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.