A New York Autumn

by Perette Barella

This travelogue follows a brief 2022 bicycle trip in autumn 2022. I had hoped to travel around New York State during the autumn leaf season, the route passing through each area of the state around their peak foliage dates. It looped from Rochester east to the Adirondack Mountains, south along the Hudson River, west through the Catskills and Finger lakes back to Rochester.

However, it was interrupted by a mechanical breakdown as I entered the Adirondacks. Some weeks later, after bike repairs and several weeks of dodgy weather, a few days of Indian summer allowed me a bit of time in the Finger Lakes.

Log messages come from the daily updates I sent out via e-mail to family and friends during the trip.

Contents

1. Preparing for departure

2022-09-08 12:08

Route and cue sheets have been (hopefully) finalized.

2. Cue sheet update

2022-09-12 09:55

Route and cue sheets have been updated to use the new Albany-Hudson Electric Trail portion of the Empire State Trail from Rennselaer to Hudson.

3. Cherry Grove Campground, Wolcott, NY

2022-09-16 18:50

I've gone back and forth on the idea of a walkabout this year, desiring to do one but also feeling like I've already spent a lot of time on "fun" stuff: visiting the Netherlands, hiking in the Adirondacks. Opal advocated for me to do it anyway, arguing it is an investment in my mental health (I think that's true, although I acknowledge I need to be responsible sometime too).

I considered starting right after Labor Day, but that was difficult to pull together in time. So I started looking at leaf-season dates for New York State, and scheduled it around that: Adirondacks first, then the Hudson Valley, then crossing through the Catskills to the Finger Lakes. If all goes well, this should be a beautiful ride.

The load is a bit weird: I'm back to my heavier (and warmer) sleeping bag, and my older tent because it's less airy—which is uncomfortable in the heat but I think will do better in the cool (and possibly cold). I've brought a warmer coat and warmer clothes than usual, all of which take up a bit more space and add a bit more weight. I've offset all that by starting with less food than usual.

Huberta the Cat
Our cat, Huberta, in one of her weird sleeping poses.

At about 10 this morning, after saying good-bye to Opal and the cat, I had my usual wobbly start—the added weight changes the bike's balance (or maybe resonance or something) and it takes a few hours to adjust to it again. Under overcast skies, NY-441 served me rolling hills all the way to Marion, where I stopped for lunch at Dario's Famous Pizza, which makes an interesting think-crust variation. The afternoon featured fewer (or at least gentler) hills, and numerous apple orchards.

Apple orchards
Ripe apples in an orchard in Sodus, New York
Autism person area and railroad crossing
Approaching a railroad crossing in Sodus Center, NY: "Autistic Person Area" seems redundant given the railroad crossing sign just after it.

I missed a cue somewhere approaching Rose, NY, and would have had to backtrack slightly to get to my first campground option, so I just went on to my alternate: Cherry Grove in Wolcott, NY, a place I stayed a few years ago. It's well-kept and nice, and bicyclists are only $15. Yay! Before arriving, though, I stopped in Wolcott at Papa's Total Take-Out shack for a burger and, despite the cool day, some ice cream. It's in the bicyclists' creed: (1) Never pass up a porta-potty (twice if it's clean, thrice if it flushes). (2) Never skip an opportunity to top-up tires if a good pump is available. (3) Never fail to partake in the delights of an ice-cream shack. Although, to be fair, I can't do that more than once per day anymore.

Papa's Total Takeout, Wolcott, NY
Stopped for a burger and ice cream at Papa's Total Takeout.
Cherry Grove Campground, Wolcott, NY
Tenting at Cherry Grove Campground.

4. Selkirk Shores, Pulaski, NY

2022-09-17 18:49

I woke this morning around 6:30, made myself a good breakfast—oat meal, hot chocolate, tang, and a toasted bagel with butter and jelly. After packing up I hit the road about 8:45.

A dam on the Oswego River in Fulton, NY
A dam on the Oswego River in Fulton, NY.

Rather than follow 104 along the lake through Oswego, I routed through Fulton, NY where I stopped for a breakfast wrap that wasn't very substantial. The Oswego River passes through Fulton, and is part of the Erie Canal system providing a connection from Lake Ontario to the Erie Canal northwest of Syracuse. I think like the Mohawk section, the river is the canal, with dams added to create sections of slack water and locks to move between them.

