2022 Erie Canal Tour: Wrap-Up

The 2022 Cycling Adventure on the Erie Canal is complete. Zubby, JB, and I had a great trip along the canal route. Even with some equipment issues (darned broken spokes!) and a little downtime helping Zubby de-bonk, it was fun. This was the worst weather I’ve done a bike tour in: 5 of 7 days in some amount of rain. Again, none of those issues detracted too much from a great week of unplugging on two wheels.

Touring with other people is good because you can watch over each other. It also brings along some tradeoffs. You have to compromise and decide when to do side trips, where to eat, and so on. I think this tour worked out very well and we did a good job of helping each other along. I enjoyed JB’s wanderlust that took us into the little towns along the way and the excursion through Syracuse to see the university and some of the local sights. Zubby is an eternal optimist who found a way to enjoy the trip even in the rain. My only regret is that we couldn’t somehow change our itinerary to accommodate Billy’s family covid situation. We’ll just have to get another option planned for 2023!

As I collect my wrap-up thoughts, first I’ll give my impression of touring the Erie Canal. It is one of the better developed touring routes in the United States. At about 400 miles from Buffalo to Albany, it provides a long ride with reasonably spaced towns for accommodations. Most of the route is on dedicated path, with some through-city parts on bike lanes or dedicated paths. There are a few stretches of on-road riding. The road sections were usually on either very quiet roads or on roads with generous shoulders. As an experienced road-rider, I didn’t feel too stressed by the road sections. If I were riding with young kids though, I would try to time the road sections for non busy times.

The surface for the path is a combination of paved and crushed limestone “stone dust” on top of packed dirt. I definitely prefer the paved parts, but the stone dust surface rides well when dry and drained well when it was raining. I recommend having tires with a little bit of width and tread in case it rains. The mud is slippery when wet.

The route of the Erie Canal Trail is good. Starting in Buffalo, then Lockport and all of the port towns west of Fairport provide some good variety of things to see. Some of the towns are too small to support restaurants, but others are great places to get food and water. Once you get east of Fairport, the towns are more sparse, with the exceptions of the bigger cities like Syracuse, Rome, Utica, Amsterdam, Schenectady, and Albany.

If I had to rank the Erie Canal Trail among other routes I’ve done, I’d put it in the middle. Definitely worth doing, but I prefer the scenery of the Great Allegheny Passage and the nearly all-paved Ohio To Erie trail is hard to beat. The Parks and Trails NY team does good job of marking the trail. There were only a couple of places where it wasn’t exactly clear where to turn. I had put together .GPX files for my Garmin to help and only used them in a couple of places. I have mixed feelings about the guidebook from the PTNY. It is useful but I think there should be a bit more detail with road names, especially in the Syracuse area. I do recommend buying it to carry with you, but don’t expect it to answer all of your routing questions.

We chose to do 7 days to minimize work vacation days. This pushed us to 65+ days 4 of the 7 days. I typically plan for ~60 miles when touring on my own and find that comfortable. I think this trip would have been better with shorter days. 50-60 mile days would have allowed for more sight seeing and accommodating mechanical and health issues.

If you’re new to bike touring, the Erie Canal Trail, or even just part of it, would be a good option to get started. It is gentle enough for medium-skilled riders and has enough scenery to keep it interesting.

Here’s a little bit about my equipment. Over time my cycling rig has evolved a bit. Here’s what I use today:

