New York State Loop
This travelogue follows a 2019 trip circling around New York State from Rochester, NY to Keeseville, in the northeast corner of the state, south along the Vermont border, skirting the Catskill Mountains to get to the Susquehanna watershed, and after cycling through that following the Genesee River back home to Rochester.
Log messages come from the daily updates I sent out via e-mail to family and friends during the trip.
- 1. First day of the trip: Cross Lake Campground, Cato, NY
- 2. Verona Lake State Park, Verona, NY
- 3. Delta Lake State Park, Rome, NY
- 4. Stysh's Brown Barn, Boonville, NY
- 5. Nick's Lake DEC Campground, Old Forge, NY
- 6. Eighth Lake DEC Camgpround, Inlet, NY
- 7. Forked Lake DEC Campground, Long Lake, NY
- 8. Jellystone Campground, North Hudson, NY
- 9. Ausable Chasm, Keeseville, NY
- 10. Hilltop Motel, Westport, NY
- 11. Champs RV Resort, Whitehull, NY
- 12. Lake Lauderdale Campground, Cambridge, NY
- 13. Alps Campground, Averill Park, NY
- 14. Juniper Woods, Catskill, NY
- 15. Schoharie, NY
- 16. Glimmerglass State Park, Cooperstown, NY
- 17. Riverside RV Camping, Bainbridge, NY
- 18. Warm Showers Hosts' House, Binghamton, NY
- 19. Hickories Park, Owego, NY
- 20. Bare Lake, Corning, NY
- 21. Tompkins Campground, Lawrenceville, PA
- 22. Trout Run Campground, Wellsville, NY
- 23. Letchworth Park, Perry, NY
- 24. Home, Rochester, NY
My first day on this year's adventure! The weather was on the warmer side but not overly so, and though some rain was predicted, it only seemed to get as far as threatening. (Though it's supposed to thundershower around sunset.)
Last night was my last night at UPS, where I was on line-up1 . It felt apropos, closing the doors after parking the last of the trucks, a kind of finality for my final day.
My co-workers seemed... not sad, but... like when a close friend or relative is going away for a long time, that bitter-sweet feeling of knowing you'll miss them and kind of wish they wouldn't go, yet you understand they need to and wish the best for them. I am going to miss that place. If I miss it too much, maybe I can drop in for a few weeks in November/December.
This morning David dropped me off in Williamson. The route was relatively flat, some gentle rolling hills as it passed through a few villages and some fields, some growing, some recently tilled, some reeking of organic fertilizers (cow dung). There was a pretty waterfall in Wolcott at the site of an old mill.
The campground seems okay. It's on Cross Lake, about 7 miles west of Baldwinsville (north west of Syracuse). The ground near my site is mushy from rains and flooding, but I'm on a little mound that seems dry. Hopefully no issues tonight.
Today's ride was from Cross Lake to Verona State Park on Oneida lake. It was a day of electronic tribulations, but wonderful people. And the camp site tonight is gorgeous, unlike last night's rocky mound in the middle of mud up in the low-rent district.
Thunderstorms hit at dusk last night, but it was clear and I could see the stars when I got up a 1:44 to pee. I got up at 6 and on the road by 8, when a little rain started and continued through about 9 when I got to Baldwinsville where I had second breakfast.
Before leaving I had bent the connector on one of my charger cables today, so while stopped I got new one of those. My phone is struggling to charge off the charger I brought, so I got one of those too. It's good I had the new cable, because apparently the phone won't take advantage of the new charger unless I use that cable. With my old cables, it still barely charges. How this is possible, I don't know; it's just a cable with some wires, I thought.
Anyhow, the rain had stopped so I continued on my way. Google's plan took me a circuitous route through a planned housing development with unnamed bikeways (basically sidewalks along their twisty windy roads). I got completely off route, I think I had started to go in a circle, when I aborted that and found the shortest path back to NY-31, which took me most of the rest of the way.
Back on route 31, it felt like I was making good time. Huh, it felt like I'd gone more than that. ... Darn, was I that slow today? ... Hey, wait a minute, I've gone 29.2km for the last 10 minutes! I stopped and tinkered with my odometer, but no luck. It eventually started working later; maybe water got in a connection, but I lost faith and I depend on distances for routing so I stopped at a bike shop and got a new one of those. The old one displayed a lot more info with its pseudo-analog display, but the new one works.
