DAY 4 -- Goony Golf, Natural Stone Bridge and more
Trip Start Jun 13, 2004
7Trip End Jun 19, 2004
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As a cure, we escaped to an early morning round of minigolf at another of the attractions that drew us to Lake George with anticipation of tomfoolery: GOONY GOLF!!! We almost drove the car off the road when we first saw Goony Golf on our first time through Lake George. This time we managed to get the car into the parking lot which it shares with the giant Gift World store next door. Mounting the steep ascent to this Shangri-La of bygone pop culture and storybook mishmash, we emerged into a veritable wonderland of photo opportunities!
The attendant was very friendly, and might have even been the owner. I think we were his first customers of the day. We made our way, clubs in hand, into a wonderland of wacky art and painted plaster sculptures. What can we say? If Goony Golf was in Portland, Maine, we'd be playing every other day. From the Mad Hatter, to the woman strangling a goose, to giant creatures of every type and pixies from here to Manhattan, Goony Golf has got it all. Trick holes of every description!
The Mad Hatter tries to out-hat you with his green chapeau. Later, steer your ball through Cinderella's pumpkin coach, intact with driver (the mice seem to have escaped). There is a giant golf ball on a tee, handy for romping around. To throw away your trash you need to dare the gawping mouth of the evil (but colorful) clowns! A beautiful sculpture of an elephant basks in the fountain at the back. Golf your way through Rapunzel's tower, the tick-tock alligator, a very cool haunted house (I myself was thwarted by the ghosts every time I tried to get my darn ball through the hole -- zounds!), and don't forget the Goony Bird and the Goonysaurus! Pity the poor caveman who is too busy trying to stop your ball from going through to notice his imminent doom towering orangely behind him!!! And be wary as you approach the Pirate Shack or the elves will get you with their giant evil lollipops.
Minigolf has found its ultimate expression in Goony Golf. WE LOVE YOU GOONY GOLF!!! Plus, like many other minigolf courses in Lake George, they have vending machines on the course to supply you with cool, cool, sugar products to quaff in the sunny summer sun. Maine's minigolf courses should take a tip from that!
After golfing and using their restroom facilities, we took a moment to yank the chain of the gruff but friendly old pirate and the positively manic clown that sit near the exit. We got ourselves some fine, fine pictures to take home with us. The clown tried to eat my brain but I escaped. Whoo!!!
We visited Gift World next. It was okay. Because of its infernally vintage-hokey exterior, we were giddily hoping to find some really funky old souvenirs left over from many moons ago but were sorely disappointed, instead finding pencil bags filled with Caribbean creatures and blue goo stamped with "Lake George", and other vaguely appropriate souvenirs for a vacation spot that has water near it. Phooey on the modern souvenir industry with all their CRUD!!! Plus the little old ladies that ran the shop followed us around as if we would want to steal some of their Taiwan-made factory merchandise or poor quality towels. Whatever.
Another souvenir problem we had with Lake George? NO ONE had cool kitschy old postcards. Only new postcards, with slick photos of the area. Nothing homey, nothing genuine. And EVERY STORE had the same series of postcards, so even though we spun through dozens and dozens of postcard racks, we came up with nothing worth sending home. Chris would spend the rest of the week trying to find cool weird old postcards to send home. Good luck, in this town! If only we had discovered that Goony Golf had a gift store of its own, under its entrance. I guess it wasn't open when we went there -- and I GUESS we'll just have to go BACK someday!!! Ahahahahaaaaa!!!
Disgusted by Gift World, we high-tailed it out of town to Pottersville's Natural Stone Bridge and Caverns. On our way we passed a car with the license plate "HILBERT" on a hill. Ha! The drive was long but not too long, and traffic was practically nonexistent.
We learned on arrival, seeing their "Welcome to..." sign, that Pottersville is the Home of the 1964 National Christmas Tree. Tah-dah!!! And where Lake George's souvenirs failed us, Natural Caverns did not disappoint. Strangely-lit postcards from many years past graced the walls of their gift shop. The omnipresent caveman that is their mascot featured prominently on these really cool wooden postcards, one of which I promptly mailed to my friend Loren.
