Recently The New York Times published the article”3 Favorite Journeys on a Bike” that chronicles three bicyclists’ traveling routes in different parts of the world. The first tale, told by Warren Cornwall, describes a 78-mile ride from Burlington, VT that loops around Lake Champlain and goes through Charlotte, VT, and Essex, Ausable and Plattsburgh, NY. Cornwall’s story entitled, “‘Road Closed’? Not to Me.” briefly mentions arriving in “the little lakefront town of Essex, N.Y.” after disembarking from the Essex-Charlotte ferry and before riding northward.
On Willsboro Mountain the bicyclists arrived at Highland Road only to discover a closed sign, but they decided to take their chances despite whatever obstacle had closed the road. They succeeded, eventually arriving at Ausable Chasm and then continuing on to Plattsburgh where Warren Cornwall’s travelog took a condescending turn.
“But on a Sunday at 11:30 a.m., the downtown looked abandoned. Sunday brunch apparently wasn’t a popular meal. We resorted to a diner on the outskirts of town, where the hash browns resembled elongated Tater Tots, and the pancakes came with corn syrup — a crime for any self-respecting Vermonter.” ~ Warren Cornwall (The New York Times)
North Country Locals Respond
Warren Cornwall’s criticism provoked the following response from part time North Country resident Sophie Clarke.
The whole article kind of makes me sick. Although I will agree that it’s absolutely APPALLING that everyone in the North Country isn’t out for leisurely, organic, gluten free, low fat but REAL MAPLE SYRUP Sunday Brunches. So uncultured. (Sophie Clarke)
And here’s a lengthier response from full time resident Danielle Giordano.
I was delighted (and then disappointed) to read “View from the Handlebars” in this Sunday’s New York Times Travel Magazine. Delighted, because we here in Plattsburgh on the Adirondack Coast consider the place a hidden gem — low cost of living, amazing natural beauty, family-owned farms, a deep sense of civic pride — but still occasionally like to show it off to the world; disappointed, because, well, the article gave the view from a day tripper from Burlington, and all of the dripping self-regard, condescension, and, frankly, classism that comes with it. Rather than benefit the area with the travel piece, the article made an effort to swipe at Plattsburgh because, alas Sunday readers!, Mr. Cornwall couldn’t find a proper brunch spot as he blazed through town.
One might wonder why Burlington, clearly the Manhattan of the Green Mountain state, can’t get along with its little neighbors across the lake?
What might they find on the New York side?
Plattsburgh’s downtown, like a Norman Rockwell scene, is on the lake; Amtrak runs through the town — on its way to Montreal — past an independent bookstore and a great cafe, the Koffee Kat.
Speaking of Rockwells, take in the Rockwell Kent Museum on the campus of SUNY Plattsburgh. And coming soon, the Strand Theatre is reopening in all of its deco glory. On the way back to the ferry, visit the sandy shores of Plattsburgh City Beach and Cumberland Bay State Park.
And here’s a personal invitation: 5 miles north of Plattsburgh, visit Conroy’s Organics, overlooking the pastures of Conroy Farm on the scenic bikeways of Route 9. For my money, best brunch in the North Country, all locally sourced — you know, if you’re into that sort of thing. (Danielle Giordano)
A fellow Vermonter offers perspective and helpful resources overlooked by Cornwall.
Warren only provides a small glimpse at the cycling opportunities in the Lake Champlain VT/NY/Canada region. Part of his journey was on Champlain Bikeways which circumnavigates the lake (over 1100 miles of possibilities). Specific info about these routes can be found at: http://www.champlainbikeways.org/. He missed an excellent morning dining experience in Plattsburg by not locating the Campus Corner Restaurant at 92 Bridge St. The last section of his ride from the weekend bike ferry on the Island Line Trail into Burlington is particularly scenic. Information about this and other trails in the region, as well as the causeway ferry schedule can be obtained at the Local Motion website: http://www.localmotion.org/. (Roy Neuer)
A justifiably disgruntled Plattsburgh resident deflates Cornwall’s snarky observations.
What a shame that Warren Cornwall had such a miserable experience in Plattsburgh, about which he acknowledges a “state college” (in actuality a highly regarded undergrad campus in the SUNY system) and a “paper mill” (a Georgia Pacific plant; not perhaps the most aesthetically appealing facility, but a major employer and manufacturer of some fairly useful items). With a little prior preparation, Cornwall would have discovered Latitude 44, an excellent choice for Sunday brunch and one he apparently cycled directly past on Rte. 9. I acknowledge that Sunday morning is slow in Plattsburgh, but perhaps another visit on a Friday or Saturday afternoon/evening is called for. Because this small city,whiich has at least as proud and rich a history as Burlington, will never stand a chance as long as snooty and ill-informed commentary such as Cornwall’s go uncorrected. (Abbatissa)
But not all responses to Cornwall’s account are negative. A former South Hero (Champlain Islands) native starting out with a glowing accolade.
Wonderful pieces by 3 intrepid cyclists… (Jordan Davies)
And this commenter trumpets the magnificent Adirondack views.
The shores of Lake Champlain in Burlington, looking west to the Adirondacks on a clear day and evening, offer the beauty of a special place on earth in geologic time. The Lake is a prehistoric sea and different geologic time from the Adirondacks across the way, and both are different from the geologic time of the Green Mountains to the east and in view from over the university hill in Burlington. Three geologic times meeting in one area… There is no view to match the Lake and the Adirondacks to its west from Burlington. When one catches that perfect day or sunset there… exhale and meet the beauty. (George Elliot)
Another Burlington, Vermont resident complements the author and tips her proverbial hat to Essex, NY and our neighbors to the North and West.
Yay, Warren – a great account of riding in our neck of the woods! I find the rolling hills of Essex, Wadhams and Willsboro, NY to be breathtaking, especially in the afternoon sun. (bleusky03)
While this Hamilton commenter isn’t gushing with complements for Warren Cornwall’s cycling log, he does share a useful suggestion.
Next time, when cycling through Plattsburgh, consider a Michigan (http://www.adirondacklifemag.com/blogs/2012/06/28/michigans/). A Clare & Carl’s with the onions buried is a feisty diversion from a maple-syrup-soaked crepe. (Jim Leach)
Now It’s Your Turn
We’re interested in your reaction to the New York Times piece. Do you consider Warren Cornwall’s depiction accurate? Insightful? Superficial? The Adirondack region is no stranger to the mainstream media, but social media increasingly empowers the public to help shape the meta story. Both of the responses above were shared on Facebook, and by weighing in both Clarke and Giordano are adding to the North Country narrative. Please share your perspective in the comments below.
- Friends of Northern Lake Champlain (www.essexonlakechamplain.com)
- Vintage Photo: Shumway House (www.essexonlakechamplain.com)
- Student Shuttle from Ferry to Vermont Commons School (www.essexonlakechamplain.com)
- Adirondack Artists’ and Writers’ Retreat (www.essexonlakechamplain.com)
- 2013 Adirondack Fall Foliage Season Begins (www.essexonlakechamplain.com)