On my last section from Bridgeport, another wave of rain caught me up. It was just starting to come down when I saw an open garage door and a guy outside working on his steps. I asked to shelter in the garage, which he allowed. He and his wife then invited me in for a warm drink while waiting for the storm to pass. Karen and Joe were lovely company, much better than getting soaked in the rain.
I made it to the campground about 4, where winds had picked up as a front came through. I was struggling to get my tent up when neighbors Catherine and Greg came and gave me a hand holding it in place while I staked it down. They invited me over after I got settled, and fed me ice cream.
I'm having dinner at Gary's, a restaurant down the road from the campground. It's got a gorgeous view of the lake and approaching sunset, and pretty mediocre food.
It got cool last night, but I stayed warm snuggled inside my 20 degree Fahrenheit sleeping bag. The steady wind from the west has kept up since yesterday afternoon, making the cool morning air a little more brisk when I got up. I woke around 7 and got on the road a little before 9. Thank goddess the winds were at my back most of the time, they'd be a brutal headwind.
It seems near impossible to do a New York bicycling trip without hitting a few segments of the Erie Canal, and I hit this year's pieces today as I headed toward Rome.
Rome is a hole. I tried googling for a bike shop, but all that came up were motorcycle shops. I tried a sporting goods shop I saw, but in Rome that means "We sell things that go vroom or/or kill wildlife." Exercise? Sports with a ball? That's for watching on TV, I guess. Finally, Wal*Mart had a surprisingly good selection of bike parts, so I bought a replacement bottle cage for the one that had cracked from years of loading and unloading bottles.
Despite Rome's hole-ness, I did find a decent little diner to grab some lunch. Maybe this is because most good little diners have a little bit of the hole nature.
Delta lake is pretty, and the sun has been out for a while now. It's still brisk, especially when the wind gets going and/or the sun ducks behind a cloud.
It felt like I started gaining a little altitude after Rome, and I expect more climb tomorrow as I head toward the Adirondacks. It feels like the trip is going okay so far.
Afterthought: After dinner I rode to Sunset Bluff to watch the sunset. It lived up to its name, although skies lacked the few clouds necessary to draw out colors and make it really spectacular.
A scenic day!
Last night was pretty cold—my phone reported 4C earlier—but I was snug in my sleeping bag and slept well. I woke with the light, got up at 6:00 and was on the road by 7:40. I wasn't rushing, but I avoided dilly-dallying as I wanted to get in before the rain, which was predicted around noon.
I headed north on NY-46, shedding clothes every few miles and making Pixley Falls around 9. I stopped for a snack, and figured there was time to hike down to the waterfall. There was a little side one, too, that looked like a great place to cool off on a hot day.
Continuing north, my turn off NY-46 at Eastern Rock Road was labeled "dead end." I checked maps and weather, and found I now have until about 3:00 before storms arrive. I rerouted through Boonville (easily mistyped Boobville on the tiny portable keyboard I'm using), which worked out well. I pulled into the Black River Canal Museum (which was right next to a railway crossing), and a local there came out to chat. He was friendly and let me see the museum, even though it wasn't officially open.
The Black River Canal was contracted in the late 1830s after the success of the Erie, and built over the next two decades. It followed the Mohawk River upriver from Delta Lake, reaching its apex in Boonville, then followed the Black River downstream to Carthage. I think from there the river was navigable through Watertown to Lake Ontario. Given the altitude change, it needed 109 locks along its 35 miles.
So that was neat, and I got a picture of the railway crossing. This is the line that comes over from Remsen, where it splits from the old New York Central line to Lake Placid, which is now part of the Adirondack Scenic Railway.
The guy recommended a restaurant, so with plenty of time I got a burger at Slim's, then came to the campground. Along the way, I passed through a village park where they have a covered bridge over the canal. Built in 2005 with community donations, it's the fanciest I've ever seen, with a separate sidewalk lane and fancy awnings on the ends with chip-carved detailing. I don't think they needed it, but it's a pretty neat thing.
