Tag Archives: Lake Placid

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Check This Out., you have no doubt come across descriptions of the prison’s hometown as “remote,” “way northern New York,” or a “five-hour drive from New York City, if the roads are clear.”

All those descriptions are spot-on accurate. They are indeed facts. But what bugs me is that they belie a certain prejudice of geography.

That is, New York State revolves around New York City and anything outside of the city is viewed dimly as “other.”

The most popular tweet I’ve ever written — as measured by retweets and favorites — stemmed from the expansive search for the escapees, which has stretched from the North Country to the 2,000-resident town of Friendship in southwestern New York.

The efficacy of viagra in womenI wrote: “If nothing else, #nyprisonbreak is some lesson in the geography of NY for those who think the state ends at the Tappan Zee Bridge.”

I say all of this by way of confession: I was once one of these geographic ethnocentrics who thought the world not only revolved around New York City but that New York City revolved around my beloved Bronx!

I was so ignorant of New York’s geography that I honestly and truly thought there was Albany and then came Canada!

I consider myself reformed of my urban-centric ways, hence my sensitivity to slights I perceive that are aimed at rural counties.

Here’s why: My epiphany came when I got my first break in journalism in 1986 working at the Adirondack Daily Enterprise in Saranac Lake, N.Y., about 11 miles west of Lake Placid, two-time host of the Winter Olympics. (I also later worked for the Press-Republican, which is based in Plattsburgh.)

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The editor at the Enterprise at the time was Bill Doolittle. I responded to an ad for an opening and he offered to fly me from New York City to the Adirondack Regional Airport in Lake Clear, N.Y.

I booked the flight and told him I would be arriving at Gate 1. He laughed and assured me he would find me. (I discovered why when I landed: There was only one gate.)

I got the job that very day. It was on my return flight that I realized just how much this city mouse had to learn about living in the country.

The gentleman behind the counter who took my ticket at the airport was also the rental car sales agent. He also took my bag. And radioed the plane. And went to the runway with the orange-coned flashlights to taxi the plane to the terminal!

I was slack-jawed. Now, this was nearly 30 years ago and I am sure it’s not that way anymore. (Update: I am informed it still is!)

At the time, as a stranger in a strange land (correction: with my Bronx accent I was more like a foreigner in my native state), I could not have been more warmly welcomed by everyone.

People extended themselves in their hospitality and courtesies that was breathtaking for this hardened New Yorker. The small-town culture was infectious and comforting.

I spent five years working in the Adirondacks and loved every moment of it.

So when you read or hear some big-media accounts that describe the North Country as “remote,” “forbidding” or “inaccessible,” remember the folks who live there, and trade those adjectives for “friendly,” “generous” and “good people.”

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Bobsledding in a Bathtub

I have never engaged in a sport or activity that required the use of a helmet.

So it was an unnatural feeling to have this gray sphere snugly nested around my noggin as Pedro and I prepared to hurtle ourselves on the bobsled run at Mount Van Hoevenberg in Lake Placid, N.Y.

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Helmet on? Check! Ready for bobsledding debut!

Thanks to the New York Olympic Regional Development Authority, which runs the venues from the 1932 and 1980 winter Olympics, the public can enjoy the “Bobsled Experience,” an abbreviated 10-turn, half-mile course, compared to the full-length 20-turn course.

Trust me, this was no simulator.

Imagine four people seated — their legs extended around each other in V-formations — in a 500-pound Fiberglas bathtub.

Now imagine taking that bathtub and its passengers and hurtling it at speeds in excess of 60 mph (80-plus mph if you are competing in the Olympics) along a twisty water park slide coated in ice.

The experience is a bit like getting into a cab in New York City at 3 a.m. barreling down First Avenue with all the traffic lights green.

Except bobsledding is less dangerous.

I was relieved when the ride started out gently enough. I thought, “Oh, this isn’t too bad.”

But faster than you can say “Jamaican bobsled team,” the sled started to pick up speed.

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Things became a blur of white. I strained to sit forward as the driver had instructed, but one of the forces that works on your body — aerodynamic drag — kept pushing me back.

I would no sooner start to collect my thoughts when …

WHAM!

We’d accelerate through a turn at teeth-rattling speeds. Sledders can experience g-forces from 1g on straightaways up to 4g or 5g on tight, high-speed bends, according to Mark Denny, author of “Gliding for Gold: The Physics of Winter Sports.”

And to top it off, we were sideways to the track, like a spider hanging off a wall.

Jon Lundin, public relations coordinator for the Olympic Regional Development Authority, explained it this way:

“As the sled maneuvers its way down the twisting icy chute and reaches speeds of between 55-60 mph, participants will feel the pull of the sled as it climbs halfway up the curve, with some curves as high as eight to 10 feet.”

The curves have such innocent-sounding names: “Shady.” “The Labyrinth.” “The Heart.”

Really, they should be renamed: “The Vomitron.” “What Was That?!” and “Oh. My. God.”

Just as I was thinking I could not bear another turn, we skidded to a slowdown.

Forty-eight seconds. (Watch a video of our exciting run.)

That was it.

Our wives greeted us like conquering heroes, and Pedro and I enjoyed a celebratory Kodak moment on an Olympic medal podium.

With each chest-thumping retelling of our experience — for the benefit of our wives — we amped up in increments our alleged speed.

So when we started telling our tale, we said we went in excess of 100 mph (big exaggeration), but by the time the weekend was winding down, we were bragging of having gone 512.5 mph (whopper of a lie).

We’re even convinced that we came away from the ride younger since we were going so fast that time reversed itself (pants on fire).

So now when you watch Olympic bobsledders go for the gold, you can recall the efforts of Pedro and I going for the aluminum.

At 516.7 mph.

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Pedro and I after completing our bobsled run. We were a bit dazed and confused!