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  • Writer's pictureInger and Jeff Latreille

An Unexpected Stop

~Saturday, August 28, 2021~

Day 440

Once again, we’re back to the scenario of cloud cover in our dense, forest setting. So it looks like we won’t be generating too much solar power. The difference this time, however, is we are allowed to run generators. Yeh!!

We made up for yesterday’s missed reward and stopped at Donnelly’s Soft Ice Cream on our way to Lake Placid. Serving tourists and locals alike since 1958,

it continues to be quite the hotspot serving up, apparently “the best ice cream in the Adirondacks” . We saw people leaving with armfuls of gallon sized containers of the stuff and there always seems to be a full parking lot when we’ve driven by. They only allowed one group in at a time and lucky us, we arrived just in time before a large bunch showed up behind us. They only serve one flavor a day with today’s being cinnamon/vanilla. Even though I prefer regular ice-cream to soft serve, it was THE BEST soft-serve I’ve ever had, creamy and dreamy, and did I mention low-cal? (kidding)

As we got into the bustling, charming city of Lake Placid, we pulled over to come up with an exact plan of where to park and how we were going to work our afternoon. Since we don’t have reception at our site, we can’t research there. So it wasn’t until we were in the city that we found out the Olympic Training Center and Museum were closed due to construction/expansion. We found out that the museum received a contract worth approximately $1.4 million with all work scheduled to be completed by the 2023 Winter World University Games. The aim is to draw more visitors to the attraction to help commemorate the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics. What a shame though, that our timing wasn’t better. But at least we got to see the exterior of the ice skating arena where the “Miracle on Ice” event took place in 1980. Remember…..the U.S. beat Russia in one of the best ice hockey events ever? It was also pretty cool to see the various event signs still up, for bobsled, skiing and long ski jump events.

As we approached our stop at the John Brown Farm State Historic Site, it seemed a bit strange and out of place to see 2 tall modern structures in the background…..the long and short ski jumps from the 1980 Winter Games. The only reason we chose to visit this farm today was that it was on a top 10 list of places to visit in Lake Placid. We had no idea who John Brown was or what he stood for (even my history buff of a husband had not heard of him), though we had heard about the Virginia raid he was famous for….the Harper’s Ferry Raid that he instituted. His role in support of Black men and women’s rights and freedoms resonates just as much today as it did then. Especially with the Black Lives Matter Global Network mission and police brutality issues at the forefront of the news.

Upon entering the farm, you are immediately drawn into reminders of the racial tension and injustices that still exist today. On the lawn, were signs depicting headstones,

memorializing many black men who have been killed at the hands of law enforcement. They’ve named it the Memorial Field for Black Lives. Reading each sign was a stark, harsh reminder of just how cruel and unfair racism is.

We toured John Smith’s, and Smith’s son’s graves

in addition to his former home, a modest 2-story cabin looking structure that has been renovated, preserved and relocated. But, over time it had gotten away from its original construction, so they’ve deconstructed much of it to bring it back to its former self. We also watched a short film about the Underground Railroad, a network of secret routes and safe houses to aid African-Americans as a safe haven as they made their way to freedom states and Canada. They traveled mostly at night, sometimes 10 to 20 miles at a time to get to the next “station”, and so on. On this route were hundreds of white families who fed, clothed and directed slaves on their route to freedom. A few actors portrayed the horrendous abuse they endured, moving me nearly to tears. But it also was a good reminder of just how great the human spirit is. It really is amazing what they endured year after year, yet, had hopes and dreams to make a better life for themselves, no matter the risk, no matter the consequence.

The final stop on the farm was in a rustic cabin where the exhibit, “Dreaming of Timbuctoo (Timbucto) was displayed. This exhibit, produced by the “Freedom Education Project John Brown Lives!”, honors John Brown’s keen support and hard work of the grantees who took up new lives as pioneers alongside their white neighbors, building an interracial community. A little background… 1821, the New York Assembly denied black people the right to vote unless they owned $250 worth of real property….a near impossible feat. It wasn’t until the 1870 ratification of the 15th Amendment that black men in New York finally achieved that right. To bridge the gap between 1821 and 1870, an ambitious land distribution took place.

In 1846 and 1847, reformer and philanthropist, Gerrit Smith, from Peterborough (upstate Madison County), gave away 120,000 acres in forty-acre lots to three-thousand impoverished black New Yorkers; the path…….through Essex and Franklin Counties in the Adirondack Mountains. Gerrit Smith’s vision and hope of these gift lots was that they would be settled and developed by black homesteaders, which over time, would give them their right to vote. Along the way, he met resistance but also had a lot of support and recruitment help from some of the best known black political reformers in New York. Sadly, because of the reluctance of black men to leave their urban neighborhoods for the distant wilderness, and the rumors being spread about infertile land and unsympathetic locals, less than 200 black men took the chance on Adirondack living. But for those that did, this interracial community building would ultimately break down many of the unfathomable cliches. Learning about John Brown’s legacy and his mission to end slavery was definitely a worthwhile stop today.

After our amazing tour, we made our final stop of the day at Big Slide Brewery & Public House. I guess we were a bit presumptuous in getting our table. Since we didn’t see a hostess when we walked in and saw a few empty tables outside, we just took it upon ourselves to take a seat. Something didn’t seem right, so I went back in to ask if we were good. Ah, no. There was a wait of 40-minutes for seating, so we instead opted for a few Adirondack chairs to sit and sip a few beers, catch up on some emails and check messages.

After our delicious ravioli dinner, we enjoyed a nice, quiet evening of fireside reading, (Jeff) and cross-stitching (me).

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