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Saturday, January 28, 2023
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We drove straight up the Major Deegan … for four hours.

The thruway begins in the Bronx and runs north to the Canadian border.

(Wait, is it a thruway or an expressway?)

It is both.

(But it’s not a parkway?)

No, parkways go through parks.

(So that’s why we drive through parkways. Why do we park on “driveways”?)

Homes did not have a spot to park a car when automobiles were first introduced, but there were walkways. Hence “driveways” are for cars.

Construction on the Major Deegan Expressway was started in 1936 as part of the federal New Deal money that flowed into New York City. Before that, simply driving from New Jersey to the northern edge of New York City’s five boroughs could take hours, not minutes. There were no expressways or highways, just a few miles of the Bronx River Parkway and hundreds of miles of local roads. The Expressway was named for Major Francis Deegan, who died in 1932. He was one of the architects involved in creating the network of expressways that we use today, but more on that later. In 1957, the Expressway was absorbed into President Eisenhower’s Interstate Highway System. That is why it is called both the Major Deegan as well as I-87.

For us, it was a four-hour, 250-mile drive that started in Teaneck, New Jersey, and continued straight up the Major Deegan, past Fort Ticonderoga until we reached Route 73.

The last hour of driving was a 25-mile drive up 73, which was a local road. A long and winding road. That is when the cellular signal got spotty Then it dropped out altogether.

(Alien abduction?)

No, mountains with poor cell service.

When most people think of Lake Placid, they think of…

(A horror movie with a giant alligator…)

First of all, that was a crocodile, and secondly, it was a fictional town in Maine. When most people think of Lake Placid, they think of the Winter Olympics.

(1932 or 1980?)

Yes.

(Yes, what?)

This town, 300 hundred miles north of New York City, was the host to the Winter Olympics in both 1932 and 1980, but most people remember the “Miracle on Ice.”

(When Team USA beat the Russians for the gold medal in ice hockey.)

Kinda, the U.S. team beat the Russians to reach the final round against the Finns.

(But we still won gold, right?)

Yes, we did.

When I think of Lake Placid, I think of hills. Many, many hills.

I remarked to my family that we were driving the bike course.

I asked them if they would like to bike this section with me on Friday.

(How did they respond?)

17 year old: “Ohhhh… nope. No chance.”

Wife: “Better you than me.”

10 yr old: “You. Are. The. Most. Insane. Lunatic. In the entire universe!”

(He did not.)

Trust me, he did. I have it on video.

(While you were driving?)

I didn’t say I was the one recording.

Once we arrived in the village of Lake Placid, our signal returned.

(How did you know if you were watching the road?)

My children stopped talking as their devices required signals. Janet and I laughed.

The last 3.1 miles of our drive took us up the Ironman run course and I pointed out landmarks to my wife and kids.

(You mean the last 5K of the race?)

Yup… the last 5K took us past the local airport.

(A tiny asphalt strip in the field)

Horse stables.

(Without any horses)

… and street-lined shops with either Olympic motifs, skiing and canoe rentals, or Ironman banners. As we drove past the Olympic Oval from the 1980 Winter Olympics, we could see our hotel.

(You already told us about the “Miracle on Ice.” Keep the story moving.)

There was a moment of relief for us when we drove up to the entrance of the hotel. Not just because it is a half mile, 9% incline from the street to the front entrance, but because we made it after over five hours together in the car.

(It sounds like you needed a medal for surviving that car trip.)

Anyone who has survived family vacation car trips knows that it is a different experience for our kids than it was for us at their age. When I was a kid, we played “I-Spy” or we sang songs together.

(What is this? “The Sound of Music”?)

OK, when I was a child, my family did not sing together, we stared out the windows at the passing cars or we played in the back seat with our toys. But we remarked on the things we saw outside our four-wheeled bubble. My kids were lost in their own world on their devices and we had to get their attention to point out things to them. On the other hand, it gave my wife and me hours of uninterrupted “us time” to speak about everything and anything. Once the cell service dropped, we had their attention, or should I say, they had ours.

(Complaints from the passenger section of the craft?)

Yup, but it also gave us a chance to discuss with the kids what was about to happen and what we were expecting from them…

By David Roher

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