Thursday, February 17, 2022

A “Totally ‘80’s” trip down memory lane

totally 80s ice palace

Saranac Lake’s 2022 Winter Carnival was great fun.

A “Totally ‘80’s” trip down memory lane.

My wife Robin and I had already had great fun driving over together to enjoy Winter Carnival. We toured the Ice Palace, took a ride back to the future, posed for some photos (Well, mostly I did). I went “Butt Bobsledding.”

      The Bobsled run was ice palace slick. It was clearly no mission for amateurs! I was undaunted. After a tailbone bruising start coming out of the gate, I quickly recovered, burned down through Shady and Zig-Zag like a Bat Outta Hell, set a new Butt Bobsledding land speed record, AND stuck the landing to bring home the gold.

ice palace slide saranac lake

My wife and I posed for some photos. (Well, mostly I did), took a ride “Back to the Future”, stopped in the Winter Carnival Shop, touched all the buttons, visited Historic Saranac Lake’s “Make Your Own Button” venue, where we made a few of our own.   

So, I knew that for this final Saturday trip home for the carnival’s Gala Parade, I would be flying solo. It’s a two-and-a-half-hour trip up Route 3 east to get home from Watertown. According to the schedule, as usual the parade started at 1pm.

I wanted to be on the road by 10am. I spent the morning doing mission prep, packing my gear, getting ready.  At 9:45am I pushed two syringes of medicine through my G-tube. I followed that up by pushing several more syringes of double espresso shot rocket fuel, my own eight ball caffeine cocktail concoction, ensuring I’d be on high speed auto-pilot for the next six to eight hours.

I stowed my gear in my truck, heading out up Route 342 past Fort Drum, where I Climbed to Glory as a young officer during the early days of 10th Mountain.

I continued up along Route 3 on cruise control, keeping a wary eye out for cops. As I drove, my vintage ‘80’s rock playlist carried me back down memory lane’s well-worn route.

totally 80s winter carnival parade

I went up through Natural Bridge into Harrisville, past the church where bells once chimed “Onward Christian Soldier” as my battalion completed the first of its one-hundred-mile road marches. A battalion task force, combat loaded, completing a one hundred mile forced march in five days. I still to this day believe I’m one of the only men alive who successfully completed that mission twice.

Somewhere between Star Lake and Cranberry I came to the stretch of road where I once totaled my dad’s car.  It was winter, 1985, I was a newly commissioned 2nd Lieutenant, headed from Saranac Lake to Syracuse for a mandatory AIDS test before reporting for my first duty assignment.

There were two fresh inches of pre-dawn snow covering the roads, I crested a long sloping hill, driving Dad’s Chevy Citation. The road was unplowed.

I remember being able to see a long way down in front of me. A state snowplow’s headlights appeared coming around a bend from below. I could see from his beam’s reflection off the snow that he was coming towards me plowing one lane down the middle of the highway with both plow blades down.

I tried pulling that Citation up as far I could to the shoulder on the right, but that little car really struggled to get to the shoulder in that snow. It all happened in slow motion.  I recall actually thinking for a moment about dropping down into the left lane and passing him on that side, but then I spotted more headlights behind him. I realized then that wasn’t an option and I was suddenly facing imminent trouble.

I stayed as far right as I could. That plow never lifted a blade, never budged an inch. He just nonchalantly plowed through me like fresh fallen snow.

By the time what was left of my dad’s car spun past the plow and came to rest in the middle of the road, it was about three feet shorter than it had been just five seconds ago, with much of its front end lying scattered in the road.

winter carnival parade float saranac lake

I sat stunned while the plow turned and plowed up and down the road, erasing all the tire marks, any evidence of what had really transpired. Then the plow driver came up, rapped on my window, asked if I was okay, and offered to push my car off the road with his plow.

I said “No! This car will sit where it is until the cops get here.” A few minutes later they did. I knew I was in trouble when the trooper stepped out of his vehicle and shook hand with the plow driver as they greeted each other.

“Hey Joe.”

“Hey Fred.”

“Looks like the kid lost control of his vehicle, eh?”

“Yup.”

It’s never a good sign for the visiting team when the umpire and opposing manager are on a first name basis.

