July 11 – Lake Placid, NY

We spent the day in Lake Placid, visiting many of the 1980, and in some cases 1932, Olympic venues … as well as walking the town.

Enroute from Wilmington, the road ran parallel to a wide stream where many fishermen were angling for fun or dinner.

Our first stop in Lake Placid was the Olympic Center, home to the 1932 and 1980 skating venues as well as the Olympic Museum.

These rinks are used almost continually for figure skating and hockey lessons, training and competitions.

It was interesting to learn that at the III Winter Olympiad in 1932, more nations competed in figure skating than in any other sport.   Moreover, it was the first Winter Olympics where all of the figure skating events were held indoors on artificial ice.

There were also displays of “ice skates dating to the mid-19th century.

There is also a well-documented history of bobsledding and the successes of US competitors in Olympic and World events.  This is of particular interest as the father of one of my closest high school friends, Art Tyler, was the driver of the US sled which took the Bronze Medal in the 1956 Games.

Although I’d seen the Medal on many occasions, I have never seen his sled, or any bobsled up-close-and-personal for that matter.

Some of the equipment used by bobsledders at the 1932 Games looked like the prototypes for the Nightmare on Elm Street killers.However, Henry Homburger and his team were good enough at the 1932 Olympiad to win the Silver Medal.  The sleds which were raced over the last century have also gone through some radical changes.2010 Gold Medal Sled from the Vancouver Olympics

I also had a chance to the try bobsledding, luge, the skeleton and ski jumping in the Motion Theater Sports Simulator.  I can’t wait for the XXII Games in Sochi, Russia!

As was expected, there are films and memorabilia everywhere throughout the complex about the US Hockey Team’s Gold Medal “Miracle on Ice”.Throughout the downtown area, which borders Mirror Lake …(as Lake Placid is slightly further to the north) there is an Olympic theme to almost every store, restaurant and hotel.

The main street was also ablaze in hanging baskets of flowers, including some unusual ones.Adding a touch of Florida to the town was a home where PINK, however out-of-place was clearly “IN” … complete with flamingos.We next set out for some of the outlying venues.  Unfortunately directions and detailed maps of the area are, at best, poor.  However, Debbie spotted the tower in which the 1980 Olympiad Flame burned, now located between a high school football field and an equestrian facility.As we headed for the ski jumping site, we were drawn first to the family farm and grave site of John Brown.A statue of Brown and an African American boy looks toward some distant mountains.

Born in Torrington, Connecticut on May 9, 1800, he became a militant abolitionist, a “conductor” on the Underground Railroad, and the organizer of a self-protection league for free blacks and fugitive slaves.

By the time he was 50, Brown was entranced by visions of slave uprisings, during which racists paid horribly for their sins, and he came to regard himself as commissioned by God to make that vision a reality.  In Aug. 1855 he followed 5 of his sons to Kansas to help make the state a haven for anti-slavery settlers.

The following year, his hostility toward proponents of slavery exploded when he and 6 followers, including 4 of his sons, visited the homes of pro-slavery men along Pottawatomie Creek, dragged their unarmed inhabitants into the night, and hacked them to death with long-edged swords.

On the night of October 16, 1859, along an army of 21 men, including 5 blacks, Brown raided the government armory and arsenal at Harper’s Ferry.He believed that his raid would spark a revolution of blacks and abolitionists.  Instead, numerous bands of militia and a company of U.S. Marines under the command of Lgt. Col. Robert E. Lee hastened to the river village, where they trapped the raiders inside the fire-engine house and on the  18th stormed the building.  The fighting ended with 10 of Brown’s people, including one of his sons, killed and 7 captured, Brown among them.

After a sensational trial, he was found guilty of treason against Virginia and was hanged at Charlestown, amid much fanfare, December 2, 1859.  The stately, fearless, unrepentant manner in which he comported himself in court and on the gallows made him a martyr in parts of the North and was a contributing factor leading toward the beginning of the Civil War 16 months later .  Eventually his remains along with those of two of his sons who participate in the raid were moved to the family farm at Lake Placid.As a point of interest, in addition to his business and abolitionist activities between Virginia and Kansas, he was married twice and fathered 20 children, all of whom became active in the anti-slavery movement.

A short distance away, and visible from John Brown’s statue loom the 1980 Olympiad ski jump towers.During their construction, it took 15-days of around-the-clock pouring of concrete for the 120 meter tower and nine days for the 90 meter tower.

We were surprised to discover that the 90 meter run was actually in use … where a group of young men between 15 and 22 were jumping while their coaches looked on and critiqued them after each jump.  The landing areas have an artificial mat which is moistened by a fine spray of water, as is the in-run down the track.The final stop on our Olympic tour was atSite of training for the Bobsled, Luge, Skeleton, X-Country Skiing and Biathlon

Unfortunately it was a Wednesday or we would have had an opportunity to try our hands at Biathlon shooting.

From there we made our way back to our campground via a route which ran along the Ausable River.Despite the many well-maintained Olympic venues and thriving downtown area of Lake Placid, the region is dotted with literally hundreds of old and abandoned homesand businesses, particularly motels and restaurants … likely built for the Olympics in an area where the post-1980 economy simply can not support them.

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