Archive for August, 2008

Day 5 – No Biking

August 30, 2008

Day 5

Rising at 8, we decided to take a day off from cycling, and tour the engineering firm that our friend runs. After, we went to Pittsford for lunch, and had a nice meal right on the Erie Canal, and watched pleasure craft glide up and down the canal.

Arriving back at the house, we both took well needed naps, and blogged and read books. After another healthy dinner, we took in a little more DNC, before I connected to the internet and put up a new post on the blog.

Stats:

Miles: 0
Avg Spd: 0
Mechanicals: 0
Bunnies: 0
Trains: 0
Roadkill: 0
West-EastCross Country Cyclists: 1
Hours of Rain: 1.5

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Day 4 – Cornfields of New York

August 30, 2008

We took down our tent at the marina, and, although we couldn’t see the lake, the sunlight on the water was really pretty. There was a light mist rising off the water, and the sunlight created a glow above the water.

The gorgeous light on the marina

The gorgeous light on the marina

  We packed up our wet tent, and headed west, in search of breakfast.

 

We happened upon a KwikFill gas station, and got some breakfast pizza, coffee, tea, and pastries. I typed for a little while, and we were on our way.

The tentsite.  Yes, right next to the RV.  Ugh.

The tentsite. Yes, right next to the RV. Ugh.

 

 

The roads stretched on in front of us, and on we rode. A cardboard ice cream sign was tacked up to a highway sign post, so we stopped in at the Sunoco station to have some ice cream. The woman who served us had family who biked long distances also, so she could relate to our trek. We watched an 18 wheeler drive into the station, and a pickup truck had to back up to get out of the way. It seemed that the pickup was just parked in the enter/exit lane.

We cycled on, past seemingly endless cornfields, gigantic tractors, and few workers. A few of the farms had “Company of the Month” signs out front. It seemed like a neat idea; promoting the work of the farms.

Further on, we came to a section of road that was being re-paved. There was little scarified pavement, fortunately, because it is really difficult to ride on. There was, however, a one lane section, with a flagger on each end. The traffic in the waiting line was pretty long, and once we were flagged through, and although we were cranking along at 20 plus mph, it was a really long section of one lane road. About half way through, there was a side road, and a flagger there, who directed us to take the side road instead, since we were holding up too much traffic behind us. “Hey! You on the bikes! Go that way, wudda ya think, ya own the road!?” The side road turned out to work better anyway, since there was almost no traffic, and the road was smoother.

As we approached a rare “hill”, we spotted a little breakfast place. We stopped in, and had some breakfast for lunch. Ahead of us, the cornfields stretched on, occasionally replaced by the other local cash crop, soybeans. We picked the canal trail back up, and rode along its stone dusty surface for a while, then called one of Dad’s friends. We would be staying the night at his house. Comparing his directions to our map and the trails and roads proved difficult, but we left the canal and Route 31, and headed north at Palmyra. Five miles up the gradual hill, and over the tracks we rolled into the gravel driveway.

We had a nice informal dinner of grains, pasta and well needed vegetables. The Democratic National Convention was on later so we watched/discussed/talked over that for a while. Much too late, we went to bed, noting that the leftovers of Hurricane Fay would probably make Thursday wet.

 

Stats:

Miles: 86
Avg Spd: 15.3
Mechanicals: 0
Bunnies: 0
Trains: 2
Roadkill: 17

Day 3 – A Real Century!….A Metric One, That Is

August 29, 2008

Americas  Best Inn

America's Best Inn

Leaving the motel at the crack of 9:00, we didn’t exactly get a early start. We did have our first real breakfast on the road, stopping off at a diner in Herkimer.

The Diner where we ate breakfast

The Diner where we ate breakfast

While we waited for Hobo eggs and a breakfast burrito, and I found some WiFi and searched the area for a bike shop. We found one in Herkimer that opened at 10:00, so after breakfast, we rolled on over, and got a couple spare tubes and a new tire for my rear wheel. We broke one tire iron with a steel core, putting the new tire on, and had to buy a new pair. Back on our bikes at 11:00, we continued our journey west.

Inside the diner

Inside the diner

We found the canal path quickly enough, and in places, it followed the abandoned canal. At times, the “path” was little more than two ruts, like a truck road. The sections that had water in them had filled up with algae, but were more scenic than the dry flora filled parts.

On the road

On the road

Later, after we were shunted back onto Route 31 West, we decided to follow signs for the Erie Canal Village. We had almost decided we had gone too far, but then we saw a sign. Turns out, they were closed. But we got to look around, and the Village had horses, and a stretch of abandoned canal with a passenger boat, albeit with a regular leak, and a tow path to take tourists up and down a short section of canal. We rode along the towpath for a bit, after taking some photos with the Village.

