Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Lake Placid Trip

If you should happen to have a used bobsled (that would probably go for about 50 grand), 3 very crazy friends and a spare 35 bucks, you could hurl yourself down the bobsled track in Lake Placid. I found out on the tour that each run down the incredibly well maintained mile long ice course costs a team $35.

Or if you are more of a spectator kind of person, for $35 you can get the Olympic Passport which gets you into an Olympic museum, to the top of the big ski jump, a bobsled course tour (and in the summer you can walk down the mile long track) and two ways to visit Whiteface Mountain.

As a last minute summer trip we headed up to Lake Placid for two nights. We started in the village and the Olympic museum and ice rinks. There a lot of cool Olympic history in a relatively small museum. The US outfits from all the winter game, one of every torch, THE 1980 hockey game basically played on loop with a lot of memorabilia...that kind of stuff. There was even a super old school Albany bobsled.

They also had a scavenger hunt for the kids. It was a nice museum to look around. Then we poked in on the ice arenas. There was some figure skating thing that had just wrapped up. There was also a big pile of snow out front. Not sure where they got the snow but the kids got a kick out of it.

We stayed at the Golden Arrow right in town on Mirror Lake. Nice enough place, but the parking situation there is kind of crazy. And now I know too much about pool water...I didn't go in their pool. You can tell if a quarter is heads or tails at the bottom of the deep end in my pool, you can't see your foot in two feet of water in this pool. Eww. But really other than that it was a pretty nice place. Right on the lake with a little swimming area, kayaks and stand up paddle boards you can use, little docks to jump from and the location is right in town too.

In the morning we set out for the Olympic Sports Complex which is a short drive south of the town. I wish I caught the tour guide's name. Really nice guy. He was 25 in 1980 when the Olympics were last in Lake Placid (they were also there in 1932). In 2000 when then new combined course (bobsled, luge and skeleton) was built, he started working there. He maintains the piping system that keeps the ice on the course frozen. They'll start getting the course ready in September and it will be up and running in October. In the summer, he gives tours, "because I'm the only one with a bus license." Really nice guy that knows a lot about Lake Placid, the entire Olympic Sports complex and HVAC. The tour ends at the top and you are given the option of riding back down or walking the course. We walked the course. Didn't really get any "How much further?" questions until the last couple hundred feet.

For some extra money (I think $75 - less a 20% passport discount), you can go down in a wheeled bobsled. But that ride is on the old 1932 course. In the winter, you can go in a real bobsled but only on weekends because athletes are training during the week. These were fun to watch, but if I'm paying that much for the bobsled ride, it's going to be on ice.

From there we stopped at the John Brown Farm State Historic Site. John Brown and basically his entire family were abolitionists so there was some history combined with daily life in the 1800s. The farm is directly behind the ski jumps....which are super cool and way bigger than they look on TV.

Hell yeah we went to the ski jumps. It's part of the passport. For ski jumping, I mainly have two memories. First, you have the Agony of Defeat guy from the old ABC's Wide World of Sports. That kind of imagery was fairly rare in the 70s and stuck with you. It's probably average for the type of injury causing fail that goes viral today.  And then you have Eddie the Eagle. The way I remember the story was that no one in England was doing the ski jump. So Eddie did. He finished last in both the 70 and 90 meter jumping competitions in the 88 Olympics. And he had these big coke bottle glasses and just never gave up. Everybody loved him. It's the kind of 80s phenomenon that will be featured in an episode of The Goldbergs when Barry takes up ski jumping. And at the top of the Lake Placid ski jumps, there is Eddie modeling the ski jumpers outfit.

After looking down from the top of the jump in it's lowest position, I have a new found respect for Eddie the Eagle. I've taken lessons and still can't stand up on skis. This guy flew down a jump like this and even landed. We were too late in the season for the summer training jumpers. I think they start making snow in October and the jumpers will be back.

There were also a bunch of guys doing aerial ski jumps into pools. For a few of them, it was good they were landing on water. There were definitely a few flops.

After we checked out we still spent a lot of the day in the area. We went to High Falls Gorge which isn't part of the passport and probably a little over priced for what it is ($14/adult, $10/12 and under), but it was still nice walk with some very cool views. We enjoyed it.

From there we headed up The Veterans Memorial Highway to the top of Whiteface (part of the passport). The drive is steep and the views are beautiful. When you park at the top you can take an elevator or walk up. With 20/20 hindsight, I recommend taking the elevator up and walking down. Having walked down, I am glad I did not try to walk up.

The last thing on the passport was a gondola ride up Little Whiteface, just one mountain over. After going up to the top of Whiteface (which is significantly higher and cooler), the gondola ride was fun but slightly anticlimactic. Do the gondola then the Veteran's Memorial Highway. 

Nice trip. I'd do most of it again. I think we might head up for just a day to see some real bobsled action once the ice has been made. I think it would be fun to fake speed skate on the oval too.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

The end of an era - No more steers

I am no longer a pretend part time cattle rancher.

This past spring was the last go around with the butcher - who jokingly complained he wouldn't be able to take a vacation without our business.

But now it is finalized - all of the fence is down and most of it is for sale.

I still believe the experience - even with its unintended impacts on my wife, my sister-in-law and my mother-in law - was a positive one. I wrote about the experience a few times, probably most extensively here at All Over Albany.

Like Rome, this fence was not built in a day. It look a long time. Way too long if you asked my father-in-law. Other than the pipe that was used as fence post, all of the locust fence post was cut and stripped. There was an auger that went on the back of the tractor but there was plenty of post hole digger work (I have actually become pretty good with a post hole digger). And the back fore arms hurt just thinking about tamping dirt back in the holes around the posts. Father's day was for all day weed whacking, a tradition like no other. But the fence held. We never had a breakout.

The fence was sheep and cattle fence stapled or wire tied to fence posts. Corners were mostly large pipe braced up with more fence posts. About 2 feet above the ground there was a line of electric fence and at the top, there was a single row of barbed wire. The field was about 5 acres. The red line is for the most part what came down this weekend.

My brother-in-law had last week off, so I took Thursday and Friday and the fence got taken down. Most of the electric was already down so each section started with the barbed wire which meant cutting a staple at each post and the very carefully coiling up the barbed wire. We got poked a few times, but no one was cut badly. The El Cheapo 3 pack of Harbor Freight welding gloves eventually fell apart, but they served their purpose of protecting hands and forearms. With the barbed wire down, it was time to really start cutting staples to free up the metal fence. There were a lot of freaking staples. It was easy to tell which sections of fence were built first be cause we went a little crazy with the staple gun. The gun has kind of a hair pin trigger and one could easily put 5 staples where one meant to put a single staple. Once the fence was off the posts, it needed to be rolled up. A full roll is 330 feet. The fence got pulled straight with the tractor and then it got rolled up. To get a tight roll on the fence, we started on our knees, slowly inching forward until there was enough fence to hunch over. I think rolling the fence was the worst part. There was also post removal, bringing the broken post to the dump and a final cleaning of the barn.

It was the kind of weekend that proved I was just a farming tourist. No where close to the real farming deal. Those men and women are hardcore.

And a huge thank you to the two wives who were reluctantly dragged into this. They were a tremendous help this weekend.