Linear Roadster recumbent
Stopped along the way.
Goldenrod and Sumac
Goldenrod and Sumac show some color as autumn approaches.

From there I headed north through Mexico, where I stopped at Mexico Point State Park, It had some nice views of the lake, although they probably don't photograph very well. There was also several pieces of interesting art—it looked like chainsaw sculptures that had been painted into figures. They probably made the short detour worth it.

Nine Mile nuclear station, viewed from Mexico Point
Nine Mile nuclear station, viewed from Mexico Point.
Lake Ontario shores
Lake Ontario's Selkirk Shores area, viewed from Mexico Point.
Mexico Point: Goin' Fishin'
Goin' Fishin', one of the sculptures at Mexico Point Park.

The park is also home to Spy Island. Revolutionist Silas Towne is said to have overheard British officers discussing plans while he listened to them from this island. His intel helped sway a coming battle.

Moving on, I encountered a sign:

Chicken BAR-B-Q Today
Chicken BAR-B-Q Today.

This lead me to Dan's Chicken Shack, which is indeed pretty much a shack.

Dan's Chicken Shack, Mexico, NY
Dan's Chicken Shack

Nevertheless, their half-chicken with salt potatoes and oil-based macaroni salad was delicious.

Chicken from Dan's Chicken Shack, Mexico, NY
A delicious barbecued half-chicken from Dan's Chicken Shack.

I was looking forward to knocking out the last few kilometers, as I was hot, sweaty, and tired... but about 2 km up the road from the Chicken Shack, a galvanized roofing nail embedded itself in my tired. There were scraps of asphalt shingles around, so I think somebody didn't cover their load on the way to the dump, and this ended up where all the road chaff does: in the painted bike gutter.

Galvanized roofing nail in bicycle tire
Galvanized roofing nail in bicycle tire.

The repair went straightforward, as did the rest of the ride. I did stop for ice cream at the shop across from the campground.

The campground is surprisingly busy. I thought it would be too late in the season for families with kids. A nice couple here, Dirk (?) and Carol let me borrow their bike pump so I got the tire back up to full pressure (100PSI, instead of the 35 PSI I attained with my little portable pump).

There is supposed to be rain tomorrow night, so I'm leaning toward a motel. Maybe Henderson Harbor, maybe Watertown.

But for now, I'm going to go watch the sunset.

5. Comfort Inn, Watertown, NY

2022-09-18 19:20

Today woke I before 6AM, when a truck at the campground started up and left. Soon I heard others leaving.

I figured either it was fishers heading out to get in dawn fishing, or indication of people bailing out before rain. I checked the weather and indeed, there was now an hour of rain scheduled for about 8 or 9 at the campground. Looking at the weather further along my route, it looked like it rain all day.

I started riding as it began to rain, about 8:30. Mostly it was a light rain, with maybe a few minutes of moderate rain. The new rain gear seemed to do okay, although it doesn't solve the problem of moderating body temperature.

After about an hour, the rain thankfully stopped, although it stayed overcast the rest of the trip. Today's ride featured a lot of wetlands, some fields, and a nicely-crafted TARDIS in somebody's front yard.

Sandy Creek, Woodville, NY
Cloudy skies over Sandy Creek near Woodville, NY.
Daisies in a field, Ellisville, NY
Daisies in a field, Ellisville, NY.
TARDIS
A TARDIS parked on the outskirts of Watertown, NY.

Approaching Watertown, NY-81 turned into a stroad, and came with all the usual stroad amenities: every chain store in existence and, since there's an exit off I-81 here, a bunch of hotels. I landed in a Comfort Inn, which didn't have any rooms when I arrived so I wound up next door at the world's slowest Denny's. That wasted an hour and half, by which time my room was ready—and they'd upgraded me to a suite. So I'm in the swanky digs tonight, complete with a garage for the bike, although Comfort Inn probably says it's a living room.

Since it was early, I hand-washed the stank out of my clothes, then got a shower, visited the heated pool (not warm enough to relax my muscles much, but I took some time to stretch), then ran my wet clothes through the dryer. I went for a walk to get replacement biking shorts, having noticed my current ones are becoming threadbare in rude places. A Marshall's—err, I maybe a TJ Maxx? They all look the same—netted me two pairs, after which I got a burger at a 5 Guys. It's like I'm in AnyCity, USA.

