Oct 3, 2016

Watkins Glen racing and "The Glen"

The name “Watkins Glen” conjures up two images for me - racing and the “Glen.” Watkins Glen was the first post-World War II road race in the United States. Cameron Argetsinger spent his summers in Watkins Glen and graduated from Cornell Law School. The Watkins Glen area was close to his heart. He dreamed of bringing European-style racing to the village. His dream came true when the Green Flag started the race
on October 2, 1948. The 6.6-mile circuit ran through the village streets.  I find it amazing that the village fathers agreed to host the race which meant closing many roads and convincing the New York Central to stop the trains during the race. The on-road race continued until 1952 when, after an accident, it was moved to a purpose-built track. The original circuit is on the National Register of Historical Places, and anyone can drive – not race - the circuit using the self-guided brochure.  

Today Watkins Glen International is a Mecca for racing enthusiasts
hosting a variety of events from Can-Am, Trans-Am, Formula 5000, and even concerts. The track has attracted all the big names of racing such as Mario Andretti, Phil Hill, and Richard Petty. Today, when there is no event, “Drive The Glen” you can find out what it feels like to drive your personal vehicle two laps around the 3.4-mile Grand Prix circuit behind a pace vehicle.  Unfortunately, when we were there preparations were being made for a race so my little old Honda will have to wait to race another day.  If you want to drive the track make sure you check the Watkins Glen International website for available dates and times.

Even people not interested in racing will want to stop at the International Motor Racing Research Center in the village.  Diehard racing enthusiast will find it great for research and everyone will enjoy one of
their many videos.  We enjoyed “25 Years of Speed.”  There isalways a racing car on exhibit. While walking the village streets look for the name of your favorite race drive on the Walk of Fame on the sidewalks. 

For me “The Glen” means the geological wonder that is right in the village. It took nature 10,000 years to shape the glen and it is not done. I wonder how different it may have looked when the Native Americans were the only ones who lived in the area. The Gorge Trail follows the creek’s sculpted path for 1.5 miles past 19 waterfalls.  There are signboards along the
way that tell about the geology, history and nature.  The Gorge Trail is the most popular and can be accessed from the top or the bottom.  Most start at the bottom but at the end there are 180 stone steps called “Jacob’s Ladder. During peak season there is a shuttle connecting the top and bottom entrances.
There are 832 steps but it is possible to appreciate the beauty of the Glen without walking the entire length. The trail is open from dawn to dusk and is closed from early November to mid-May. A multi-million dollar upgrade to the NYS Park is supposed to be completed by the beginning or the 2017 summer season. Based on a USA Today’s Reader’s Choice Poll, Watkins Glen State Park is ranked the third-best state park in the country. Make it an overnight with a stay at the beautiful Harbor Hotel.