Sunday, July 15, 2012

Cycling the Erie Canal - Day 8

Day 8 – Cohoes to Albany (25.3 miles)
I volunteered to shuttle the car today. So after breaking camp and a final breakfast, Gary and Harold left from Scotia, cycling towards Albany, and I drove the car to the finish line in Albany.  It was only a 21 mile drive to the finish and I was there in practically no time.  And then I couldn’t find the place where we actually finished. The street that we were supposed to finish on wasn’t actually a street, although Garmin seemed to think it was. There was absolutely no one around and it didn’t look like an adequate enough place for a finish line for 500 bike riders, cars, families, luggage trucks, etc. but after talking to a security guard who told me I was in the right general area and that the car would be safe, I parked and attempted to cycle from the finish line backwards on the course.

This is the finish location?
Day 8’s ride finished on an elevated bike path, through a plaza, and down an elevator. So it was a little bit difficult to backtrack the course from the regular cue sheet. After a few false leads, I finally figured it out and was able to backtrack all the way to the day’s only SAG stop where I met up with Harold and Gary. More or less, between yesterday and today, I covered the entire Day 8 ride except for a 2 mile loop through the town of Cohoes.

No visible evidence of "Clinton's Ditch" here
The second half of today’s ride was from Cohoes to Albany along the Mohawk Hudson bike path. Good views of the Hudson River, Albany skyline, and the bridges crossing the Hudson.

Final mile into Albany
We were finished before 10AM, and showered, changed and were back on the road before 11AM.  It was over 1000 miles and almost 17 hours with rain and traffic until Karen picked me up on I-85 in Pendergrass and we were home by 4AM Monday morning. We did get a lot of rain leaving New York State, so rain came at the right time for everyone.
My thanks to Gary for allowing us to use his car and both Gary and Harold for putting up with me for over a week.

To summarize the ride in one paragraph:  It is definitely a ride to consider if you haven’t done it before.  A well organized safe ride, friendly people, lots to see, a relaxed pace, not overcrowded or rushed like BRAG, great SAG stops, and a lot of history along the way. Spending three nights with Russ and Gillian, and Aunt Jean was a bonus, as were the great meals we had at their homes in Batavia and Fairport. I'm glad we did the ride.

Next up on the agenda is Ride The West with America By Bicycle in September. I fly out to Portland, Oregon on August 31. Approximately 15 former North 2010 riders and/or spouses will be on this ride, so it will be a great reunion with old friends. I am looking forward to it.

Here is today’s final ride:

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Cycling the Erie Canal - Day 7

Day 7 – Canajoharie to Scotia (41.3 miles) and first part of Day 8 - Scotia to Cohoes ( 39.7 miles)

Gary and I rode together as it was Harold’s turn to shuttle the car. It was a short 42 miles to Scotia, just over the Mohawk River Bridge from Schenectady, and 0.3 miles down the road from the famous Jumpin’ Jacks hamburger and ice cream joint.

We had a slight drizzle this morning. More pleasant than anything else.
About 27 miles were on the Canalway path and the Mohawk Hudson bikepath. Once we hit the latter, the path was paved for the rest of today’s and tomorrow’s ride. There was only one official SAG stop, at Mabee Farm, the oldest house in the Mohawk Valley at mile 35.

Lunch at Jumpin' Jacks!
We finished and camped at Collins Park, right across the street from the Mohawk River. Lunch was a famous Jack Burger and ice cream cone at Jumpin’ Jacks, the same place I had lunch at with ABB in July 2010.

This guy was watching the cyclists go by and wouldn't even lift his head off the window sill.

Since we finished so early, and I am shuttling the car tomorrow, I decided to cycle half of tomorrow’s ride this afternoon.  So I did a 40 mile out and back ride from Scotia to the town of Cohoes at the Hudson River. Temperatures this afternoon were in the high 90’s so it was a more difficult ride, with much of it in the sun and not much of it very interesting since it did not have great views of the river or valley and I had covered the same path with ABB back in 2010. Never the less, it was a chance to ride a little faster than the relaxed pace of the last several days.

The occasional good view this afternoon.