The campground is delightful. I got in around noon, and am enjoying the warm sun and cool breeze, although clouds are looming this way from the northwest. They want $6 for the night, and although I'm out by the oak tree right now, they said I (and my bike) could "camp" in the barn if it rains. I will take them up on that; I don't mind tenting in the rain but taking it down in the morning is... ugh.
I was sore from the hard barn floor when I woke up a little after 6, but at least I was dry. The rain had stopped and has so far held off—the latest reports are the next round starts in the evening and ends around daybreak.
Yesterday was mostly flat or uphill. Today was a mix, with some downhill—and what goes down, must come up. There was more up than yesterday, although I don't know if at the end of the day I'm up more or less up than I was yesterday. Especially in the campground: after registering, there was a long downhill to get to the sites. So tomorrow's first hill will be climbing back to the road.
The campground is remote, quiet; the sites forested. It's peaceful, if buggy. I'm currently out on a small pier at the boat launch, where there's a light breeze to keep bugs away. As I write, I see the movement of the waves in peripheral vision and it creates a bizarre sense of movement.
I decided to change tomorrow's destination to Eighth Lake campground, rather than Brown's Tract, to avoid dirt roads. It will also yield a chance for laundry in Inlet (I'm starting to get ripe). Friday is unchanged.
Today I cycled to Eighth Lake Campground, between Inlet and Raquette Lake. The rain ended overnight, and the sun came out by about 9 so I had a nice ride today. I stopped in Eagle Bay to do laundry, so I don't smell like an old goat anymore (I hope.). Afterwards, I was riding in shorts and a sports bra, which I haven't been able to do in days because of the cool.
Eighth Lake is pretty. There were a few hills on NY-28, but I think it's still better than flat dirt road. And there were places to eat some lunch in Inlet.
The campground office is only open patchy hours, so I've picked out a site and I hope it hasn't been reserved, or I may have to move later. I'm deferring putting up my tent until I know for sure. I'm glad I came here, it seems more open with some lawns rather than the forested description of Brown's Tract. There's also showers.
gnats (noseums) black flies out, which are
annoying, and mosquitoes but fewer of them and they avoid sunny
areas so they're easily minimized. The gnats don't seem to care
about the sunlight. And there may be fewer bitey insects than out
at Brown's tract.
I feel like the trip is going okay. I had a dream last night about using a UPS truck to deliver some personal thing, and I was afraid of getting in trouble for improper use of it. I let Dave drive it and woke up as he was just about to clip the mirrors off it by driving through something narrow.
Tomorrow mom will be joining me with her car. It will be nice to have her travel with me—last year she couldn't because of health issues, but it's a nice chance to have mom-daughter quality time.
Afterthought: The campground had a weird toilet in the women's room. Some sort of female urinal? A squat toilet? I am as mystified now as I was in 2013 when I first saw one of these up at Fish Creek Campground.
Today I advanced to Forked Lake, where mom has joined me and will be traveling with me for a few days. Despite being very remote, my phone works here; it didn't last night.
The things I thought were gnats turn out to be black flies. They are vicious, and there are a lot of them. It's incentive to keep moving when on the bike; they attack in force when stopped. In camp, I've been keeping on my long pants and a hooded mesh top. Mom has thankfully brought a screen canopy for our picnic table, which slows them down at least.
The road today was modest hills, except for the one monster in Blue Mountain Lake. I'm rather proud that I cycled all the way up (in 2013, I had to walk it). On my way down the other side, I saw my first dragon fly of the season... black flies, your end approaches. Unfortunately, not as fast as I'd prefer.
There are also lots of motorcyclists out the last few days. It's the Americade motorcycle rally in Lake George, and many are taking day excursions up this way.
Dusk was like the darkness approaching in a horror film: the time when things go wrong, very wrong. There were already more black flies than I had encountered at Eighth Lake, and as the day waned they came out in force, progressively getting worse.
I had a mesh blouse with a hood. Mom had a mesh hood and short socks, so they were already getting her around the neckline and her ankles. And we had to take off the protection for dinner, just as they were ramping up.
Right after dinner we climbed into our tents and began individually crushing the ones that had snuck in; it felt like hundreds.
At one point, hearing mom continuing the eradication in her tent, I suggested the idea of moving to a motel. If I had suggested it at dinner, she said, she would have gone for it. But we stayed.
