Monday, July 24, 2023

Cycle the Erie Canal with PTNY 2023

Our 400 mile bike ride along the Erie Canal from Buffalo to Albany actually started in Albany where we left our van. Our bikes and bags were trucked and we were bussed to Buffalo (which may will be the title of my new CD, "Bussed to Buffalo.")
In Buffalo we joined about 650 of our new close friends at a rich kids middle school to camp out and enjoy the pre-ride festivities. Sure, we were roughing it in a tent, but there was also wine tasting and some pretty cool music.
We launched our ride the next morning, riding through Tonawanda, along the Niagara River. It's amazing how so many riders can spread out so quickly.  
In Lockport, there are bronze sculptures created by Susan Gissler from an 1890s photo by FB Clench honoring the lock workers at Lockport in New York. Right behind where I'm sitting another figure will be installed, the great-grandfather of Carol LaValle, wife of my childhood friend Josh Harris. Small world!
Most of my photos are of Tricia, because I know which side of a camera I belong on. But here's me, just to prove I'm riding with her.
Leaving Medina along the Empire State Trail — Erie Canal Heritage Trail. What a mouthful.
Passing through Middleport 
The trail varied wildly. Some sections are smooth crushed stone, some paved, and some like this section in Palmyra are pretty muddy. 
One of the few on-road portions of the ride was through the wide-open farmlands of Galen. 

We overnighted in Seneca Falls, birthplace of the women's rights movement. 
A lot of the trail looks like this. Reasonable surface and just plain beautiful.

Tricia says every small town has a cool coffee shop somewhere. We couldn't find them all, but we found a few. This one is in Jordan, with the charming name of "Peace Love Coffee." We really needed it. As wonderful and well organized as this ride was, the coffee barely qualified as "warm beverage."
This delightful short tunnel in Little Falls is part of a section that is converted rail bed. The signs call it the "Miracle Mile and a Half."
We were lucky that, even though it rained on us, we were safe in our tent when the big weather hit. We never had to set up or tear down in a downpour.
Tricia, the responsible one, made notes when she had time. 
As a California boy I'd never experienced these crazy short-lived but really strong thunderstorms, warm rain, or weirdest of all, warm fog.
Finding our tent bag among the other zillion bags was often ... interesting.
It's the Erie Canal ride, so I should have at least one photo of a lock in action.This one is in Verona.

We played tourist in Schenectady, guided by a friend we met on our Maine bike tour. Tricia listens to Thomas Alva Edison and Charles Steinmetz trying to impress her with science stuff.
It had rained a lot the night before our last day, and even rained a bit on us as we rode toward Albany. There were a few puddles, but nothing too deep to ride through.
We made it! Though the sign says 360 miles, the paths we took were pretty much 400.
Wandrer keeps track of everywhere we've biked using our Garmin GPS tracks. Here's our route. The lines below the canal are our rides around the Finger Lakes.
Technical details:
Tricia rode her Salsa Vaya with 42 mm tires. She used her rear rack to carry one small Ortlieb pannier for the rain coat, rain pants and bike lock. Chosen for its wider tires and the ability to carry a few extra things.
I rode my Trek Grando with 42 mm tires. I'd removed the front rack. On the rear rack I  used a Castelli trunk for my rain coat and pants.
We used Garmin GPS units to track our ride and provide navigation with PTNY-supplied files. I used my old 520 Plus, Tricia used her Garmin Explore 2. 
In addition to our bag of clothing and such for each of us we took two larger bags. One held our Alps tent, sleeping bags, and NeoAir sleeping pads. The other carried our tiny Helios camp chairs, dirty clothes, a tarp and other assorted crap.
The route itself was amazingly flat, with the exception of one heck of a 10-11% one-mile climb up to Canajoharie High school where we stayed.  
Parks and Trails New York did an amazing job of feeding us and moving tons of cyclist stuff to each new camp site. I can't believe how smoothly they made it work. 
A note on eBikes:
This bike ride allowed eBike riders to participate.  Due to the number of issues this created, we have a list of suggested policies for next year's ride:
  • Ebike riders, rather than use gas powered generators to recharge every night as they did this year, will be provided stationary bikes that will power generators to recharge their batteries. Upon arrival at each campsite they can pedal these bikes until their batteries are charged.
  • Due to the unfair speed advantage, eBikers will not be allowed to choose their tent site until 80%  of human-powered bikes have arrived.
  • Ebikers will not be allowed to overtake human powered cyclists on any hill, no matter how small. Violations will result in the confiscation of the eBikes battery.
  • Ebikers are not allowed to talk to or offer "encouraging" words to human-powered cyclists on any hill, or when overtaking anywhere on the route.
  • No Ebike with tires larger than most motorcycles will be allowed on the route. 
These new regulations will help the ride proceed in a smooth, equitable fashion.

