Tuesday, November 18, 2014

And So Winter Begins

I'm very reflective when I ride, and have written hundreds of blog posts in my head, but somehow, as you can see, I rarely end up writing them down when I get home.  I've thought about trying to backtrack and catch up, but that is not going to happen.  So here is my fresh start, once again.

Today was a very wintery commute on my bike!  Kind of unexpected for November.  I hesitated about whether or not to bail and drive my car, and then decided not to let "my big but . . ." get in the way (as in "I would have ridden my bike today, BUT  . . . ").  
Today's ride wasn't so much about enjoying the ride, although with the beautiful sunshine all day, I did actually enjoy the ride.  It was more about . . .
  • Facing a challenge and not letting it stop you
  • Pushing yourself towards, or to, or beyond your limits and seeing what you can accomplish 
  • Setting, meeting, achieving a goal (The goal I set for myself in September was to commute by bike to work as many days as possible until I retire in January.)
  • Thinking about "the big picture" - all the things you've experienced and learned in the past - and using that to plan for and execute the ride
  • Having an arsenal of appropriate gear and making the right selections when choosing what to wear
  • Thinking like a driver - What would the average person driving a car in my neck of the words expect, or not expect when encountering a winter cyclist?  And then using that to shape my visibility and behavior on the road

And what value did I get from my ride today?  Aside from the physical fitness aspect, I ended up with a great sense of personal accomplishment!  What could be better?!

Now, if it had been a blizzard here today like it was to our west, I would NOT have been out riding my bike!  I'm not crazy!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Cycling the Erie Canal - Day 7 - Canajoharie to Schenectady

Yup, Day 6 yesterday tried to kick my butt, but today I fought back and I won!  It was an easy ride, not too many hills, more trail than road, and only 45.7 miles. I'm once again feelin' great and thankful I'm on this ride! 

I didn't really stop to do any special sightseeing today. I saw things in passing instead. 

This is Old Lock 23. Civil engineering students from Union College, along with a citizens group known as the Locktenders, have been working to restore this abandoned lock. When this section of the original canal was open, this was one of the busiest parts of the waterway. Lock 23 was know as the "Gateway to the West."

Near Pattersonville we left the canal path and traveled on the road for 2.5-3 miles into Pattersonville. The volunteer fireman painted messages on the side of the road in the bike lane all the way into town. Cute, clever sayings, words of encouragement, enticements for the food they would offer, little rhymes, it was too much fun reading them all!  Gave me more than 1 chuckle on the way in!  I so wish I could have taken pictures of them all!  Then, when we got to their firehouse, they were cooking hot dogs and burgers and had chips and ice cream and frozen grapes and drinks that they sold as a fund raiser. They also had a first aid station and a cooling off shower to ride through. The entertainment of the messages they provided for 3 miles was well worth making a contribution to them!

Again there were beautiful sights to see along the way. 

This is our last camping night. Below you see what is called the "Camptel" where I am staying (all the brown tents).  The Comfy Campers service was totally worth the expense. Every night upon my arrival my tent, air mattress, chair and towel were ready and waiting for me. It was so nice not to have to put up a tent after a day's riding!  Every morning I packed my gear, let the air out of the mattress and someone else came along to take down the tent and move it to the next location. It was a priceless service, especially on dewy or rainy mornings!

Tonight we have a reception, a celebration party and talent show, and just generally celebrate this awesome trip we've been on together. Tomorrow is just a short 27.5 miles to Albany and the end of the pedaling!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Cycling the Erie Canal - Day 6 - Rome to Canajoharie

Well, I have to admit, sitting here as I write today's post I am the most exhausted I've been so far on the trip!  Today's ride was the longest - 63 miles - and there were fewer places to stop along the way. And so far this week I've pedaled a total of 315.6 miles!  I guess it makes sense that I'm tired!  

It was a gorgeous day and we didn't have one cloudy moment or one drop of rain, so that was good. Quite a lot of the ride today was on roads, and with roads come hills and fast moving cars and trucks. One section of the canal trail had tons of fresh, loose, deep stone dust. I thought riding in that stuff wet between Fairport and Pittsford was tough, but this was much more difficult and rather treacherous!  Some people ended up walking it, some fell. I didn't do either but had some close calls. I was very glad to get off that stuff!

Today's views while on the road were spectacular as we made our way through the Mohawk Valley, through the cut that river has made between the Adirondack Mts. and the Catskills. I wish I could have taken more pictures, but will once again have to rely on my "brain camera" to recall them, as stopping along the highway with cars and trucks speeding by you at 55 mph or faster was not a safe option. I did try to grab a few shots when I could find a place to pull off safely. 

This afternoon we had a choice of routes to take. Some stayed closer to the canal and the river, but some of us ventured out on Route 5 to pass by some additional historic places. I'm glad I chose to do the later. I saw some sights I've never seen before, and went through some towns I've never heard of!  

