch call name on CHiPs. Check out the detail on his helmet and bike and everything. A part of me never felt lamer than to have just risked our lives to take a few pictures of this dork and probably compelling him to buy more useless crap off of eBay, but the other part of me was pretty happy that we at least had a good story from the trip. And we hadn't even gotten to the hotel yet!

Once in town, I was struck by the smallness of it. I couldn't imagine that they had an Olympic Games here a mere 25 years ago. Lake Placid is a very, very small town. More of a burg, perhaps... But it was lovely. When driving up from the south, you pass the giant ski jumps and several signs to bobsled runs and skating rinks. The town has definitely retained what it is famous for, but has also built upon that to become what will be a destination for my little family. We checked in to the lovely Best Western Golden Arrow Hotel. Not the typical Best Western one thinks of, that's for sure. This place was beautiful and our balcony overlooked Mirror Lake which was framed by fall colors and a near full moon over Whiteface Mountain in the distance.

We took a nap, dressed, and hit the downtown area - all one street of it. Lake Placid has a sort of European feel to it somehow - maybe it was just the cleaner air and pedestrian friendly atmosphere. Everyone we passed seemed happy and smiley. We walked the length of Main Street, soaking in all the shops and restaurants along the way. The air was brisk and filled with smells of pizza and ice cream. I don't know, something about the town made us feel like we were on our 5th date, not 5th year knowing each other. We walked back towards the hotel and then down around Mirror Lake to the Lake Placid Pub and Brewery. Neither of us wanted to drink too much since we had to get up at the crack of dawn to hike the following day, so we each got one beer and ordered dinner. I don't remember much else except the Hockey World Championships was on and people were actually watching them. People other than me!

Mirror Lake from our Room and Mount Marcy from Marcy Dam

The next day we attained our 13th state highpoint, which caused Hoang quite a bit of pain in her knees. As a result, our evening stroll down Main Street was decidedly slower than the previous night's. We made our way to dinner at "Richard's FreeStyle Cuisine." A hip little pricey restaurant - the perfect way to get back on Hoang's good side after our cloudy and rainy day-long hike. We ate a ton of food and followed that up with, of course, some Ben and Jerry's ice cream cones. With so many bars to choose from, we settled on ZigZags, probably because they had a huge bobsled hanging outside. You know, local flavor and all.

The next morning, on our way back out of town, we stopped to check out the famous ice rink where the US won the gold medal in 1980. I was nearly overcome with emotion standing outside that barn, even if I was only 7 years old when Al Michaels gave us the, "Do you believe in miracles?!" call to end the game versus the Soviet Union. We bought coffees, soaked in the scene one last time, and drove south to our home - ironically never having seen the actual lake called Lake Placid.

I really enjoyed our short stay in town and look forward to visiting again in the near future. I think it's kid friendly and affordable - and not too far away at all. It's about 45 minutes past the much tackier and overcrowded Lake George area. There's plenty of hiking and exploring nearby, shopping and wineries for the ladies, as well as good food and beer. If this weren't such a tiny little blog, I'd be afraid to let me secret out. But as it is, consider yourselves lucky.

Where the Magic Happened and Where Some Nuts Flew through the Air
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