I’m trying to find a perfect route longitudinally across the Adirondack region of upstate New York. In the first part I hit the state at Fort Ticonderoga, which allows you to trek westbound through the hilliest section of the park taking in Lake Placid, Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake along the way.
From here a lot of Canadians stick on the 3 and then take the 58 to Gouverneur and the Canadian border beyond. But I wanted to take in more of the park so opted to drop south a little on Hwy 30, which encompasses some of the park’s biggest attractions and keeps you in the twisty hills just a little longer.
Of museums, cruises and grand camps
The south-running 30 is a fine route all the way to the southern tip of the Adirondacks, but sticking to it would be a rather large deviation for this trip as it heads directly away from Canada. What I wanted was to connect to the westward Hwy 28 so I could loop back up north, but also take in the fantastic Adirondack museum.
I must admit I usually scoot past such places, making a quick mental note to come back and visit one day before swooping into the next set of twisties and forgetting it ever existed. The beauty (and sometimes annoyance) of a press-related tour is that you are ‘encouraged’ to take in all and sundry, which can fragment a perfectly good ride, but (as in this case) you can also discover some real gems.
The Adirondack museum originally came about as a location to house an abandoned steam train and its carriages. But its modern buildings and extensive displays do offer up a real sense of history of the region, from original native inhabitants to the European army of loggers to the rich barons’ estates, all the way to the present day. There’s even a resident boat builder who manages to gracefully host visitors questions (mine included) while trying to assemble a functional art sculpture.
But let’s not get too high-brow here; we had a destination to get to and once again I found myself partaking in something that I would not normally go out of my way to check out, but a man has to eat. I’m talking about the Raquette Lake Cruise & Dine, a short-haul from the Adirondack Museum, and just off the 28.
I really didn’t think this was going to be my thing, but the tourism people offered it up so I thought why not? It’s basically a restaurant on a replica steamboat (diesel-powered) that cruises around the circumference of Raquette Lake, while the inhabitants ingest a rather fine meal, all the while looking into your loved one’s eyes and getting horny.
It’s billed as an ‘intimate cruise’ and would likely score you significant brownie points with your better half. Trouble is my, better half was a thousand kilometers to the east and across from me was Jim Vernon. Admittedly, Jim is a good friend, but the romance just wasn’t there.
Still, despite all this, the evening was really quite enjoyable. Being on a boat is an unexpected forced chill out that I seem to get so rarely in our fast-paced and always-connected world. And you get a decent commentary from the ship’s captain as to all the history that you were chugging by to boot (mainly camps for the rich).
If you were with finer fare than the raggedy Mr Vernon, then our accommodation for the night would have proved to be the perfect locale for the post-dessert activities. The Great Camp Sagamore is literally just 20 minutes down the road, although it is at the end of a dirt road, which may deter some of the less adventurous riders.
The camp is one of many in the area, and was built in the late nineteenth century as part of what can best be described as a rather expensive pissing match between the rich elite of New York City. The trend at the time was to be able to escape the city and ‘rough it’ with nature in the wilds of the Adirondacks.
Of course, for the über rich of the era, roughing it was a very relative term and when William West Durant decided to build his great camp it came with two complexes – one for the workers and one for the guests. Unfortunately for Durant, he found holding on to money somewhat taxing and was forced to sell the property to Alfred Vanderbilt when times got tough, who tarted it up a tad with the addition of flush toilets, hot and cold running water, hydro-electric plant and of course, an outdoor bowling alley (as you do).
However, Alfred Vanderbilt didn’t get to hang around for long to enjoy his ‘camp,’ going down to the bottom of the Atlantic with the Lusitania courtesy of a German torpedo in 1915. The camp was eventually gifted to Syracuse University before being passed into State hands and is now run as a non-for-profit, offering guided tours and (sometimes) accommodations.
For our stay we were the only guests, getting the whole of the main lodge to ourselves. Beware though, it is more of a camp than a hotel, which although I quite like (as it keeps it to its somewhat rustic roots), don’t expect a pampering and hearty breakfast in the morning. I think it would make a brilliant stop over for a group of riders — just be sure to grab a bottle of booze at the Raquette Lake store after your dinner cruise!
To Gouverneur and beyond!
The 28 continues south-westerly to what is by all accounts the charming town of Old Forge. I didn’t go there so I cannot attest to this, as it meant I would be forced to endure some four-lane back to Canada. Since I was on the long-term BMW R1200GS, I figured I could take a risk on some of Google Maps’ thin grey lines that could be roads or could just be goat tracks.
The adventure began at the town of Eagle Bay where the wonderfully named Old Big Moose Road veers off in a northerly direction. It’s a cracker. Paved and as twisted as Clifford Olson, it would be a highlight for all motorcyclists if it didn’t turn to gravel about a third of the way through. For me, this was just the icing on the cake, eventually turning back into asphalt two-thirds of the way at the village of Stillwater.
Here it becomes the Stillwater Road and is much straighter but with enough curves to keep your attention, eventually kicking you out onto Hwy 812 which is the only boring bit of road. It’s also a mere 10 miles before my destination for the night — the rocking town of Gouverneur — so it’s an acceptable bore.
Okay, Gouverneur may not be exactly rocking, but there are worse places to make camp for the night. I was booked into the Lawrence Manor Bed and Breakfast which is hosted by a great couple (Donna and Nelson) and came with the biggest and best breakfast I have had in a long time. Gouverneur is also a good place to end this adventure, with Wolfe Island, Ivy Lea, Brockville and Ogdensburg all options for the crossing back to Canada.
All in all, a great ride and a perfect route for the more adventurous riders who don’t mind doing a little bit of gravel along the way. If you want to avoid any hint of dirt, then sticking to the 28 through Old Forge is by all accounts a fair option if you don’t mind slabbing it back to Canada. Or why not keep the US adventure going and head through the Finger Lake area, or even better, into Pennsylvania and head back to Canada via Buffalo? Now there’s a real adventure.
Here’s the route. To see it in Google Maps where you can download it as a KMZ file and convert that for your GPS, click here.
Check out all the pics that go with this story! Click on the main sized pic to transition to the next or just press play to show in a slideshow.
In order to make a trip possible, we often rely on others to make it come to fruition. At all times we draw our own conclusions on what we have experienced and relay that on to our readers in the article. The following organizations assisted us to come up with the route, things to see and/or places to stay but it’s important to emphasize that they did not purchase the editorial.
- Go Tour NY
- The Adirondack Museum
- The Raquette Lake Navigation Company
- Great Camp Sagamore
- Lawrence Manor, Gouverneur B&B
- Wikipedia for the detailed history of the region
Thank you so much for becoming part of The Lawrence Manor family We enjoyed our breakfast conversation with you and hope that someday you return to say Hello So happy you enjoyed your Travels in our beautiful area
Donna & Nelson