Day Two - Caverns, Beavers and Mystery Pie
Trip Start Jun 13, 2004
7Trip End Jun 19, 2004
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The two hour trip was unbearably long since I mistakenly thought the caves were only 25 minutes away. We stopped to get some gas and I bought a slice of banana bread that says it has "luv in every bite." I would suggest that they put something other than luv in it so that it would actually taste good. I took a couple of bites simply because I hate wasting money and food, but just couldn't ingest anymore of the foul luv bread. The label also says they make fine foods, but I am skeptical that anyone who makes fine foods would sell them in a gas station convenience store.
After our endless drive, we finally saw "Howe's Caverns" in the distance on a high, sprawling lawn. The way to the Caverns is paved with extravagant billboards for the competition, Secret Caverns. But Howe's is the more polished and family oriented of the two, and they get the majority of the tourist traffic.
When we got to Howe's we found that there were numerous school buses in the parking lot, not a good sign. Inside we had to navigate through countless children who seemed to be frantically pawing through souvenirs or just clogging the doorways and lobby of the building in that annoying way children do. To our great relief the ticket salesman assured us that school tours went through the Caverns on their own.
To get down to the caves, you get in an elevator. Upon exiting the elevator, you find yourself in a large area with a brick walkway and railings. This sets the scene for the entire tour, as it is all brick walkways. The caverns are all large open spaces with railings to keep you corralled, and a walkway guiding you ever further into the caves.
As in any family tourist spot, no visit would be complete without tour guide banter. Tristan was shocked as it was the first time he had ever been subject to this type of thing. Apparently when he was a child, his parents took him to more intellectual spots while they did research. He was surprised to find that the portrayal of tour guide banter on sitcoms was not just a plot device. The tour guide spoke about the rock formations and had stories to explain odd formations within the caverns.
The walkway ends and everyone gets into a boat on the underground river. As we ride along, I can't help but think of the movie Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. I half expect Gene Wilder to show up in a purple suit singing a creepy song about how we don't know where we're going. I even start feeling an impulse to sing the song, but think better of it. We go down the river a short way, and then come back.
Heading back towards our starting point, the tour turns and heads up some stairs to the Heart Stone. Our guide tells us the legend of the stone is that anyone who stands on it is married within one year. As our tour group moves off, I ask Michelle and Tristan if I should step on it. They aren't sure. So I decide to tempt fate, although it does make me slightly nervous as I'm not sure if fate is really something I should taunt. But I'm curious as to how powerful this Heart Stone actually is. So I jump on top of it and do the big Fig Newton pose (anyone who was a kid in the 70s will know it). I tell Michelle to note the date so we can see if I'm married by this time next year.
We follow our group into the Winding Way, which is a very narrow and twisting passage among the rock walls. Anyone claustrophobic should stay out of this part of the tour. A river carved the passage way many moons ago. Its most people's favorite part of the tour, including ours, as it not only beautiful and fascinating, but also impressive to see the effect of the water on the rock.
Then we are back where we entered, waiting for the elevators. Tristan, Michelle and I notice a pallet with brown paper wrapped boxes and find that it is a pallet full of cheese waiting for a 2006 celebration. Yay! It's fermenting cave cheese! We can hardly contain our amusement, and wonder who will eat the questionably stored cave cheese in two years.
Back on the surface, we stop in the gift shop. I purchase an ashtray to hold my guitar picks. Michelle purchases all sorts of trinkets. We are still dodging the school kids but the herd has thinned a bit. I stop to buy some Penuche fudge, my favorite kind. Michelle and Tristan have never heard of Penuche fudge. How can anyone in the free speaking world not know the glories of Penuche? Perhaps my friends are Communists? I don't know what it's made of, but it's heavenly. Michelle asks the lady at the counter who tells her it is made with brown sugar. Yeah that explains its sweet sugary goodness.
We leave Howe's Caverns and head over to Secret Caverns. Where Howe's is polished -non threatening large buildings and lots of staff - for the suburbanite, Secret Caverns is the opposite. The building has a giant red eyed bat painted on the front, and in order to get inside, you must enter through the bat's mouth. We practically jump for joy upon seeing this.
