Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Memorial Day Vacation - I

This has been the single most memorable experience of my life till date, undoubtedly. Kaustav, Sabya Da, Moumita and I recently decided to spend our Memorial Day long weekend vacationing in up-state New York in the Lake George-Lake Placid region. We set out at about 6.45 am on Sat morning, Sabya Da and K taking turns at driving the rented car for a distance of about 256 miles (413 km) for about 4 hrs. We stopped for coffee once in between at a Nathan-Roy Rogers where we'd lunched once previously, en route our trip to the Catskill Mountains in fall.

Breakfast break :

Otherwise, breakfast and snacks (which took place in the midst of driving) consisted of little things both families had bought expressly for this trip, like bottled water, juice, granola bars, chips, sliced cake and biscuits. The day was cloudy with occasional burps of sunshine but we were prepared for a drop in temperature at our destination, both being near water bodies. We reached our hotel near Lake George around 11 am, where we were told that we'd have to wait for our 2 rooms for an hour more, since they were full and people had just begun the process of checking out for the day, which meant rooms needed to be cleaned etc, entailing another hr's delay. So we plumped for the only room then available on the ground floor, sat and watched TV for a while and then decided to utilise the time more productively by having lunch.

Our hotel :

We drove to the nearest Taco Bell, a little over 10 mins' drive and ended up with a bonus, great views on both sides of the car and a Long John Silvers counter shared with the Taco Bell one, which meant we had greater options, of course.

Lunch :

A delightful lunch and a photo-session later, we were back at the hotel, taking showers and changing into fresh clothes. We found our jackets quite handy, as there was a keen wind with quite a chill in it, in the area. We set out at about a quarter past one for the Lake Placid region, aiming to cover a few things we'd set our hearts on, which included a 20 mins' flight over the highest peaks of the Adirondacks, offering breathtaking views at an affordable price per individual, a visit to the Winter Olympics stadium in the area and an eight-mile car hike along the Whiteface Veterans Memorial Highway to the mountain tops. However, it was difficult, despite our best efforts, to fit everything into one day. The Olympics stadium, which K and I were all worked up about, had closed for the day at 1 pm, and the hiking trail had also shut office at 4 pm. However, we had such fun on the plane trip, that we found it possible to drown our grief in our excited discussion of the whole experience.

After we'd decided which of the two air trips (see site for details) we wanted to opt for and had paid for our tickets, we were taken by the pilot, quite an old and frail man (which did nothing to quell our fears of possibly not returning alive), to our plane. Asked to shortlist our co-pilot, Sabya Da was egged on to do the honours, while K decided to be our bodyguard (quite literally) at the rear. Getting into the plane itself was a tough job for K and me, since there was a projecting horizontal spike which was supposed to act as a footstool, and K and my being quite tall by Indian standards did nothing to ease the process. Luckily, no one seemed to care about taking photos of our ungainly entries into the plane, caught as we each were in our respective flight related insecurities.

Moumita's fishing out an air-sickness bag from the back of the front seats and our being informed that the day being particularly windy, we should be prepared for an occasionally rough and bumpy ride, made our expectations of any enjoyment from this trip seem rather unlikely. Putting on huge headphones and being shown our only mode of communication, a cordless phone lookalike receiver, where whatever we said to each other would be hard by everyone else, was an additional source of intimidation. With seatbelts in place, I began to wonder whether we would be able to take photos at all in such a straitjacketed state.

Inside the plane :

As it turned out, our fears were quite ill-founded. The ascent was smooth and steady, the panoramic views a visual feast, communication unnecessary, photographs taken aplenty and except for one small and abrupt dip where my heart skipped a beat, uneventful. No one suffered from motion sickness, no one screamed or fainted, and although vision and movement was slightly limited on all sides, each one had his or her share of magnificence to gloat over and reflect on.

The visual panorama :

Hills, rivers, roads, lakes, mountains, ski tracks, we observed everything that our guide and pilot pointed out to us along the trip with irreproachable enthusiasm and that was quite evident to him on our descent, when we barraged him with requests to share a photo with us. He was happy to oblige.

As I mentioned earlier, our other two destinations were to disappoint us, so we were forced to make fresh plans. However, we did stop to take photos of the sites (some consolation, that) and even spent a quarter of an hour at Lake Stevens, a beautiful clear and picturesque water body located just by the office to the Veterans Memorial Highway office.

In and around the Winter Olympics Stadium (the gift shop items were ridiculously overpiced, which occasioned a prompt exit on our part):

Lake Stevens :

People were busy fishing in the lake and there were gnats galore hovering around the lake, so we had some snacks (K was settling down for a nap on the grass, but the insects were too much to contend with, so his repose was cut short prematurely) and left soon after. We had now resolved to return to the Olympics stadium site where we had spotted a picturesque lake on our way to the aerodrome, intending to make a prolonged halt there. The guys intended to scour the area for venison (which K's meat loving college junior cum ex-colleague, Shubho, insisted they should taste) and also give the car some rest. The latter, besides being a brand new one (having run only 25 miles on its way back from the showroom to the rental office) with stiff new parts, seemed to be emitting a strong burning smell for some reason and we decided to not take any risks with it, considering the considerable distance we still had to drive back to the hotel. So, after another impromptu photo-stop by a mountain river (where my usually inexhaustible camera battery gave out after snapping over 200 photos), we were at Main Street, by the Mirror Lake, watching the ducks.
The mountain river :

(to be continued....)


A Bookworm said...

Oh Gargi... the lakes are magnificent... waiting for more...:)

little boxes said...

i'm waiting for the continuation!
i love travelogues...

Sujoy Bhattacharjee said...

That was an amazing itinerary. That is what one would call a memorable outing. The pics were great too. Waiting for more...
BTW is it Catskill as in the Rip Van Winkle story?

Discovering M said...

WOW! sounds like an awesome trip! never had an air trip before! shoud do it someday..

Casuarina said...

@ Sujoy : Yup, the very same !


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