Monday, July 03, 2023

Adventure Cycling's tour of the Maine Coast and Lighthouses

The day before our Maine Coast and Lighthouses tour with Adventure Cycling started. Pretty, huh? Alas, it was pretty much the last time we'd see this much blue sky.
Our first riding day started in the fog, the theme that would continue throughout the week. It was still rather pretty, just not in the way I'd been hoping for.
Lighthouses... It's a lighthouse tour, right? Here's a lighthouse photo. I think. I'm pretty sure it's there somewhere. OK, I may be kidding. 
We actually could see some through the fog. Still, I don't really get the romance of lighthouses. They're non-functional these days. Perhaps I'd have been more taken if they'd been lighted, glowing beacons of safty in an otherwise dark world. 
But that's all OK. I was there to ride, and see the coast. I could smell the ocean and sometimes even hear the waves crashing.

We were thrilled to at last be on an Adventure Cycling ride that used the support van with Tricia's photo on it. I'd photographed her with her new Specialized Ruby shortly after she bought it in 2009. Adventure Cycling saw the photo in my Flickr feed and used it as a van wrap. I hear there's a trailer wrap as well.
It wasn't all fog and rain. In fact, we felt lucky to not have to set up of tear down our tent during any downpours. And several of the campgrounds we stayed at were beautiful!

As beautiful as our ride was, there was no piece of it that was level. It was up down up down all day. The elevation profile looks like a sawtooth. There are no mountains, just endless short double-digit climbs. All those "little" 10% climbs add up.
One of my favorite parts was a brief dirt road far away from cars. It was quiet and mysterious. The fog made it seem very "Stephen King."
Look! More fog!
I took my newish micro4/3 Panasonic camera with me, but it was too big for a jersey pocket and too awkward to drag out of my almost-big-enough handlebar bag so I ended up shooting on my iPhone. I am always at odds with myself on whether to shoot more or keep riding. I hate breaking my slow cycling rhythm, but enjoy the photos later and wish I'd made more. Oh well.
Our last night before loading the bikes on the "Tricia" Adventure Cycling van and heading back to Scarborough, Maine to collect our van and head home.

If you're read this far it may be because you're thinking about taking an Adventure Cycling tour. Do it! Adventure Cycling seems to attract nice, smart interesting people. I enjoyed the folks we rode with quite a bit.

Our tour guides were beyond wonderful. They managed to take excellent care of us while giving us room to have our own adventure. They were organized and patient. I can't say enough good things about Jessica and Sue.

This tour was "van supported" meaning a van carried our tents and stuff. We also had shared cooking, with a different group having kitchen duty each evening. Again, our guides provided support and direction when needed.

I'm a grumpy old guy who wasn't in the shape I should have been for this trip (it was really hard for me.) We rode in fog and rain. Everything was wet and smelly when we got home. I'm still glad I did it and would do it again.

Where we rode: As a native Californian I'd have to zoom this map way out to figure out what it's showing. It's Maine. Scarsborough is near Portland, Maine. For some reason Portland doesn't show up on this map. We ended our ride in Camden.

One final note. We rode with 11 other riders and two leaders. Where are the photos of them? It turns out I'm even slower than I thought. They're all well up the road, well out of camera range.