Here are some pictures from today. 

Beautiful landscapes in the foothills of two mountain ranges. 

Little Falls is where the Mohawk River and the canal first meet and then part ways. Our second rest stop was in this beautiful little park on the edge of the river just before the canal splits off. 

After Little Falls we were back on the canal path for a while. One of the sites was the Herkimer Home, where the Revolutionary War General Herkimer lived and died. I didn't get there at the right time to tour the inside of the house, but did get some pictures outside. 

Shortly after this I took the alternate route and cycled by (but didn't stop or get a picture of) the Nellis Tavern, which was built in 1747 and served those traveling along the King's Highway and the Mohawk River before the Erie Canal was built. 

Next stop was Fort Klock, which isn't really a fort, but is a "fortified farmstead." Built in the 18th century by the German immigrant Klock family, the farmhouse, built of stone and facing the river, has 45 "holes" in the walls for shooting a musket through. It was used as a refuge/safe house during both the French and Indian War and the American Revolutionary War. The man giving tours is a direct descendent of the man who originally  built it. 

You can see 2 of those musket firing holes on either side of this door. 

My next and final stop was the Palatine Lutheran Church. What a beautiful place up on a hill just off of Route 5. 

A pipe organ

An interesting pulpit

A ladder to the bell tower. No thank you!

A very interesting ceiling!

Then into Canajoharie, camping high on a hill at the high school. Great views, but it was a bear getting up here on 2 wheels!  I hear it was more than 600 feet of elevation at a 12% grade. I do know that it was long and high!

And into town for a very delicious chicken BBQ dinner!

And now that my phone is charged, my blog post is finished, and my tent is no longer in the bright sun, I think this weary cyclist is going to bed early!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Cycling the Erie Canal - Day 5 - Syracuse to Rome

Today was a nice 50 miles from Syracuse  to Rome, mostly along the canal trail.  Let me say that Syracuse is a very hilly city!  We climbed a lot getting into Syracuse and we had to climb a lot of hills to get out of the city today!  Consider it training for my Pedal Pittsburgh ride at the end of August!  I'm very proud of the fact that I didn't walk any hills!  I pedaled them all, every inch!  I was very happy once we got back onto the canal trail again!  36 of our 50 miles was along the Old Erie Canal State Historic Park, a linear park along the First Enlargement canal. I visited lots of canal museums today, one in Syracuse, one in Chittenango, one in Canastota, and one in Rome!  I might be museumed out for a bit!

Our afternoon rest stop was at Lock 21, just past Verona. It was raining just as I got there, heavily at times, but we still had a good show, with 3 boats coming into the lock at once, 2 pleasure boats (one from Canada and one from Washington State) and one small canal tug. I stood in the pouring rain to watch it all. 

It is really cool to be camping on the Fort Stanwix grounds!  And they are keeping the visitors center open for us all night. Yay!  Real restrooms.  The mayor of Rome was here wandering the grounds, talking to people and welcoming us. He also closed down James St. which is right next to our camping area so we wouldn't have as much traffic noise. Even in a bigger city, we feel recognized and welcomed!

Below are some pictures from today. 

The Canal Museum in Syracuse is in an original weighlock building. When the canal actually came through the center of Syracuse, boats would come into this lock, the water would be lowered so that the boat rested on the scale below to be weighed. Tolls we paid based on the type of cargo and the weight. 

They have two great murals outside the building. 

And a canal boat inside the building

When we finally got out of the city of Syracuse and suburbs, it wasn't long before we were back on the canal trail again. This is an aqueduct taking the canal over Butternut Creek. 

Before long we entered the Old Erie Canal State Park, a 36 mile long linear park along the older canal. 

Our morning rest stop was at the Chittenango Canal Museum. On this sight were dry docks for building and repairing canal boats. At this museum they also had a cut-away canal boat. 

The mule stable on board

The cargo hold

The family's quarters. The baby had to sleep in a dresser drawer!

From there our next stop was Canastota. Along Canal St. are still some of the original buildings, including the one the small museum is in. 

Then back on the trail. At Oneida, we were met on the trail by these signs, Burma Shave style

There is this expansive mural on a building next to the trail in Verona. It was hard to get a picture of the whole thing!

Our afternoon rest stop and "show" at Lock 21.  Three boats in the lock at once.  There was a bridge across the end that we could stand on this time. 

Then on to the Erie Canal Village and almost to camp. The Erie Canal Village is supposed to be a living history museum but it is pretty sad and rundown. Not at all like it was when my kids were young and visited there. I was looking forward to having a ride on a mule drawn packetboat, but those days are over, unfortunately. These pictures make the place look way better than it is!

Then 3 short miles and we were in Rome at Fort Stanwix. Our encampment will be well protected tonight!

So after a short time at the "campfire," my bike and I are going to bed. 

My bike is sleeping next to me tonight!