While walking, I passed by a hotel with a LED sign showing a Kilroy-motif picture, but I suspect it's just that the sign runs on Linux. I know that penguin, even if it's only half a head.

Now I'm back at "home", watching the sunset give way to rain as I write.

Tomorrow I'm on to Gouverneur, about 60km away, where I've got a room reserved at the Clearview Motel. I'll probably hit more rain, likely a colder rain than today's.

LED sign
Tux the Penguin does a Kilroy impression.
Sunset in Watertown, NY
A view of the sunset from my room.

6. The Clearview Motel, Gouverneur, NY

2022-09-19 17:28

I dilly-dallied at the hotel while long enough to avoid the early morning rain. I got on the road about 9:30, and made good time the first hour. Then I got confused at the US-11/NY-27 split, and earned myself a handful of bonus kilometers. On the positive side, once I realized my mistake the best way to get back on route took me up County Route 30 about 10 or 12km, which was nicer and quieter than US-11.

It was on County 30 that the rains started up again, and they weren't messing around. My rain gear does okay in light rain, but it wasn't up to this I guess. Either that or I sweat so much and it can't evaporate under the rain gear, that I end up soaked anyway.

Anyhow, the rain kept getting harder and there was thunder and lightening coming down around me. As I approached a railway crossing, the lights flashed and bell rang a moment, I thought, "Oh! There's going to be a train." But then there was a popping sound, the crossing went silent, and a lightning strike hit right nearby, I'm guessing hitting the rail. Maybe I should have been hiding under somebody's carport.

The rain let up some when I rejoined US-11, but it was a wet ride all the way to Governeur, about 69km. I stopped at a butcher/deli/restaurant on the way into town for a meaty meatball sandwich, and now after a warm shower I'm set up cozy warm in my motel, trying to get my gear to dry a little.

I got through to Coyote's Den, so I've got a motel room for tomorrow in Cranberry Lake.

Messy motel room
My gear strewn about the room as I try to dry whatever I can.

7. Home, Rochester, NY

2022-09-20 20:20

Today's rain mostly let off by the time I left the motel, but it was still cold and occasionally drizzly. My bike shifted a bit stiff, but that sometimes happens after everything's been wet. Occasionally wet messes up shifting enough that to get crisp, smooth shifting again requires replacing cables, but it's not time critical.

The road toward Cranberry Lake was a steady, mostly gentle uphill and the climb went okay, although I got pricked on the finger by a wire poking out near the shifter, and then I noticed a weird blue thing on the shifter that I'd never seen before. But it seemed to stick out more in some gears than others, and the shifter is fairly new, so I figured I'd just never noticed it.

Deraileur cable lining coming out of a housing
Huh, I never noticed that blue gear thing before...

About 30km along, I hit a short section of steeper climb, which is where I found I had lost all my lower gears, and realized that the earlier things were symptoms of something failing.

Shift cable failure after omitting ferrule
Shifting fails as the cable housing lining comes out, jamming the cable.

I pulled up maps on my phone and looked for a bike shop: There were some in Glenns Falls, where I'd be next Tuesday or Wednesday. If it was flat, I could have gotten away with that, but I'd have killed my knees on the Adirondack hills. If there was a bike shop in Tupper Lake, where I'd be tomorrow, I could have walked the hills and gotten there. But a week... no. I could double back to Watertown, but that seemed like an uninspiring option. I could have headed on to my daily destination, figured out what was wrong, and ordered parts on Amazon or had Opal ship them up overnight priority, but I didn't think of that at the time.

I called Opal and conferred. Perhaps if I hadn't been so cold, if the sun had been shining and there was good riding to look forward to, I'd have figured out a way to try to fix it. But instead, I chose the easy option, and had her come rescue me. She is so good to me.

It really does drive home just how car-dependent a society America is. If you lived out here and didn't have a car... how would you get around?

Afterthought: A few days later...

The cable repair went straightforward, although a brake spring failed while remounting the wheel. And I noticed a new creaking sound when riding around town the next few days. Eventually, I found something hidden underneath the air pump: a cracked weld where a flange attaches to the frame.

Cracked weld on Linear Roadster recumbent
Cracked weld on Linear Roadster recumbent.

