Barring a miracle, the Rail Explorers bike rides -- one of the most popular attractions in the Adirondacks -- will soon be making their last trip down the rails.
That’s the word from the Australian owners, Mary-Joy Lu, and her husband, Alex Catchpoole, who fear plans by the state to remove the track will destroy their business.
“We’d really love to stay here, but the future is uncertain," Mary-Joy told Schroon Laker last week.
“We have bought hundreds and thousands of dollars to this area and have created 34 jobs.”
But most importantly, Mary Joy and Alex have put huge smiles on thousands of happy customers, since opening in the summer of 2015.
The track is part of 119 miles of a state-owned rail corridor between the town of Remsen and the village of Lake Placid. And part of the tracks Rail Explorers use has been targeted to be ripped up to make way for a mixed use trail.
Since we spoke to the couple their fate seems to be sealed. “Rail Explorers to end local operations. Owner cites unfriendly business climate; Company was also operating without APA permit,” read the headline this week in the Lake Placid News.
What could save Rail Explorers is if the state Department of Environmental Conservation and Department of Transportation call off an ambitious plan to rip out the tracks between Lake Placid and Tupper Lake. The work is set to be completed before next summer.
Governor Cuomo, who the couple say has ignored their repeated requests to open a dialogue, wants part of the tracks to be replaced with a trail for biking, snowmobiling, skiing and walking.
The track is also used by The Adirondack Scenic Railroad's tourist trains, between Lake Placid and Saranac Lake. The Railroad is suing the state over the plan. A court date has been set for November 2.
The couple, who hail from New South Wales Down Under, came up with the concept for a rail bike ride for a track in Byron Bay, a picturesque coastal town between Sydney and Brisbane.
But it was Mary Joy’s idea, after seeing the rail bikes used in an episode of a Korean soap opera, where the bikes are very popular and where they are manufactured for Rail Explorers.
The idea never took off in Australia, but gathered steam after the couple moved to Brooklyn. (In their previous careers Alex worked in high end graphics and special effects and Mary Joy was a producer).
The ride has been widely successful with up to six outings a day over the summer, many sold out. For that reason we urge you to book a trip (online or the phone) before they close for the season (and for good?) at the end on November 1.
We took a ride last week, on the early side of the leaves turning, but with enough color to let you know it is indeed the fall.
After meeting at Saranac Lake's historic rail station, our group was taken by bus to a clearing in Clear Lake, where our bright red bikes were waiting. (There are two seat and four seat versions. Each comes with a brake and each rider is required to wear a seat belt).
After a thorough safety briefing, we were off. The ride, mainly downhill, is pure joy. Zipping by pristine lakes, and flashes of fall foliage, you can hit speeds of around 20 miles per hour. There are guides stationed along the route, where the tracks go over roads.
After setting off, and getting a feel for the bikes, your guides spread each bike out, so there is no one directly in front or behind you. This gives you the feeling you are one your own, with this part of the Adirondacks all to yourselves. The ride is for everyone – from little kids to grandparents!
There’s minimal pedaling to do, and it’s shared by your fellow riders. The ride, a little over 7 miles, takes about an hour. The group after us took the trip in reverse.
So we urge you to make your reservations now! It’s a trip you will remember for a lifetime. We wish Mary Joy and Alex all the best. For more information, visit their website here, and their Facebook page, here.
Have you ridden the bikes? Share your experience in our comments section.