The day concluded with a wine, cheese, and beer party followed by a pasta dinner in the park, under a covered tent. Afterwards, there was a talent show and awards ceremony. Tonight, it was fairly humid and warm for the first time, but after 80+ miles on the hybrid, I had no problem getting to sleep. A much needed sleep because we have a long drive home tomorrow.
I saw a lot of these markings today.

Here it this afternoon’s ride, the first half of Day 8’s ride:

Friday, July 13, 2012

Cycling the Erie Canal - Day 6

Day 6 –Rome to Canajoharie (63.36 miles)
Gary shuttled the car today and rode with us during the middle section of the ride through Little Falls and to Lock 17.

Mark, running Lock 18 and waiting for a tour boat headed down stream.
Today we reached the Canalway path within 4 miles of leaving Fort Stanwix.  After 17 miles, we hit roads the rest of the morning following the Mohawk River and various sections of old (pre barge)canal.  About 5 miles before reaching Little Falls, Harold and I took an off course detour to visit Lock 18 and met the lockmaster, Mark, who spent about an hour (while working) showing us around and how the equipment worked as a tour boat passed through the lock. It was a relaxing hour spent off the beaten path, and one could easily think they were back in the early 1920’s since the scenery was the same at it would have been back then.  All of the lock equipment is original from when the barge canal was built to replace the old canal in the late 1910’s.

Lock 18
At Little Falls we took another detour into town and to Lock 17, one of my favorites from the 2010 ABB ride.  (Great memories of walking to Lock 17 after dinner at sunset with Jeff, Baltimore Mark, Alex, Todd, and Leo back in July 2010.) This was at one time the highest lift lock in the world and with a lift of 40.5 feet, has a 150 ton lock door that lifts straight up with a counterweight.  (The height of the lock and weight of the water in the lock precludes the normal side opening gates.) Five million gallons of water are used each time a boat passes through the lock.
Lock 17 with the white counterweight above and the 31 ft. high door closed below.
 After leaving Little Falls, Harold and I cycled on roads to Canajoharie where we are camping at Canajoharie High School. After a quick shower and camp setup, we drove about 30 miles to Cooperstown and visited the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum this evening as it was open until 9PM. Then, back to town where there was music in downtown Canajoharie until about 10PM. A great day in upstate New York indeed.

Cooperstown, NY

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Cycling the Erie Canal - Day 5

Day 5 –Syracuse to Rome (49.2 miles)
It was my turn to shuttle the car today. Luckily, the first 8 miles and most of the last 23 miles (Canastota @26 mi. to Rome @49 mi.) of today’s ride were on roads, so I drove to the middle of the days ride at the Chittenango Landing Boat Museum and was able to get 34 miles of canal path riding into my legs on the hybrid, and also cover all highlights of the day.

Dry dock at the Chittenango Landing Boating Museum
The Chittenango Landing Boat Museum is a site along the old canal just recently rediscovered and excavated. It was originally built in 1855 as a place where cargo boats could be constructed or repaired. There are dry dock areas (3 bays of 100 feet by 26 feet) where the boats were repaired and the Museum now has a reconstructed sawmill and blacksmith shop as well as full sized replicas of canal boats as used in the original “Clinton’s Ditch” 4 foot deep canal completed in 1825 (70 ton boats), and the enlarged 7 foot deep canal completed in 1862 (240 ton boats).

Chittenango Landing Boating Museum
From the Boat Museum as my base, I cycled back to the beginning of the canal path section at the day’s 8 mile mark, and then went forward with Gary and Harold to Canastota at mile 26. The town of Canastota had a really neat small museum featuring a great deal of history of the area dating back to construction of the original canal. As with most towns along the way, the canal went right through the middle of the town with lift bridges used to get traffic over the top of the canal.  Between 1905 and 1918, the New York Barge Canal was completed. This greatly rerouted and enlarged the canal, tying it in with the Mohawk River and bypassing many of the towns. Boats still called on towns like Canastota on the old canal into the 1920’s but after that, low spans and culverts terminated use of the old canal for good. At times now, we will be cycling along an old canal section and it will abruptly terminate where a newer road or freeway is.

