Friday, July 18, 2008

Summer Vacation and How!

This is the summer of endless vacations. When going through my calendar at the beginning of July, I realized that we're only spending one weekend day at home between July 1 and Labor Day weekend, and that day is going to be filled by driving the Portland to Coast relay walk route. We're apparently completely nuts.

We recently got back from a two-week trip to upstate New York and Pennsylvania to visit a slew of my in-laws. First we spent the 4th of July at Bill's grandparents' house in Saranac Lake, NY. Saranac Lake is a very picturesque little town just north of Lake Placid (of two-time Winter Olympics hosting fame).

This is my second visit there (it's hard for us to get out there since it's so darn far from the west coast) and both times I've left wondering why we don't go there every summer. It is just beautiful there. We spent the first few days exploring the area, taking the scenic railway train from SL to Lake Placid, watching the olympic hopefuls do their summer training on the ski jumps and driving 10 minutes outside town for Donnelly's ice cream every night. Yes, every night. They feature a different flavor of soft-serve ice cream every day and it is INCREDIBLE. I wasn't expecting to be rabid for it, but it is seriously the best soft-serve I've ever had. It puts Dairy Queen to incredible shame.

Here are a few pics of the ski jumpers doing their thing. First we watched the aerialists jump off their giant plastic kickers (jumps) into the pool. Here's one intrepid lady in mid-air (she's kind of hard to see, but she's upside-down, wearing a red helmet, up in the trees):

Here she is making her water landing:

We all wondered how unpleasant it must be climbing back up the stairs to the top of the jump in wet ski boots. She didn't seem too concerned!

Next we made a quick stop so the kids could pretend they were bobsledders...

And on to watch the crazy ski jumpers make their insane jumps off that huge tower. They were completely unconcerned in their little spandex ski suits with their ridiculously long ski-jumping skis. They've all got a screw loose, I tell you! I'm totally jealous of their skills!

And here's the view from the lip of the jump down the landing area.

It is so steep, the middle of it dips out of view and the skier completely disappears as they're landing. After they land, they shoot out onto the grass after flying past the end of their Astroturf-like landing strip. That little black dot just off the end of the fake-green is the skier.

We only saw one jumper wipe out, after he flew about 10m further than anyone else we'd seen that day. It wasn't very spectacular - he just kind of fell over onto his side and slid on his suit. He held his hands up in the air so they wouldn't get carpet burn and was pretty unconcerned with the whole thing. We were all terribly impressed.

I had my first experience taking the kids on a chairlift. I used to ski all the time when I was a kid and in fact was a ski instructor for a couple years in high school. I haven't skied regularly since high school and not at all since before Syndey was born. I can tell how long it has been by my discomfort level on the chairlift. I'm afraid of heights as it is, but having Sydney on the chair with me just about put me over the edge. She was really good, but every time she'd move an inch I was freaking out and got that shot of adrenaline down my legs. I was terrified of her falling, or the cable snapping, or the chair falling off the cable (even though I KNOW how incredibly unlikely that would be). I'm so glad I didn't have Owen - Bill was wrangling him, and he is totally fearless (Owen, not Bill). He wanted to scoot right up to the edge of the chair seat so he could hold onto the safety bar and put his feet on the little foot rest. I fear for this child, but he'll probably end up turning out great since he's not afraid to try stuff!

I also got to stop into the yarn shop in Lake Placid, Adirondack Yarns. If you're ever in the area, you should definitely check it out. It is an absolutely lovely store. They had the Elizabeth Zimmerman DVDs playing while I was walking around and, best of all, they had a nice selection of that crack-yarn called Seasilk and her sisters from Handmaiden and Fleece Artist. They also have ice cream next door. It's not Donnelly's, but it's Mountain Mist which is the next best thing.

On Saturday, after the previous renters moved out, we headed out to Kiwassa Lake and Bill's grandparents' old cure camp. They rent it out most of the summer in order to be able to afford the ridiculous property taxes, but we were lucky enough to get it the week after the 4th for our family (including me, Bill and the kids, my brother-in-law and his wife, my parent-in-laws, Bill's cousin and his girlfriend and their daughter, and Bill's aunt & uncle and their daughter. It was quite the crowd! We made big family meals, spent the days swimming and boating and rocking on the front porch of the cabin.