I'm disappointed I didn't get to finish the whole trip, but this could have grown into a bigger problem in time. Finding a skilled, trustworthy aluminum welder wouldn't have been an easy task on the road.

8. Quality Inn, Seneca Falls, NY

2022-10-22 20:25

After the disappointing interruption of my earlier trip, I've hoped for a chance to get in at least a little more riding. Fiasco, bureaucracy and weather have conspired, up until now, to prevent such an opportunity.

But finally there's a few days of warm weather, the leaves are still colorful, and there's nothing on the schedule or pressing to be finished. Various repairs on the bike are finished and, so far, seem to be holding.

So, with encouragement from my new wife, I've headed out on a 4-day tour.

Linear Roadster recumbent, disassembled for repair
Linear Roadster recumbent, disassembled for repair.
The reworked weld
The reworked weld.
Reworked weld
Welder Jim Putnam reinforced the junction with additional welding on the bottom side.
Perette Barella and Opal Wright
Hugging my newly-acquired wife before hitting the road.

Today was a ride eastward along the Erie Canal to Newark, then southeasterly on roads to Seneca Falls. The leaves varied: in some places, they were down; others, they were still green. In many places, though, they were still bright and colorful, often with oranges, purples and reds—when there were yellows, they tended toward a deep gold, but there were the occasional bright yellows here and there.

I got a late start because I needed to repack, firm up a few waypoints, and load the bike. After lunch with Opal at Liberty Diner, I got underway at 12:30.

Running so late, with one flat tire along the way, I arrived at my destination as the sun was setting. Thankfully, the hotel has a decent restaurant, and a delicious and filling pot roast filled my belly with a little left over for tomorrow.

Empire State Trail, Fairport, NY
The Empire State Trail along the Erie Canal in Fairport, NY
Empire State Trail, Fairport, NY
Autumn colors line The Empire State Trail near the Village of Fairport, NY
Erie Canal, Fairport, NY
With blue skies overhead, trees and houses reflect in the waters of the Erie Canal.
Canada Geese on the Erie Canal
Migrating Canada Geese take a break on the Erie Canal.
Erie Canal, Macedon, NY
Fall colors cover the far embankment through Macedon.
Legacy Erie Canal bridge in Palmyra, NY
A bridge spans the former canal right-of-way.
Erie Canal, Port Gibson, NY
The October sun sparkles in mid-afternoon waters.
Harder Canal Park on the Erie Canal
Trees around Harder Canal Park show their colors.
Empire State Trail, Newark, NY
Approaching Newark, shadows grow but colors still shine.
Autumn near Marbletown, NY
Between blue skies and yellow harvested fields, trees on the horizon celebrate autumn near Marbleton, NY.

9. Quality Inn, Ithaca, NY

2022-10-23 20:26

Today was beautiful weather for riding, with blue, sunny skies, pleasant riding temperatures and amazing wind-swept cloud patterns. After flattish terrain going around the north end of Cayuga lake, I had a long, steady climb up to the ridge until I stopped for lunch at Dugan's Country Grill. They make a good Philly cheesesteak, but it was an hour before I was back on the road. From there I remained on the ridge, descending gradually until Ludlowville, which is in a valley.

Walking the bike out of the valley, I noticed the tire I patched yesterday wasn't properly mounted next to the valve stem, so at the top of the ascent I stopped and fixed it before it created a bigger problem.

Nearing Ithaca, I stopped at East Shore Park, a tiny park on the lake, for a snack and a view of the lake. A little further on from there, I saw two guys breaking down their carbon-fiber bikes and loading them into a car, so I stopped and borrowed their pump to get my tire back up to proper pressure.

The downside of winds that brought the beautiful weather and pretty skies was the steady battle they provided as I headed south, from whence they bring the warm. Being on the ridge and all the open fields there didn't help. I hit the road about 9 and got in about 5. Subtracting out lunch and a half hour for the tire, I averaged only about 14 km/hr = 8.5 MPH. And, added to the 88km (~55 miles), I'm very tired and a bit sore.

For dinner, heated up the leftover pot roast from last night, and supplemented that with some strawberry oatmeal.

