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