If you want to gauge who your true friends are, come up with a ridiculous idea for an adventure that requires five hours of driving (one way) to visit an attraction for 90 minutes and then see how many of your buddies raise their hands.
In my case, it was a perfect score: Three out of three.
That says three things about my friends: They are committed to maintaining and keeping alive connections among us that date back 40 years. They are giving of themselves. And they’re completely nuts.
Last fall, I convinced two of my buds to come with me to Minnesota to drive a tank at a place cleverly called Drive A Tank.
This fall, it was the (railroad) ties that bind.
I read a story in The New York Times about this rail biking adventure in my former stomping grounds in Saranac Lake and Lake Clear, N.Y.
Rail Explorers puts you on open-air cars the deep red color of Radio Flyers that are equipped with seats, safety belts and pedals. The cars can accommodate from one to four passengers.
The premise is simple: You pedal six miles along a section of an old rail line through the Adirondack wilderness, passing lakes, ponds and woodlands during the fall foliage.
Now picture four middle-aged guys on one of these contraptions. We were not exactly the “Fast and Furious.” More like the “Evenly Paced and Moderately Angry.”
That said, we did reach downhill speeds of about 20 mph (nowhere near the sound-barrier-smashing speed of 516.7 mph Pedro and I achieved in our feat of derring-do on the Olympic bobsled run in Lake Placid).
Rail bikes like the ones we rode have been operating in South Korea for about 10 years, according to Alex Catchpoole, the owner/managing director of Rail Explorers.
The ones in the Adirondacks mark the first operation to bring these specially engineered and designed vehicles outside of South Korea, he said.
Since its start in July, the company has hosted 10,000 riders.
It’s easy to see why: The scenery is magnificent and you get to easily access parts of the woodlands that ordinarily would require you to hike.
The big question we faced before we got to Rail Explorers was whether two of the About Men Radio crew – Rich and John – were going to make it on time.
Pedro and I drove up the night before and stayed at a hotel. But Rich and John were going to have to get up at zero-dark-thirty to drive five hours to make our 11:30 a.m. start time.
Not only were they on time, but John – aka “Mannix” – got them there early! (Talk about pedal power! He applied it to both his car AND the rail bike!)
The outing was a chance to enjoy a glorious day in the breathtaking outdoors of the Adirondacks. We also enjoyed a delicious homemade lunch overlooking the lake at the Lake Clear Lodge and Retreat courtesy of Ernest and Cathy Hohmeyer.
But more important, it was a day punctuated by ceaseless chop-busting, laughter bordering on tears and great company.
I got a chance to spend five hours in a car with Pedro heading north and got caught up on things in his life, and then five hours back with Rich catching up on things in his life.
For busy career guys/dads/husbands, this was important time we had together.
Much the same way we enjoyed the rail biking from Lake Clear to Saranac Lake, this trip was not about reaching our destination, but very much about the journey.
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