Cycling the Erie Canal – Day 8 (updated)

Miles today: 47.44, Total miles: 306.82 (Subtitle:
We made it!) I’m
going to just leave a “pico-blog” tonight and I’ll fill in the
details from day 7 and day 8 tomorrow after I’ve gotten some rest.
We made it to Albany this afternoon after a good day of
riding. Today’s ride took us through the only gap in the
Adirondack mountains. We experienced a variety of topologies
and geographies. We rode on trails and city streets. It
was a busy day. In the end, we arrived at our destination in the
“Corning Preserve” park in Albany, NY. We were tired, but the
sense of accomplishment was fantastic. I am very proud of my
daughter. She really stuck with things helped pull me through
when we were facing into the demons. It would have been
pretty easy for us to just “bag it” and go home, but we stuck
together and helped each other get to the end. I want to thank all
of you for your emails, text messages, Facebook messages, and
prayers. Your words of encouragement are a big part of what
kept us going when it would have been easier to quit. I’ll help
fill in the cracks for the rest of the story tomorrow. Until
then, I’m sitting with my feet up, after a fantastic dinner at my
Mom’s house, ice-pack on my knee, and just enjoying the
accomplishment. Here’s a link to today’s ride: Peace! –
Dc. Matt PS: For those of you wondering, my knee is doing
better. I am going to stay off the bike for a few days and
keep icing it. I’ve not really had much pain yesterday or
today, but I’m going to take it easy and let it heal up. It’s
turned a little bruise-colored :(, which is unusual for me.
That would explain why it hurt so much!
(Update to Day 8’s ride starts
) Today’s ride started in Amsterdam
and took us to Albany. We had yet another pancake breakfast
to carb-up for the day and headed out to the trail. We picked
up exactly where we left off the previous day. There was definitely
a sense of excitement in the air as we realized how close we
were. The weather forecast looked perfect, we were feeling
pretty good, and the vast majority of the day was on paved path – a
luxury we had really taken for granted during our training. Leaving
Amsterdam took us along the Mohawk Hudson Bikeway Trail, a trail
that is co-marked with the Erie Canal trail all the way into
Albany. The first 15 or so miles took a nice ride along the
Mohawk river, leading us into Schenectady. The trail was very
pretty and there were a few picture moments, such as a field of
flowers near US 890 as it crossed the bike path. Going into
Schenectady left us a momentarily puzzled. We emerged from
the trail near the community college, but there were bike-path
marks on the ground pointing both left and right. Luckily,
there were a couple of workers nearby and they were friendly enough
to help us with our directions. Once again, the maps from the
parks and trails NY were not really sufficient. Fortunately,
we spotted green “Bike Route” signs and proceeded to follow them,
hoping that we were following the correct bike route. It
turned out that we were. Our trip through Schenectady’s surface
streets was nice. We saw some older homes and little
Italy. We were getting hungry and the smell of fresh Italian
bread was very tempting, but we pedaled on. With a small bit
of consternation, we rejoined the bike path after a few
miles. The path was under construction and it
intersected many roads. At each road crossing, a sign on the
path said “DETOUR”, pointing us around to take surface streets
instead. Since we were not familiar with the roads and our
maps were poor, we elected to stay on the path and ignore the
warnings. This was a good choice. The path was freshly
paved and super smooth. We were afraid that we might run into
a dug-up section under construction … but we didn’t. We did
have to walk the bike around paving equipment one time, but that
was the worst of it. Then came the day’s big challenges.
Miles 23 and 24 had significant hills. These were the biggest
hills of the entire ride. One hill was so aggressive, we
eventually had to dismount and walk the bike up the last 100
feet. By the time we got to the top, my legs were spent, and
we still had nearly 25 miles to go. We took a very brief rest
and kept on going. A couple of miles later, we had the
benefit of going back downhill. Stephanie met us in a park in
Niskayuna for lunch as we prepared for the final stretch.
There was a great sign in the park that I snapped a picture
of. It said “Albany 19 miles, Buffalo 338 miles”. It
reminded us of how far we’ve come in our 8 days of travel. It
also served to motivate us: we only had about 20 miles to go! The
last 19 miles felt different. We knew the end was in sight
and we were coaxing each other on. 19 miles seemed really
easy, compared to how far we’d come. We had to navigate
surface streets in Cohoes and northern Albany for a few miles
before reaching the home stretch: the Corning Preserve park.
We had reached the Hudson River, our eastern goal, but needed a few
more miles to reach our stopping point. We dropped southbound
on the trail for five miles into the Corning Preserve. We met
a very nice man there who offered to snap our picture in front of
the sign for the park. We had arranged to meet Stephanie at the
Riverfront Bar & Grill. We
arrived before she did. We parked our trusty tandem under a
shady tree and hugged each other. I decided that it was time
for a celebration as we waited for Stephanie. I went over to
the bar and purchased myself a beer and a virgin strawberry
daiquiri for AM. We sat and enjoyed our beverages and our
accomplishment. Unfortunately, Stephanie’s GPS didn’t have the
right address for our meeting place, so it took a while for us to
connect up with her. But she eventually found us and we all
celebrated before loading the bike back up on her truck. It
was hard to believe that we were done. The distance we rode was
long for us. Sure, there are many people who ride greater
distances and farther each day than we did. But we had really
come a long way since our first training began in March. I
was very proud of how my daughter hung in there. Not too many
13-year-olds can say that they rode over 300 miles, not including
the many hundreds of miles we rode during training. The distance we
cycled really set in as we drove to my parent’s house. It
took about four hours to drive the 220 miles from Albany to Webster
– about two-thirds of the total distance we biked. We watched
out the windows of the truck as we recognized many milestones and
much of the scenery. At highway speeds, it took four
hours. At biking speed, this part of the trip took about 6 of
our 8 days. The highway is definitely faster, but the bike
gave us an opportunity to see the world a different way. It
allowed us to slow down and enjoy each others’ company. It
put us on paths that cars could not go, and allowed us to see some
beautiful things. It also opened the doors to some
fascinating history of our country’s early economic growth and
determination. I will add one more blog entry, an epilogue,
reflecting upon our trip and adding some practical aspects of
biking this path. Until then, peace. – Dc. Matt