After a few minutes in his patrol car, the Trooper approached me with a sworn statement form and diagram. He had them completely filled out, including my statement, before he’d even spoken to me. The diagram showed my vehicle with an arrow pointing down into the opposite lane, as if I had lost control of my car and crossed the center line.

“Here kid. Sign here.”

I refused to sign. “But Officer, that’s not what happened!”

“Don’t argue with me kid. I’ve seen hundreds of these accidents.”

I wouldn’t sign the statement. Didn’t matter.  The sate Trooper gave me a ticket anyways. Then the plow driver gave me a ride back to the highway office where I was allowed to use a telephone to call my parents to come and get me.

About the time I was done reminiscing about that, my cell phone buzzed with a text message from my brother;

“Hear you’re coming over.  Patty is in the parade as a “Lawn Chair Lady”. She will be on the Post Office side of the road.”

Implied mission; Capture my sister in law’s debut on camera.

“Roger.”

Author’s Note: One should never give one’s Adirondack Outlaw Airborne Ranger older brother mission orders unless absolutely certain one wants that mission to be executed. Totally.  

lawnchair ladies winter carnival

      I had my camera with me. I had even remembered a spare SD card and extra batteries. Now I had a mission. I was combat loaded, ready.

I cruised up through Tupper Lake, past the field where I’d once played Matty League All-Star baseball.

I worked my way up through town mentally chanting; “Tupper for Supper & Jacks for Snacks” as I reminisced past glory days of football heydays.

Up beyond Tupper, the South Creek parking lot was devoid of any sign of canoe/kayak activity.  The Ampersand parking lot, on the other hand, was packed full.  There was open water under the state bridge by the lower lake boat launch. Ice hung down off the rocks along that whole route, mother nature forming her own ice castles.

I slid up by the high school, past the track oval where I met my best friend Chris and we both pretended to be dedicated runners while secretly admiring the attributes of Saranac Lake’s female athletic corps.

There was a police barricade on Lapan Highway, by the football field. I turned left at the light and parked near the crest of the hill.  I walked down its steep slope to the street by the post office, the same route I once walked, frozen shoulder length 1980’s hair and all, every morning to school.

It was after 12:30 by the time I worked my way through the crowd, down Broadway past the firehall, where the parade participants were congregating. I got out my camera and began snapping pictures.

Near the end of the line, I located Saranac Lake’s famous “Lawn Chair Ladies”, found my sister-in-law.  I then stepped into the street, knelt, took aim, and began executing my brother’s implied mission orders with her own private photo shoot.

saranac lake lawn chair ladies winter carnival

I exhausted my camera batteries in the process of totally embarrassing my little sister-in-law, aka Saranac Lake’s “Doctor Patty”.   I stopped to reload, then turned and hustled my way back up the street trying to get ahead of the formation as the parade began moving.

I snapped pics as I went, finally finding myself a good vantage point just beyond Dr. Y’s on the bridge where we used to shoot at pigeons with my buddy’s wrist rocket from the rocks below.

I knelt on the edge of the pavement, one knee on my gloves. I was across the street from what was once the bakery where we’d buy day old donuts for a nickel or a dime on our way to school or if we dared leave campus, on lunch hour. They made the best Boston crème filled eclairs I ever tasted in that shop, but those were expensive. They cost a quarter. So, I spent my time reminiscing about wrist rocket pigeon target practice and Boston Eclairs while I snapped an array of Winter Carnival parade photos.

2022 winter carnival parade totally 80s theme

The street was packed with onlookers. There was the Saranac Lake Marching band, with another generation of kids banging drums. The Fire Department’s new rescue boat was on display. Canoodlers danced with canoe paddles, the Carnival King, Queen & Court waved.  Musket volleys fired.  There were a wide array of 1908’s themed wrestlers, TV characters and clowns. Although, in true Saranac Lake Winter Carnival spirit, judging from the way folks were dressed, it was sometimes a bit hard to tell the parade participants from the bystanders.

There were kids with bags, throwing and handing out candy. That was one of my favorite scenes, an older kid with a bag of candy reaching out into the crowd and handing some to a youngster watching in awe from the sidewalk.  I remember when we were kids watching the parade, strategizing how to find the clowns throwing candy, following them along the route, snatching up all the tootsie rolls, “Double Bubble”, and lollipops we could stuff into our pockets.

winter carnival

As the parade neared its end, The “Lawn Chair Ladies” passed by me once more.  They rocked their lawn chair dance routine to the all-female ‘80’s Band “The Go Go’s” tune, “We Got the Beat” The crowd cheered and clapped while I snapped one final round of pics.