The bugs outside bumping against my tent sounded like the gentle patter of rain. I feared the eventual need to get up and pee.
Finally, after the sun went down, they slowed down and stopped. All was quiet when we woke this morning... And when I got up in the week hours to pee, and I got a chance to see a spectacular view of the stars. The crescent moon had gone down, but there was more than enough starlight to see by in the crisp night air. I've never seen the Milky Way that distinct.
This morning mom found her dashboard covered with flies. Those that had gotten in the car last night settled on the windshield, facing the warm sun, and fell off onto the dash overnight. Once she turned on the heater, though, they started waking up... she promptly turned the heater off until she had a chance to sweep them up and put them out.
It was a short ride, made easier by mom's car carrying my gear, so we were early getting to Newcomb, our planned stop. Although there seemed to be fewer around, we were wary of a redux of The Evening of the Living Blackflies, so I pedaled on. The road east from Tahawus reminded both me and mom of the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia/North Carolina, and interestingly, that is the name the road is known by. There were some nice, long downhills—not so steep that brakes are required, but where I could really get cruising. It was fun.
Mom skipped ahead and, after some frustrating searching for motel options, found a Jellystone campground with a "rustic cabin," so we're glamping it up. They even have a heated pool, so we got to go swimming. There's a few flies around, but not many; the staff say they've mostly run their course at this lower elevation.
Tomorrow was supposed to be a long day from Newcomb to the Ausable Chasm, but this splits the days very nicely so it'll be about the same as today.
It's fun getting to do these things with mom. I'm glad she's with me. I have an awesome mom.
Afterthought: As I was cycling Blue Ridge Road at one point, I began hearing hints of jazz sax. Was I crazy? It got a little louder, and then I could hear the throb of an engine. A minute later one of the Americade folks came by, moving at a relaxing pace, out for a scenic cruise with some excellent jazz cranking from the radio of his bike. It was a beautiful break from the stereotype of motorcyclists.
Sunday I cycled north to the Ausable Chasm in Keeseville, NY, traveling NY-73 through the Keene Valley in the High Peaks region. I found it hard to capture the grandeur of the mountains in a picture; the sense of scale gets lost. Mom and I stopped at a cafe in Upper Jay to get some lunch, and got in about 2PM.
By the time we made camp it was too late to go the tourist-trap part of the Chasm, so we went to the bridge on NY-9 and looked around. When it opens at 9 today, we're going to check out the rest of it.
We found a barbecue restaurant where we both got half-chickens, and afterwards we split a pint of salted caramel gelato. Yum! There were interesting other folks at the restaurant, including a family that had made a school bus into their custom RV and some folks from Avon, NY who were out for Americade and stopped for dinner while out on a cruise on their trike.
There's rain coming in tonight, so rather than a whole day of rest, we're going to go see the chasm then start southbound and stop when when we see a nice motel or maybe a campground with a cabin (we really liked the one at the Jellystone the other night).
Mom and I took the Ausable Chasm walking tour today. They describe it as "the Grand Canyon of the East," which I think is wrong. Letchworth really does feel more like the Grand Canyon.
Not that the Ausable Chasm failed to impress. It's a deep-cut gorge with a lot of water and a lot of rock formation. It's just wide enough for the river; there's no room for sand bars or the a meandering river in the bottom. And the water that's there is moving swiftly through the tight chasm. I'm glad I came to see it.
After the Chasm, mom and I got some lunch and I headed out again, now working our way southbound. After a bunch of uphill I crossed a divide and got my first views of Lake Champlain and, on the far side, Vermont's Green Mountains. I wondered if New York's High Peaks look as impressive from the Vermont side. I'm not sure about that, but at one point I passed through some meadows with the Green Mountains visible to my left, the Adirondacks to my right, and at least from that position they were both impressive.
I made it to Westport, NY, a hamlet on Lake Champlain. We're staying in the Hilltop Motel, an older place that is pretty well maintained where it matters, if a few small cosmetic imperfections.
I've reconnoitered, so tomorrow we're heading to either Adirondack Fish Tales Etc (a fishing-themed campground) or Champs RV Resort toward the southern end of the lake. Wednesday I'll resync with the planned route at Lake Lauderdale.