Cycling the Erie Canal – Day 7 (updated)

Miles today: 42.76, Total miles: 259.38

What a difference a day makes. We rested yesterday and got off to a much better start today. My knee is still a little tender, but it is much better now. Still icing it down tonight.

The weather was pretty hot and most of our path today was in the sun with little shade.

Tomorrow is our last day! We expect to arrive in Albany – the destination we have been planning on. We have around 45 miles left to go, so it won’t be an easy day, but I think we’re up to it.

I am blogging from my phone tonight again, so I am going to be brief and then fill in more later.

We started at the B&B in Little Falls and wound along the countryside through several small towns to finally arrive in Amsterdam.

Along the way, we saw the homestead of general Herkimer, and we also stopped by the shrine to the North American Martyrs – a group of Jesuits who were missionaries to the native Americans in Upstate NY and brutally killed.

We had a great ride, and the end is almost in sight.

Time for sleep, I need to be ready for a strong finish tomorrow.

Here is a link to today’s ride:

– Dc. Matt

(Day 7’s updates start here:)

I’m finally taking the time to write a bit more about our adventures on day 7 before they fade into the overall memories of the trip.

We spent the previous night at a B&B in Little Falls, NY.  The trail begins again in Little Falls, but we did have to put a few on-road miles together today.

The town of Little Falls is pretty small.   We had some trouble finding somewhere to eat, as everywhere we went was closed.  We finally had a pretty nice meal at the Canal Side Inn.  Not particularly cheap, but the food was pretty tasty.

The canal runs in the Mohawk river here.  Little Falls is named after a cascading set of falls that the river goes through.  It is a pretty area.  Lock #17 is here to allow boats to bypass the falls area.  Unfortunately, it looked to us like getting to the lock would require a significant walk away from the trail.  Given how late we got moving and how many miles we needed to cover, we elected to just view Lock #17 from a distance and keep on moving.  In hindsight, I wish we had taken the time.

The trip out of little falls was pretty uneventful.  We had to navigate about one mile to the trailhead, but the streets were pretty tame.   Once on-trail, we had a few miles of nice path.  Right along the path was the home of General Herkimer.  We arrived before the museum opened, so we just walked around and looked at the restored buildings from the outside and the cemetery where General Herkimer was laid shortly after the revolutionary war battle of Oriskany.

After wandering there a little while, we picked up and continued.  Most of the journey today took us very close alongside the interstate US 90.  The scenery was nice, but the traffic was loud enough to make it difficult to hear each other.  This was so much different than the peace and quiet of the forested trails we’d been on earlier.

By lunchtime, we approached the town of Canajoharie.  This is another place that I wish we had a little more time to explore.  We only saw the small sliver of the town that the path crosses through.  Canajoharie did one of the better jobs of marking the path through town and making us feel welcome.  We ran across a visitor’s booth and a very friendly worker there named Jim.  Jim answered our questions and gave us some pointers about what lay ahead.

Stephanie met us there with Subway sandwiches for lunch (Yay, Steph!).  We refueled, took advantage of the bathrooms, and got back underway.  Several more miles of trail were uneventful, taking us alongside US 90 through Fultonville, and on to the Schoharie Crossing.  This section of the trail was difficult – freshly laid crushed stone made it slow going and tiring on the legs.

