May 6: Crown Point to North Hudson, NY - The Great North American Sticky Bun Hunt - CycleBlaze

May 6: Crown Point to North Hudson, NY

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IT'S FUNNY how a place can take on significance merely because of where it is. To the world, Ticonderoga (pronounced Tie-con-daroga) is a nothing place significant only for its history. To us it was the first junction on the tour, the point at which the ride from Montréal ended and the Northern Tier began. In the event, we didn't go there at all, taking a quiet road that bypassed through Ironville, "birthplace of the electric age" because events there that led to the invention of the electric motor.

Ticonderoga's history, on the other hand, is about its fort. The French had it, the Americans wanted it and they scrapped to see who would get it. When the French pulled out they were replaced by the British, who displeased the Americans every bit as much but cooked less well. In the end, some time in May 1775, a month after the American Revolution began, Ethan Allen and a band of Green Mountain Boys, who sounded like a country music band, invaded the fort and Allen yelled "Come out, you rat" to the commander. And, not lacking a sense of moment, demanded surrender "in the name of the Great Jehovah and the Continental Congress." The only dull point about this story is that he got the wrong man and made the demand instead of a humble lieutenant.

We were lucky today not only to have Richard and Karla for company but to benefit from their offer to carry our bags in their car. Steph was unwell for much of the winter, not least

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with shingles, and in the first two days of this trip rode further than she had in the previous six months. Getting through the Adirondacks without making herself ill from exhaustion scared her and no offer was more welcome than to carry our bags.

Karla - "like Carla Sarkozy but with a K."
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It still wasn't easy, though. The road went up and down like a bride's nightie and the wind blew in our faces. The opening hour was distinctly three-dimensional. But against that we had a road fringed with the bright faces of daffodils, with woods of a thousand shades of green, and a stream going faster downhill than we could ever hope to match in the other.

There was a bonus, too: emerging on a hilltop with the cold wind jittering our ears, we looked to the left and down in the valley were

Half-man, half-beast. We'd never seen buffalo before.
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creatures that were half-bull and half-man. In ancient Greece, they were the most normal thing in the world, just as people barely mentioned it when a blond youth dressed in white flew by on the wings of a swan. But it hasn't happened a lot in my life and so I paid them the attention they deserved.

In the end I decided they were buffalo, a creature I had never seen before and which staggered me by the improbable size of their bull-like front and the tiny dancing-girl flimsiness of the back legs. If everything in life has a purpose, it's hard to see what it was in the case of the buffalo.

There was false nostalgia for us. Once the plains of America were full of little else, buffalo munching contentedly as far as the eye could see. Then the white father killed the lot for no other purpose than to starve Indians into submission. It wasn't a happy moment in history.

Adam: riding his bike, shifting some weight
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FRED AND JEAN Scales are in their third season of running a little café with a wooden porch and a giant flag high in the Adirondacks. Their son, Adam, manned the cash register.

"I told myself that I'd go fishing in the lake every day," he said. "I've managed it maybe three or four times." He worked in Massachusetts for Wendy's, a restaurant chain, finding new sites. "They paid me well, too." In his tone there was an unspoken "but quality of life is more important."

He's the first to admit that he's carrying too much weight. "I put on a lot when we moved here. I went to gyms in Boston but there aren't any here. So I bike. Not like you guys but I ride into town three times a week, which is 12 miles, and I've lost 30lb."

Another shop, another flag
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Trucks had pestered us all day. They continued after Paradox and its little café but disappeared at the junction with the interstate a few kilometres on. They went straight across and we turned right on the old state road that stumbled up to North Hudson. The Yogi Bear campsite is as awful as it sounds and best seen by eyes less than ten years old. It was there that I met Bob - "I'm about to turn 83 and I'm in no hurry" - who has spent all his life in Scouting, loves kids but admits nevertheless that "there are a heck of a lot of them here in mid-season."

Bob introduced himself as he wandered the site, picking up pine cones with long tweezers and dropping them into a plastic box.

"Oi haddanuff o' boisses."
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"I'm a seasonal here," he said. "We've been coming ever since we found this place in '98, and then it got that I was too old to pull the trailer around and so we just left it here. We stay a month, go back to Yonkers a couple of weeks, come back again. And I think 'What can I do?' and so I make myself useful. I don't want to be paid. I spent all my life in banking and I had a lot of good bosses, but I don't want any more. My wife's the same. She helps out with events here, and we neither of us want to be paid. It's been suggested but we don't want it. When you're a volunteer you work when you want, which is pretty much all times, and you don't when you don't.

"Oi haddanuff o' boisses."


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