I suspect many of today's pictures, both the chasm and some of the mountains, can't really do justice, but I hope they are enjoyable anyway.
Mom and I are now 2:2 in cribbage games. I need to go make some 15s now.
Today was a pretty hard 95km ride to the south end of Lake Champlain. The morning was overcast and cool, but by 11AM it was warming up and the hills in the latter half of the day were high and plentiful. But the second half had some distinctive farmland areas that were interesting, so it was okay. The downhills were fun too.
After getting in, mom and I took a walk up to the marina and Champlain Canal lock #12, where we got to see a boat come through. It was kind of neat, the lock has been refurbished to use hydraulics to open and close gates rather than the mechanical/motor systems in the Rochester area. And, of course, there was the ubiquitous "Erie Canal National Historic Corridor" sign for us to see. You just can't go anywhere in New York without encountering something about that damned canal.
We're lucky to have tonight's campground; Lake Champlain, like Lake Ontario, is running high this year. Waters have receded just enough that we have a place to camp. The campground has a pet potbelly pig that came around to investigate us, our tents, and my recumbent; there's also a number of chickens free-ranging around the restaurant the campground runs. But it's not the typical pizza and burgers joint: it's a classy restaurant with a nice bar area, a couple of bottles of wine out on its shelves, with familiar classy standards playing. It's built in what looks to be an old marina building that they rehabbed over a couple of years.
It reminds me of Pomodoro's before it got the facelift, back when it had the rutted up dirt parking lot in a shitty old industrial building. But inside, classy italian joint. Here, you drive down an industrial dead-end, past the propane and coal dealers, a couple dilapidated marina buildings, through the campground to the far end, and there's Champs Corner Pub & Grill.
Another day, another 65km. Sunrise on our campsite this morning was pretty, and the day's ride went smooth and sunny. It reminded me of northwest Connecticut where I grew up, when I grew up... since then, most farms have closed down and more houses have sprouted. This area hasn't yet become a bedroom community.
I was excited to see an old Delaware and Hudson station in Salem, NY.
The campsite tonight is nice, quiet at the moment although there's been lawn mowing for several hours now. Both mom and I hope they are done for the day.
I checked over my food supplies and snagged a few things from her goody baskets, preparing to be on my own again when mom heads home tomorrow morning. I've enjoyed her companionship. She may be getting up there in years but she's a lot less fuddy-duddy than a fair number of people my age.
Tomorrow it's looking like a damp ride on to The Alps Family Campground in Averill Park, NY.
I hit rain about halfway through today's ride, and arrived fairly wet. The winds were gusting and I got a bit chilled, so I made some hot chocolate and sweet and sour pork to warm up.
After showering, though, the winds died down and the sun came out and it is pleasant and warm now. What a difference a few hours can make.
Tomorrow I'm expecting a gentle ride as I turn west and cross the Hudson to Juniper Woods in Catskill, NY. Paul is joining me there, and the weather is looking good for a day of rest on Saturday.
I hit my first dirt roads (other than campsite roads) today, but only about 2km, and they were mostly well-packed dirt, not gravel.
Nearing Hudson I got my first flat of the ride. A shard of glass had gotten embedded in the tire and hammered its way through over time. Fortuitously, it went flat just as I was passing a little park, so I pulled in and used some picnic tables to do the repair. When I passed through town, the friendly folks at Steiner's Sports kindly let me use one of their floor pumps to get my tires up to a proper pressure, too. (About 100 PSI, as opposed to the 60 PSI I can do with my portable pump.)
It's a dilemma sometimes trusting Google Bike Routes. Sometimes, I wonder why it chose a route, but without knowing the alternatives I don't know if it chose well or not. When I do know, sometimes I find it goofy and difficult, other times it finds interesting choices that are nice. Over the years, I think its choices have gotten better.
Heading for the Ausable Chasm, for example: Google had me on NY-9N, then routing overland to NY-9 instead between Upper Jay and Keeseville. Instead, I just followed NY-9N and its gentle downhill along the Ausable River the whole way. But I don't know what it was like the other way. Was Google shaving off distance in exchange for a more hills? That seems like a dubious trade.
