Day 5: Lake Placid, New York (47.1 mi/75.8 km)

[Content warning: a lot of pictures of beautiful scenery]

Ow. Ow. Ow. Ow.

That’s how I imagined I would start today’s entry. Actually, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be.

I slept in a little, which meant till about 7:20 or so. Knowing that I didn’t have as many miles to go as I have had to in recent days, I was not anxious about getting underway early and wanted to be as rested as I could be for the climbs today.

After breakfasting, packing, and getting dressed, I got underway just after 9 a.m. The weather was beautiful—partly cloudy with low humidity and moderate temperatures. I headed off down the road and as soon as I came across a gas station, I stopped to top off my tires. Being extra careful not to allow my bike to tip over, I topped off the tires and kept going. I could tell that the bike was riding better and no doubt the last two days of 184 miles had caused them to soften over time.

As my route turned more southerly, I started to feel fairly strong headwinds. No, no, no, I thought. Today is mountain day not headwinds day. This was, once again, demoralizing. Not just for the usual reasons, but because I knew I was going to need all my strength for the second half of the trip, when I’d have to ascend 2,000 feet to Lake Placid.

At least, I was getting to see some breathtaking scenery:

Entering the park

Eventually, my route took me to the boundaries of the Adirondack State Park. The park, the largest state park in the country, is not like other designated park areas. People live and work in the boundaries of the park, but it is protected in ways that the rest of the state is not. “Forever wild” is the phrase you see a lot around these parts.

The headwinds were starting to become a problem. Even though I knew the largest inclines would be after Wilmington, it was not as if the route before then was flat. There were a number of steep inclines where it would have been really helpful to have been able to get a fair amount of momentum on the downhills or flats proceeding it. But instead, the wind was so strong that at times I could go no faster than 10mph on flat ground making it all but impossible to get some momentum going for succeeding climbs.

The views were becoming ever more spectacular but that just served to make me anxious. Yes, more inclines were coming and I was blowing out my legs on the “easy” part.

To be honest, getting this shot may have made the winds worth it.
The Ausable River

After one sustained climb, I found myself in a beautiful wooded area with a downward slope. I could rest my legs as the woods prevented the worst of the winds. At one point, I realized that I had just biked past the route I was supposed to take. Cursing my luck, I started to double back when I saw the road I was supposed to have taken: a gravel road. No. No. Wind. Mountains. But not gravel roads. Not all three things in one day. I looked at the map and realized that the road I was on would run parallel to the suggested route and would take me right into Wilmington. “I don’t care if I’ve got more hills to climb,” I said out loud to myself. “I’m not riding on a gravel road today.”

And so I continued along the Harkness Road toward Wilmington, continuing to be treated to ever more spectacular views. At one point I could see the town of Wilmington in the distance, the mountains in the background, and, wait, is that a Methodist church right there in the middle of town?

Sure enough: a United Methodist church

I don’t know what it is about our architecture, but I can spot a Methodist church from half a mile away. But just beyond the church, across the street was a little plaza. If memory served, there was somewhere to eat there that I’d seen on the map. And sure enough, there it was: ADK Pizza and Pasta. That sounded like the right place to carb up for a long, uphill ride.

And so I pulled in to the lot, parked my bike right next to an outside table. I went inside and asked if I could be served outside. “No problem,” the man said. “Someone will be right out.” And so I went out and sat at the table, resting my wind-tired legs and taking in the amazing view.

After downing the first glass of water he brought me, I got ready to order. There were a few things on the menu that looked good. “Between the chicken parm sub or the meatball hoagie, which do you recommend?” “The chicken parm sub,” he said without missing a beat. “The meatball hoagie is good, but people come in just for the chicken parm.” “Okay, then,” I said. “I was kind of hoping that was the case.”

People come in for the chicken parm sub. Now I know why.

When he brought my food a few minutes later, it did not disappoint. It was really tasty and filled me up well. Given that my dad had made me chicken parm the night before I set out on that first 97 mile day, I’m beginning to wonder if chicken parmigiana might not be the cyclist’s wonder food. Because after resting up for 50 minutes or so, downing a couple of large glasses of water and getting my water bottles refilled, I was ready to go.

