As I left the Durgan family homestead yesterday for Toronto, I thought what a fortunate diversion from my route plan this visit turned out. Although I’d previously met Ms Durgan (the mother of a friend and former colleague) in Amsterdam it was extremely hospitable of her to invite me into her home. A lucky shot that John saw I was in Montreal and only an hour away from his family home. This is the type of happen chance meeting that I hope will occur regularly throughout my trip. Ms Durgan is an extraordinary lady, who at the age of 80 still cooks for her large family, drives the grandkids around and showed yours truly how to play the card game Pitch.
It’s always an honour to be welcomed into someone’s home but more appreciated when you are a traveller on the road. It was great to have a mothers, albeit someone else’s mother, home cooked dinner. Despite getting a little lost I arrived just in time for dinner as: Digs (John’s oldest brother), Debbie (his sister in law) and Ms Durgan were just about to sit down. Dinner included: thick pan-fried slices of ham, potatoes, vegetables and corn on the cob from the local market. All followed up with homemade apple pie. Delicious.
We had a great after dinner conversation, exchanging travel and childhood stories. Don’t worry John – nothing too embarrassing. I was shown the extended Durgan family picture frame and was surprised to see more people than at a G20 summit photo shoot. Ms Durgan has 8 children, 16 grandchildren and 8 great grandchildren. All in all including spouses the extended clan sums to 38 and counting. Fantastic.
The next morning, having been filled with the best pancakes, bacon and maple syrup I’ve tasted I set off for Lake Placid and White Face Mountain, which was only 50 minutes away. Before doing so, I took Ms Durgan up on her kind offer of laundry. It was only a couple of items so don’t give me a hard time and I didn’t want to appear ageist.
The drive took me through some luscious farmland where previous rides brought me along coastline and forestry. In fact this was the first time I saw the picture on my SatNav completely green except for the thin line representing the road on which I was driving.
The mountains weren’t the tallest I’ve driven but the roads around them were beautiful yet challenging. I drove just below the limits so I could take in the streams, ravines and views themselves. Also, the roads do corner sharply and there were plenty of hills and dips were the line of vision was curtailed. Again some great biking roads but a good biker knows when he can open up a little but all bikers must know when to go slow. As you never know when that tractor, trailer, herd or pedestrian are beyond the bend.
Lake Placid lived up to its name. A pleasant enough town with the lake nestled between some of the lower hills in the range. I did enjoy seeing the Winter Olympic buildings and stopped in the nearby Wise Guys bar for an incredibly tasty toasted ham and cheese sambo. After finishing a few emails and skype calls I headed back to Southfork for 6.00pm as some more of John’s siblings were due over.
Another great feed that night as Ms Durgan prepared a meatball spaghetti bolognaise and for desert a chocolate fudge which Debbie prepared. After dinner we sat and watched the finale of the first US MasterChef, which was hosted by Gordon Ramsey. Interesting to see that Gordon’s Mr Hyde surfaced and he actually came across as a nice guy for a change. These shows regardless of the subject whether it’s cooking, music, dancing etc are a vote for the content matter as well as the personality’s of the contestants. I was glad to see that Whitney won over David. The latter being an arrogant self absorbed Bostonian while the former was a smart, cute 22 year old Mississippian who was both wholesome and virtuous; so nice you knew her farts didn’t smell.
The next morning it was time to hit the road and the offer to stay another night was appreciated. That’s the trouble with this trip. Just as I begin to like a place I have to move on. Of course I have some flexibility but I’ve got to keep on trucking. As we eat a breakfast of pancakes and poached eggs Ms Durgan mentioned that the extended family drop by at weekends for the same thing and how lucky she felt having so many of her family close by. Having met a number of the Durgan family during my visit and from the smiles from the assorted family photographs on the wall, I could tell they felt the same about her.
I left Durgan Road (named after John’s father) at 9.00am were the sky was clear blue and the wind cool but not cold. Unfortunately that didn’t last all the way to Toronto. More to follow.
John – bring your Mum to Ireland so the Dempsey’s can reciprocate.