When we arrived we were astonished by the flocks of small black butterflies that were sitting on the gravel of the parking lot, fanning their wings in the hot sun. Well, at least I was astonished by them. Tristan and Chris after a moment of interest were done with the little flutterbys -- so heartless! The insects were all through the area, and kept flitting around my head which I must admit delighted me. I later asked a local friend what they were but he said he had never seen them around before either. A fluke and a mystery!!! I love flukes and mysteries. Then there was the wacky wooden wizard mascot in front of the entrance lobby. Explain that!!!
The admission to the attraction is kind of steep ($10.00 for adults) but if you live in the area it's a good deal, because if you just keep your stamped ticket you can re-visit anytime for free again that year, an unlimited amount of times. The experience overall is a pleasant one. If the screaming hordes of schoolchildren have passed you on the trail and left for higher ground, it is actually quite peaceful, especially on the lower parts of the trail.
The trail layout is a little confusing, as paths crisscross eachother and double back, but the worst that'll happen is that you go to the same place twice by accident. It's not an easy path, though, so if you are a one-legged pirate too old for the sea, or trying to wheel a baby carriage, you might want to sit this one out. Each stop on the trail has a catchy name. We'll get back to this later. The falls were noisy and cool, and very picturesque. We stumbled across their caveman mascot and compared feet. Up until then there had been no caves. We looped down and around the trail and found out that the huge rock formation we'd been wandering around on was, in fact, the natural stone bridge. Vaguely anticlimactic but still pretty darn impressive.
Then we came to Peter Pan's Peephole. It sounds terrifically naughty but in reality it is a little passage in the rock where you can look at water as it shoots through fissures in the rock. Like much of Howe's Caverns earlier in the week it was lit profusely with colorful lights making it seem like a pirate's cave in a movie. In spite of this touristy tomfoolery it is pretty neat anyways.
After braving an unending stream of gaggling grade-schoolers, we got to the lower end of the trail, where you can walk down onto the big river rocks and poke at the pools in them. Here we met a very nice frog and spotted a few fish cruising about. There is a wishing pond on one of the rocks and funny cave-like formations scattered about. It's all very picturesque and pleasant. Chris was pooped by this time and didn't want to climb around on any old stupid rocks. Tristan was too excited about fish and frogs to want to leave right away. The colors created by the water sitting around the huge rocks lit by the sun and filtered by tree shadows was haunting and beautiful and mostly impossible to capture with a camera (believe me, I tried!).
Finally we climbed back up, after deciding if we didn't soon, Chris would droop right over the side of the railing above us and we would have to haul her back up bodily. Off to find food, after a quick stop at the Rock Shop! No, actually we bypassed the Rock Shop and just went to the Gift Shop. But you can tell they have lots of nice rocks from looking through the door.
We stopped at the Black Bear for food on the way back. The waitress definitely looked like she was having a bad day, or bad year, or something. The restaurant was part diner, part bar. The bar part looked perhaps a little scary (the locals ogling us did nothing to help this impression, sorry guys, but it's intimidating!). I had an egg salad sandwich which was good, that came with chips and a pickle. The pickle looked fantastic but was just okay. Bother! Such a tease, that pickle. Tris and Chris had their regular: grilled cheese and Mountain Dew! The dining room was made vaguely fantastic by the addition of fake forsythia (say that five times fast) in a nice arrangement climbing up the support pole that ran up through the middle of the room. Cool! Other tourists came in after us and sat and were a pain in the butt to the waitress. We began to figure out that she probably expected us, as tourists, also to be obnoxious and whiney, which would explain her dour expression while waiting on us.
We kept on back down the route home, stopping only to gawp at the giant chicken my friend had told us we would find somewhere near Chestertown. Yeehaw! Apparently there had been a much cooler vintage rooster before, until a few years ago some local kids got frisky and tossed him in the nearby pond, there to rest forever more among the fishes. Do chickens eat fish? Anyways the replacement chicken was pretty cool even if he was of fairly recent manufacture. Chris and I took advantage of his hospitality and snapped some photos while Tristan hid in the car.
Further down the road we made a quick detour to Video Mansion (sounds fancy doesn't it?) and bought an armload of used and affordable Really Bad Movies for watching on future Fridays, our official Bad Movies and Pizza Night back home. They probably wondered what in the world we were up to and whether they should call the sheriff or not. Was it all a ploy to distract them during some heinous heist? We escaped, bad movies and all, in a fit of giggles, and arrived back in Lake George. I poked around at the end of the dock and dabbled my feet in the cool lake water until a large piece of approaching algae scared me away. Then I scampered back up to the cabin and we all left for MORE GOLF!!!
