Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Irene Visits the North Country

As I write, the sun shines brightly in a serene blue sky. It's hard to imagine that just 48 hours ago, Hurrican Irene was dumping almost 10 inches of rain on our beloved Adirondacks. Our little town of Keene Valley and neighboring Keene were hit hard with flash flooding as small mountain streams and rivers became raging monstrous torrents.

As one of my friends put it, "The river has gone mad!"

Thankfully, the Snow Goose experienced NO damage. Seriously! We didn't even have a TWIG that need picked up afterward. It's like we were in a bubble with devastation on all sides. Roads washed out, mountain mudslides, huge trees blown down, homes and businesses flooded....

When you're in the middle of a storm, you really have no idea what's happening outside your home. You do what you have to do, but the whole time, you're wondering how your friends up the road are faring.

We had guests from Singapore and NYC as well as other guests on the way. As conditions worsened, the Keene Valley Fire Department phoned to tell us to keep everyone IN the inn. At one point, all roads were closed around us! Our guests who were enroute ended up spending the night at one of our "sister" inns in Elizabethtown! (Thank you Ron and Gail!)

It is impossible to describe the sound and power of the river. It ROARED ... churning and frothing with huge chunks of debris and whole trees flying by as if shot from a cannon.

Wayne ventured out to check on our elderly neighbor who lives next to Deer Brook. This is what the bridge looked like!

It was obvious that he wasn't getting out! Wayne helped him and his cat hike down through the woods to our house where they spent the night.

Meanwhile back at the ranch ....

Folks were getting hungry! Since no one was allowed to leave, the Snow Goose had to open a restaurant for the evening. Thankfully, our kitchen was fairly well stocked and the power stayed on so we could cook!!

Our Irene Dinner Party - Shepherd's Pie, Cucumber Salad and Peach Blueberry Crisp. We had so much fun and the guests bonded in a way that only happens when you're stuck together for hours! By the end of their stays, they were exchanging emails and taking group photos to remember their adventure.

The next morning, we awoke to a changed world. After serving breakfast, we headed out to see what had happened to our town.

One of the hardest hit areas was the Valley Hardware (KV's version of a Super WalMart!). To understand what this store means to the valley you need only to look at the photo. Dozens of townfolk worked throughout the day dragging out and cleaning merchandise and shoveling inches of mud from the floors.

Another view of the hardware store - truly inspiring
Other shops and homes were flooded as well. Our hearts felt heavy as we drove through town and made our way to the neighboring town of Keene.

This photo (borrowed from a Facebook posting) shows how a tiny brook turned into a river sweeping right down the main street of Keene.

Our favorite coffee shop ...

The Keene fire department lost half of their building to the savage flood. Meanwhile, the brave men and women from both Keene and Keene Valley's fire departments worked feverishly to rescue people trapped in flooded homes ... some from their rooftops!

This area was hardest hit. One family has to use a ladder to reach their home as the brook-turned-river clawed away their entire yard and driveway.

Piles of debris lay in almost every yard.

While these scenes in the two towns are sobering, perhaps the most devasting economic damage lies to the east of us ...

Route 73 is the main corridor from the "Northway" to Lake Placid carrying supplies and tourists into the area. Several portions are severely washed out causing the route to be closed for possibly weeks.

These photos are taken about 1 1/2 miles east of the driveway of the Snow Goose!

As you can see, we ain't goin' nowhere in that direction!

In addition, many side roads are closed because of bridge collapses. This bridge in St. Hubert's was just replaced this spring.

The State Highway Patrol are everywhere and not too happy about me taking photos, so i kept my distance! After our photo tour, we wanted to find a way to help our friends and neighbors. My first thought was, "These people are not stopping to take time to eat!" So we worked with the community church to provide some food.

On the menu for our second Irene Dinner Party was Sloppy Joes, Hot Dogs and Spaghetti along with some donated pies, bread, bean salad and watermelon. The girls were a big help both in the kitchen and walking through town inviting people who were working in their yards and homes.

Some of the people who came to dinner. Unfortunately my camera battery died at this point, but we continued to serve at the church until about 7:30 pm and then took the rest of the food down to the hardware store where people were still working. All in all about 60 people ate!