Canastota Canal Town Museum
Tonight, we are camping at Fort Stanwix National Monument. Does our Federal Government actually allow camping at a National Monument site? I guess they do. After setting up camp, we had a nice tour of Fort Stanwix where (believe it or not) Rangers actually kept the place open for us from the normal 5PM closing time all the way to 8PM.  Ft. Stanwix was originally a British Fort built in 1758 for protection against the French and their American Indian allies.  It was abandoned after the French and Indian War ended in 1763. Later in 1776, our Continental Congress ordered General George Washington to rebuild the fort as protection against the British and their Indian allies. The British unsuccessfully laid siege to the fort for 21 days in August 1777 until American reinforcements arrived. The Monument did a real nice job reconstructing the Fort in the late 1970’s to show it as it existed in the 1770’s.

Fort Stanwix National Monument

Tonight we had dinner on our own at a Chinese restaurant just walking distance from the National Monument.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Cycling the Erie Canal - Day 4

Day 4 –Seneca Falls to Syracuse (43 miles)

Another beautiful day for a ride. The upstate NY area has not had any rain for a few weeks and in some areas, the grass is turning brown.  I’m fine if it rains... starting this coming Sunday afternoon when our ride is finished. For now, the weather continues to be perfect. Warm during the day and lower 60's with low humidity at night.

Nine Mile Creek Aqueduct. Restored old canal on top.

Today it was Harold’s turn to shuttle the car and I rode with Gary. We took roads out of Seneca Falls for the first 24 miles until we got back on the canal path. As we road down Route 31, I had this sense of déjà vu. And then I realized I had been here before with America By Bicycle less than two years ago.  There on the left was the convenience store we stopped at for chocolate milk and Gatorade. There on the right was where we had our ABB SAG stop. As I’m stopped at a red light, I looked left and the scene was my computer screen background of the town of Port Byron. (Great memories of ABB which I will get to relive this September. Looking forward to that!) Though I remembered cycling through Pittsford two years ago, this is the first section of our ride that I specifically remember from the ABB ride. I recall on that ride, we did not ride on the canal path until well east of Buffalo.
This section of old canal has been restored and rewatered.

After we reentered the canal path, we went by the Nine Mile Creek Aqueduct, an aqueduct on the old canal that has been rebuilt to carry the canal over Nine Mile Creek. This section is again in use for tour boats that cover a two mile section of old canal which has been restored and rewatered.

Tent camping tonight.
Tonight, we are camping at Burnet Park in Syracuse. Dinner is at the Syracuse Zoo next door to the park.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Cycling the Erie Canal - Day 3

Day 3 –Pittsford to Seneca Falls (60.1 miles)

Aunt Jean with Gary and Harold
This morning we said goodbye to Aunt Jean and drove to the start at Jefferson Road School in Pittsford.  Gary shuttled the car and I rode with Harold all day. Most of the days ride was along the canal path through Fairport, Palmyra, Newark, and into Clyde. Then, we took roads to Seneca Falls which apparently was the inspiration for the town of Bedford Falls in the movie It’s a Wonderful Life.
Harold, cycling on Day 3

Lock 30
It was a typical relatively quiet and peaceful ride. No hurry, and an easy and relaxing time while cycling on my hybrid bike. Glad I brought the hybrid, since the trail makes everything dusty and dirty and there are a few soft spots on the mostly crushed gravel path. Harold also brought his hybrid bike, while Gary is riding his road bike with slightly wider tires that he usually uses.

I saw this barefooted Amish boy running down the road today

Monday, July 9, 2012

Cycling the Erie Canal - Day 2

Day 2 – Medina to Pittsford, with a side trip to High Falls in Rochester (62.63 miles)

Early morning cycling out of Medina
This morning we got up and said goodbye to Russ and Gillian, though Russ will join us for part of today’s ride. Gillian offered to drive us to Medina and then drop our car off in Pittsford so that Harold, Gary, and I could ride together and not have to shuttle the car this day. Thanks, Gillian.