After Fultonville, the trail departs from US 90 and we had a few miles of peace-and-quiet before arriving in Amsterdam.  As we were cycling along, we saw a beautiful, large, crucifix just off to our right across the street.  This was the Auriesville Shrine to the North American Martyrs (or more properly, “The Shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs”).  We called ahead to Stephanie and decided to complete our ride for the day, meet her in Amsterdam and then drive back to the shrine.  We had six more miles to go to meet her, so we picked up speed to make sure we’d have time to come back.  These last six miles went quickly.

Stephanie picked us up right along the trail in Amsterdam and we quickly returned to the shrine.  It was well worth the time.  This shrine is located in the place where a 17th century Mohawk village called Ossernenon once stood.  In this village, three Jesuit missionaries were martyred during the 1640s. The beatified “Lily of the Mohawks,” Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, was born there in 1656.  To handle the number of pilgrims to this shrine, in 1930-31, a coliseum was built on the site that holds 6,500 people sitting and 3,500 more standing!

After spending a couple of hours at the shrine, it was time to get some rest.  The closest hotel we could find was about 20 minutes north.  We packed up the bike, went to the hotel, cleaned up, ate dinner and prepared for day 8.

Day 7 was complete, and we were feeling pretty good.

Cycling the Erie Canal – Day 6

Miles today: 14.66, Total miles: 216.62

We got off to a late start today, and it seemed that everyone was not quite in the right frame of mind. This was the day I feared: the day fatigue set in.

AM’s hands were sore, my knee was still sore, I didn’t sleep well, and everyone was on edge. We grabbed some breakfast at the hotel and headed out. After the fiasco with the maps from the day before, I elected to have Stephanie drive us the two miles to the trail head. I’m glad she did, as it wasn’t marked very well, so we had to drive around a bit until we found it.

Once on the trail, we made good speed towards Utica. We stopped at one of the locks to watch a boat lock-through and enjoyed some quiet time together.

Just a few short miles later, the trail ended at the north-west side of Utica at a very busy road. We dialed up our courage and made our way down the right lane into Utica. I didn’t realize how big the city was and how much traffic would be there.  If I had, I would have tried to plan a different route, for sure.

We had arranged to meet Stephanie at a particular hotel in downtown, so we had to find our way there. I was glad to get off of the city streets.

Given our state of mind, the traffic, and fatigue, we talked it out and decided to skip through Utica and take the rest of the day off.

We took the kids to the Herkimer Diamond Mines, which was really a good change of pace.

Our evening brought us to the town of Little Falls to eat and spend the night. The Erie Canal path starts up again here after being gone from west Utica. We should now be able to follow it all the rest of the way into Albany.

So, we took a mostly restful day today. We needed it. We are going to try to get back on-pace tomorrow to be able to finish on Thursday.

My knee is a bit better today, and didn’t hinder the cycling, but as we sat for dinner, it became sore again. More ice tonight and we will see if it is good enough to ride tomorrow.

Here’s a link to today’s ride:

-Dc. Matt

Cycling the Erie Canal – Day 5

Miles today: 41.50, Total miles: 201.96

We woke up well rested and ready to go today.  My knee was very stiff, but a few stretching exercises seemed to loosen it up.  Ibuprofen: check.  Gatorade: Check.  Maps: Check.  Sunblock: Check. Breakfast: sorta-check.

The Econo Lodge advertised breakfast.  If you can call toast, OJ, pre-packed muffins, rice krispies, and raisin bran a continental breakfast, I guess they offered breakfast.  They certainly put the “Econo” in lodging 🙂  On the plus-side, our room was clean and I slept like a rock.

We only had a couple of miles of Syracuse streets to go, so we packed up the bike and took off at 8:15 AM, confident that we’d get to Rome by early afternoon.  My knee was not feeling great, but after a couple of miles, it was not too bad.

We had looked over the maps the night before and wanted to see a boat-building museum that we thought was in a town called Canastota, so we planned that as our lunch destination.  As we pedaled our way along, we went through Chittenago at around 9:45AM.  We went right past the boat museum, not knowing that we had read the information wrong.  This was a bit of a disappointment when we arrived in Canastota and realized we’d missed the museum.  My knee was too sore to justify adding 12 miles to go back to Chittenago.  We’re considering driving back to the museum to see it.

We arrived in Canastota, half way through today’s journey, at 10:15 and nothing was open.  Zippo.  Nada.  We had to wait until 11:00 to get anything to eat, so we pulled up under a tree and enjoyed the shade.  It was a beautiful morning and we were loving it.  One of the locals came and joined us.  At 11:00, the Chinese restaurant opened and we ordered a hot lunch to fill our hungry bellies.