I do ask for your prayers for Keene and Keene Valley as well as neighboring towns of Jay and Ausable Forks. Not only do we have a huge mess to clean up, but we also face economic uncertainty in the weeks ahead. With limited access to the area and many popular hiking trails closed due to extensive damage, we may have cancellations resulting in lost income when we need it most.

We are hoping that people who've made reservations will realize how much their planned visits will bless this hard-hit area. There are still many ways to enjoy this beautiful part of the Adirondacks which we are so privileged to call home.

Thank you for all of your prayers, notes and even phone calls (one from Toronto!) to check on us. We are doing great and looking forward to a productive and abundant September and October. Blessings!!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

August ...

For most of my life, I have been a tourist. Visiting quaint villages and little beach towns, I've been the one strolling the crowded sidewalk, licking my ice cream cone while a shiny shopping bag swings from my elbow. I've rinsed the sand from my flip flops and padded into the restaurants, sunburned, happy and hungry. I've stretched out in the shade and lost myself in a good book for hours ... Ahhhh!

Now, I live in a tourist town and I have a whole new perspective. Here, the word "season" doesn't refer to Summer, Fall, Winter,or Spring. It's more a term of "On" or "Off." It's a feeling of "Full" or "Empty." It's the difference between "Excited" and "Exhausted."

When you live in a tourist town, you find yourself initiated into a special comaraderie that exists among the inn-keepers,restaurant owners, shop-keepers and town folk. We share a bond that's hard to explain ... but let me try:

May - A sense of anticipation begins to build. People take down their Christmas decorations (no kidding!) and begin to freshen their businesses with paint, new windows, etc. Concerts, lectures and bazaars are planned. We feel anxious for the flow to begin.

June - As soon as the black flies leave, the line of traffic begins to wind its way through the mountains. Here they come! Summer homes and camps are reopened. Tourists arrive sporting new hiking shoes, cameras, maps and excitement. We (the locals)greet one another on the sidewalk with excited comments like "Here we go" and not-so-jokingly, "See you in the fall!"

July - Keene Valley is booming! Cars with varied license plates line both sides of main street. Families picnic and swim by the river. Hungry hikers eat on the decks of every restaurant in town. All of the inns are full. Cash registers ring in the shops. The town is energized and smiling.

August - is an animal all of its own! We're still smiling (most of the time), but our eyes look a bit glazed. We wonder how our friends are doing. We wonder who is knocking on our door at 10pm. We wonder what day of the week it is. We glance more often at the calendar. Just a few more weeks ... We can do it ... The end is in sight ... We dream of our own vacations as we fall into bed each night!

Here at the Snow Goose, we've had an amazing summer with all three rooms filled almost every night. This means that my washer and dryer and dishwasher run almost 24 hours a day. The dishes, the sheets, the towels just keep coming and coming and coming!! In fact, I'm reminded of a scene from a Seinfeld episode:

I'm not to the point of shooting anyone, but if one more person tracks dirt on one more rug ... just kidding! Sort of!

But THIS August, I have had an epiphany! I have NO idea why it took me FOUR "seasons" to think of this. Seriously! It really should be the first thing that they tell you in those "How to Run a B&B" books ...

... it really could save a life. Or two. Or three. In August, especially!

It looks simple, doesn't it! But that little sign is one of the most beautiful, powerful, hopeful sights I've seen in a long time! It can turn my whole day into a big smile!

If you ever open a Bed and Breakfast, make yourself one for every room - on the first day!

Oh ... and the next time you visit a tourist town in August, be really nice to every waitress, cashier, cleaning woman and lifeguard you meet. They probably haven't sat down for more than 15 minutes in months ... all so that you can stroll down that sidewalk licking your ice cream cone, swinging your shopping bag, savoring your delicous meal and your peaceful hours of reading. These people are the ones who make your vacation happen!

Give them a smile ... a hug(ok - maybe not!) ... a generous tip ... and once in awhile, hang out your "No Room Care Needed Today" sign! Trust me, they'll love you and give you an extra large muffin the next morning!