This "camp" (which is a rustic house with a giant wrap-around porch and a couple of outbuildings, modeled after but not on the same scale as the Adirondacks' Great Camps) was used for a time as a "cure cottage" for tuberculosis patients. They'd wrap them up and put them out on the porch during the winter to help clear up their lungs. Now it's used for the most lovely, relaxing vacations.

Here's the view down the dock from the front porch (those are the Gardiner boys admiring the view of the lake):

And here's the view across the lake from the boat house:

And here's the "front yard" complete with a glimpse of the front steps which lead up to the rocking porch and the swimming beach.

The swimming area is nice and sandy right near the shore but gets totally gross and weedy about 10 yds out. We got some $1.99 air mattresses at the drugstore and spent the next few days floating blissfully. The kids also lived in the lake most of the week, which got a bit exhausting for their parents. Fortunately there was plenty of family there to help out. Bill managed to injure a rib while tubing behind his cousin's boat, and his aunt managed to rupture a muscle in her leg waterskiing behind that same boat. I tried to waterski but couldn't get my big tush out of the water, and I went tubing once but didn't suffer any injuries besides a raspberry on my elbow from bracing while being flung across the water at a gazillion miles per hour. So fun!

After a relaxing week in NY, we packed up and took a long, windey drive down to Bill's aunt's house in Pennsylvania. There we gathered with even more family to celebrate Bill's grandparents' 70th wedding anniversary. This was the kids' and my first visit to Mast Hope, which is where Bill's grandmother grew up. It's a tiny little community on the bank of the Delaware river where just about everyone in town is related (or has been friends for generations). Here's Bill and his brother Chris on the front porch (Bill's wearing his favorite t-shirt - it has a picture of three boards sitting at a table with some papers and says "Board Meeting" across the top. He's so cool, isn't he?):

Chris is an award-winning graphic designer and he whipped up a t-shirt design in honor of his grandparents' anniversary. Of course we had to get family pictures with everyone wearing the t-shirts. Look vaguely like some kind of cult?

I'm now realizing that I didn't get any good pictures of the t-shirt design, but it's really cool! While all this photography was going on, we had one good child...

...and one child who inspired several Homer Simpson moments in her father.

(Don't worry - that picture was totally staged, although Sydney did have her moments that weekend where we were ready to ship her off on a boat down the river. Notice who's not wearing her t-shirt?)

Here's a picture of the lawn and the house, which is totally gorgeous.

The only thing I didn't like about being here was the oppressive humidity, which just about melted me. We fought the heat with daily float trips down the Delaware on innertubes. The first time we went the water was really low and I spent an inordinate amount of time scuttling over rocks, crab-like, clutching my innertube to my rear. Very dignified. The next day we went they'd let a bunch of water out through the dam and the rocks weren't nearly as much of a problem. Instead we had giant clumps of weeds that would float by and brush our arms, freaking us right out. I've discovered that I love to float on the water, either on an innertube or on an air mattress. I really want to live on a lake someday. Unfortunately, they're not that easy to come by in Oregon.

After a three-hour wait on the runway before taking off out of Newark, we made it home about 1 am and collapsed into bed. I woke up the next day to an inbox full of e-mail (I was pretty much disconnected all week, apart from a few semi-successful e-mail reading attempts on Bill's Blackberry) and a garden completely overgrown with weeds. There were weeds when we left, but I swear they grew 6" while we were gone! The battle against the rampant grass growing on top of our weed barrier continues, and about two dozen volunteer tomato plants had sprung up in various places where they weren't supposed to be. Even though I hate ripping up plants, I pulled them out since we can barely keep up with the tomatoes from a single plant, much less two dozen! I also uncovered the beets and carrots, which were drowning in weeds and could barely be seen. I still have some serious work to do on the poor asparagus patch, but at least the plants that are supposed to be growing in the garden can be seen...

We had to quickly recover and get ready for our next trip, which will be covered in my next post. It'll involve a review of another fabulous yarn store!


Blogger Yarnhog said...

What a wonderful, gorgeous family vacation! I am still open-mouthed at those ski jumps. It looks like you'd have to be completely suicidal to ski off one.

10:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow what fun!! I wondered how winter Olympic athletes trained. Now we know. :)

1:47 PM  

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