Ausable Chasm, Date Night, Valcour Brewing Company

DAY 70 -- We've seen a lot of beautiful scenery in New York but today was by far the best as we visited Ausable Chasm -- the Grand Canyon of the Adirondacks. Hiking, rafting, and minimal whining from the kids led to a day filled with awesome views and natural beauty.

To go back to the often-referenced Desiderata: "With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world."

. . .

Amy and I headed out for a date night tonight and hit up a nearby restaurant called the Rusty Anchor. Although they serve mostly seafood dishes, I opted for a maple burger.

The menu offered this burger with bacon, a sweet maple sauce, and "hand cut chips."

After learning that they were out of burgers after a busy weekend, I took one for the team and ordered the same thing with a turkey burger instead.

The bacon on my burger turned out to be Canadian bacon -- which I hate.

The term "hand cut chips" was clearly open to interpretation as well. I know Wavy Lays when I see them.

On a scale of 1-10, I give the Rusty Anchor a D-.

From there we headed to the Valcour Brewing Company for a few drinks. Housed in the former Plattsburgh Air Force Base barracks, this place put off a cool vibe from the start.

Amy and I both sampled a flight of the seven beers they had available but weren't overly impressed. When we've done the same at other breweries, we've typically found that we like most of what we sample. These seven choices, however, left much to be desired.

The Red Bird Ale tasted like cheese and smelled like vomit. The Smoked Porter and Danny Boy Stout were both so overwhelmingly flavored that it was like drinking liquid smoke you'd use to flavor barbecue. The two IPAs were good but Amy's not a huge fan. Magnetic North was easily the best of the bunch.

Still, we plowed through and finished our flights with the exception of the two that left us feeling like we'd just eaten a campfire.

. . .

On the way back to the house, we stopped at Stewart's for a few staples and saw this in the parking lot.

Maybe that beer was better than we thought.

Ferry, Vermont, Champy

DAY 69 -- Amy had been in touch with another of her childhood friends from the Plattsburgh area so we connected with her family this morning for a visit to the nearby Banker Orchard. Much like we do at Curtis Orchard back home, we saw animals, played games, and scarfed down some amazing donuts.

One of the cool features of this place was their collection of vintage coin-operated kid rides. You know, the kind that you used to find just beyond the check-out line at the grocery store.

While we were there, Mason did his best to make a new friend.

His new friend wasn't interested.

It was great to meet another one of Amy's childhood friends...

...and to take a picture of this cool bus.

. . .

With a donut to tide us over until a late lunch, we hopped on the ferry for an afternoon in Burlington, Vermont.

Upon our arrival in Vermont, I could only think of one thing besides the fact that I was starving.

"Hi, I'm in Vermont."

Then I remembered that the line from Wayne's World is actually "Hi, I'm in Deleware."

Whatever. Close enough.

Anyway, our donuts had worn off during the hour-long ferry ride and we couldn't wait to hike up the road to The Skinny Pancake -- a crepery only a few blocks from the water.

The kids did some damage to the "Noah's Ark" which looked like a typical Denny's breakfast platter. Amy went after some kind of veggie burrito crepe something something.

Me? Poutine, of course. When in Rome...

I'm realizing that there are various styles when it comes to poutine much like there are a variety of any food ordered in random restaurants throughout a given region. In comparison to the poutine I had a few days ago, today's dose came served with very little sign of gravy (settled to the bottom) and what seemed to be small chunks of cheese (curds). The green onions where there for some added flavor.

Call me simple, but I liked the baked stuff from a few days ago much better.

Despite the amazing food at The Skinny Pancake, our order was messed up twice and I'm 99% someone there swiped my sunglasses. They were sitting on the table and five minutes after we left when I realized I didn't have them, I went back to find that no one in the place had seen them.


Shout-out to whoever at The Skinny Pancake got a new pair of shades today.


. . .

Heading up to the mostly open-air market on Church Street, we stopped by the Vermont-based Ben & Jerry's for some kid dessert.

Down the street, we hit up Ri Ra -- an Irish joint offering me a grown-up dessert. Amy's friend had suggested I try a Vermont IPA from Alchemist called Heady Topper.

Obviously, I had to.

Not too bad, but I had to drink it pretty quickly as we were pressed for time in order to make the final ferry back to the New York side of the lake.

. . .

The big news of the day, we finally saw Champy! TWICE!

Santa's Workshop, Whiteface Mountain, Kayaks

DAY 68 -- There are a handful of movies I've seen in my life that as I was watching them I started to wonder if someone had slipped something goofy into my drink -- Blue Velvet, The Monkees' Head, Good Burger. Today we visited Santa's Workshop in North Pole, NY where I had a similar feeling.

More on that in a minute.

. . .

I woke up early today -- somewhat unintentionally but I'm glad I did as catching a sunrise over Lake Champlain is something I wanted to be sure I did while we are here. With the water coming in over the rocks and the sun peaking out over the island in the distance, the mountains started taking form on the horizon and I was pretty content.

Then I went back to the house and wound up falling asleep for another two hours.

. . .

Okay. Santa's Workshop.

This place is apparently one of the country's first amusement parks and, located in a town called North Pole, is understandably based on a Christmas theme. The park seems to have been minimally updated over the years and still maintains a very vintage feel from the moment you hit the parking lot.

From there, things got a little bit...weird.

Santa's Workshop was staffed mostly by local teenagers clad in Santa hats and striped socks whose misery was visible on their surly faces. As I checked out one building packed with historical memorabilia and photos from the park (which opened in the 1940's, if I'm not mistaken), I found a book of several black-and-white photos that were especially interesting.

Curious about the story behind them, I thought I'd strike up a conversation with the teenager-historian staffing the room.
"These photos are great! Do you know what year they're from?" 
I could read between the lines here: "Look, man. Don't talk to me. I'm just here wearing this stupid hat so I can party on the weekends. Just leave me alone and let me salvage a little bit of my dignity."

There was candy, a parade, rides, and an icy North Pole. Ultimately, this place was for the kids and they had a blast.

. . .

We stopped for lunch near the start of a nearby trail where we decided we'd drive up Whiteface Mountain since we were so close. Not a bad view for lunch.

. . .

Starting out around 1,400 feet above sea level, Whiteface Mountain was going to take us to the highest peak in New York at somewhere around 4,000+ feet.

No big whoop. I'll drive.

Fifteen minutes and ten white knuckles later, we reached the top. After a few sharp curves with only a handful of large rocks separating our car from plummeting thousands of feet, I quickly lost my bearings and was quite content to park the car without taking the elevator the last few hundred feet to the actual summit.

Everyone else headed up the elevator to the top while I checked out the castle that was close enough.

While they were there, I will say I was able to level my brain a bit and the scenery became a little less intimidating and was simply breathtaking.

But anything is peaceful from 4,867 feet.

I think I see my dad.

They did take a few special pictures for me while they were up there, though.


. . .

Back at the house, Amy's brother and I decided it was time to take the kayaks in the garage for spin. The kids had been asking for the past few days for us to take them out on the lake but we wanted to make sure we were comfortable enough in the boats before taking them out with us. After a five minute refresher, we were ready to take the kids for a spin.

Despite the early morning visit to the lake and the kayak rides, still no Champy.

. . .

This house we're staying in is pretty quirky and unconventional -- in a good way. Here's a quick look.