The rest of the trip today was not nearly as fun as the first half.  My knee was beginning to swell up and worry me a bit.  On top of all that, trail conditions were spotty.  There were several places where we ditched the trail in favor of a country road or two that paralleled the path.  Some of the path seemed so well groomed that we knew it had to be fresh: smooth, even, wide, no weeds.  Unfortunately, the tires seemed to really sink in a bit – it was very very slow going on this new trail base.

We also ran into a closed section of the path.  Surprise!  It turns out we caught up to the maintenance crews that had spread down the sections we’d slugged through for a few miles.  Ugh.  Fortunately, we were able to get on route 46 for the last few miles and then turned north to lock 21.  When we got to the lock, there was a road crew working on the other side.  We struck up a brief conversation when one of the workers ironically asked how we liked the fresh trail a few miles back.  I explained how it had bogged us down so badly and he took a keen interest and made a phone call.  He told us that he was part of the crew that had laid this part of the trail last week.  Kudos to him for taking our opinions seriously.

After about a mile of asphalt paved path (yeah!), we were back into the woods on old path.  The rest of the trip today was pretty unpleasant.  We had picked out another museum to see: the Erie Canal museum in Rome.  We arrived on the bike and found not a single peep of life.  Everything was closed up.  We did manage to take a picture of an empty canal boat that you can get rides on.  Worse yet, apparently, we were supposed to divine some way of seeing that we should get off of the canal path there and move to surface streets.

After spending about 2 minutes looking at the closed museum, we got back on the bike and continued down the path.  This turned out to be a very bad choice.  A little ways in, the vegetation started to crowd the path and the surface started to resemble something more like a mountain-bike trail.  Deep potholes, big rocks, and mud.  We geared down and rode our trusty tandem around these hazards with only a couple of hard bumps.  I was very thankful for buying the expensive Kevlar-jacketed tires, too.  I finally saw a place to jump out and didn’t much care where it took us.  It popped us out right at a very busy street on the west edge of Rome, NY.  We played “frogger” to get across the street, and felt lost.  Oh, did I mention that the maps from the NY Parks … oh yeah, never mind, sorry to be so negative here.

We made a quick decision to pedal 2 blocks north just to escape the very aggressive traffic.  This was no place for a bicycle!  We ended up in an old neighborhood and I called in my lifeline: Stephanie.  I was frustrated with the maps and had no idea how to get to the destination we had previously decided.  Worse yet, Stephanie and I were not thinking of the same meeting place – there were two “#4” icons on the map: she was thinking one of them, I was thinking the other.  (PS: Stephanie, you’re awesome for putting up with my stressed out frustration).    I just decided to go forward, looking for *any* street that was marked on my map to see if I could get my bearings.  There were none.  About a mile later, we found ourselves right at the Fort Stanwix museum.  This was a good meeting place that Stephanie could find.  I declared us “done” for the day.

While we were waiting for Stephanie, a nice young lady came up, clearly biking a distance.  4 panniers, tent, and the works.  She had a trailer en-tow with two really nice dogs in it.  She was loaded up ready to camp her way across the country.  She was following the same maps I was, in reverse, to get across New York, on her way crossing the country to the west coast.  Her next stop was almost exactly where we had left this morning, so we shared some information about the route and commiserated about how poor the maps were for the on-road portions of the trip.  She’d been lost in Rome for a while already and was frustrated with the maps, too.

Stephanie arrived, picked us up, and whisked us away to our hotel for the night.  I think it is a great gift that God has given her the temperament to put up with me, and I certainly thanked both of them for this gift today.  I was not in a good mood at all and she bore the brunt of it.  (Sorry!)

After a shower, we grabbed some food at a local restaurant.  As I sat still for the first time today, I became acutely aware that something was not right with my knee.  By the time dinner was over, it was clear that we might need to stop riding for a while.  What started as a minor nuisance has turned into a swollen knee that doesn’t bend very well.

This brings me to one of the hardest decisions I’ve had in quite some time.  Should we stop the trip?

With very great disappointment, we’ve started discussing our options: continue through, abort the trip, take an extra day for rest to see what happens, or stop for a while and come back here to finish up in the future some day.  We’re going to have to make that decision tomorrow.  Please help us pray for wisdom in our discernment.  We’ve come so far that I can’t imagine not finishing.  We’ve been through the hardest part!  We’ve trained hard for months, committed ourselves, and planned everything out.  Not only that, we’ve already done over 200 miles.  Most importantly, I don’t want to let AM down, but I also want her to see how we have to trust in God’s Wisdom as well.

