Places Things

A day at the lake… and aboard the starship Enterprise

May 20, 2017

These few weeks before I leave for Europe are filled with days of research, appointments and visiting places mentioned in Our Hearts Were Young and Gay.  But at present, I have a couple of days in between book-related stops, which allows me to be a bit more spontaneous with my schedule.

Which is why I am currently in Lake George, New York, staying at an adorable little mom-and-pop motel on the lake, appropriately named the Lake Motel.  All of upstate New York seems to be beautiful, but I finally settled on Lake George because it is on the road up to Montreal, which is my next “book stop”.  The idea was that I would have two (or maybe three) nights here, take a break from the road, and get caught up on all of my writing and website-related stuff.  Also, with the temperature in the 90s, I was eager to enjoy some kayaking on the lake.

But, well, then a storm system moved in the night after I got here and I woke up the next morning to cloudy skies and 60-degree weather.  So with a promise to myself to work in the afternoon, I opted to take off in the car to explore the area.  Driving alongside Lake George past the most darling little decades-old resorts was a treat.  Lush forests, hills, the massive lake, and winding roads which occasionally passed through tiny towns with stone churches – it was just a marvelous way to spend the morning.

I made my way up to Ticonderoga, one of the largest towns along the lake (population around 5,000), about 35 miles north of Lake George, to visit the Star Trek Original Series Set Tour.

No lie.

See, what happened was, I was speaking with my friend Allen (a longtime trekker, he was one of the creators of Dixie Trek), and when I mentioned that I was heading to Lake George, he told me about James Cawley, a fan so devoted to “Star Trek” that he has spent years building exact replicas of the sets from the 1960s series, which he has on display and available for tours, just a few miles from where I would be staying.  How is that for luck?

Even knowing that much of the experience would be lost on me, I still went in honor of Allen (and perhaps just to annoy him a little).  As a non-devotee of Trek, I was nevertheless impressed by Cawley’s attention to detail and resourcefulness in recreating the sets.  With guidance from some members of the original series design team, he has worked hard to create the feel of what it was like to walk onto the soundstage.  One of the best touches is the warning button which, when pushed, sounds an alarm while red lights flash throughout the entire ship, just as they did in the show.

It is easy to see why trekkers come from everywhere to visit Cawley’s creation.  They must thrill in this experience the way I did when I made the pilgrimage to Highclere Castle, a.k.a. “Downton Abbey”.  Trekkers would be as delighted to step into the Enterprise’s sick bay as I was to be in the room where poor Mr. Pamuk died.

While I don’t share Cawley’s passion for “Star Trek”, I admire it, and I admire his commitment.  What started as his hobby project over a decade ago has grown into a remarkable creation which he can truly be proud of.  I just wish I had gotten to say this to him before I left, but he was with another tour as my own tour was ending.   Fans of “Star Trek” will be pleased to know, James is still adding to the display, using blueprints from the series to create some of the more memorable swing sets.

Gift shop report:  No gift shop as of yet, but James is working on that as well.

But that wasn’t my biggest discovery of the day.

As I was driving along the lake, on my way to Ticonderoga, I must’ve passed by twenty places that piqued my curiosity, but as I was trying to make it for the noon tour, I didn’t take time out to stop in any of the quaint little hamlets or at any of the numerous, beguiling antique shops.  Now, of course, I could’ve simply gone on a later tour, and allowed myself to stop the car.  But I come from a line of people who tend to speed past places like the Alamo and Stonehenge without so much as taking our foot off the gas pedal.  I did the Vatican 5-hour tour in 45 minutes.  And yesterday, even with the day being all my own, with no set time that I have to be in a certain place, I didn’t stop the car.

I’m still in a hurry.

This is probably a good realization to have early on in my travels.  Or perhaps it is the voice of everyone’s favorite teenager that somehow got placed into my subconscious while I was visiting Chicago:

“Life moves pretty fast.  If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” — Ferris Bueller

Maybe in the upcoming days and weeks, I won’t whiz past a place, having twinges of regret as it disappears in the rearview mirror.  It’s at least worth a try once in a while.  I suspect that an occasional unscheduled stop might just enrich my experience.

Just about to get in the car and head to Ausable Chasm, the Grand Canyon of the Northeast.  But I will be taking my time getting there today.

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