  • Bicycle: 2018 Specialized Sequoia Expert. I bought this bike at the end of 2018 and have been using it for touring since then. It is a good combination of robust build, comfort, and gearing. If I were to go cross country with lots of mountains, I might look for something with a wider gearing. I like that the frame has many braze-on lugs to easily accommodate a rack, fenders, and still have room for three water bottles. I don’t use the front lugs but could mount front racks if I wanted to carry more gear. I’m also a huge fan of disc brakes. This model has hydraulic brakes that are strong and sure no matter how wet they get.
  • Bike Add-Ons: I insist on fenders for touring. The rain and mud create quite a mess. I did two tours without fenders in 2010 and 2012 and will never do that again. I use a Blackburn rack, but I don’t know what model it is. I recommend one where the sides are long/wide to provide more support to your panniers and keep them out of your wheel area.
  • Tires: This is an area of passionate debate for cycle touring. I am a fan of Schwalbe touring tires, like the marathon plus. However this bike came with Specialized Adventure Gear Sawthooth 700x42mm tires. I’m still running the original Specialized tires and I’ve been very happy with them. They are a great tradeoff of tread for mud vs. rolling on smooth roads. I’ve got several thousand miles on them and only one flat. The tread is still in great shape, too. I will probably try to get similar tires again when it is time to replace these.
  • GPS: I have been using a dedicated bike GPS for many years. I currently use a Garmin Edge 820. I have a love/hate relationship with this device. For general ride tracking it does a sufficient job. For route guidance, I’d give it a “C” grade: I’ve needed to plot unknown courses like getting to the Rome bike shop and it does an OK job. However it is very slow when loading a premade .GPX files and the battery life is not great. I had to carry a spare battery pack with me and used it every day to charge up along the route. Garmin wants a ton of $ to replace the battery. Not gonna happen. I think when it is time to replace, I will look at a competitor’s unit such as Wahoo.
  • Bike Radar: Ok, this has become an essential piece of gear for me. I use a Garmin Varia RTL515 radar. This little device mounts on the back of the bike and has two purposes: 1) it is a brightly flashing tail light to get motorist’s attention, and 2) it tracks cars coming from behind and tells me where they are, how many are approaching, and how fast. This is displayed on my bike GPS screen. I really like knowing when a car is approaching. So I have both a rear mirror on my handlebar and this radar. I won’t ride without them at this point.
  • Panniers: Panniers are the bags that hook into the racks of the bike, kind of like bike luggage. I use Ortlieb “Bike Packer Plus” panniers. They are waterproof and have served me very well. They’re not cheap, but if you do a bunch of bike travel, you will find that you never have to worry about the contents getting wet with Ortlieb panniers. They also have a good rack-mounting system that locks the bags securely to the rack. There are many good and cheaper options out there, so if you’re just getting started, I suggest starting with a cheaper option and just pack your clothes in dry bags inside the panniers.
  • Camera: I purchased a GoPro Hero 7 on sale a couple of years ago so that I can take pictures while riding and not have to stop. I also have a love/hate relationship with this device. Somehow it manages to take pictures sometimes and videos others. I need to sit with some YouTube instructions to see the best way to operate it so that I can get pictures with my GoPro consistently. In the past, I have struggled to find a great way to mount the GoPro to my bike and think I cracked the code this time. I bought a well-reviewed off-brand Garmin style GPS mount, took the quarter turn off of it, flipped it upside down and used a genuine GoPro foam-tape mount to mount on the backside. It worked like a champ and allows me to remove the GoPro when I go into a restaurant. I’m really surprised nobody sells something like this pre-made. See my picture below for the mount. For my off-the-bike pictures, I use my iPhone. It takes great pictures.
  • Headlight: I have a rule to always carry a headlight. They tend to be heavy, but if you get stuck after sundown, it is really necessary. You can’t plan emergencies, but you can be prepared for them. I got stuck after sundown on the KATY trail a few years ago and will always keep a light with me now. I carry a Blackburn Central 300. It is bright enough to navigate with, but I’d recommend going even higher than 300 lumens if you can afford it.
  • Blogging Setup: I use a small Microsoft bluetooth keyboard that folds up. It works with my iPhone and allows me to touch-type at full speed. It doesn’t weigh much and takes nearly no space in my bag. I use the WordPress dedicated iOS app on the phone. You probably found some typos in the blog. I’m not trying to write a novel, so I am not quite as careful when blogging.

Thanks for following along. I always enjoy hearing from people who read the blog or ask questions that I can help with.

Here’s a link to each of the day’s blog:

This is my last big 2022 bike adventure. I’m already looking forward to 2023 and another grand time on two wheels. Not sure where I’ll ride next, but I’m already daydreaming of options.

Until then, Peace.
— Dcn. Matt

2022 Erie Canal Tour: Days 6&7 – Utica to Amsterdam, Amsterdam to Albany. Done!

I was much to tired yesterday to blog. And honestly, I am again today, but if I don’t get my notes down now, it probably won’t happen.