For this outing we returned to Around the World Golf, where we toured the U.S. portion of their course in style. Here I was attacked by a giant Maine lobster. Perhaps he was just looking for a ride back home, but he went at it all wrong. Chris spent some time rummaging in the shrubbery for her lost ball (I think she picked a black ball that time, I think it'll probably be the last!) while I collected paint chips from various early summer renovations taking place around the course to add to the ones I'd already selected from the grounds at Goony Golf earlier in the day. When Tristan and Chris finally figured out what I was doing they looked at me like they had never known I was crazy before.
Then they were distracted by the polar bear inside a plexiglass box that plays mascot for the state of Alaska. Next we tried not to get bonked on the head by the swinging totem pole that makes the Native American-themed hole (I forget which state it's for) so very difficult but oh so much fun. Finally, overheated and delirious, we patted the Hawaiian surfer on his bum and headed to the cool (literally and figuratively) subway stop that makes up the last hole of this course. It was fun but none of us won a free game! Tricky little subway car...
Next, it was off for a cool snack back at the ol' A&W. This time we parked and visited their walk-up ice cream counter for some good stuff: an espresso icecream cone, a rootbeer float, and a mocha shake. While standing in the shade eating our food at the side of the A&W bear, we read the sign on the restroom door which welcomed travelers whether they were customers or not. Wow! How friendly is that? I don't think I've ever seen a place do that before, anywhere. Hooray for A&W!!!
Then back to the cabin for vegetizing -- Chris sacked out in front of the boob tube and I wandered down to the lake again. That done, it seemed perfectly logical to head back out to minigolf some more. On the way, we encountered two pompadoured fellows, middle-aged and strutting along in leisure suits. Only in Lake George! I swear this place has time warps scattered all over it.
This time we visited the small roadside minigolf across the street from Dr. Morbid's Haunted House, Putts'n'Prizes Mini Golf. This course purports to be on the site of the country's earliest minigolf course, and is pretty fun in spite of its diminutive scale. After all, what is mini golf if not MINI??? It was cute and kept us well occupied as traffic and pedestrians passed by in droves on the street beside us. Only complaint is a distinct odor of mildew on the greens. Bleah! Not so bad until you pick your ball up and realize now your hands smell like it. Ech.
On completing the course we were pleased to receive $1 each in free tokens to their arcade, located right next door. I had to use the bathroom, but apparently there was no bathroom available. Instead I was told to use the Lake George public bathrooms across the intersection. I went. Yuck. A notice mentions upcoming renovations (well, they were upcoming when they posted the info, promising new facilities during 2004 -- none had materialized!). Most of Lake George is very clean and friendly. This bathroom was not. Oh well. When in need, one must make do!!! At least it wasn't a bush.
The arcade is pretty cool, about as small as the golf course, with a standard selection of various game types including skiball and terrifying loony toss-a-ball-in-my-mouth clowns. I got a bunch of tickets playing skiball and thanks to Tristan's contribution of his tickets I picked up 4 miniature sets of playing cards. I am not sure what I will do with them. Perhaps train some mice? Ahhh, heck.
Starving after our latest outing, we wander up the street and decide pizza might be just the thing. Capri Pizzeria is our target. We go in, and it is hopping! People mill about in front and in the counter area waiting for pizza, others go in and out with sizzling slices and funny little pesto bun concoctions. I notice they have some really cool t-shirts -- on the back is a lurid cartoon of a hungry vampire (with GREEN skin!!!) about to choose between taking a bite out of a curvy blonde or a piece of pizza. They only have them in extra large so I get one for Tristan instead of me. I highly suggest you get one of your own if you go through and stop by for a "Late Night Bite" (hahaha).
By the time our pizza is done baking we are ravenous and ready to eat a lamp post each before we have time to get it back to our cabin. By some miracle we make it, pizza and lamp posts intact, and sit down to gobble some of the best pizza we've had in a while. Wow!!! Hurray for Capri Pizzeria!!! The evening settles down to jokes and cable TV cartoons. At some point Tristan sticks a plastic bag on my foot and tells me "There! Now you look just like Cinderella if she had a broken foot and had to take a shower!" Makes sense to me... where's my pumpkin?
TO BE CONTINUED with DAY 5!....