Oakwood Road, Auburn, NY
The road ahead: southerly winds use the few clouds the paint the the majestically blue skies, complementing the autumn colors perfectly.
Woolly bear
A woolly bear crossing the road.
Woolly bear, side view
Woolly bear, side view.
Ledyard, NY farmland
Amazing skies grace the farmlands in Ledyard, NY.
Abandoned King Ferry Central School
Abandoned King Ferry Central School.
Cayuga Lake and Ithaca, NY viewed from East Shore Park
Cayuga Lake and Ithaca, NY viewed from East Shore Park.
Sailboat on Cayuga Lake
Sailboat on Cayuga Lake.
Glamping
Glamping at Quality Inn: heating up dinner on my camping stove outside my room.
Ithaca, NY sunset
Ithaca, NY sunset.
Ithaca, NY sunset
Ithaca, NY sunset.
Ithaca, NY sunset
Ithaca, NY sunset.
Ithaca, NY sunset
The sunset gives way to dusk.

10. Days Inn, Geneva, NY

2022-10-24 19:35

It was raining when I was ready to leave this morning, so I did a few Dutch lessons and watched an episode of Quantum Leap since the Syphylis channel was running a marathon. (That's why it's Syfy instead of Sci-Fi, right?)

By 9, the rain had ended so I embarked. After 4km through Ithaca, I started up the Black Diamond trail, named after the Lehigh Valley train which used to run the route. "Black Diamond," of course, referred to coal, Anthracite in particular, which the Lehigh burned and transported.

The Finger Lakes are the last region of the state where leaves change; I think the thermal mass of the lakes moderates the temperatures and thus the change. The closer to the lake, the more pronounced the effect. Since a low incline was needed for trains, the trail nearly parallels the lake, diverging very slowly as it climbs out of the valley. The think I caught the area in its prime, and it was a pleasant way to climb the hill. At times I was riding through a tunnel of color, scented with autumn leaves.

Stopping to look at all the pretty views, I was even slower than yesterday, taking about 2 hours to go 13km. By the time I reached the end, the overcast skies had cleared and the rain-dampened stone dust was dry.

The biggest impediment was just the hoards of oblivious retirees out walking two- and three-abreast on the trail. I think Opal's mentioned this phenomena on the D&R in New Jersey, but it's the first time I have run into it like this. I've got a nice bell and I ring it 4 times as I approach, starting at about 100ft back (so I don't startle people, which seems polite to me), then again in case they didn't hear. Again and again today, I had to slow down and say, "Hello?", and even then, sometimes they wouldn't hear unless I repeated myself loudly. And almost every time, when they finally heard, they'd just stop and turn around and stare a moment, like "Huh? Oh... I should get out of the way."

Black Diamond Trail, Ithaca, NY
Starting up the Black Diamond Trail in Ithaca, NY.
Trees in autumn
A gully along the Black Diamond Trail is awash in autumn colors.
Black Diamond Trail, Ithaca, NY
Overcast skies clear as I make my way up the trail.
Black Diamond Trail, Ithaca, NY
In areas where the leaves are partially down, it's like riding through a tunnel of color.
Hornet's nest
A hornet's nest hangs abandoned along the trail.
Bridge
A bridge spans Glenwood Creek on the Black Diamond Trail.
Glenwood Creek
Glenwood Creek is lovely, but I'm not sure it lives up to Ithaca's claim of "gorges".
Black Diamond Trail, Ithaca, NY
Bright yellows give way to oranges as the trail climbs and diverges from Cayuga Lake.
Black Diamond Trail, Ithaca, NY
The Houghton Road crossing offers a wonderful view of the surrounding area.
Willow Creek
I would accept Willow Creek being designated as a gorge.
Taughannock Creek
Taughannock Creek definitely meets gorge criteria.
Taughannock Falls
Taughannock Falls.
Farmstead with old barn
Leaving the trail, I passed this lovely old farmstead as I approached Trumansburg.

It was nearing noon when I reached Trumansburg, so I stopped at Little Venice for a Philly Cheese Steak. It was delicious, and didn't require an entire hour today. I was back on the bike about 12:30, and made up for my earlier lackadaisical pedalling, cranking out the remaining 60km (38 miles) in about 4 hours, with a stop for ice cream at a Byrne Dairy.

Google unhelpfully tried to route me up a farm road and through somebody's field, but thankfully it was only 100m off NY-96 so I didn't get a lot of bonus miles.