Friday, day 6, was an eventful day for our band of three. We left Utica early under a bit of a fog. The weather was cool but nice. No rain, and that was most welcome.

It didn’t take long for the sun to dry up the fog and make for a beautiful and sunny day. We made a steady pace as we pedaled east. We stopped at several of the locks for a rest or pictures. Right about lock 18, we decided to watch a boat lock through.

The boat is named “Spontaneous”. We struck up a couple of minutes of conversation as they locked through. This couple was on their way to New Hampshire to deliver this boat to new owners. They have had some great adventures but just didn’t have the time to enjoy it any longer. We all decided that a great way to do this trip would be to cycle to one end and have a very relaxing boat ride back. It takes several days to travel the length of the canal by boat. They are restricted to low speed, so it is a relaxed pace.

As we began the day, Zubby just didn’t quite seem to be feeling 100%. By the time we reached the town of Canajoharie, he really didn’t feel well. Looking back, we think he “bonked” – a term that means you’re too low on calories and/or electrolytes and/or fluids. The brain just shuts you down. We got him into a local restaurant and he sipped a bunch of drink and cooled down. We hung out for about two hours. We had about 25 miles left to go, but Zubby decided he was done for the day. After a few unsuccessful attempts at Ubering and Lyfting, we got ahold of someone who was able to drive him forward to our hotel in Amsterdam.

So then there were two…

JB and I pressed on to Amsterdam without much further excitement. We stopped for a few minutes at the entrance to the shrine for the North American Martyrs. This is the site of the 17th Century Mohawk Village of Ossernenon, birthplace of St. Kateri Tekakwitha, and the site of martyrdom for three Jesuit missionaries. This particular shrine has importance for me because of some time spent here back in 2010 with my daughter and wife. We were running quite late after helping Zubby so we couldn’t stay long.

We finished our ride and arrived at the Castle in Amsterdam NY. This is an old armory that has been converted into a castle-themed hotel. It was a very fun place to stay and we enjoyed it very much.

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So that was the end of day 6. We all regrouped at the hotel. JB and I enjoyed a wonderful dinner at a local Italian place, Lorenzo’s.

That brings us to today. Last night, Zubby decided he was done for the trip. We had about another 45-50 miles to the end and he didn’t think it was good to continue. So we rearranged his Amtrak ticket so that he would stay in Amsterdam while JB and I finished the trek to Albany.

It was another fantastic, dare I say epic, weather day. Blue skies, temps in the low 80s and no headwinds. Can’t ask for better.

We decided that we wanted to try to find some donuts today. That was high on JB’s list. So we had a light breakfast at the hotel and then decided we would try to find some pastries or donuts in Schenectady. We eventually found a Dunkin’ Donuts and we split a half-dozen donuts between us. They went down really fast.

As we were making our way east, I saw a boat in the distance that looked familiar. We reached to the next lock, and sure enough, it was “Spontaneous” again. We had seen them yesterday and now again today. We said Hi to the owners and then went on our way.

The trail in Schenectady has some ups and downs to it. It diverges from the Mohawk river up and overlooks it, then goes back down to meet the river again. Felt good to do a little gentle climbing after so much flat riding.

The last few miles were uneventful, except that my Garmin had not been tracking my distance from when we left breakfast in Schenectady until we reached the northern part of Cohoes. Annoying. The track made it look like I was able to magically fly across the county.

We arrived in Albany with plenty of time to spare. We had to be at the Amtrak station on the other side of the Hudson by 3:00PM. So we went in search of food and drink. We found great little pub. I had a beer and a fish fry. It was extra delicious today.

After lunch, we made a quick trip over the Hudson to the town of Rensselaer. It was very easy to cross the bridge because it has a dedicated bike / pedestrian area away from traffic.

The Amtrak station in Albany is clean and nice. I took the opportunity to change out of my stinky riding clothes and into some street clothes for the ride home. JB did the same. We boarded the train without too much difficulty. Zubby had a ticket for the same train, departing from Amsterdam.

