Road Trip Dad – Give Me Lake Placid - Every Time!
Dan Witmer | July 2, 2019
I started working my summer job this past week.

Summit Lacrosse Ventures hired me to work at the Northstar Capital City Classic girls’ lacrosse tournament in Albany last Saturday and Sunday; I think it’s my fourth or fifth year joining the staff at that event.

The tournament of about 80 teams, broken up into seven different age and talent levels, went pretty well – until Day Two, when thunderstorms delayed the start of Sunday’s schedule and then disrupted play again later in the early afternoon. Still, it was pretty dang impressive how we got all games in. Kudos go to the players, their coaches, and especially their families, who sat in the parking lot or waited in the concourse of the football stadium while Mother Nature reminded us about who exactly runs the show.

When we were pretty much packed up and ready to leave the SUNY Albany campus on Sunday afternoon, it was 5:30. Like last year, I was driving from one SLV job to another – the three-day, 56-team Lake Placid Youth Summit.

Now, I’ve worked at tournaments in Oswego, Syracuse, Rochester, Albany, and Saratoga Springs. I’ve worked at clinics in Geneva and Tasmania. I’ve watched lacrosse at Hofstra, Brown, Rutgers, University of Maryland, Delaware, Syracuse, Hobart, Cornell, Princeton, Towson, Six Nations, the Onondaga Reservation, Halifax (Nova Scotia), and probably most every high school in New York that has a varsity boys’ lacrosse team. I’ve coached teams on most every college campus in New York, as well as legendary Homewood Field at Johns Hopkins University, too (twice, in fact – and I’m 2-0 lifetime on that field).

But Sunday evening I drove just over two hours, from Albany to Lake Placid, where my jaw dropped once again as I took in the beautiful majesty of the Adirondacks.

I’ve written about my love affair with LP before, and I will most likely do it again. After a day like today, I think I know what I want heaven to look like.

For baseball people, it might be a cornfield in Iowa.

For me (and other lacrosse people), it’s Lake Placid.

The northbound stretch of I-87 – aka the Northway – is pretty enough, but the real delight to the senses starts when you get off at Exit 30 and head up through Keene and Keene Valley. When I was a kid, my Dad used to pull the family station wagon over on Rt 9 as we got off I-87 and we’d drink cold, fresh water that ran through a drinking pipe year round. I was tempted to stop on this trip, too, so I could tell my parents I had, but there were four cars in the small parking area already, so I continued north.

Winding my way through the Adirondacks, I see the streams and rivers, the washes and lakes… the Ausable River (at least twice), and the villages of Keene and Keene Valley…

Then there’s the stretch where there’s a passing lane, and the Fallen Rock Zone signs are everywhere. Cars belonging to hikers are parked alongside the shoulders. Restaurants, antique shops, and recreation rentals force you to slow down and take notice… but not like the mountains, the bridges, the lakes, and the rivers…

Next thing you know, you’re driving by the Cascade Inn and its tradition of excellent prime rib on Saturday nights… and then you head down a small decline and suddenly, blotting out the sun like two giant alien cylinders right out of War of the Worlds, are the 70- and 90-meter Olympic ski jumps. I wonder how many accidents those two behemoths cause each year, shocking unsuspecting drivers right off the road…

And then, just like that, you drive by the Horse Show Grounds, site of the Olympic Torch, and the next thing you know you’re crawling along the main drag… the speed-skating oval, the Olympic arena, real snow (year-round!), and one of the busiest Main Streets in all the land.

Games started [Monday] at 10 AM. We have 8U, 10U, 12U, 14U, and 16U divisions playing on eight different fields. Games started on the hour, and the last round of Day One ended around 6 PM. I spent most of the day in the HQ tent, trying to answer questions, direct traffic, communicate with officials, and anything else that needed doing (I even went to Subway on Main Street at 11:30 to pick up lunch for the entire staff).

Then I was asked if I had brought my referee gear. I said yes, and next thing I knew, I was refereeing the U8 games between Tri-Lakes, Akwesasne, and Orange Crush. I enjoyed officiating the games – the coaches were very positive and encouraging, and the players were perfectly willing to listen and learn…

As the schedule came to its close, we sat and filtered teams through the challenging 11-team U14 Silver division. We handled a few minor complaints, made some phone calls, answered a few texts, and snuffed out a few small “fires.” Compared to the chaos and stress we faced on Sunday in Albany, though, Day One in LP was near flawless.

It was after 7 PM when I left the North Elba Athletic Fields – surprise, surprise, another 12-hour day. We met at Lisa G’s at 8 PM for dinner, and it wasn’t until 10 PM that I got back to the condo I stay in each summer. It seems that, no matter what time you try to get dinner or how hard you try to avoid another late night and early morning, it just doesn’t happen when you’re working the Lake Placid events.

Because, let’s face it, there’s Smoke Signals. And Players’ Sports Bar. And Desperado’s. And Tale of the Pup. And Bazzi’s Pizza, and Main St. Pizza, and Johnny’s Pizza Shop… So many great restaurants and so little time…

We’ll finish up here on Wednesday afternoon, and I’ll take the western route home – Saranac Lake to Route 3 – Tupper Lake, Cranberry Lake, Star Lake, Harrisville, Natural Bridge, and Black River… Watertown and I-81, then Pulaski and New Haven and Scriba and then…

Home.

Oswego, NY…

For less than 48 hours. On Friday I’ll drive over to Saratoga Springs for the Saratoga Shootout, my third SLV event of the summer.

The grand finale, of course, is this year’s 30th annual Lake Placid Summit Lacrosse Tournament, which runs from August 5-11 this year.

I’m sitting here in LP now, and I can’t wait to come back up here for a full week in August.

You know, I’ve never been to Vail, and I haven’t been to Hawaii. I’m perfectly willing to see what they have to offer, but I think I’ll take Lake Placid, every time.

Drive carefully, everyone!

- Dan Witmer daniel.witmer@oswego.edu

Dan Witmer is the author of two books.  The Best of Road Trip Dad – the Laker Lacrosse Collection  is an accumulation of 45 articles written for JustLacrosseUpstate between the years 2012 and 2018, about the history and traditions, the people, and the stories of the Oswego State men’s lacrosse program. The book is available on Amazon.com, and at the river’s end bookstore in Oswego, the SUNY Oswego College Store in the Marano Campus Center, The Sports Outfit on West Genesee Street in Fairmount, and Geared 2 Sports in Cortland.  ...and piles to go before I sleep - The Book of Wit  is his memoir describing his 33 year career teaching HS English and coaching at Hannibal Central School. It is available on Amazon.com and at the river's end bookstore.