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