Month: September 2021

Riding Day #8

I am up early and join riders leaving the camp area. We cross over the Western Gateway Bridge to the Stockade district, the oldest neighborhood in Schenectady. We ride past an amazing assortment of architectural styles that have evolved over its 300 year history. I lived in one of the historic brick Colonial style homes in a small apartment over 30 years ago, before I married. Included was access to the lower part of a long narrow lawn that ended at the edge of the Mohawk river- part of the Erie Canal. Little did I know that river would flow into my future. 

The trail is on the street for a brief period until we reach the section of the Mohawk-Hudson bike trail I have pedaled many miles on. I feel at home here, almost cocky, as I travel my ‘home trail’. Along the way, we pass a house we owned for a few years situated directly between the trail and the river. 

Parts of the trail are also unfamiliar. I have never ridden a bike into the towns of Cohoes or Waterford. Waterford is where the Mohawk River/ Erie Canal meets the Hudson River. The Hudson begins high in the Adirondack Mountains and flows south for 315 miles to the Atlantic Ocean in New York Harbor. Near this confluence of the Mohawk and the Hudson we stop at Peebles Island State Park and the Erie Canalway Visitor Center. I discover this was an important location, where we prepared to defend against the British during the Revolutionary War. Who knew? Though I have not taken part in all the history gathering this trip offered, I feel drawn to learn more about this area of the state I have lived in for my entire life. This is our last rest stop of the trip. The air pulses with energy. People are laughing and chattering loudly all around me. Everyone seems to have a story about the trip. The group of 500 strangers in Buffalo has evolved into a tribe of fellow adventurers nearing the end of a shared journey. And I am one of them.

            From Peebles Island, we head into Troy. Once again, we are on city streets. The terror I felt earlier in the trip returns as traffic forces me to stay to the side where huge drainage grates threaten to grab my thin tires between their narrow iron bars. I hold my breath each time I swerve around the grates and move closer to the passing cars that could end more than just this trip. Potholes are as prevalent as the drainage grates-but with less predictability. Less than 10 miles to go and I wonder if I will make it.

 Finally, we reach the wide paved bike trail that leads to the finish line. No more city streets! I can breathe again. This section of the trail feels like an old friend-traveled many times when I lived in Albany. It is relatively flat and follows the Hudson River. But the thermometer has soared to the mid-90s, and there is not a cloud in the sky. It is the hottest day of the entire trip. The air is heavy and my ‘breathable’ sleeveless shirt drips with sweat. I am forced to stop several times to cool down in the shade. What I envisioned as the easiest day of the trip has turned into one of the most challenging.

 Just when I think the trail will never end, I see a familiar skyline. A rainbow of balloons float above the finish line at the Visitors Center in downtown Albany, New York State’s 300-year-old capital. A small crowd cheers for each rider as we pass under it. Laughter and the buzz of excitement accompany achieving this major goal. We pat backs and offer congratulations to each other. A woman standing next to me jests: “I don’t think my fingers will ever straighten out again after holding on so tight for so many days!” I laugh and agree full heartedly. Apparently, I was not the only one that held on for dear life across the miles!

            I find my ride share guy with my tent mate. Everyone is bustling about gathering gear, loading cars, heading for the bus to return to the Buffalo starting point, hugging, and chattering. It is dizzying. I say goodbye to my tent mate and we promise to keep in touch, but don’t. My husband picks me and Mr. ride share up–his car is still at my house–and we head for home. It’s over. I did it. I feel satisfied yet unsettled, energized yet tired, altered yet the same… It will take time to sift through the range of emotions that have traveled with me to this finish line.

To be continued….

Riding Day #7

I wake early, surprised at my eagerness to get back on the trail. I meet the group at the first rest stop at Schoharie Crossing Historic Site. A trading post was located here during colonial times, along with the remains of a large aqueduct along the original canal. Within minutes, I see my tent mate. She appears as pleased to see me as I am to see her. She is ready to get riding and leaves while I check out the aqueduct. I ride with no one by my side, but do not feel alone. Our common goal is nearing and there is a palpable connection to my fellow riders.

The trail into Amsterdam runs along the opposite side of the river than the route taken on my previous trip here. We continue on to the next town–Rotterdam Junction-and the Fireman’s Auxiliary is having a fund raiser barbecue.  Burgers, hot dogs and all the fixings are available for a dollar or two. The day is sunny with moderate temperature and a cool breeze. An inexpensive lunch on picnic tables fits the bill perfectly. Jovial conversation flows like the nearby waters that we have followed for seven days. Reservations about fitting in have receded from my thoughts, and I easily join in the chatter.

The historic Mabee’s Farm, also the site for the Schenectady Historical Society Museum, is a few miles further down the road. The farm’s Dutch-style Stone House was first built in 1670 and believed to be a fur trading post. It was owned by the Mabee family until 1999. It is one of the oldest homes in New York State and the oldest in the Mohawk Valley. I explore the grounds briefly, but am eager to move on to the Lions Park in Scotia, where tonight’s tent city will be waiting. On the way, I stop at a friend’s house nearby. A familiar smiling face is a welcome greeting as I pull in on my bike. We share some lemonade, a few words and a hug before I return to the pack. She snaps a picture of me in my full biking gear. A much longer story awaits our next visit.

I stop briefly at the park before continuing a few more miles to my home. I drive back later and meet another friend for the “gala” dinner and a “No Talent” talent show. Then there will be the traditional awards ceremony for accomplishments like: the most bones broken, the most crashes, the most flat tires, the youngest cyclist, and the oldest cyclist. I fill my friend’s ear with tales of the trip as we sit, eat, talk and enjoy the show. It is comforting to be with someone I know well.

The show ends, but the party is obviously going to continue. I am content to return home and savor the place I have perhaps not fully appreciated in the past.