As I write, my knee is very sore and stiff.  Stephanie says it looks very swollen.  I’ve been icing it all evening again and hoping that tomorrow brings better news.  It is out of my hands, and time to surrender this decision.

Here’s a link to today’s ride:

Dc. Matt

Cycling the Erie Canal – Day 4 (updated)

Updated on Day 5 to include the details of Day 4…

Miles today: 29.62, Total miles: 160.46

After typing up a very lengthy blog entry on my tiny phone keyboard, WordPress crashed and I lost it all. So the story of our travels up to, and through downtown Syracuse will have to wait for tomorrow when my frustration level has recovered 🙂 and I can get to a full keyboard!

Here are a few pictures and a link to today’s route. Enjoy.
Dc. Matt


So, here’s the more complete story of our Day 4 adventures…

We began our day in Weedsport, NY, watching anxiously to see what the weather would hold for us.  The previous night, the weather channel was predicting rain and some possibly serious storm activity.  Fortunately, the meteorologists at the Weather Channel continue to live up to their reputation: we had great riding weather all day and only a couple of raindrops fell on us throughout the whole ride.  No storms, no damaging winds, just nice puffy clouds gliding gently over our heads.

Before the day’s ride even began, a seemingly minor event happened.  As we were getting on the bike to depart the hotel, I managed to crack my knee on the underside of the saddle when I was mounting the bike.  I hit the edge of the saddle right between my kneecap and knee.  It took my breath away and brought tears to my eyes.  After limping around the parking lot and sucking wind for a minute or two, I successfully remembered how to get on a bicycle.  We pulled the bike onto Route 31 and wound our way for about 1.5 miles of surface streets to the canal path.  We were on our way towards Syracuse.

Today’s journey took us through a wide variety of riding and landscape.  This part of the canal trail mostly follows the older Erie Canal.  Back in its heyday, the Erie Canal was so successful, that some major sections of it were replaced with the Barge Canal: a wider and deeper canal system to handle more traffic and bigger boats.  This canal system is largely still functional today. When the Barge Canal sections were put in, some parts of the Erie Canal were abandoned back to nature, some were filled, and some parts are still maintained for local recreation.  We saw examples of almost all of this during today’s ride, as the canal path mostly follows the old Erie Canal, even where it has been abandoned.

The first little town we encountered is Jordan, NY.  In Jordan, the canal no longer carries water.  The town center has made a park out of the canal-bed with a beautiful garden area.  The first two pictures below are in Jordan.  You can see how a creek still runs perpendicular to the canal bed, but the canal bed has been filled in with flowers and grass.

As we continued eastward, we soon found ourselves riding on a path that really resembled a narrow and smooth country road.  The path is still somewhat maintained, but doesn’t appear to get much attention or grooming.  Instead of a 4-to-5 foot wide path of crushed stone, we were often riding on a small ribbon of crushed stone with grass or mud around it.  The vegetation has started to reclaim this area – trees are growing a nice canopy over the trail and the wildlife is more visible.  We encountered cranes, groups of baby ducks, turtles, and jumping fish.  The riding was still pretty good, with small patches of bumps.

We soon encountered something we’d not seen yet: mosquitoes!  A couple of miles outside of Jordan, we saw a person far off in the distance.  As soon as she saw us, she began yelling to us.  We hurried towards her and found out that she was frantically asking for bug repellent.  We soon discovered why.  As soon as the bike was stopped, we were swarmed like it was happy hour at an open bar!  We broke out the deep-woods Cutter spray and loaned it to this poor lady.  She was hiking and we could see welts all over her body.  There must have been 10’s if not close to 100 bites on her.  We sprayed ourselves down, too.  I hadn’t seen that many mosquitoes in years.

With the bugs behind us, we pedaled on.  Eventually, the wooded path gave way to some rough surface streets, which then became the outskirts of Syracuse.  The trail no longer existed and we needed to navigate by maps.  By this time, my knee was starting to really bother me.  I couldn’t grind the hills too well, so my daughter had to produce quite a bit of pedal-power to get us through.  She was a real trooper!

We intentionally had planned our ride through Syracuse for early Sunday morning.  I am very happy we did.  In just a few short miles, we found ourselves amongst cars on city streets.  We wound through older industrial and urban areas looking for the major streets that took us straight to the heart of downtown.  This was a far cry from the peaceful path we’d left a few miles back.  I wouldn’t say we were in any really bad areas, but I am very glad that we made it through smoothly without needing to stop.  Once again, AMC was a great navigator.  And oh, did I mention, the maps I bought from the NY Canal authority were terrible for navigating through the city…. grrr…  Thank goodness for the spray-painted marks on the pavement that a bike tour group had left from their ride last week!

