Fort Ticonderoga

IMG_0786I slept well on my new air mattress. In fact the whole camping experience went pretty well. I woke up much earlier than I expected. Maybe it was the sunlight. Maybe it just happened to be the same time I usually wake up for work. It’s happened before on these trips, and maybe it’s the excitement of another day of adventures on the bike. So I made the best of it.

I popped the top trunk back on the bike, then rode over to the showers. That felt good. Back at camp, the coffee in my thermos was still hot from the previous morning, so I drank that while packing up and loading the bike. I plotted a course to Fort Ticonderoga on the GPS, up along the west side of Lake George, and saw that by the time I was ready to leave, I’d get there right about when they opened. So that’s what I did.

IMG_0791I headed east to rejoin Route 9N to follow up the west side of Lake George. I crested a hill, and I was awestruck at the sight of a large green mountain ahead of me.  A bright blue body of water came into view below it – Lake George.  The sight seemed like something out of a postcard, a painting, or a movie – the colors were so vivid, and the composition of the view was perfect.  Part of me wishes I’d pulled over to take a picture right there on the side of the road, since my words aren’t doing the view and the experience justice.

Heading up the side of Lake George was some of the most fun riding I’ve done in a long time. Once again, Route 9N was a road that would’ve had a 35-40mph speed limit back home, but aside from a couple of towns it was 55 most of the way.  It’s a bit of a thrill seeing a sign telling me to slow down to 50 for a curve that would be posted at 35 where I live. Similarly, when you see those little yellow speed limit signs, you’d better pay attention and heed them. For 50, you can just breathe off the throttle a little and keep going. 45, brake slightly before the turn, then power through it. 40 and below, you really need to take these turns seriously and slow down to the suggested speed for them.

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After a twisty, technical downhill section,  I pulled over at my first opportunity along Route 9N to take some pictures. I got chatting with a middle aged couple on Harleys when the wife was also commenting how tricky that last twisty bit had been. They were up from Connecticut for the weekend (also not for Americade). While we were chatting, some other bikes showed up. Then they took off, and more bikes showed up, and even more passed by.  There were far more bikes on the road than cars, which I think is always a good sign. Americade or not, I think I’d like to come back out to this area again sometime and do some more exploring – a ride for the sake of the ride this time, rather than primarily to reach specific destinations like this trip was. There’s plenty of good riding out here. Though if I do go to Americade next year, there are plenty of rides people can take through this area, into Vermont, and all the nearby scenic areas. That’s rather tempting.

I continued up to the north end of Lake George, and soon rolled into the town of Ticonderoga. After passing through what appeared to be a sleepy little town – or maybe it was only sleepy because it was a Sunday morning – I followed the GPS and the signs out to Fort Ticonderoga.

IMG_0796IMG_0797Just as I approached the Fort, my bike rolled past 50,000 miles.  These two pictures were taken at the same time at the same place – the exit from Fort Ticonderoga. Funny how the timing worked out.

Admission to Fort Ticonderoga is not inexpensive – $17.50 per adult. It’s entirely privately funded – no federal or state subsidies, which is surprising given the historical significance of this place not just in the American Revolution, where it featured prominently, but in earlier conflicts, too.  I hadn’t realized that it was actually the French, not the British, who had originally built it as Fort Carillon.

IMG_0802The British renamed it Fort Ticonderoga when they captured it from the French. Then the Americans, led by Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold, captured it. Then the British recaptured it by hauling some cannons to the top of Mount Defiance and merely threatening to open fire from the tactically superior position.

The views from the Fort are as amazing as those I saw on my ride out here. It was also really neat to not only see, but actually be where so much history took place. I could actually look at Mount Defiance, and see why the Americans surrendered before the British fired a single shot – they were sitting ducks from the cannons up there. Wandering around the Fort itself was fun, too, seeing how it had been designed to provide maximum cannon coverage in many directions from a minimum space.

I wandered around a bit on my own, but made a point to join the 10:15am guided tour. It was mainly a history lesson of how the Fort came to beIMG_0807, and discussed its relevance in the French and Indian War as well as conflicts between the British and French in addition to its well known role in the Revolutionary War. I was not aware that after George Washington personally came to decommission the Fort, which was rather run down at that point, and that local residents helped themselves to the stones of its walls and buildings to build their own dwellings. Very little of the original fort remains today. What exists now is a reconstruction based on the original designs.

The buildings contain many exhibits. Medicine, food, and a large selection of weaponry are represented. They even did a musket firing demonstration – not exactly point and shoot! Though not exactly inexpensive, I think Fort Ticonderoga was well worth the price of admission, especially if you’re a history buff. It’s one thing to read about it in a book or on the internet, but it’s another thing entirely to actually go there, see where it all happened, and take it all in for yourself.

After the musket demonstration, I decided to hit the road. There was a line of thunderstorms working its way across eastern New York, and I hoped to outrun it on my trip home.  As a result, I didn’t waste much time on that leg of the ride, and didn’t stop to take pictures along the way.

Soon after leaving the Fort I found myself behind another bike, and we turned onto Route 22 together. I saw him swerve around what looked like a piece of debris in the left groove of our lane, so I also swerved right around it. As I approached and passed the obstacle, I saw that it was not a piece of road debris, but a turtle, with a shell about three feet in diameter! Its mouth was open as I passed it, as though it was yelling at me for whizzing by so close to it at 55mph. The fact that it was hanging out in the middle of the road was completely beside the point, of course.

Rather than take the ferry across Lake Champlain, I rode 20 miles south on Route 22 and crossed it on a bridge into Whitehall, which a sign told me was the birthplace of the U.S. Navy. From there I followed Route 4, grabbed a quick lunch at the Big Apple Diner, and soon crossed into Vermont.  There, my GPS’s “avoid highways” function once again utterly failed to recognize that state and U.S. highways can turn to superslab. Rather than seek an alternate, more fun route, I just stayed on 4 all the way to Rutland, figuring it would put a few more miles between me and the storms behind me. After a quick hop down Route 7 I turned left onto Route 103, which was curvy, fun, and took me down to New Hampshire. I found myself on Route 12 heading back into Keene, making this a great big loop I’d taken through three states over the past two days. I knew the way home from there without the help of the GPS, and after a quick stop in Townsend, MA to say hi to a friend, I got home around 4:30pm, still well ahead of the storm. I had plenty of time to unload the bike, let it cool, and cover it up before the thunderstorms finally rolled in.

I packed a lot of activity into just two days, but I got my first overnight trip of the year out of it. I think I generally prefer my trips to be focused on riding rather than attractions, but in this case it worked well to visit two attractions near each other that interested me.  This was also a test run to see how well camping on the bike worked for me, with a bit of extra time added in there for me to get the hang of it.  I think it worked out rather well, and I can consider camping a viable option for my bike trips.  This opens up many possibilities for places to stay while on the road.  I probably spent about as much on equipment and campground fees this trip as I would’ve to stay in a hotel, but I have more equipment now, and unlike a hotel, I can take that with me.  In the future, all I’ll have to pay for is campground fees, which are far cheaper than a hotel.

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