Month: August 2021

Riding Day #6 -Part 2

Homemade muffins, fruit, and farm fresh eggs await us the next morning—a splendid start to our second day of riding. This will be the first time either of us has taken a bike trip lasting longer than one day. We leave our gear for pick up later by car. The sun is bright already, suggesting the coming heat of the day ahead. As soon as we leave town, we are back in the woods, on a recently constructed section of the trail. Our plan is to lunch in Amsterdam at a restaurant we scouted out before the trip. It also serves ice cream. Entering the small dreary city of Amsterdam, well past its heyday in carpet manufacturing, we are in a rundown area with boarded up businesses along the railroad tracks. It is late morning on a Sunday. The streets are empty. This is the first time I have felt uncomfortable with the surroundings. We finally reach our planned lunch stop, only to find it is closed! There are no other eating establishments nearby and we are not willing to go explore this part of the city, so we ride on until the trail abruptly ends just beyond the city limits.

The scorching sun overhead is beating down like a storm. We have one snack bar to share and water is getting low. The trail now runs on a four-lane thoroughfare with moderate traffic. Thankfully, there is a wide paved shoulder—but not an ounce of shade in sight. We approach a large quarry with huge noisy machinery crushing stone and loading giant trucks that are pulling in and out at amazing speed—can they see two bikers about to cross their path? Are they even looking? The dust from the quarry and the truck tires is choking. I wait for what appears to be a lull in the truck traffic and race by as fast as I can, hoping my friend does the same! When we catch up with each other we are relieved to see the long downhill ahead. The heat is really getting to me. She pulls out of sight as she goes with the pull of gravity while I apply my brakes to resist it. Further down the road, I find her sitting under a small tree along the side of the road. A long upward hill looms ahead. She declares that this is it; she is done. I call my husband and request a rescue. We are both hungry and the water is gone. We have no idea how much further it is to the gas station I know is along here somewhere. 

My husband arrives. First, we head to the B+B for our gear. The drive back home reveals the gas station was just over that last hill. Too bad, with some refreshment we could have finished the trip as planned. We stop at Jumping Jacks drive in for lunch, a popular fast food and ice cream stop. Then home to rest and shower. Her flight doesn’t leave until late the next day, so we plan to complete the section of the trail we missed today—Niskayuna to Mabee’s farm—in the morning; and do. All together we traveled about 70 miles—not bad for beginners. 

I wonder how my fellow riders on this current trip are handling that stretch from my memory. I describe a few details from the past six days to my husband. But I am not ready to go in depth yet, do not even know where to start. Before retiring for the second night in my own bed, I prepare my bike, gear, and outlook for the next day. I am surprised to notice how eager I am to rejoin the group!

Riding Day #6 -Part 1

The next day I sleep late, enjoying my comfy bed and my bulldog at my side. The now familiar morning routine of packing up and getting on the trail is absent. I think about the other riders, and imagine myself traveling with them. The thought of being on the trail strangely feels more familiar than relaxing and taking care of myself. I seldom allow myself to take a day ‘off’. There are always more tasks to check off on my never ending list. But today I am consciously setting tasks aside as part of my plan. Maybe I should consider taking an occasional day without my list in the rest of my life….

I have already covered about 35 miles of today’s 63 mile section of the trail on a previous trip with a friend, so I will miss about 30 miles of the trail between Rome and Little Falls. The day my friend and I rode this part of the trial, it was a very cold and overcast–unusually brisk for the season. My husband drove us there and dropped us off. As he drove away, we looked at each other with the same ‘What are we doing!??’ look on our faces. Moss Island is just up the trail. We did not go there that day, but I have been there before and seen the prehistoric potholes, extensive growth of mosses and lichens and some of the oldest rocks in North America. A marker states this is the only horizontal break in the Appalachian mountain chain, which is what made the building of the Erie Canal possible and provided a water route west for trade and settlement of the interior United States.

We planned to take two days for the trip–the first of any length for each of us. Within our first mile, we came to the Herkimer Mansion Historic site. The house was not open yet, so we walked around the grounds briefly, then got back on our bikes-needing movement to get our blood pumping through our chilled bodies. We did not see another rider for miles—not surprising on this less than perfect biking day. My friend had traveled from Maryland to make this trip, so we were committed no matter what the weather. We were not our usual chatty selves as we pedaled, surrounded by dense woods with occasional fields and glimpses of the canal. As the sun started pushing through the clouds, the sky-and our spirits-brightened.

We rode into the town of St. Johnsville–one of several locations where I had provided speech therapy to elementary students in my second professional job over 30 years ago. We stopped for a snack at a local shop and then moved on to Fort Plain–another stop on my job itinerary. The trail here led us to Lock 15. We chatted with a couple on a boat going through the lock. They relayed the story of their travels from Florida, up the Intercoastal Waterway, and to the canal. They were destined for the Great Lakes, then down the Mississippi and back to Florida. I had no idea such a trip was even possible! They had already been on the boat for a few months and still had a long journey ahead. I was fascinated–not just at the breadth of the journey, but at the ability to be together in such close quarters for so long! 

We continued on to Canajoharie and our B+B destination for the evening. My husband had dropped our gear there on his trip home. Before heading to the B+B we had a late lunch at a local diner. We agreed it was some of the best ‘home cooked’ diner food we had ever tasted. We completed a large lunch with dessert–feeling we had earned the indulgence! Next we headed to the Arkell Art Museum-a local museum of some renown-established by the millionaire founder and first president of the Beech-Nut Packing Company. Unfortunately, it was closed. The Beechnut Factory-with the huge rusting sign I had seen dozens of times as I traveled the NYS thruway between my home and my parents’–was a brief ride away. It was most well known for gum and candy, (using the peppermint oil from the Hotchkiss Oil company in Lyons that I would visit on my later trip). The factory provided employment for most of the residents for years, but was now closed. 

We found our way up a steep hill to the B+B, met our host, showered and rested in the backyard. I eventually went inside to nap, which my friend accomplished in the hammock outside. We walked to the only restaurant that seemed open for dinner, a greater distance away than we expected. The meal was good enough, but the best part was spotting our B+B hosts at a nearby table- especially since they had a car and offered a ride back up the hill our tired legs were dreading. We took advantage of a hot tub on the back porch to ease tight muscles before heading to bed early.