In downtown Syracuse, the original Erie Canal used to pass through an area called the Clinton Exchange.  This area is where cargo was bought/sold, taxes levied, banks financed loans, and so on.  When the Barge Canal bypassed downtown Syracuse, the town filled in the canal and created Erie Street.  A few years ago, the city dug out a small area of the original canal and put in a water-sculpture park to celebrate the canal’s roots.  You can see a picture of that below.  We stopped at this park for a little while to rest our bodies and catch out breaths before continuing on through Syracuse.

The last few miles took us directly down Erie Street.  Fortunately, on Sunday afternoon, there isn’t much traffic.  We didn’t really have any trouble, but this is a busy road, 3-lanes in each direction.  Surprisingly, drivers seemed amazingly courteous to us and gave us plenty of space.  A few more miles along Erie Street brought us safely to our destination, the Econo Lodge, at around 2:30 in the afternoon.  We arrived in great spirits, having successfully navigated what we think will be the most challenging (and dangerous?) part of our trip.

We also had more to celebrate: We’d crossed the 1/2-way mark!  WaHOO!

As luck would have it, there was a Friendly’s restaurant a block away from the hotel.  AM had been craving a milk shake – and she certainly deserved one.  She pedaled hard, navigated well, and kept me in good spirits despite my painful knee.

As we walked back from Friendly’s, we stopped at a quick-mart to buy some Gatorade, snacks, and chocolate.  We went back to the hotel, plopped on the beds, and relaxed all afternoon.  We watched TV, ate junk food, and took some time to enjoy how far we’ve come since our first training rides in March.  Our moods were great and it was nice to have some daddy-daughter time all to myself.

Unfortunately, one thing became clear: my knee injury was not going to be short lived.  I iced it down all evening, took some ibuprofen, and hoped for the best.  It was swelling and becoming painful.

Thanks for all the prayers for safety.  We certainly felt them today.

– Dc. Matt

Cycling the Erie Canal – Day 3

Miles today: 36.60, Total miles: 131.20

Today was a much easier ride than yesterday. We started by having a very nice home-cooked pancake breakfast at my parent’s house (thanks, mom!). We then loaded up the bike and went back to where we left off yesterday at the Interfaith Chapel of the University of Rochester.

We slept very well the night before and I let my daughter sleep in a long time to help make up for the tough going yesterday. We took a very leisurely time getting started.

With full bellies and a good rest, things were definitely looking up!

We had another nice surprise today. A high school friend, Randy, met us on the trail and rode a long way with us. It was really nice to talk with him and catch up.

The weather was much nicer today. Mid 80’s and sunny. The rain held off until we were done with our ride.

The ride today took us through some very nice countryside, and through several nice towns. We passed through two of the nicest canal-front towns we have seen so far: Pittsford and Fairport. Both of these towns have built up their canal areas with restaurants, parks, docks, and great “walking around” places. We didn’t spend too much time wandering today since we started so late.

Back when Stephanie and I were first married, we rented a small 1/2 house in Pittsford. We loved living there, partially because of the fun places you could walk to near the canal. So we rode the bike past our old home. You can see a picture of it below.

We continued on to Fairport, where we enjoyed a simple lunch and good conversation with Randy at a local restaurant. With the day starting to drift by, we picked up the pace and plugged on.

Nearly the entire path today was on the trails and away from cars. Some paved, some crushed stones. Most was in pretty good shape.

Our destination today was the town of Newark. We reached Newark around 4:10, just in time to catch 4:30 mass at St. Michael’s church, just a few blocks from the canal. We went in and tried to clean up a little bit, so as to try to minimize the stink that was surely hanging over me like a fog. I felt like Pigpen from the Peanuts as I tried to scope out a seat that was at least two pews from anyone else… I felt a bit sorry for the nice older lady who sat down right behind us.

Stephanie met us just before mass. After church, we packed up the bike on the back of the truck and drove a bit eastward to the town of Weedsport where we are spending the night. In my research for this ride, I found that the canal path ended at Newark and that there isn’t a really safe road path to Weedsport. So we elected to jump the miles by car and pick the trail back up in Weedsport.

Our ride tomorrow is the shortest planned ride for us, around 30 miles, taking us through downtown Syracuse, out to the east side so that we won’t have to deal with rush-hour traffic on Monday.

The weather forecast for tomorrow looks rainy again. Hopefully we can dodge most of the drops.

Here is a link to today’s ride:

– Dc. Matt

Cycling the Erie Canal – Day 2

(Subtitle: Rain + ‘Stone Dust’ = ugh!)

