May 8: Long Lake to Old Forge, NY - The Great North American Sticky Bun Hunt - CycleBlaze

May 8: Long Lake to Old Forge, NY

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THERE PROBABLY IS a man called Hoss. And I owe him thanks. Because, without his knowing we spent last night on his land.

Hoss owns one side of the only crossroads in Long Lake and has painted it all dull green and left it to fade. He is like the man who buys all the properties on the cheap corner of a Monopoly board. They are rickety-looking wooden buildings on which white, ragged letters advertise fishing bait, videos and ice cream (both hard and soft). Hoss's shop sells groceries, liquids for clearing drains, and things for angling. Across the road is Hoss's camp site, which looks even more run down and has an ice-cream stall which looks unlikely ever to reopen and a video parlour that may not have worked since Space Invaders threatened the planet. There are two moored boats and a trailer cabin occupied but not locked.

From what I've read the site is not open to campers because there are no showers. The state of New York, which makes the rules, worries about common decency and the spread of vermin if cyclists are left to boil water to wash. I had that in mind when I asked at the shop, expecting to be turned away. Instead, the woman said she would ask her boss, who turned out to be a man painting the inside of another Hoss property, who said "I'm sure they won't mind" and thereby showed he wasn't the Boss of Bosses. Or the Boss of Hosses.

"Technically, we're not open yet," he said.

"Technically, then, we won't be camping there, then," I answered.

He smiled.

"Let's keep it that way," he agreed.

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Next morning the rain tumbled down. Big important pines looked dejected as water ran down their arms. They stood in face-off with the guys across the road, cowpokes itching for a shoot-out, their hands over their holsters. Behind, frightened smaller, paler pines stood with their branches upwards, like womenfolk frit at the danger.

We rode past long lakes which ate at the steep earth inclines that contained them. Fallen trees half on land and half in water showed the power of erosion. We stopped between deluges for a picnic at a wooden bench set in the woods within sight of the water. The wind blew - we have been fighting it since the start - and it sent waves against the banks with sudden gasps of pain.

When there weren't lakes there was the contrast of sparkling streams chattering to themselves and, beside them, stagnant water in which the grey remains of trees stood in defiance of dark, acidic water at their feet. I assume the rock bed is uneven, that within two paces it sends water running down it or it is a hollow in which water gathers, as in a basin, unable to escape.

It's only in recent times that people have wanted to come here. The mountains were considered wild, inaccessible and dangerous. Only romantic authors changed that vision and in time the railways came and then hotels and then visitors. But the Adirondacks, bless them, have had the grace to remain unspoiled.

What didn't have the good grace to remain unspoiled was the weather. After many happy references on this site to Pedals and Petals, a bike-and-flowers shop in Inlet, we called in to have the sound of greaseless grinding removed from Steph's front wheel. Ted, the owner and mechanic, lived up to his billing. The hub was sorted out in moments, as we talked to his young assistant who lived to ski and was probably the only one among us to regret the absence of snow.

To her pleasure and our dismay, her hopes came true. The rest of the afternoon brought icy, hard rain. The morning brought snow. And that left us a problem...

AMERICAN FLAGS SEEN: 81

DRAGITS: The police said they were around but we were probably too early in the season.

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