10 things about Lake Placid

I might be slightly misquoting him, but I remember American sage Garrison Keillor once saying something roughly like this:

If you spend a week in one place, and try to write about it, you have a 50% chance of getting it right.
If you spend several weeks or even a few months, your chances rise to about 75%.
However if you spend a year, or several years, the chances get lower and lower.
You become overwhelmed by complexity as you become a part of that place, and not an observer.”

In that light, as I sit here in Salt Lake, and miss my friends & family back east, here are 10 thing about Lake Placid.

10. The last Hojo:
There are only 3 Howard Johnson restaurants left in the whole United States.

Whenever an icon is nearing extinction, it is cause for contemplation. One of the last HoJo’s is in Lake Placid, and it apparently markets itself to triathletes, as a water bottle my brother bought me there says “swim & bike & run to Hojo’s!

9. Night skating at the oval:
Colors, hard ice, & clear air on the Bunny Sheffield oval, or “the house that Heiden built”. Night skating rocks! Actually it was warm & wet during this picture. It still rocks.

8. The 1980 Olympic rink:
The rink itself is quite small, seating only a few thousand people at most. I like jogging around it to warm up in the morning. Ted Fitzpatrick recently lent me a DVD of the “miracle on ice” game against the Russians. Incredible.

The USSR outshot the USA something like 36 to 12, but the US goalie Jim Craig was amazing and the Russian goalies played like vodka was part of their warm-up. I get emotional whenever I step into that building. This image was shot at 7:15am, just as the lights were just coming on.

7. Ski Jumps:
File this particular sport under the OMIGOSH! DO PEOPLE ACTUALLY DO THAT!!! I simply cannot grasp what it would be like to ski off one of these things. They are scary huge, like a hotel perched on the edge of a cliff.

I took some photos, but none of them conveyed their astonishing size. Next time you are twenty stories up in a building, strap on some fat skis and jump out the window, roughly the same. Here is a better picture.

6. Maple Syrup & Science:
The tendrils of intellectual power & mind-numbing research from Cornell University extend to the remote Adirondacks & to maple syrup!!

My brother noticed this as we were driving, swerved off the road and took this picture. What do they do at this lab?? Inquiring minds want to know. But what a job! Maybe Homer Simpson’s dream job is within this lab.

5. ORDA cam:
What is happening in lake placid right now? Check out the orda cam! The camera snaps on the hour, every hour, when the 4pm shot is taken, all the speedskaters are still in the warming hut tying their laces, so unfortunately I’ve never seen a shot of pacelines whizzing around.

4. Think Snow:
The sign at the entrace to the main Olympic Complex.

The east coast ski industry, both downhill and cross country, has had a brutal early season. I wish I could loan them some of the Utah temperatures & snow.

3. The Zamboni:
This is iceman Dan Wood and the oval’s zamboni. This is the original machine they used for the 1980 games. I think it looks like a pimped out UPS truck. Conditions are brutal enough in placid that they have the driver enclosed.

Dan was a short tracker on the 1976 national team, did the ice for the 2002 US short track Olympic trials, and did the ice for a short track race where the women’s 500m world record was broken.

2. Lake Placid IronMan Triathlon
By pure chance, I have been in Lake Placid twice during the summer when this event has been going on. It’s an absolutely incredible thing to watch an Ironman distance triathlon in person. The crowds are crazy loud, the athletes incredible, and the human triumph of completing an Ironman astonishing. I have never seen so many people celebrating at a finish line.

I have raced several sprint triathlons, and have been tempted to try the longer ones. Then I remember that I have almost no slow-twtich fibres in my body! But I can still cheer loudly, and admire those who do.

1. John Dimon & Dimon Sports
When you do a google satellite image search of lake placid, you can see the oval very clearly, but the little green arrow that denotes to the center of Lake Placid, points to the doorstep of Dimon Sports!!!
When Google says you are the center of something, that counts somehow! see for yourself.

The vast majority of speedskaters in North America have spoken to John Dimon on the phone at some time. His life is skating, and it’s not too strong to say that John has been one of the central figures in a small group committed to saving long track from extinction on the east coast. Here he is, surrounded by friends of the skate tribe, handing out awards at a recent race.