Miles today: 46.6,  Total miles: 94.6

When we arrived last night in Medina, after dinner, one of my first concerns was to look over the weather forecast for today.  It didn’t look good, and today lived up to its expectations.

We had a nice breakfast at the B&B, then watched hoping that the rain would stop.  It did for a few minutes, just long enough for us to load up the bike and get out back to the canal trail.

Unfortunately, we don’t have many pictures of today’s ride.  The reason is: my camera is not waterproof.  We wound through about 47 miles of beautiful countryside from Medina to Rochester.  We saw fields of crops, apple orchards, flocks of ducks, geese, small towns, and many miles of trail.  We also saw a very cool bridge where the road tunnels *under* the Erie canal, built long before modern equipment.

The first 27-ish miles of our ride were mostly done in the rain.  We had periods of dry, but the rain kept catching us, and some of it was pretty heavy.  We were fortunate enough to avoid any thunderstorms.  We heard thunder far away, but none of it came close enough to cause us any difficulty.

The trail from Medina to the city of Rochester is made of what’s called “Stone Dust” – a very fine gravel that is packed down and mixed with some sort of powdered stone.  When it is dry, it is a reasonable surface to bike on.  It stays smooth (no potholes) and rides pretty well.  But when it gets wet… it is terrible.  Today, it was definitely wet with lots of puddles.  The consistency of the top layer was like riding on peanut butter.  We could feel the bike “dragging” through the trail, and the grit and mud kicked up all over us.  We were completely coated, from head-to-toe, in mud by the time we reached Brockport.  You can see a picture of how caked the bike was at the bottom of the posting.  Our average speed went down by about 5 miles-per-hour, making for a very long day.

From Brockport on, the ride went pretty well.  We had a few sprinkles of rain, but it was mostly sunny and warm.  The trail was still too wet, but at least we weren’t getting soaked as well.

One thing we didn’t see today were other bikers.  We only saw two other riders in the first 35 miles.  One was heading out of the rain – she was smart.  The other was a young guy who was on his way to New York City.  He had ridden all the way from Seattle!

All-in-all, it was a pretty hard ride, but we enjoyed the day.  It was really nice to see the Rochester skyline and know the end of today’s ride was coming along.  We rode through Genesee Valley park and turned off the path to approach the University of Rochester – our stopping point for today.  I used to ride the canal when I was a student at the UofR, so it seemed like a good stopping point for us together.

Tomorrow’s ride is a bit shorter, we’ll start at the UofR again, and go to Newark – about 35 miles or so.

Here is a link to today’s ride.

Peace & Blessings,

Dc. Matt

Cycling the Erie Canal – Day 1

Today was our first day of cycling to cross New York along the length of the Erie Canal.

We were supposed to have a shorter day to get started in our journey, but things didn’t quite turn out that way…

We began at the mouth of the canal where it empties into the Niagara river on the border of Buffalo and Tonawanda. The trail here was pretty much nonexistent, so we used a series of surface streets that paralleled the canal.  We actually started on the wrong side of the canal (yes, Steph, you were right), but didn’t have any difficulty paralleling the canal and got ourselves to the correct side after a couple of miles.

The trail doesn’t exist as a bike-path until Lockport, so we had to navigate the first 15-or-so miles on streets, using maps to navigate.  We needed to track east for a few miles, then make a series of turns northbound to Lockport.  That’s where the “fun” began.

In the planning stages of this trip, I purchased a set of maps from the NY parks for the canal. Let’s just say that there was a bit of ambiguity on where to turn northbound to Lockport.

After what seemed like about the right distance, it was clear that we were not approaching Lockport.   We missed a turn someplace and there weren’t any street signs for miles to indicate the name of the road we were on.  Thank goodness for my trusty iPhone GPS! Instead of being near Lockport, we discovered that we were east by about 6-7 miles of the turn we missed, which caused us to need to backtrack along country roads until we found a road that would take us north into Lockport. That road turned out to be a major 4-lane road. Yikes. To make an already long story short, we safely navigated into town using the shoulders and sidewalks.

We rewarded ourselves with lunch at “Friendly’s” – a northeast ice cream chain that I remember from being a kid. Yum. Even in our struggles, we can usually find rewards at the end! Hmmm… Sounds like a homily for some day 🙂

After lunch, we went to the famous locks 34,35. In the old days, this was a flight of several locks to raise and lower boats the 70 feet of difference between the two sides of the canal. It was replaced with a set of two modern locks that are quite impressive to look at (especially if you are an engineering geek like me!).

We watched a boat “lock through”, then hung around for another 45 minutes or so before mounting the bike and heading eastbound.