We pay for out tickets but the tour doesn't leave for awhile. So we wander outside to see the ice caves and find Secret Caverns has a great sense of humor. The sign states that everyone must be under 100 feet to enter the caves. We take pictures with our heads in the stocks, although I wonder why the caverns would have stocks near their cave entrance. Then we wander back in to the one room building and look at the souvenirs. A friend of the ticket seller is hanging around and asks if we're geologists. Tristan says "no", but I just look at the guy and reply in a monotone, "Yes... yes we are all professional geologists."
It turns out the person selling the tickets is also our tour guide. He locks the front of the building and we head into the caverns. Where Howe's gives you an elevator, brick walkways, railings, rehearsed banter, and caution not to touch the rock, Secret Caverns gives you a more realistic cave experience. You have to walk 150 feet down into the cavern. The walls are wet, the floors are wet, and water drips on you at times. The passage ways are narrow and you find yourself ducking under rocks. The floor, such as it is, is rock. If you don't watch where you're walking your foot will slip off into a small stream, which Tristan learned firsthand I suggested that he should get a t-shirt that says "I went to Secret Caverns and all I got was a wet shoe."
The tour ends at a 100 foot underground waterfall, which is really beautiful. Then you return the way you came in. One interesting thing was there were electrical cables attached to the rock in the passages. The tour guide shut off the lights once we passed through an area, and turned them on for the area we were about to enter. This was quite a contrast to Howe's Caverns where there are no signs of electrical cables, but lights are everywhere, and none of them get shut off - except on the boat ride when they show you what it's like to be in pitch black.
By this point it was late in the day and we hadn't eaten since breakfast. We decided to head back to Lake George and stop at Betty Beavers 24 Hour Diner. When we pulled into the parking lot, we were overjoyed to see the sign featuring a waitress that was a mutant beaver woman. Even more jaw dropping was the enormous 3D bazooms on the sign. The protruding globes stuck out about ten inches in their patriotic Wonder Woman type outfit.
Inside was even more interesting. Most of the room was taken up by booths, but there was also a counter and a small convenience store area which even rented videos. Plus there were showers for truckers located near the restrooms. The place was extremely clean and the waitress and man behind the convenience store counter were friendly.
The menu served breakfast all day, which in my opinion is always a plus. (Why shouldn't I be able to order eggs and home fries anytime of the day if that's what I want to eat?) I got two eggs scrambled, home fries, toast and Mountain Dew. The servings were huge, the food tasty, and the prices cheap. It was the best of all worlds. Compared to the other diners we ate at this week, this was the best as far as friendliest waitress, cheapest prices, and amount of food for the money.
They even have homemade pies. Michelle ordered the cocoanut custard pie. I asked what they had and decided on some sort of chocolaty confection. When the waitress brought Michelle's pie, she said they were out of the tasty sounding pie I had ordered but there was a pie that hadn't been cut into yet. She had no idea what I was, but it had whipped cream on the top and the crust looked chocolate. That sounded worth a try, so I said "Okay give me the mystery pie." It turned out to be an Oreo type pie which was really tasty.
Satisfied with our meal and the humor of the large bazooms, we went back to our cabin and rested for two hours before looking for some mini golf action. We found one down by the water called Around the World Mini-Golf. The golf course featured obstacles representing different countries, including a rickshaw, iron curtain complete with two soldiers, a large sombrero, and a huge Paul Bunyan. Bunyan was definitely a muffler man, (twenty five feet tall, one hand up, one hand down) which used to be at muffler stores holding large mufflers to enthrall passing cars and stray children.
Around the World is a really fun mini golf course and I highly recommend it. We all had fun and posed like fools with some of the large fiberglass objects. Once we were done, we drove back to the cabin. It had been a long day. We planned our next day's journeys and were all excited about going to the Magic Forest, a kid's nursery rhyme/amusement park which features lots of colorful fiberglass characters and a giant Uncle Sam in its parking lot. Ohhhhh yeah, let me at it!!!