As the last of the parade passed by, I worked my way back up the hill, loaded my gear in my truck, stopped by the cemetery to say hello to my dad, and then retraced my way back up Route 3.

Once safely beyond the jurisdiction of any outstanding youthful transgression warrants leftover from my teenage outlaw days, I unloaded my gear, stoked up my stove, hooked back up to my feeding tube and kicked back to write. Taking a trip back down childhood’s memory lane.

winter carnival buttons

Totally Saranac Lake

Totally 80’s

Totally Home

Related Stories


Lifelong NYS resident. Raised in Saranac Lake. Cornell graduate(ROTC). Army veteran, Airborne/Ranger qualified, 10th Mtn Div, stints in Honduras and with JTF VI. 3rd degree Black Belt; 3x cancer survivor; published writer with several featured stories in Adirondack Life Magazine. Residing in Watertown NY with wife Robin & our 3 adult children. Loving Life. Living in the Day I am in. Follow my adventures at https://adirondackoutlaw.com/




8 Responses

  1. David Gibson says:

    Completely absorbing, as usual, Richard. What gifts, what memories you have which make us want to read on to the finish line.

    • Richard Monroe says:

      Thank you, David. Unfortunately, you have. Thank you to everyone who has shared the last year of my life’s journey. It was an honor and a pleasure. I truly enjoyed it. Best wishes to all of you.

  2. Alan Fisher says:

    Richard
    I have enjoyed your candid memories and heart felt descriptions. I wish I could put your mind at ease in what haunts in our last days together. Just know this, you are never alone. Especially remember…We did not make God in our image as it sometimes appears. May the peace that surpasses all understanding abide in you. I write this in response to what appears to be a last call by you. If I have missed something, throw a stone in my direction. Kind Regards,
    Alan

    • Richard Monroe says:

      Alan, thank you. Just to be clear, so as not to in any way mislead anyone. I am in no way saying farewell to life itself (knock on wood). I shall continue living in the day I am in & writing stories about all of it. Unfortunately, just not on this platform. Folks who wish to continue sharing my Adirondack Outlaw adventures and journeys are welcome to do so via my adirondackoutlaw.com blog. In the meantime, thank you to everyone & best wishes. For the most part this leg of my life’s journey has been very rewarding. I connected with a lot of wonderfully interesting people, formed some new friendships, rekindled several old ones, and had a great deal of fun.

  3. David Gibson says:

    Amen, to what Alan writes to you. Upon all your wanderings, Richard, hearth, fire, peace. God bless. Thank you for sharing portions of your journey with your readers employing honesty and humor that brightens our days.

  4. Bob Meyer says:

    Richard,
    I heartily agree with Alan & David. Thank YOU for sharing such a rich and part of yourself, your family, friends and adventures with all of us. Thank you!

    • Richard Monroe says:

      Thank you, Bob. I’m sorry I missed your VIC concert. We had one heck of a snowstorm here that day & my snowblower broke, so by the time I got done shoveling there was no way I was going to drive over to SL safely that night. I enjoyed reminiscing with a fellow member of the 1 Stevenson Lane club. If you are ever up past the old house & see a guy just sitting in Triangle Park staring across the street at that house, it’s most likely me. I do that a lot in the summer, thinking back to some of the best days of my life, some of which I’m unfortunately no longer able to share on my own terms on this platform. If you see me there, feel free to stop by. I’m sure we have a great many interesting stories to share. Until then, take care.

      • Bob Meyer says:

        Richard,
        Sorry you could not make it, but I totally understand.. The snow storm made for some exciting driving getting there… A small but very enthusiastic audience. We will do it again. I read your note of thanks to Alan as well and am curious as to why this platform will no longer carry your stories. They are so quintessentially Adirondack. I’m now following you on Twitter, but I have a suggestion; creating a mailing list to alert your followers to new stories and posts. LMK what you think. I have another suggestion which I would like to share privately. I’ll message you on Twitter.
        As for #1 Stevenson Ln., yes, to all!

Leave a Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Wait, before you go,

sign up for news updates from the Adirondack Almanack!