For as difficult as the morning was, the afternoon was much easier. In Lockport, the canal trail is formalized and runs pretty much contiguous until east of Rochester.  The trail is well maintained and no motor vehicles travel on it. We found the trail and rode straight east through Gasport, Middleport, and into Medina. We were rewarded with a very comfortable place to stay at the Historic Inn B&B in Medina.

Dinner at a local Italian place, Avanti’s, provided fabulous home made pasta. I chose linguini with white clam sauce. A very yummy way to “carb up” for tomorrow! The kids ate well, and Steph was able to get a really nice salad with sauteed shrimp.

The weather today was splendid. Mid 80’s and a touch humid. Unfortunately, they are calling for storms all along our route tomorrow, so I am hoping and praying that we can get our ride done.

Tomorrow, our destination is the University of Rochester, my Alma mater. We need to go another 45ish miles… hopefully dry.

Thanks to all who have sent notes of support and prayers. You are in mine as well.

A link to our progress is here. I forgot to enable my GPS for about one mile near Middleport, but otherwise, it should be pretty accurate.

Peace & Blessings,
Dc. Matt

Cycling the Erie Canal – test ride today

We went out for a really nice ride today. After church, we loaded up the new panniers (aka saddle bags), mixed up some Gatorade, put sunblock on, and went out to see the local scenery in Webster, NY (“where life is worth living” according to the town motto).

I wanted to dry run blogging without my MacBook, too. Somehow, I forgot to take any pictures today, so I will have to try that later.

We rode a nice bike trail for about 12 miles, then decided to go north to Lake Ontario. The weather was beautiful and, as usual, the company was great. We took a pretty leisurely pace – we are not in training mode anymore. It is time to enjoy the scenery now!

Here is a map of our progress today.
Peace & Blessings,
Dc. Matt

Cycling the Erie Canal – One week to departure

Started packing tonight.  Seems like there is too much stuff going with me … and there is.  Sigh.  Isn’t that the way it always is in life – we try to over prepare instead of trusting in God.  Nevertheless, I think I still need to carry deodorant, even though it is heavy 🙂

This past week, I’ve been riding by myself because my daughter was visiting her grandparents in Colorado.  It has been a really nice week.  I’ve logged a bunch of miles, too.  I’ve been riding my circa 1990 Trek 420 road bike.  Even at 20 years old, it’s a sweet ride!  Well under 20 lbs., and fast.  Makes me remember why I used to love riding so much.

In some ways, it seems like we’ve been preparing for this trip for a long time, but on the other hand, this summer has flown by.  Looking back, I’ve had a great time getting ready for this ride.  My daughter has changed even over the last few months as she is getting more and more mature.  I’ve truly enjoyed spending this time with her.  Getting her up in the morning … well, that’s another story.  I’ve decided that she has the gift of tongues since I usually can’t understand what she’s saying when I first wake her up.

We leave on Saturday to go up to New York in preparation for the ride.  We will have about 4 more days of training once we arrive.  Then, it’s the real thing.  We will begin next Thursday (July 22) at the western most edge of the Erie canal where it meets the Niagara river.  Watch for pictures and more blog entries soon.


– Dc. Matt

Cycling the Erie Canal – under 2 weeks ’till we leave …

It’s starting to feel pretty real now.  I’ve got all of our itinerary planned out pretty well – or at least as well as I can hope for.  Every day’s journey, night accommodations, food, hydration plan.  Sheesh, I thought this would be about biking, not planning 🙂  But if it doesn’t get planned out well, we may find ourselves out of food, water, or housing.

I have to be honest, it’s starting to be a bit intimidating thinking about starting out on this journey.  I am really praying for good weather.  We don’t really have the choice of skipping a day or two, so if it pours, well, we’ll just have to slug on through the rain.

If you’re interested in seeing the route we’ll be taking, you can see the following maps:  (a traditional map) (an interactive map that you can mouse-around on)

Peace & Blessings,

Dc. Matt

Cycling the Erie Canal – Summer 2010 – Prologue

Less than 3 weeks to go!  We’re getting ready to leave.

My daughter and I have been training since May to ride along the Erie canal from Buffalo to Albany, NY.  We’ve never undertaken a long bike trip before, so wish us luck!

The trip will take us about 300+ miles along the old tow-paths that were used to pull barges along the canal.  We will leave from Buffalo on/about July 22 and spend about 8 days journeying eastward.

To prepare for this ride, we’ve been training on a tandem bike.  If you’ve never tried one before, I highly recommend it.  We’ve had a lot of fun and good daddy/daughter time.

So, if you’d like, feel free to subscribe to our posts.  I will be putting together some modest posts along the trail – no computer, so whatever I can type up with my trusty iPhone 🙂  I hope to update each evening with a couple of pictures and thoughts.


– Matt