I had been warned that the Amtrak Empire Service could not handle very many bikes. We had pre-arranged and paid for shipping our 3 (4 originally) bikes. The process for loading was to let the conductor tell us which car had a rack open. We then wheeled the bikes in and hung them in the rack. Not too bad, but not nearly as convenient as the entire bike-friendly train car that I rode from Pittsburgh to DC a few years ago.

I got off the train in Rochester and my dad picked me up. I’m back at their place. Dirty clothes are all in the washer and I’m preparing to head back tomorrow to home. The three of us have decided that it was a very good tour, even with all the challenges that came our way. I will add one more blog post later with some thoughts and tips about riding the Erie Canal. Watch for that in the next day or two.

Until then…
Peace,
— Deacon Matt

2022 Erie Canal Tour: Day 5 – Syracuse to Utica with a lot of Rome(ing)

Our B&B yesterday was, well, interesting. The neighborhood was not great, the decor was a mish-mash, and I really doubt an electrician did the electrical work. On the upside, we were dry and had an uneventful night. The AirBNB hosts were good, but the property was not one of my favorites.

We wandered out for dinner and found some awesome burritos, and then came back to watch a movie before turning in. Zubby had never seen “Breaking Away”, so we watched that. I think we all enjoyed it. Fantastico Papa!

When we went to bed last night, we looked at the weather. It looked like we would have a nice day with only a small chance of rain. Today started out with rain. A good amount of the liquid sunshine came down to see us out of Syracuse. It was more than mere drizzle.

Riding out of Syracuse was much nicer than the last time I was here in 2010. They now have nice separated bike lanes for much of the route. I sure wish Lexington would take a page from this book.

After an hour or so, the weather finally cleared. We had an amazing and rare sighting: blue skies! The rest of the day was blue skies and warmer weather. Aside from the first part of the ride, the rest of the weather was epic.

We made our way east and stopped at a boat museum. It was closed, but there were a couple of nice guys who were taking a rest break there. We stopped and talked to them a bit.

As we kept going, JB broke another spoke! When we stopped for lunch, we looked over the maps to see where we could find a bike shop anywhere on the path for today. We decided we’d check out the situation when we got closer to Rome and decide what to do.

When we reached Rome, JB decided we would try the bike shop in Rome. One catch, it was about 7 miles out of our way north of Rome, and the mechanic had a hard-stop at 4:30. We used the Garmin Bike GPS to plot a course to the shop and started pushing our way there. The streets were a bit busy, but the shoulders were OK. About two miles later JB got a flat tire. Crazy, but true. We made it to Mike’s Cycle & Sport Shop with plenty of time to spare. The mechanic replaced his spoke in about 15 minutes and we were back on our way.

We stopped on the way back out of town for some drinks and snacks at a Circle-K. JB treated me to a cherry slushee. I didn’t realize how thirsty I was. I put down a good amount of Gatorade, the slushee, and some water. But the slushee really hit the spot.

Working our way back out of Rome took a bit of city-smarts for cycling. Nothing too scary, but had to be very alert as we made our way back to the trail. We reached the trail without incident. We stopped by Fort Stanwix briefly but it was closed. Plus we thought we needed to press on somewhat quickly because we were running late, so it was probably OK that we couldn’t go in.

We finally reached Utica and navigated to the AirBNB here. This place is really nice! It is a renovated apartment over a pub downstairs. We all agreed that this is the nicest place we’ve stayed so far.

After getting cleaned up, we wandered downtown Utica and found a good meal. For the record, I didn’t order the onion rings, and didn’t eat many of them…

We had originally planned for about 65 miles today. The extra miles through Rome made for a longer day but all went well. Hopefully we’ve seen the last of the broken spokes!

Tomorrow we head to Amsterdam NY. The weather looks like it will be a great day for cycling. I hope to rest well and be ready for the day.

Peace,
— Dcn. Matt

2022 Erie Canal Tour: Day 4 – Savannah to Syracuse, with spokes!

Our stay at the BnB in Savannah was comfortable and clean. I slept OK and woke up early to get packed and ready to roll. Since we needed to get to the bike shop in Syracuse, we wanted to get started early. Our host, Chip, did a nice job and made us feel welcome.