 

On another stretch of stone dust trail, we encountered many fallen trees, that completely blocked the path. All of these obstacles required a dismount. Bumbling our way through these trees, we came out at Lock 20. A refurbished tugboat was midway through being lowered through the lock, and we got to chatting with the lock keeper. He told us about the lack of funding for the canal system, lock electronics, and he had a one sided discussion about the Tour de France (we haven’t been keeping up).

The Erie Canal Village packet boat, with the bridge in the background.

The Erie Canal Village packet boat, with the bridge in the background.

 

 

Hunger started gnawing at our stomachs around 5pm, and we stopped at a local joint advertising “Fresh Seafood Daily.” We leaned our bikes up against the walls, passed the Harley bikers, and entered a dimly lit room with tables and metal chairs. At first glance, it seemed like a normal restaurant, but many customers were eating chicken wings. We sat down, and after waiting a while, a woman came over and asked “Were you hoping to get something to eat?” In fact, we were looking for food. It tuned out, however, that the kitchen closed early on Mondays and Tuesdays, offering only chicken wings after 2pm. This was the second “seafood” restaurant we had encountered that wasn’t serving seafood.

Down the road, we came to a pizza place the woman at the wings shop had recommended. We ordered lasagna, garlic knots, and salads, and went outside to wait. Dad decided to bike around, and try to find a place for us to set up a tent nearby. The Dunkin’ Donuts across the street would be handy for breakfast, and there were a few churches we could pitch a tent behind. He found no convenient places.

I am clobbered by a fallen tree.

I am clobbered by a fallen tree.

 

 

While we were eating, a local cyclist drove up in his car, and asked us where we were going and we were from. We told him, and he asked if we had found a place to spend the night. We had not, and he offered to go look for a place; he thought that the local marina had tenting opportunities. Dad and I took him up on the offer, and he drove off, letting us finish our meal. When he came back, he wrote out directions to the marina, told us about a place for breakfast, WiFi, and about his life as a time trials cyclist, until a work related accident prevented him from cycling.

After we finished our dinner, Dad went inside to pay, and the clerk had overheard our conversation about our biking journey, and in passing asked Dad how many miles he had ever bike in one day. “180 miles” came the reply. “Approximately how far is that?” asked the confused sales clerk. As Dad scooted out the door, he shot over his shoulder, “About a few miles less than 190.”

 

Stats:

Miles: 71
Avg Spd: 13.2
Mechanicals: 0
Bunnies: 1
Trains: 4

Day 2 – Our First Whole Day In New York

August 27, 2008

“Pitter-patter, pitter-patter” Rain. 1 am, Monday morning. However, it had quit by the time we woke up and got packed up.

Peeking out from our tent on Monday morning.

Peeking out from our tent on Monday morning.

Out on the road, we rode for almost too long before finding breakfast at a convenience store; “muffins”, “pastries” and coffee.

We wound around, looking for the Canal Path, and eventually found it. It was paved, until we lost the trail, only to find it again in a different place. The map we had from the State Canalway System and the Rand MacNally state road map seemed to differ from the actual trails and roads in real life.

Our tent site

Our "tent site"

Occasionally, the trail surface would change to crushed stone, which wasn’t awful to ride on, especially since the alternative was riding on the state highways with a headwind. There were several long sections with nice mowed sides, the occasional bridge, and frequent farm road crossings.

The tracks near Rotterdam Junction.

The tracks near Rotterdam Junction.

At one point, near Rotterdam Junction, we came to a sharp right turn in the trail, and we could see railroad tracks. There were a few jersey barriers blocking the trail from vehicles, but room enough to get bikes through. There, the evidence of a bike path ended. There were no signs, or graded crossing path. We could however, hear a train coming. We had seen a side trail going left off the trail a little way back, and I decided to scope out that trail, while Dad took a photo of the train. I went up the side trail, which quickly turned to a stream bed with medium sized rocks, and Japanese Knotweed growing thick and plentiful on each side. It continued up, steeper than before, and all the while, the train was getting closer. I came out of the Knotweed, to see a railroad bridge, and a train with three Union Pacific engines. This was the train Dad had been hoping to photograph!

After coming a 8 % grade.  Ooomph!

After coming a 8 % grade. Ooomph!

I got back to Dad, (my trail had dead-ended at the bridge) and we decided to heft the bikes over the tracks, and check out a similar road on the other side, complete with jersey barriers. Lifting the bob attached to my bike didn’t turn out to be much of a hassle, but it was a two person job.

The road on the other side was the one we were looking for, and we found a place for lunch. “Joey D’s Seafood” read the sign. However, they were sold out of fish! We split a ham grinder instead.

