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.

http://j.mp/cKtao7

Peace & Blessings,
Dc. Matt

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