When we went to bed last night, we expected it to be a mostly dry day today. Well, that didn’t last very long. Mist, then drizzle, then light rain stuck with us most of the morning. It wasn’t too bad, but it sure would be nice to see some of the elusive Upstate NY blue skies during our tour.

We had several miles of roads before getting back to the trail today. The canal doesn’t have a bike path with it in this area, so the route takes you along NY Route 31. In this area, the shoulder is mostly a very wide area, and the traffic was generally well behaved. So although it wasn’t too bad, it felt good to get back on the path.

We were mostly on path again once we reached the town of Jordan. I remember this little town from my tour here in 2010 with my daughter. I recall taking a picture with her at the flagpoles, and I also remember the beautiful gardens just east of the town.

Eventually we made it to Syracuse. The new route into Syracuse is much nicer than the one I remembered from before. Back in 2010, we had to route through the west side of downtown through some so-so neighborhoods. Since then, they have now completed a trail along the lakefront that is very nice. Good pavement and some wonderful views of Onondaga Lake.

There is a new biking/walking trail into downtown that runs along Onondaga Creek. We picked that up and used it to get to the central part of town. We then used the Garmin bike GPS to take us to the AirBnB. We dropped our bags and quickly made our way down to the Mello Velo bike shop to get our bikes fixed.

We briefly stopped at Clinton Square and continued along our way. Clinton Square is where the canal used to run through downtown. It was an area for commerce and banking, supporting trade along the canal.

Mello Velo is an awesome little shop. It is a cafe and bike shop. We walked in about 12:20 and they immediately prioritized our repairs since we were on our way through. We had lunch while we waited. The food was a little pricey but my Turkey Club was really delicious. Hand-carved turkey, not deli lunch meat, fresh bacon and lettuce with aioli on it. YUM!

It turned out that my bike had not one, but two, broken spokes. I will be getting this wheel completely re-laced with new spokes when I get home. Something is suspicious about breaking spokes on it, for sure. They had the right parts to fix JB’s broken spoke. And Zubby had them check out his bike. It needed some repairs as well. I usually do all of my own bike mechanics work. Talking to the guy who fixed our rides, I was happy and felt very confident in the repairs. Huge kudos to Mello Velo and I highly recommend their shop.

While wandering around, I was clearly tempted. Some people say the devil is a “woman in a red dress”. For me, today, it was the signature blue-green Bianchi in the corner. Exactly what I would buy if I won the lotto. At $6K today, no chance of taking it home, but man, it sure was beeeautiful.

After the bike shop, we decided to do some touring around Syracuse. We wandered and made a route up to Syracuse University. I’ve been on campus a few times and sort of remembered some of the highlights of the tour we did 7 or so years ago when my youngest daughter was looking at schools. After that, we just meandered around the city at a slow pace to enjoy the sights.

Back at the BnB, we scrubbed up and threw a big pile of wet slimy clothes into the washing machine. Extra time on the scrub cycle. Time to go look four some dinner! I think it will either be the Dinosaur BBQ or a Mexican restaurant nearby. Hmmmm.

Until tomorrow, may the Lord bless you and keep you. May He make His face to shine upon you and give you peace.
— Dcn. Matt

2022 Erie Canal Tour: Day 3, Spokes? Nah, who needs ‘em

We spent yesterday evening at my parents’ house. It was about an extra 13 miles each way, but I think we all agree that it was very well worth it. Mom and Dad took great care of us. Food is one of Mom’s “Love languages” and she loved us a lot. Mom fed us a huge portion of pasta with her marinara sauce, home made meatballs, zucchini, salad, fresh corn on the cob, and then home made cherry tarts for dessert.

After dinner, I took JB and Zubby to Wegman’s – the local grocery store that is famous in this area. The one in Webster isn’t even one of the nicer stores, but I think they got a good dose of what a nice grocery store could be like. I went to get some snacks for the ride, but especially because I had given some Benadryl to a cyclist in Buffalo who had been stung by a bee. I wanted to replenish my supply.

Today’s weather was really good for cycling. Cool and comfortable. We started by riding south from Webster back to Fairport and had a nice tailwind to push us along.