But today, nearing the Rip Van Winkle Bridge over the Hudson River, instead of climbing the hill from water level to bridge level on NY-23B (with lots of traffic and not much of a bike lane), it took me on a side road with probably a steeper hill but little traffic, so I could climb at my own pace, and a few nice views of the river, the Catskills, and at one point the bridge. This seems like an improvement to me.
Paul is coming out tonight, so I will spend time with him for the weekend. No update until Sunday night, after he's gone home.
I'm now in Schoharie, NY. Paul came out Friday night and joined me at Juniper Woods, where we enjoyed the hot tub, pool, a bocce-like game and socializing with other Naturists on Saturday. With the coming rain, however, I made a reservation at a hotel in Schoharie and we headed up here Saturday evening. Paul came ahead with the car, and I followed by bicycle.
We had a nice dinner last night at Justine's of Cobleskill, which provided such large portions that we had our leftovers for lunch today, and I'll have Paul's leftover leftovers for dinner later.
Since today is a day of rest, we went to a local attraction, the Howe Caverns. The underground caverns were cut in the rock by an underground stream, which over time wore away the limestone and formed a large cave. Water seeping through the limestone dissolved some mineral, depositing in the form of calcium carbonate stalactites and stalacmites.
Afterward, we stopped at an Iroquois museum which had interesting art, artifacts and information.
Paul has headed home now, so I have a quiet evening hiding from the rain in the motel.
Today I continued westward on side roads paralleling US-20. The sun was starting to come out when I left Schoharie and it started warming up quickly, but then some clouds moved in and it cooled off again for a while. Eventually, the sun came out again and the last 20km or so of the 60km ride had some lovely vistas, if a few hills to climb.
I'm staying the night at Glimmerglass State Park on Otsego Lake, which is one of the headwaters of the Susquehanna. I'll be following the river downstream for the next few days until mid-way between Binghamton and Corning.
It's a pretty state park. There were tons of kids here when I arrived, apparently bused in from around the region, but they went home now and it's quiet and peaceful.
The oldest covered bridge in the US is here in the park. Built in 1823, it utilizes a patented arch devised by a guy from Torrington, CT, where I went to high school and where mom lives now.
I was up early, about 5:30, and was on the road just a bit after 7:00. I had a short day planned, but I was approaching my target of Oneonta by 10:15. It had started raining around 8:15 and I was wet and chilly, so I stopped at Sandy's Diner to warm up, get second breakfasts, and decide what to do.
They had all-day breakfast and lunch, so I said to hell with breakfast and had a burger, some fries, hot chocolate, and a bowl of chicken soup.
The weather report said the rain would end in early afternoon, so I pressed on downstream, figuring I could hit another campsite where the rain had stopped, and keep myself warm in the meantime by moving. I ended up in Bainbridge, where there's a little campground I once noted for its well-groomed appearance. The office building is a little worn on the outside, as is the Motel sign (they have a few rooms for rent), but it's got one of the nicest and cleanest washrooms I've seen on the trip (although like the office, the outside is nothing spectacular; it looks old and worn).
So I'm tenting on the bank of the Susquehanna. It may rain overnight, and I may end up wishing I took one of the rooms, but at least for now it's a lovely spot. And tomorrow is likely to be another wet ride, and Thursday is going to be heavy rains, so I figure I'll get a room at least one if not both of them.
Incidentally, on arrival:
- Unload bike
- Get tent up and food hung
- Set stuff out to dry/charge
- Get shower
- Get ice cream
- Send an e-mail letting friends and family know I'm alive
Given the doom and gloom predicted for this afternoon by Wunderground, I got on WarmShowers last night and looked for a nice-sounding host. Don got back to me pretty quickly and we talked this morning, so tonight I'm crashing at his place in the spare bedroom. I haven't met his wife yet, though I met Cara, their office manager/gopher/life assistant.
I had my second flat today, which happened before it rained. It was just before entering Pennsylvania, so perhaps my bicycle was balking at memories of its 4th day of ownership, when I drove it into Pennsylvania not far from where I was today and encountered a brutal day of detours, dirt roads, hills and campgrounds that turned out to be kids' camps.
