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Surviving a first nail-biting drive through the mountains

The world opened up for me Wednesday afternoon, March 18, at about 2. I had never been north of Albany in my life.

My summers as a kid were spent on the sandy beaches of Cape Cod. The highest elevation there is about 18 inches. Or so it seemed.

I have driven up Mount St. Helens twice. The first time, just a couple of years after the eruption. Two-lane roads turned into one lane, which made it real interesting when a car was coming the other way and headed right for you. It took a week for my teeth to stop chattering after that adventure.

Another year, I hiked a third of the way down the south rim of the Grand Canyon before a park ranger noticed me and turned me around. Can’t blame her. All I had was a half-filled bottle of water on a 90-degree day. The nerves were cranked up that day, especially when I discovered the climb back up was a thousand times harder than the stroll down.

One time, I sprained an ankle badly on a hike up the side of a mountain in Oregon.

But nothing prepared me for Wednesday, and my very first encounter with Route 73 as I headed toward Saranac Lake and my new job as sports editor of the Adirondack Daily Enterprise.

Flashes of Mount St. Helens exploded in my memory.

As the climbs became steep and the downhills turned into roller coasters, I grabbed the steering wheel until my knuckles did, in fact, turn white. Beads of sweat appeared on my forehead as I glanced at my mirror and saw a vehicle on my bumper. Apparently they didn’t appreciate an out-of-stater crawling along at 30 mph.

My immediate thought: How was I ever going to get to Lake Placid and Saranac Lake?

And then the next thought: How would I ever get out?

And between these thoughts of terror I opened my eyes and took in the spectacular view that makes the Adirondack region what it is. I had no idea that this beauty existed up here. I wanted to stop at every turn-off and take a picture. So I did. When people speak so highly of the Adirondacks, now I know what they mean.

I stepped out of the Daily Enterprise to grab a sandwich at Jreck Subs (a big thumbs up) on Thursday, and cars slowed to a stop to allow me to cross Broadway. That just doesn’t happen in other places. In Boston, drivers speed up whenever they see pedestrians as if they get bonus points for the hit. I’m joking. Well, sort of.

So now, it’s on to the job in these very delicate times.

I want to entertain you. We will celebrate the athletic achievements that happen in such a unique place on this planet. We will cheer together, laugh together, cry together.

“Miracle” is the movie that grabs me every single time.

I can’t even imagine going down the ski jump at Lake Placid or cruising through the bobsled and luge run at Mount Van Hoevenburg.

It amazes me.

I grew up just outside of Boston, in South Weymouth, so, yes, I wear those Red Sox colors pretty strongly. I remember scoring every game as a kid listening to Ken Coleman on WHDH, and crying after every loss, which in those days was often.

There are no bigger rivalries than Red Sox vs. Yankees and Bruins vs. Canadiens, at least for this Bostonian.

Yet my journalistic travels have taken me to Duke for its basketball rivalry against North Carolina, Clemson for its football rivalry against South Carolina, and Kansas City for the Chiefs vs. Raiders and Chiefs vs. Broncos.

And then what about the Bills and Patriots?

And here we are, right in the middle of the venue that hosted the biggest game in international history: USA vs. Russia.

Bring it on again, I say.

And just to throw a little scare into the bad guys, I’ll take them for a little trip along Route 73 on a snowy night.

That’ll show ’em.

Paul D. Bowker is sports editor of the Lake Placid News and Adirondack Daily Enterprise.