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