Of Gnats & Men

We spent the bulk of the last week in upstate New York, and I know you’ve been dying to find out what Cy’s surprise destination for us was. I was too, but didn’t get to find out until the second day of our time in New York. The first evening, we stayed in a Walmart parking lot and woke up to a peaceful morning on Thursday. We’ve been helping Ellie practice standing up every day for several months, but Thursday morning was the first time we’ve seen great progress. She stood next to the couch without assistance and we jumped up and down and cheered like we did during the overtime win against Ole Miss 2 years ago. I’m not sure I can imagine what we’ll be like when she starts taking actual steps! Our elation was short lived though, because as soon as we pulled out of the parking lot, Cy looked over at me and said, “Uh oh. It’s not running right.”

So, Cy pulled into a different parking lot and started trying to deduce the source of the problem. Ellie and I grabbed the stroller and walked around in Barnes & Noble. After a couple of hours of troubleshooting, Cy decided that rather than spend the rest of the day in a parking lot, he would take the RV Cummins distributor to help him diagnose the problem. We cruised to the distributor at a swift 30 mph on the interstate. After only about an hour and $22 later, they had taken care of the fuel filter, and we rolled out of the dealer’s parking lot at full speed! As we were getting back onto the interstate Cy said, “You know…it’s not really a Martin vacation without some sort of mechanical issue.” We laughed, and headed north.

Our mechanical setback cost us several hours, so we couldn’t make it to our intended destination, and ended up taking a random exit when it was close to dinnertime. Cy found a spot for us for the night and we stopped at a country store on our way to the campgrounds. Their store looked approximately as stocked as the bread and milk aisles at a Wal-Mart in Arkansas before a snowstorm. We bought their only package of hot dogs and some ham and were on our way.

The KOA campground Cy had chosen was on an island on Lake Erie. We took the manmade road out to it and checked in. It was charming! We watched the sun set from shore and then headed back to the RV to have dinner. That was when we discovered the one downside to the cute KOA. Gnats. There were so many gnats, and try as we might we couldn’t manage to keep them all outside. Cy grabbed a can of cutter and attacked some of them, but survivors were still everywhere – landing in our food and buzzing around. On a scale of 0 to Exodus, it was closer to the latter.

The next morning before we left, we decided to take a family bike ride around the island. I should say, Cy decided, not we decided. You see I’ve only ridden on our tandem bike for the last few years. I have not attempted to ride an actual bike built for one since I was approximately 12. I tried a few weeks ago and promptly fell off, cut up my ankle, and asked Cy, “You’re not going to make me try again are you?” He did, and I wobbly made my way up and down the street once. I was really nervous to try again on an island in front of seasoned RVers. But Cy helped me work up my courage and we got to go on a sweet family bike ride around the island!

Then, we headed out to our secret destination. It ended up being Lake Saranac, NY. As we got close, Cy explained to me that when he was 16 years old, he drove all the way to Lake Saranac to work at a Younglife camp for a month. We found an RV campsite, got settled, and then we looked at the weather forecast. The low was 33°. We had not packed for freezing weather. The most we had were a couple of long-sleeve shirts and one pair of wool socks each. Luckily, the heaters in the RV worked and so we were toasty warm inside the RV. The next morning, we drove the little distance to the Younglife camp. The grounds were beautiful, and many of the buildings looked right onto the lake. I could see why Cy had wanted to revisit this particular camp. I was freezing cold, but the more we walked around, the more I warmed up. Cy relived memories as we walked around where he hadn’t been for 16 years. He told me stories about jumping into the lake after curfew and about being mentored by older staff – several specific conversations still shape him today.

After looking around the camp and taking some pictures, we headed into the actual town of Lake Saranac. We went into a little Pizza by the slice place to get some New York Pizza. For what it lacked in quality, it more than made up for in temperature. We puttered around in some outdoors shops and then started driving around. We stumbled upon the Olympic Training Center and the ski jump that they used in the 1980 Olympics. Cy and I couldn’t believe how tall the ski jump was. We parked across the street from it and just stared for a few minutes.

We had gotten a recommendation for an ice cream place that happened to be just a few minutes from our RV. We headed there and arrived to discover a line out the door. Donnelly’s Ice Cream is on the National Historic Register and still uses their original ice cream machine from 1950s. They only make one flavor a day and it changes each day. Cy and I each got a cone of their Strawberry swirled with vanilla. And then we couldn’t stop talking about how good it was. We understood why it was a local hot spot.

That evening, we decided to walk around the RV Park. We met a bunch of older people who were all there for the summer in their RVs. They were all friends and were having their “tribal council” which was more akin to a tailgate than an actual council. They called us over and we ate and talked while Ellie showed off all of her tricks. They told us that Lake Saranac was often the coldest town in the continental US, which made me feel better for being such a wimp about the cold.

I can say without a doubt that upstate New York is gorgeous. We saw lakes, beautiful trees, and mountains. Sometimes it reminded me of Arkansas. We wished it had been warmer so we could have rented a boat and gone out on the water. I guess we’ll just have to come back another time!

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