Okay, let’s get at this, I thought. I got on my bike and after the usual groans the first couple of pedals as my sore muscles scream out: Hey! We were resting! I was on my way. I had calculated the route as being 46 miles or so and had already come 33.64 miles. The sign in Wilmington pointing me toward Lake Placid read, “Lake Placid  10.” That was heartening. Whatever was coming, it’d only last 10 miles. I could do 10 miles of hills. I’d done more than that riding the Blue Ridge Parkway and Soco Road in Cherokee, NC.

But as I moved along, I noted that the inclines were steep at times, but not impossible. And there were surprisingly a number of flat areas even some downhills. And even the wind was not as strong as it had been, or at least in the leeward side of the mountain it was less noticeable. And I was making sure and steady progress. To be sure, my average speed slipped into the single digits—about 9 miles an hour—but it wasn’t the 5–6 mph that I’d been fearing would be my lot all the way up the mountain.

The Ausable
Whiteface Mountain—the Olympic Skiing Venue

Indeed, the route follows the Ausable river up most of the way and the river is not a waterfall, it’s a regular stream. It began to dawn on me that I’d been completely psyched out by the elevation chart I’d seen:

I mean, that looks awful. But it’s hardly to scale. Yes, those areas in dark orange and red were difficult, but they were usually just a short incline, nothing really to be that worried about and were soon over and leveling out or even going down for a bit. When looking at the incline stretched out to more reasonable proportions (here just the last 10 miles or so), you can see that it’s not as catastrophic looking:

Eventually, I crested the mountain right at the boundary of the city of Lake Placid, and the view was spectacular, as was now becoming common today:

I made my way into town easily, continuing to take pictures along the way:

The Olympic ski jumping venue
The Golden Arrow—not as affordable in summer

Before I knew it, I was in town. My hotel was not quite in the center of town. The one I’d stayed at before, when I used to come to Lake Placid at Christmastime and plan my sermons for the spring, was a little pricey this time of year. If you look carefully at this picture, of their lobby area, you’ll get a sense of why that is. In any event, my reasonably priced hotel was about a mile from the city center, but I was feeling energized and was there in no time. I checked in, showered, went and sat in the whirlpool, took a swim, and then changed and took the free shuttle into town. (Yes, the Lake Placid “trolley” is free and will stop and pick you up if you hail it like a cab as it drives by.)

I went into town and walked along the familiar streets that I had not seen in summertime in ages. Because the mileage was shorter today and the climb not as insurmountable as I’d feared, I’d gotten to town with a lot of time to spare. And so instead of my usual beeline to get some dinner at the end of a long day, I lingered a bit.

I visited the Adirondack Community Church (United Methodist) and looked around a bit inside. The doors were unlocked, which made me happy to see.

From there I walked up Main Street, stopping in a few shops here and there, before finding an open park area where I could sit near the lake. The main lake in town is not Lake Placid, it’s Mirror Lake. (Lake Placid is just around the corner.) But Mirror Lake offers a spectacular view in winter and in summer:

Looking to the north east. (This picture was taken, appropriately, while sitting in an Adirondack chair)
Looking to the south east
Why it’s called “Mirror Lake”

I went and got some dinner at the Adirondack Steak and Seafood restaurant—one of my favorites from when I used to come here regularly. I got to sit outside and look out at the lake during dinner. The second meal of the day with beautiful views as a side dish.

After dinner I walked around a bit and visited a few shops. When you’re carrying everything on your bike, the incentive to purchase souvenirs dies pretty quickly. I did by a couple of shirts—a souvenir T-shirt and one I can use while cycling. I walked back toward my hotel looking all the while over my shoulder to see if I could see the trolly coming. Eventually it did—two tenths of a mile from my hotel after I’d walked more than a mile on my own. Even after today and the long walk back, my legs weren’t feeling terrible. But have no fear, I will still be taking my usual does of ibuprofen tonight before bed. Don’t mess with what works.

So, as I wind down for the evening, I leave you with a couple more pictures from this beautiful Olympic village. Enjoy!

Today’s route:

Full workout info:


395.65 total miles
636.85 total kilometers
14,562 total feet climbed
25,979 total calories burned

Donation link