The Medina Culvert, the only road underneath the Erie Canal
Most towns have unofficial SAG stops and otherwise support our ride. This is in Albion.
Today’s ride was mostly along the canal, through Albion, Brockport, Spencerport and on into the Rochester area. We then took a side trip along the Genesee River bike path into Rochester to High Falls. High Falls is where the Genesee River goes through a gorge and then drops 96 feet before feeding into Lake Ontario. Then, we returned to the canal path and cycled to Pittsford. Russ and Katie (another of Gary’s relatives) joined us for part of today’s ride and we enjoyed their company along the way.
Harold, Russ, Gary, Katie, and Joe
This is the four way intersection of the Erie Canal and Genesee River

Gary’s Aunt Jean picked us up in Pittsford and we are staying at her house in Fairport for the evening. Many of Gary’s relatives visited tonight and they made a fantastic Italian dinner including lasagna, meatballs, sausage, Italian bread (real Italian bread), cannolis, and Italian cookies. Mmmm good.

We are eating lots of fresh fruit

Gary, Joe, and Harold at High Falls in Rochester, NY
Thank you to Russ and Gillian, and to Aunt Jean for letting us stay at both of your homes. You made me feel like family, and I had a great time staying, talking, and having some great meals. I appreciate it.
Today's ride:

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Cycling the Erie Canal - Day 1

Day 1 - Buffalo to Medina (46.88 miles)

Gary, Harold and I did not get much sleep before we had to get up and drive about 50 miles from Batavia to Buffalo in order to register for the ride and begin cycling.  Breakfast and the start of the ride were at a private school, The Nichols School. Registration was inside a building in the middle of a hockey rink. I thought it pretty cool, that a private school actually had its own hockey rink. And then I was told that the rink we were standing on was just the practice rink.  The "real rink" was next door in the arena! Wow, a pretty exclusive and expensive school they have here. Breakfast was just as good as the school proper. Pancakes, bacon, eggs, sausage, toast, bagels, cream cheese, French toast, yogurt,  juice, fresh fruit, coffee, Danish, and chocolate milk. I had it all, and can get used to this pretty fast!

The mass start in Buffalo
Since the three of us had our car with us, it meant one of us would have to shuttle the car each day. I volunteered for Day 1, so after registration, introductions, and a first day mass start at 8AM, I drove to the finish in Medina and backtracked 22 miles on the course until I met up with Harold and Gary coming from the other direction. Accordingly, I got most all of the mileage done and only missed the road mileage out of Buffalo and one 7 mile section of Niagara Riverwalk.
The Lockport locks, from downstream
The Lockport locks, from upstream
Lockport has an interesting set of locks. This is where the Niagara Escarpment ends, so there is a pretty big drop in elevation in the middle of the town, which you can see on the Garmin elevation chart. Here, there originally were a set of five locks which have been replaced with two locks (34 and 35). The original set of locks still remain, though they cannot be used anymore.

Jewell, Harold, and Gary headed towards Medina

After today’s ride we drove back for another night at Russ and Gillian’s house. We had a big cookout with many of Gary’s relatives coming to see him. Dinner was very good, especially the sausage and peppers and the “white hot” hot dogs which are a local specialty.

Dinner at Russ and Gillian's

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Cycling the Erie Canal - Day 0

Day 0 – Drive from Georgia to New York State

This is an 8 day, 400 mile ride along the Erie Canalway Trail Bikepath from Buffalo to Albany with scheduled overnight stops in Medina (47 miles), Pittsford (53), Seneca Falls (60), Syracuse (41), Rome (49), Canajoharie (63), Scotia (42), and Albany (36).

Cycling the Erie Canal is a camping ride. Overnight stops are at schools, city parks, and a National Monument. Primarily, this is outdoor camping rather than in school gymnasiums, but the nighttime weather in the low 60’s is ideal for tent camping. There are about 500 riders ranging in age from a seven year old boy to a 77 year old woman and an 88 year old man. Six dinners and eight breakfasts are included in the $625 cost for the ride.
Gary Mastrodonato, Russ Romano, and Harold Moreau at Russ' house in Batavia NY

At 3AM, Karen drove me from home to Exit 137 on I-85 to meet up with Gary and Harold for a 5AM departure on the drive north. From home, it was approximately 15 hours and 950 miles to Batavia, NY where we are staying with Gary’s relatives, Russ and Gillian for the first two nights. We made it to Russ and Gillian’s by 7:30PM and they had a nice dinner for us before we showered and went to sleep after a long day.