By Phyllis J. Lubin
Who was even thinking about weather when we planned our trip? It wasn’t as if we were planning any outdoor activities! As the date neared, my husband would update me that the temperature was expected to become colder (we were taking this trip sans Hubbie). Who would have thought that it wouldn’t be cold in the winter? All I was worried about was the driving—specifically the bridge driving. In my estimation we had approximately two bridges to cross on our journey and then I would be home free—well, just about. I still had to manage to drive the more than 200 miles to our final destination! First stop, SUNY Albany, to return Rochel to school so that she could begin the second half of her freshman year.
With Rochel fresh from her flight from Israel, and all our food and clothes packed away for our adventure, I wasn’t thinking about weather conditions when we departed the Five Towns area. With our trusty van’s navigation system leading the way, I somehow got over the two bridges and drove the 174 miles to our first destination. Upon entering the Albany area, snowflakes began to fall. No worries; the sun was shining and we were almost there! Since the snow was falling, we didn’t have an opportunity to tour Rochel’s campus, but we did get to revisit her dorm room. Yussie, Lea, and I had been there for the family weekend back in October, but for our eldest daughter this was her first view of Rochel’s actual accommodations. Rochel pointed out that she had since redecorated. We had already seen a glimpse via picture messages, but it was nice to see her handiwork in real life.
After feasting on our sandwiches shlepped from home, spread out in Rochel’s dorm room, we were ready for our next stop: The Great Escape Lodge in nearby Lake George. A few years ago, we had spent our end-of-summer vacation enjoying the Great Escape Amusement Park, and now we would be able to enjoy the indoor Great Escape activities. With our bathing suits in tow we were ready to enjoy its indoor water park.
Not too long ago, for a different winter vacation, Rochel had happened upon this particular spot in her quest to find an affordable hotel with an indoor water park. I had pointed out to her that this particular “hot spot” was over 200 miles away, and not such a great choice for our too brief amount of time. This round we had a reason to sojourn so far away—this spot was less than an hour further than SUNY Albany. And so the destination was chosen . . . only Rochel was missing this particular vacation because she needed to save her energy for school.
When we arrived at the lodge, we were greeted by none other than Scooby Doo and company dancing with other lodge visitors in the lobby. This place was surely the right choice for our crew! It just felt fun! Besides the lodge’s main attraction (the indoor water park), it had a lot to offer the younger set. If they are happy, we are all happy! Yussie and Lea were especially excited for our intended night activity: the arcade! They both love the thrill of playing the games and winning prize tickets. I’m also a fan of Yussie’s favorite arcade game, Deal or No Deal.
Once we unpacked in our spacious family suite and stocked our refrigerator with our frozen delicacies from Brach’s and Gourmet Glatt, we were ready to check out the water park. The Lubin members on this trip were not the most adventurous type. We are all swimmers, but not necessarily “high sliders” like Rochel and Rivka. This group was more inclined to enjoy the lazy river. This water park was equipped with a lovely one! Relaxing on nice comfy tubes, my eldest daughter, Lea, Yosef, and I were able to have the lazy waters slowly propel us along the “river.” I even discovered that when I wanted a bit of exercise, I could dispense with the actual tube and swim along the path. The exercise level was whatever you put into it, since the water in the lazy river would propel you along the path with no effort on your part.
As a lifeguard, I was quite impressed with the safety staff on deck. There was no want of lifeguards, and they were all properly equipped with Red Cross fanny packs stocked with everything one would need in a water emergency as well as the requisite red rescue tube. Being a lifeguard anywhere is a huge responsibility, but to be a lifeguard in a water park is a huge obligation. I always remind my staff at Avnet Country Day that the primary occupation of a lifeguard is to prevent a problem from occurring. At a water park, so many things have a potential to be a hazard—even on a “lazy” river. The guards need to anticipate possible problems before they occur. As lifeguards, we are the safety keepers, and these safety keepers at the water park seemed to be doing a marvelous job.
Meanwhile, at the Boogie Bear Surf spot, you can enjoy continuous surfing or body boarding—similar to the endless pool that I had experienced years ago at Kulanu—but scarier! I’m not against doing something frightening for a thrill if I know I would enjoy it. Sliding down in a covered, dark, enclosed, roller coaster type of experience is not for me, but surfing on waves similar to the ocean waves intrigued me! So for the three days we were there, I would watch the surfers as I skimmed by on the waters of the lazy river (or in Great Escape terminology the Tak-it-Eesi-Creek) and imagine myself surfing.
Throughout our stay, we always seemed to be on the move. There was a kids club where we enjoyed arts and crafts. Bingo was lots of fun—all three Lubin kids won (and Yussie won three times!). The Star Light Arcade lived up to our expectations, and for a relatively small investment, we had enough tokens to last us our entire stay. On the very first night at the arcade, Lea played a game and won the jackpot of 1,000 tickets!
Each room at the lodge is equipped with a refrigerator and a microwave, so we were able to keep our food cold until it was time to heat it up. Nothing like nice warm baked ziti after a day at the water park! For breakfast, usually I have to awkwardly ask to see the packaging for the items offered to see what we can possibly partake of. This time, a kosher board had all the packaging attached, assuring the visitors that all the items had various kosher supervisions! We were able to enjoy our breakfast without a worry.
We arrived at the lodge on Monday, January 20, and were planning on staying until Wednesday, January 22. On Monday night, we were chatting with some of the hotel staff and they were warning us of the terrible weather on the horizon coming to the east coast—specifically the Metropolitan New York area—not Lake George. I guess they are used to bad weather in Lake George and were reveling at the fact that this snowstorm was not due to hit them at all! Everyone at home was preparing for the bad weather, while we at the lodge were only worried how this would affect our commute home. The weather was frightfully cold, but we were indoors!
On Wednesday morning, I had to make a game-time decision. My husband’s office closed, as did the area public schools (South Side Middle School closed so Yuss ended up missing one less day of school). Did I really want to be driving into that mess? I don’t mind if it’s cold outside if it’s warm inside, but driving knee-deep in snow might not be the best option for me and the Lubin crew. I decided to find a spot halfway home, before the weather became too untoward. The spot chosen was the Hampton Inn in Harriman, New York—a hop, skip, and a jump away from the Woodbury Commons outlets.
The front desk gave us a later checkout time for our last day so we were able to enjoy our morning at the hotel. Lea and I enjoyed the water park, while Yussie and our eldest daughter made a return trip to the arcade. I built up my courage and joined the surfers on line at the Boogie Bear Surf attraction and Lea witnessed my foray into surfitude! What a thrilling experience that was!
By 1:30, after packing up and eating our lunch in our room, we were ready to embark on our homeward bound trip. We were sorry to say goodbye to our temporary home away from home, but knowing that we would only have to travel another two hours to our next destination made us happy and excited for yet another mini-vacation. Plus, we had reassured Rochel that we would make a return trip to this marvelous vacation spot with Rochel as part of the team so that she could enjoy the amenities firsthand. And with it less than an hour from Albany, there was sure to be a return trip there sometime soon!
Our night in Harriman was enjoyable, as was our brief jaunt to the outlets prior to our return home. By the time we arrived in Cedarhurst, we were thankful to see that my husband had already shoveled out the driveway and walkway and we were happy to be safely back at home! v
Phyllis Joy Lubin is an attorney with Maidenbaum & Sternberg, LLP, who resides in Cedarhurst with her husband, Leonard. They have six children—Naftali, Shoshana, Rivka, Rochel, Yosef, and Lea—and a daughter-in-law, Nina. The author welcomes your questions and comments at MothersMusings@gmail.com.