The ride east from Fairport was uneventful. We met a few cyclists, saw some canal locks, and enjoyed the scenery. The surface was largely dried out from the rain and it was much easier pedaling.

We passed through Macedon and when we arrived in Palmyra, we wandered into town to look around. When we stopped to get a drink, I went to get my wallet and noticed that my top-tube bag, where I usually keep my wallet, was missing. After a minute of panic, I found the top tube bag in my pannier. Whew.

A few more miles of trail and we reached Lyons and then Clyde. Along the way, we saw this dry-dock. Several barges and a couple of tug boats were in the dry dock.

Dry dock

We stopped in Clyde for a late lunch / early dinner because there isn’t much of anything else nearby. Just before the west side of Clyde, my tire felt spongy. As I was noticing that, Zubby said “your back tire looks flat”. Sure enough, flat tire. First one I’ve had on this bike. It was starting to mist a little, so we found an awning and pulled under it. I removed the rear wheel and prepared to replace the tube. As I was removing the tire, I heard a “twang” sound. Upon further inspection, I discovered a broken spoke. Ugh. I’ve only broken two spokes in 12 years (and tens of thousands of miles of cycling), both are on this bike. This spoke must have been fatigued enough that it was just about to go. We got the wheel put back together and decided that I’ll just get it fixed tomorrow in Syracuse. There’s a wobble in the wheel, but not big enough to cause a major issue. I called a bike shop in Syracuse and they said they’d be happy to get it fixed up right away and get us back underway tomorrow.

After dinner, we finished our last few miles to an AirBnB in Savannah. Along the way, JB said “Hey, my wheel is wobbling now, too!” Sure enough, JB also has a broken spoke. The odds of two of us having broken spokes seems awfully low. Nonetheless, that’s the situation.

So we’re here at our AirBNB. The house is very comfortable and has a wonderful yard overlooking a small lake. After a good scrubbing, we convened in the back yard to enjoy the cool air. Fall is coming, for sure.

Tomorrow is a short day as we make our way into Syracuse. We expect about 40 miles or so to the bike shop. We’re going to try to get out early so that we can get the bikes in early and get them fixed asap. The weather report for tomorrow looks full of … drizzle! Hopefully we can get done before it gets too wet.

Peace!
– Dcn. Matt

2022 Erie Canal Tour: Day 2 – Drizzle

The word for today was: “Drizzle”. Say that word a few times – it’s kind of a funny word, really. We had a lot of time and inspiration to consider the word drizzle today.

As we began our ride, it was wet from the very start. We looked over the weather and decided it really didn’t make sense to wait. We had a long way to go, and no matter how long we waited, it wasn’t going to get better.

Leaving the B&B, donning rain coats.

Our B&B was a couple of miles north of Albion, so we rode back to the trail and headed east. The surface of the trail in this section is finely crushed stone on top of dirt. When it is dry, it rolls well. When it is wet, it is like riding on peanut butter. Today was like chunky-peanut butter. The worst part is that it takes a bunch more energy to push the pedals through the mud.

One random thought: is drizzle an onomatopoeia? It doesn’t really make a sound, so probably not?

Although it rained the entire day, it was a generally fun day. The wet conditions did not put a damper on our day. We stopped under bridges a couple of times to get a snack and take a little break.

Snacks under the bridge

This section of the trail, from Lockport to Fairport, is probably my favorite section. Lots of little towns to go into and check out. Most of them are on the south side of the canal, so you go over a lift bridge to get to the town. We checked out most of the towns today, but with it being Labor day, most places were closed. We went into Brockport, hoping to find a brunch. The only restaurant we found was a diner. The line was out the door, so we decided to go to the next major town and see what we could find.

So, what is the difference between drizzle, light rain, sprinkles, and spitting. We debated these options and thought that perhaps drizzle doesn’t leave ripples when it hits the canal water.

When we reached Spencerport, we went into town to find some lunch. Again, most everything was closed except for Subway. So that was lunch.

Spencerport

I didn’t take many pictures today because of the rain. Stopping to take out the phone was a bit inconvenient. That’s a bit sad because the scenery in this area is really nice.