Anyhow, I fixed the tire and made it through the brief visit to our southern neighbor and back into New York with just a stop for lunch, where I checked the weather and found the rain's arrival pushed back several hours. The one brief squall I encountered happened while I was stopped at a bike shop to get a new tube, because the old one now has 4 patches and a bulging spot. So I managed to stay dry all the way to my hosts' house. Lucky! (It'll probably make up for it tomorrow.) The bike shop didn't have standard tubes in my rear tire size, just some for mountain tires—which are wider—and each time they offered me these and I asked if they'd cause issues with the tires, they went back to looking more without giving an answer. They did finally manage to come up with one—a "thorn resistant" one, which weighs a lot more than a standard tube but has a lot thicker rubber on the outside wall. It was the right size, so I took it. I don't want to be fixing flats in the rain.
So now I'm here, in a neighborhood on the west end of Binghamton. I've showered, swapped in the new tube, and am sitting out on my hosts' back porch on a lovely, warm afternoon, although it's getting overcast as I write.
I'm about 40km (25 miles) from Owego, where I was planning to stay tomorrow. It looks like bad weather again, and I don't think I'm going to luck out again the way I did today. I need to go research my options.
Don and Tara are vegetarians, so I got to have some good vegetarian food. I forget how good it can be if the chefs know what they are doing; I too often think of vegetarian as the mediocre food at various functions, there only so they could claim they had a vegetarian option.
Don made some delicious oatmeal this morning. Better than the instant stuff, although those are surprisingly good (probably the amount of sugar in them). And far better than the other morning, when I made myself blueberry instant oatmeal, and just as I was taking a spoonful I noticed there weren't any blueberries in the bowl. Much like the potato chip manufacturers put both the sour cream & onion and the vinegar chips in green bags, these bastards put the "regular" (I.e., flavorless) mix in a packet with blue print. If you're not paying attention, it gets nasty quickly. The other company puts it in a brown or tan label, I think. Hopefully I won't make that mistake again.
Anyhow, having been ahead of schedule the last 2 days, today was a short ride to resync with my schedule at Owego, NY. This was to my advantage, as the widespread rains have generally been passing by just to the west and north as they head northeast. Other than a few little drizzles, I've been lucky.
Perhaps the universe thought that would be just too evil, given what I'm camped next to. I picked a site with a nice tree for bear bagging, on fairly high ground, with a gentle slope so water won't pool under or around me. And when I checked out the site, all was quiet.
After aquiring the site, though, I arrived and triggered the neighbor's dogs. We normally think of "crazy cat lady," but this one is a crazy dog lady. From the different sounds, I'm guessing she's got 4, maybe 5 dogs in there. A whole bunch of shitweasels too; one of them, I can tell it's a dog, but it sounds almost like a cat yowling. And when one starts up, the others get going, and it sounds like a badly out-of-tune choral piece. Thankfully, they usually shut up after a bit, though one of them has been in a barking fit for a while.
And when she's around, she's not much better. I can't say how many times today I've heard her tell them to quiet down, or one of the dogs to get off the other dog.
On the ride today, I noticed my rear shift cable fraying, so after setting up camp I tried replacing it (these fail about once a year, so I carry spares). Unfortunately, the cable housing was screwed up too and I ended up making a hash of it and losing a bunch of gears—imagine an 8-gear truck with 4th, 6th, and 8th. I had to do laundry, so I loaded that up and rode into the laundromat in Owego. Starts were long and slow, and if the gentle grades I encountered were much longer I would have had to stop and walk them. But had I needed to, I could have limped it to Waverly that way tomorrow, where there's a shop where I could get parts.
But a nice older gentleman, "Papa John," a few sites down came and talked to me. Old age has interfered with balance so he doesn't ride right now (I suggested he check out Bicycle Man's trikes), but used to be an avid cyclist and offered to take me if I needed anything. I took him up on it so I have a rear shifter again, which shifts like new... it's been shifting clunkily for some time now, I noticed it in the Adirondacks, and I checked the alignment but it looked fine. Turns out the cable just wasn't sliding smoothly, causing shifting awkwardness. I didn't notice it getting bad as it got worse slowly over time, but boy does it shift like a dream now.
