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

2 thoughts on “Cycling the Erie Canal – Day 5”

  1. Wow Matt. What a great experience and so many menories being made along the way. I’m thinking your health is more important than the end goal. what happens if you don’t attend to the knee now? future experiences might be in jeapordy? Just some food for thought as if you don’t get to the Dr. soon, there might not be future rides? Our prayers are with you and hope you find the right path (no pun intended).

    Love to you all,
    Ellie and Larry

  2. Thanks for the updates, Matt. We just love keeping up with you all.

    Anne Marie – we are so proud of you! I’ll bet that you are getting really strong legs!!!

    And to the support crew, Maura and Steph, we hope you are having a good time seeing the sights along the way, too. Thanks for your support of the two intrepid cyclers! What a great family enterprise.

    And thanks for the pictures! You are going through some very pretty country. Good luck with the knee, Matt. Hope it gets better quickly.

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