Assignment Adirondacks: The Vacationist

Who are you, what’s your job, and why do you love about living in the North Country?

Doug Yu – Adirondack Regional Tourism Council. I work for the regional tourism organization as a Marketing Specialist and I also supervise the operation of the Beekmantown Gateway Information Center.

You might say I wear two hats, but really it’s one hat which serves two purposes – I promote the Adirondack Region and New York State. Being a relatively small organization, that means I do quite a variety of things. In other words, I do a little bit of everything that you might expect a tourism promoter might do. In comparison to a large organization with many people, this is the most interesting part of my job.

I’ve always loved the outdoors and various recreational activities, so living here is a fantastic treat all the time. It’s really part of the reason I ended up here. Originally from the West Coast, I had no idea or concept of living in The East. One day there was a choice to be made…. Plattsburgh? What the heck is that? On the map it looked nice w/ Lake Champlain and Adirondacks nearby. Well, it is nice and I haven’t regretted the decision much at all. Oh, I still get a kick out of having “seasons”. And the snow shovel is still a novelty-tool.

Any amusing anecdotes? Funny things that have happened at the Visitors’ Center, weird phone calls?

 I’ve worked in travel/hospitality for some time now. You might appreciate the “on-stage/off-stage” nature of customer service. Anyhow, what’s amusing for us, might not be amusing for most. I love people. Of all kinds. Seriously.

 One day I had a guy come in. It was Colonel Sanders. Or at least he claimed to be the son who took over the celebrity appearance gigs. Weird thing, there was no reason for this guy to be in full “Colonel” regalia while traveling between jobs, but he was. Even weirder, there was no “Colonel” acting – he was like a normal dude on a road trip asking for directions, but fully looking KFC. I was so lucky to be out front when he came in because the ladies would never have dared to ask him, “Are you the Colonel?”.

Everyday, we get call for the Tyson Chicken Processing Plan someplace in Texas. Our 800 number is a close variation of their sick/tardy call-in line. These calls are a never-ending source of amusement for me. While I haven’t made it a formal job-duty, I have told everyone to cluck like a hen whenever one of these calls come in.

You must spend a great deal of your time answering questions about the Adirondacks. What’s you’re favorite type of question? What do you most enjoy telling potential visitors about?

 I’ve been here since 2001. In that time, there have been huge changes in how information is created, distributed, and accessed. In the “old days”, phone and brochures were the primary means of getting travel information. That is no longer the case. I guess you could say that I’m a information-fiend. At the same time, I love to share and help. Luckily for me, my niche of choice has been “Adirondacks”, so helping people with information about our area is a real pleasure.

 Travel is an aspirational activity and creates lifetime memories – sometimes life-changing. When I can help someone leave the Adirondacks with a positive experience, I consider that a success and privilege. In that sense, my favorite question is the one I can successfully answer.

I have a thing for kitchy 1950s-style roadside attractions – The North Pole in Wilmington, Frontierland, the old Zoo in Lake Placid, Land of Make Believe in Jay, Storytown. Seems like once upon a time, the Adirondacks catered more to kid-fun and family roadtrips. Most of these places are gone now. What killed ’em? Have our tastes changed?

There was a zoo in Lake Placid? Huh. (ed. It was called 1,000 Animals, located on Route 86, where the garden center is now.)

I’m just guessing, but I think the Adirondacks catered to Rich and Famous more than Kids and Families over the course of recent history. What’s changed recently? So many things contributed to the demise of those old attractions. I think they were the product of an era now replaced by modern multimedia entertainment. Our tastes probably have not changed, but we now have very different ways of satisfying them.

Strategically speaking, one of our greatest assets is Wilderness. I think this is a tourismagnetic feature that has long-term value and deserves greater protection. Nuff said on that.

Any favorite attractions or sites in the Adirondacks that you feel get overlooked?

Adirondack Park Visitors Interpretive Centers and Great Camp Santanoni.

Tours being right up your alley, how about you take us on one? You have one day, a tank of gas, three meals, and sixty bucks. Where in the Adirondacks would you eat each meal, and why?

A Food-tour? And it’s gotta be in the Adirondacks? Hmm. One thing I have to say, the North Country is not known as a culinary destination.

Traditional American Breakfast at The Homestead in Plattsburgh. Local (I mean that in the geographic and social sense), casual, big portions, tasty, and cheap.

Picnic outdoors someplace scenic, like a sunny rock with a view. I think I could even afford a few fancy beverages. If I didn’t make my own, I’d get Subs from Zuke’s of Plattsburgh. That’s my favorite sandwich shop in all of the Adirondacks.

Dinner. That’s a toughie. Let’s just imagine I was in the Adirondacks someplace right now… Hmm, what would I crave. Probably something warm and spicy, washed down with something cold and frosty. I like that Caribbean Cowboy place in Lake Placid. Ask me again tomorrow and that might change.

 Viva Adirondacks! Thanks, Doug!


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