Drizzle… Good or bad? Drizzles of BBQ sauce – good. Drizzles of chocolate on ice cream – good. Drizzles of rain – questionable. Better than hard rain, but kind of annoying after 5 hours.

After making our way through the west side of the city, we got to Genesee Valley Park. We had toyed with taking a side trip up into downtown Rochester, but with the rain and slow riding, we decided to skip the side trip. I did take the guys up to my alma mater: the University of Rochester.

Eastman Quadrangle at the University of Rochester

You don’t see locks between Lockport and Rochester. Working east from here they count down to zero. We rode past a few today. Here’s lock 33.

Lock 33

We rode through Pittsford and arrived in Fairport. This is where we exited the canal path for today. We’re staying in Webster, about 12 miles north. After a little snack break, we meandered our way up to Webster using county roads.

Fairport, NY – Mules like this used to pull the canal boats in the old days.

We arrived at my parents’ house and decided to hose down before getting into the house. We had quite a bit of the Erie Canal towpath stuck to us, our bikes, and the rest of our gear. A hose did the trick. A thorough rinse down, a shower, and laundry made us good-as-new.

Muddy Bike before wash down.

We could have let the drizzle affect our spirits. But it didn’t. It did slow us down, but we had a great day. 66 miles, probably 55-60 of them in the rain, er, drizzle.

We had lots of time to contemplate light rain today. We decided that drizzle is a kind of rain, but not the same as sprinkles. And besides, sprinkles belong on ice cream, not bicycles.

Peace,
Dcn. Matt

2022 Erie Canal Tour: Day 1

A few months ago, some friends and I thought of a few different bike tours to do and we decided to ride across New York along the Erie Canal towpath. I have some experience with the Erie Canal path from my younger days when I would ride sections of the path near where I grew up. The Erie Canal was also my first experience with bike touring back in 2010.

My very first bike tour in 2010 was a self-supported tour with my then 13-year-old daughter. I had no idea how to do a bike tour, but we figured it out. With the support of my wife who SAGd (Support And Gear) for us, we made it across. Since then, I have done a self supported bike tour every year. I’d consider myself a somewhat well seasoned bike tourer.

When we originally planned this year’s tour, there were four of us planning to go. Sadly, a few days before the tour, my friend Billy’s wife spiked a 104 fever. The dreaded Covid-19 screwed up our plans. Billy rightly chose to stay home to care for his family. So now there are three of us: me, JB, and Zubby.

We started out in downtown Buffalo, staying at a hotel. Last night we enjoyed a couple of beers with dinner and got our pre-tour excitement going. We looked over the plan for today and I slept very well.

MMmmm beer.
The Start of the Ride: Me, Zubby, and JB

We found our way to the Shorline Trail that runs along the Niagara river just west of Buffalo. We rode along that trail all the way up to the start of the Erie Canal trail in North Tonowanda. It’s a really pretty ride along the riverfront.

Once we made it to the Canal Path, it was mostly straightforward rolling up to Lockport. It is a combination of path and surface streets, but nothing aggressive for traffic.

Once in Lockport, we decided it was time for a real breakfast. We were just starting to discuss our options when someone looked over at us and said “You want to go to Tom’s across the canal over there!” We decided the local recommendation was good. As we cycled over, a nice older couple pulled up next to us and rolled down their window. The husband used to do long distance bike touring in his younger days. We talked for about five minutes. Great people. They also recommended Tom’s. So that’s where we went. The food was good and the environment was fun.

Hash and Eggs at Tom’s

After breakfast, we began our trek east. The trail is mostly a finely crushed stone surface in this area. It is a slightly slower surface, but very comfortable when it is dry. We passed several little towns before we arrived in Medina. We rode into town and found a lunch/dinner stop.

Our last stop for today is our AirBnB just a couple miles north of Albion, NY. We checked in and got cleaned up.

Today’s ride was just over 65 miles. The weather was cool and overcast all day. A little misty rain early, but nothing too bad. We did have headwinds most of the day. Hoping that won’t keep with us. Tomorrow’s forecast is calling for rain most of the day. We’re hoping that changes overnight.

Until tomorrow…. May the Lord bless you and keep you.

Peace, Dcn. Matt