A newspaper article describing Joey Ds Seafood.

A newspaper article describing Joey D's Seafood.

Later on, we found a farm stand where we got some peppers, peaches, and ice cream. The canal path was right across the road from the farm stand, yet there was no sign on the path advertising “Ice Cream, this way” or anything. (It seems like they may be missing out on some business.)

Blasting along on the stone dust, we came to some people weeding some bushes by the side of the path. We stopped to thank them for volunteering, and they told us about some places to stay the night. The first place we tried was in Little Falls, on the north side of the canal. However, they wouldn’t let us bring our bikes into our room, and we didn’t want them outside. The next place was in Herkimer, and we got there around 8:30. America’s Best Inn was a motel, with doors to rooms on the ground level, so we were able to push our bikes into our room. We walked to dinner, and had a nice meal at a local cafe, getting back to our room around 9:45. It was a late night.

A possible tenting site, but we decided to motel it that night.

A possible tenting site, but we decided to motel it that night.

 

Stats:

Miles: 92
Avg Spd: 13.6
Mechanicals: 0
Bunnies: 8
Trains:4

Day One – Lots of Hills, But Still All Flat

August 26, 2008

“Bye! Bye!” came the chorus of well wishers from our driveway as we headed out this morning. We had made it out the door before we needed to, having eaten a breakfast of eggs, fruit salad, and cardamom coffee cake. We were planning to meet up with some biking friends in Readsboro at 9:30. Dad had allowed us one and a half hours to go the 23 miles to Readsboro.

At the bottom of our driveway

At the bottom of our driveway

Our first few miles were on dirt roads, and we weren’t making the 16 mph average we had expected. After about 12 miles, we had our first flat. My brand new tire had a sidewall rupture; a rock from the dirt road had cut into the tire. We replaced the tube and the tire (we brought a spare) and were on our way in 20 minutes.

Our first flat tire.

Our first flat tire.

We rolled into Readsboro at 11:00, one hour and a half later than we had planned. Our friends had left some time before. We got some food at the general store, and started up the road to Bennington.

“Pssssst…..” Flat number two! We had barely moved from the general store, so we turned around and headed back to the store. Two spares down, two to go. We chatted with some other cyclists as we reassembled my bike, and were on our way once more.

The hill we were now facing was the longest we will face this trip, heading up to Searsburg, VT. Fortunately, the hill was shaded on our side of the road, and the traffic was relatively light.

Passing the windmills in Searsburg, VT.

Passing the windmills in Searsburg, VT.

We made it up and down the hill with no troubles, and rode into Bennington to have lunch. At the sub shop, we fired up the laptop, and checked to see if there were any bike shops around Bennington that were open on Sundays, but to no avail.

Having seen the Bennington Monument on the hill, we decided to ride up to it, and check it out. It is quite a marvel. We rode along through eastern New York, admiring the beautiful countryside, before coming to Route 7. Up a hill that dragged on and on, and down the other side we went. We ditched Route 7, and took some back roads to Waterford where we took some photos crossing the Hudson.

We wandered around, trying to find the Mohawk-Hudson Bikeway,(part of the New York State Canal Trail), and gave up to have dinner in Waterford. Waddling out of the restaurant, we headed on our way, over to Peebles Island, and then over a bridge with open steel grating for a floor. We were both convinced we had gotten flats by the way our bikes were fishtailing around and acting squirrely. We did not flat, fortunately, and continued on, finding a place to camp off the road, and near the river. I typed for a while, got eaten alive, and decided around 8:45 to set up our tent for the night.

Stats:

Miles: 90
Avg Spd: 12
Mechanicals: 2 flats, one sidewall rupture

About the Ride

August 10, 2008

My name is Nate, and I am planning a bike ride to Northwestern University, in Evanston, IL, where I will be a freshman this fall. I am biking to Evanston from my house in Western Massachusetts with my dad. We will try to ride 100 miles per day, for 10 days, and have a few days for rain and resting. I will pull a small bike trailer, called a Bob, and my dad may also be carrying panniers. My mom will be driving out all of my belongings for the fall, and providing backup for us, in case we need to be bailed out.

Our route is currently under review, but the general plan is to bike from my house, to the Troy, NY area, and then follow the Erie Canal Bike Path, and the New York Bike Route 5, which follows the canal pretty closely. We will follow these routes to Niagara Falls, and then cross into Ontario, and bike through to Michigan, and straight on through to Muskegon, where we will take a ferry to Milwaukee, WI. From there we will bike down to Evanston, and I will go on the Project Wildcat trip.

I hope I’ll be in shape for backpacking!

I will be taking an Asus EEE PC 701 on this trip, so I’ll be able to update this page regularly, and post photos and maybe videos as well.
Comments are welcome!