4th May 2008 – Watertown, NY to Lake Placid, NY

Entering Adirondack National Park Photo

Before leaving Watertown in the morning we popped into Wal-Mart or K-Mart or some other place with the word Mart in the title, to get some phone cards, bottled water and a few other things which weren’t healthy and probably involved cheese. You could get lost for days in some of these gigantic American retail stores, although you’d still be unlikely to find any fresh fruit by the end of it.

In a couple of weeks’ time, the largest Wal-Mart in the United States is due to open in Albany, NY. It will, in all probability, be 260,000 square feet of poorly made products from Chinese sweat shops that no one actually needs, serviced by vacuous, superficial, overweight staff smiling at you from all directions. It’s what makes America so great and it reassures you that the human race is heading in exactly the right direction.

We continued east through New York State, up into the Adirondack Mountains. The Adirondacks are a group of over 100 peaks located in upstate New York, the highest of which is Mt Marcy at 1,629 metres high. The mountains were formed about a billion years ago and are therefore slightly younger than the women Mass tends to go for.

We stopped in Lake Placid, home of the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics. It turned out to be a surprisingly small place and, for once, everything was within easy walking distance. In fact, the whole town had quite an un-American feel in that it was compact, scenic and had a bit of character. It even had an Internet café, a practically unheard of concept in most other places we’d ever visited in America.

We checked in at a place called The Lake Placid Summit Hotel, which had a real oddball guy working at reception. His bottom teeth kind of overlapped his top lip when he spoke and he had the weirdest little beard that any man has a right to grow. It was almost as if his face had grown around the beard rather than the other way round.

Somehow his demeanour reminded us of Jack Nicholson from The Shining. I don’t like to make any ill-informed comments, but I’m pretty confident that he was a serial killer.

He muttered some random things about southern drawls and northern twangs, told us a few facts about the town, which I’m sure were entirely made up, shot us a few sinister looks, and finally booked us into our room. The one with the portrait on the wall with the moving eyes.

The weather was overcast, but that didn’t put us off and we had a little walk around. It didn’t take long to stroll up and down the main drag, so, despite it being quite early in the afternoon, we went to a bar to play some pool. You’d have been hard pushed to find any more people wearing lumberjack shirts in such a confined area, but they all seemed nice enough.

One thing that became very clear was that the people in Lake Placid, as well as owning plenty of thick check shirts, seemed to be very much into ice hockey. They were all transfixed by the TVs in the bar showing a bunch of aggressive men with sticks skating around on ice. Given the close proximity of Lake Placid to the Canadian border, this was perhaps not so surprising.

After returning to our motel to check for hidden cameras, one way mirrors and revolving book cases, we headed back out that evening to see what Lake Placid had to offer a couple of British guys with a thirst for drinking alcohol.

Mark Jackman is one half of the Jackman Brothers, who have written a trilogy of humour books set in the fictional town of Old Liston. He has also written a number of travel diaries, including the Mass and Peahead series about his road trips through America with his buddy Mass.