Leaving Cayuga Lake behind, I passed through Ovid and I sailed down NY-96A toward Seneca Lake. In Willard, I got off the state route and took a chance on a bike route Google alleged is there, and thankfully is there because I wouldn't have been happy backtracking up the hill.

The trail was paved but a bit rough, and lead to a road that didn't have anything on it. There were side-roads to nowhere, or little gates to prevent cars entering, beyond which the roads overgrew and disappeared. It reminded me of visiting Love Canal. It turns out this used to be an army base, then became a state park. At some point, all the buildings were removed, leading to the abandoned feel.

I made it in about 5 PM, and had some meaty lasagna for dinner.

Six Corners Road near Ulysses, NY
Google tried to route me up Six Corners Road, a farm track that runs through this yard and is posted "Private Drive".
County-139, Interlaken, NY
County-139, Interlaken, NY.
Seneca Lake
Seneca Lake, as seen from NY-96A near Willard, NY.
Sampson State Park bike trail
Sampson State Park bike trail.
Seneca Lake, viewed from Sampson State Park
Seneca Lake, viewed from Sampson State Park.
Fighter plane at Sampson State Park
A fighter plane on display at the Sampson Memorial Museum.
Sampson State Park
Sampson State Park.
Seneca Lake
Seneca Lake.
Office chair
The Days Inn I stayed at had a nice office chair...
Office chair stuck below desk
...that couldn't be removed from under the desk.

11. Home, Rochester, NY

2022-10-25 16:06

After a good night's rest and an okay breakfast, I loaded up the bike. As I was strapping down the last of the load, there was an ominous hissing.

The lock had snagged on the valve stem, yanking on it as the bike shifted while loading. If I had a Schwalbe tube (with a metal valve stem) on there, this wouldn't have happened... but I didn't. That will be fixed soon.

I walked the bike the kilometer or so to WallyWorld and bought a tube, because where else can you get one at 8:30 in the morning? Finding 20" tubes at the best of times isn't always easy. It was rated wider than my tire, but it worked in the pinch and got me home.

The ride itself was lovely. Due to a misprint in my cue sheet, it was only about 70km instead of 80km (43 instead of 50 miles), and most of it was on bike trails.

The first 12km were on road, then I caught Ontario Pathways into Canandaigua. I was a little wary at first glance: it looked like a grassed-over walking path. But I tried it, figuring I could get off at the next road crossing, and the little worn bicycle rut did okay. It was certainly quieter and prettier than NY-20, and shaded, although definitely rougher. In spots where the trees were shedding heavily, it was like riding on a carpet of soft leaves.

Ontario Pathways
A grassy section of Ontario Pathways, with a narrow rut worn in by bike tires.
Ontario Pathways
Forested sections of Ontario Pathways provided a carpet of autumn leaves.
Perette Barella
Stopped for a snack and a wee.

I stopped for a slice of stromboli in Canandaigua, then tailwinds powered me the short distance up NY-332 and County-8 and onto the Auburn Trail, which now extends to NY-332. Except for 2 treacherous spots in Victor, that was a lovely ride all the way to Pittsford, where they use a coarser stone on the surface, making it rougher.

I rode through the village on roads, then used the electric trolley rail-trial to Brighton, where I met Opal at Abbott's for a custard. The leaves here seem like they are still out in earnest—in Farmington and Victor they were often past their prime. I wonder if this is the heat island effect of the city extending their season, perhaps supplemented by proximity to Lake Ontario.

In any case I'm glad I got out for this adventure. I really needed it.

Auburn Trail
A new extension of the Auburn Trail goes all the way to NY-332.
Auburn Trail in autumn
Joggers pass through one of the colorful sections of the trail.
Horse
A handsome horse from Pittsford, NY looks at me.
Rhinecliff Drive, Brighton, NY in autumn
Nearing home, the colors were vivid in Brighton.
San Gabriel Drive, Rochester, NY
The colors were spectacular in the City of Rochester, too.
176 Middlesex Road, Rochester, NY
At home, the maple tree on my front lawn was nearly bare, the tree in the back yards was in its prime, and the tree across the way was still green.

12. Cue Sheets & Resources

13. Maps

These maps represented the planned route. Actual route may vary due to detours, misroutes, changes of plans, or my whims.