Wednesday, July 08, 2015

the Adirondacks

Should vacations (or -- in our case, vacation trips) replicate what you left behind at home? Of course not. So let's break with routine and not begin with a breakfast photo. And in any case, what would constitute breakfast, on a day when you leave the house just after 5 a.m. and grab one of those overly-sweet yogurt-granola combinations at the airport and eat it (sharing, of course) standing in line to board the plane? Supplemented (for Ed) with the free cookies the flight attendants dispense in their quick run down the aisle?

Our plane travel is  painless. Exactly the opposite of my nephew's recent flights. On time, smooth, comfortable. For me, the pleasure is in once again knowing my seating companion. Like the door to the porch which I adore in recognition of all the years when it wasn't there, so, too, something so simple as the familiarity of the arm next to yours will thrill you if you've taken some fifty consecutive trips brushing against the arm of a stranger.

Goodbye, Wisconsin...

New York-1.jpg

Hello New York...

New York-2.jpg

Can you tell the difference? No? This was Ed's comment when we were picking a place to do some adventuring: isn't upstate New York awfully similar to up north Wisconsin?

But the true answer is no. The photo is, after all, from Albany, not the Adirondacks. Missing are the mountains, the lakes, and the rivers that make the Adirondacks a paddler's paradise. And because much of the upstate land is a wilderness area, there are plenty of places to pitch a tent. (That is the selling point. I'll let you know if it's true and I'll especially let you know if it's not true.)

It's about a 2.5 hour drive from Albany to where we want to overnight and this drive is my most challenging moment: I'm tired. The highway is boring. The rural road -- more interesting, but by then I'm counting the miles. Ed is dozing, the radio signal is poor. Long Lake, you're long in coming!

And then we're there.

I bargained with him for a first night in a motel. I looked for a place close to where we'll pick up our canoe tomorrow. I came across the hamlet of Long Lake and in it, the Long Lake Motel and Cottages.

New York-1-2.jpg

New York-4.jpg

Both the hamlet and the motel look as they probably looked when Ed and I were still kids. (His family vacationed not terribly far from here.)  It's a humble (and very small) community of vacationers, probably regulars. They come for the fresh air. Maybe for a spin in a kayak. Likely for a conversation on the beach. There isn't anything especially attractive (or unattractive) about this place and so it got passed by when the big chains invested in lakeside communities and made resorts out of them. And so there is my motel and, too, there is the Adirondack Hotel, which is old, creaky and full of faded character. If you are taken aback by the big stuffed moose over the desk, they'll tell you not to worry -- it's from Alaska.

New York-1-3.jpg

My motel hasn't a moose head. But it has something else -- something that I recognized right away when I called them from home and asked about a room. I can spot that accent anywhere: the owners of the Long Lake Motel and Cottages are Highlanders from Poland.

New York-10.jpg

Ed and I walk along the hamlet's main road and decide to make a meal of bread and cheese from the grocery store, hesitating, but only for a minute before this lakeside stand:

New York-12.jpg

The cheese from the grocer isn't your specialty New York artisanal anything, it's a pepperjack (probably from Wisconsin) and the bread is a dense cinnamon and raisin (from Gansevoort, New York). With tomato and blueberries (probably from Michigan) on the side.

New York-20.jpg

We doze off on Adirondack chairs and barely wake up for our evening meal at the Adirondack Hotel. Wednesday is barbeque night and you can have half a chicken with beans and corn on the side for a reasonable price. It's packed with locals. Wait a minute -- who is a local? What form of employment keeps someone here?

Ed gets wonderfully pensive when he hits upstate New York. We talk a lot about families and especially his family, even as he shrugs off the idea that his New York roots get stirred up a bit when he's here.

New York-3.jpg

The air is warm and smells of pine needles. A cool breeze comes off the lake. The loud sea plane -- this one, which sells you an hour of fun in the sky for $40 thankfully doesn't have many takers. (This woman was out earlier with her toddler. Both speak Russian.)

New York-14.jpg

It's quiet here. Even though I know that where ever we land tomorrow, it will be even quieter.

New York-17.jpg