John does sponsor me, so take whatever I have to say with a grain of salt. But his shop is the only dedicated walk-in speedskating shop in North America, and it exists because of his blood/sweat/tears (and gallons of diet coke!!)

Thanks John!!!

10 Responses to “10 things about Lake Placid”

  1. TO get a real idea how crazy those ski jumpers are go to the top of the hill. If you ever find yourself in Park City, Utah. Go to the top of the ski jump hill and look over the edge. It’s practially straight down.

  2. Ski Jumping - big freakin’ deal. My ten year old kid does that.

  3. I love Lake Placid ANY time of year, but there is something magical about it in the winter. Even the snow is different- almost like it is sparkling.

    I agree with the ski jump…brought some friends up to the LITTLE one and when we got to the top to look down..(still green with indoor/outdoor carpet)my knees shook. Never in a million years would I do that!!!

    Fred, your 10 year old kid does it and probably loves it because he has not developed fear! ;)

  4. Yesterday I was on the phone with my dad and he asked if it was snowing (in Milwaukee). It was grey and cloudy with light flakes flying around in the air. “Snowing” implies falling snow that is piling up. I said “You know how in Lake Placid when it’s not snowing but there’s snow in the air?” So Lake Placid’s snow is a special description of weather.

  5. We love Lake Placid. I would move there in a hot second.

    Andrew, we love the Hojo’s there. Everytime we are up in Placid we go there to eat.

    Take Care!


  6. Ahem! There’s a dedicated walk-in speed skating store in Canada, which is unfortunately part of North America, called the Speed Skate Cellar. (www.speedskatecellar.com) Silly ‘McMericans.

  7. Vanessa,

    I tried emailing a personal reply, but the email address you put in the comments bounced… try again.. I’d love to say Hi,

    I try very hard to avoid the silly ‘McMerican syndrome, as it is a common disease here, that is why I have as many extra-serious Canadian friends as I possibly can!!

    sady, I ‘yam what I ‘yam. -to quote the learned american sage Popeye

    : )

    I did think of the speedskate cellar as I was writing this.. The speed skate cellar is cool. I have been there many times. But out of necessity they have to survive by selling a LOT of other things than speedskates, so I don’t think they quite count as a “dedicated” shop, indeed, ice feels like a small part of the store & their website talks about inlines, summer clothing and sunglasses.

    I do hope they survive and thrive, as it’s great that there are enough skaters in that part of Canada to support a shop.. The world needs more skate shops… really…

    Dimon Sports, however, is a whole other realm, about 30 times bigger in selection & stock on hand. It’s hard not to drool with gear lust standing in front of shelves full of hundreds of blades in every imaginable combination & size….

  8. Ah, sorry about the e-mail address, but to avoid spam I just type in whatever I feel like for web-content. :)

    I can only imagine a bigger, badder, stock-heavy version of the Cellar, maybe with LT and ST boots lined up on the walls like shoe stores. (It figures I would imagine this: women, shoes…) I would put fingerprints on everything… And try to get lots of stickers…

    I will gracefully admit to your logic on this one. But I’ll be watching on behalf of Canuck speedies everywhere. :)

  9. Vanessa,

    your image of Dimon Sports is about right… he does have several walls covered in skates, and a rental rack stuffed to the gills with boots & blades… I feel like I spend waaay too much time standing in front of displays and drooling at the cool stuff…

    I just wanted to write and tell you how much I like YOUR blog (I followed a link you posted to this one).. you are an exceptional, fearless writer, and remind me in both topic, style, & ferocious irony, of a writer I knew very well in college….

    I have a 75% chance of visiting Edmonton feb 17th-18th, there is an invitation-only sprinters exhibition as part of the Silver Skates marathon.. (I’d race on Saturday).. It would be cool to cross paths with you…

    and any email address that is put into the “mail” part of the comment form is private, never visible/published on the web, and only I can see it…. comment email-contacts are truly safe/hidden from spam-bots…

  10. That shot of the night skating is great. It looks like enough fun that I might try it. NOT! I hate the cold (and I call myself a speedskating fan).

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