In the northwest edge of the Adirondack Park is a lonely road. It winds through the forest connecting a highway intersection with a small hamlet that sits beside a waterfall and a small dam. This is a place founded on the lumber industry. Now, it’s a country for hunters, trappers, snowmobilers, fisherman and retired old folks. Why the elderly would choose to retire here is a good question. It gets bloody cold in this little town and the snow is deep and seemingly eternal. The nearest decent shopping is at least thirty miles distant.
But it’s the road I’m thinking about…not the village. You know a highway when you see one. But this is a true byway. Not many tourists have this road on their GPS units. It’s a byway from Point A to Point B. And it’s on this road that an old stagecoach stopover is located. There set back from the Red Tavern Road is the Red Tavern Inn.
The several times that I’ve passed it, no neon signs of Bud Lite or Genesee are glowing. The hours of operation are erratic enough that you need a notebook to write them down.
Then one day when I was driving around the county photographing unique tombstones, there it was and it was open! I went in and ordered a tonic with lime. I looked around. There were old photographs on the wall. The place has been in operation since 1831. This place has to be haunted, I thought. For over 180 years, travelers have stopped there for a meal and a bed. People who were on the way to the west…perhaps Buffalo…perhaps Omaha…maybe even California. Newlyweds eager to start a new life and a family. Traveling snake-oil salesmen looking to scam the farmers and woodsmen, itinerate preachers seeking a new flock to hear the Good News, fallen women looking to find a place where their past was a mystery, robbers, horse thieves, runaway teenagers, the seducers, the seduced, embezzling bankers, wounded veterans of the War of 1812, restless wanderers, the old, the young, those living in shame and those living in God’s grace. Their spirits would surely watch over the dusty rooms and shady hallways.
I asked if they had rooms available. Yes, I was told, but you have to be a member. A member? Yes, it’s $25.00 a year.
The rates were cheap, $40.00 for a single. I thought of the quiet. A place to write. A place to contemplate the journeys the old souls had made.
Then I was told that the generator was turned off about 11:00 pm. So, there was no outside electricity. Interesting. I would have to read Proust by candle light.
I thanked the tattooed bartender and turned to leave. I saw the juke box on my way to the door. I stopped and looked. It wasn’t digital. It gave you two songs for a quarter. I played Are You Lonesome Tonight and The Battle of New Orleans.
Through the front window, I could see a dozen bikers arrive. It was no longer my private tavern…my solitary inn.
These men and women on their Harley’s were the modern-day version of the old travelers.
And so was I, in a certain way. I was leaving the Red Tavern Inn for a local cemetery. I’m sure I wasn’t the first to make such a journey.