But out of this whole thing, I find myself thinking about how humans take care of each other, help one another. Oftentimes I avoid asking for help, because I don't want to impose on others. But I like helping others: Warm Showers guests are nice, a chance to meet someone new, share or at least lend a hand in their adventure. I used to enjoy helping around RKS, and when friends need a hand with a household project, I'm glad to offer labor or expertise.
I think sometimes the annoyance and interruptions of telemarkets and scammers, leads me to erroneously think asking anything of anybody is too much. (Aspies: not good with gray areas, preferring the black & white.)
And there is a level where it's too much. I used to like this couple Nancy and Daryl, but the last few times I saw them I got chocolate and vitamins and other multi-level, independent-sales-associate crap marketed at me. I became more guarded around them, not wanting to get roped into another spiel. And when some friends ran into hard times, I contributed what I could to help out... but after a few times over several years, it's hardened my heart to their requests.
Gift economies are really strange. People want to help each other, I think it makes us feel good to be able to help others. But we don't want to be taken advantage of, nor have others become dependent on us. And exactly where the border is in there, is very, very unclear. But I'm pretty sure I should lighten up, and be more willing to ask for or accept help, and I seem to be doing okay at that this trip.
So for the moment, it's a beautiful day here. Light breeze, not to hot, not too cold. Blue skies. A nice campsite. My belly is full from some chicken I had at a diner while waiting for my laundry to wash. I only destroyed one pair of cycling leggings in the crazy-hot drier. I'm only here for a day, so I don't need to put up with yappy dogs for too long. Things are good.
Tomorrow is onto Bare Lake. Saturday, Paul is going to come get me and we're going to Corning Museum of Glass with his mom and niece, and afterward he'll be staying over with me at Bare Lake.
Paul and I talked about going to Texas de Brazil next Wednesday to celebrate completion. Meat!
Afterthought: It turned out the crazy dog lady had no less than 9 (yes, nine!) of them in her trailer, all of them little froufrou shitweasels.
Today was a decent ride from Owego to Corning. It was fairly flat, I think just 3 significant hills. I stopped for lunch at a diner—Betsy's or something—in Waverly. They made a good patty melt.
After lunch, I left the Susquehanna and started up one of its tributaries, the Chemung, which runs to Corning where it's formed from the confluence of two other rivers. My route was planned up River Road but it was posted "not a through road" or some such vague fear-mongering. Afraid this might be poor signing for a bridge out or other unpassable mess, I took an alternative which took me over a hill. At the top was O'Brien's Inn, which looked like it would have a spectacular view over the valley, but unfortunately I didn't get one.
The last 10km into Elmira were a rail-trail, former Lackawanna right-of-way. It was quite nice—a gentle upgrade, and paved the whole way. I saw a snake along the way—almost ran him over. He had the wide, flat head of a venemous variety but I don't know what he was.
I enjoyed an ice cream cookie sandwich in Elmira, then began the slog up the last, long 12km hill. About half-way up a light rain hit, which cooled me down and helped rejuvenate me for the remainder.
So now I'm at Bare Lake, I set up my tent, showered, soaked in the hot tub, and am now sitting by a nice little campfire they've got going, keeping an eye my shoes don't catch fire while they're drying.
Paul is coming down to visit tomorrow, and we're going to visit the Corning Museum of Glass with his mother an niece; Sunday is another short day, before a long ascent up to Ulysses, PA and the headwaters of the Genesee on Monday.
Saturday was a day of rest. Paul picked me up at Bare Lake and we joined his mother Becky and niece Sky for lunch, then explored the Corning Museum of Glass. It was a good museum for the kid, but it seemed like it would also be a good museum if we didn't have the kid.
Afterwards, Paul and I got a small dinner in Corning, then headed back to the campground where we sat around the communal campfire and shared stories with other visitors. Whereas Juniper Woods and Empire Haven feel like campgrounds and just have a naturist theme, Bare Lake felt more like a bunch of friends gathering at a friend's house for a camp-out. I enjoyed meeting a bunch of new people there.
But even so, I find campgrounds more social than regular life. Maybe because when camping, we see people outside, and we're more aware of each other and more easily approachable. I had considered taking a motel at Owego because of potential bad weather, but by staying in the campground I met Wanda and John, two other friendly campers. In a hotel, everyone goes in their box and shuts the door, shuts the world out and themselves in. In campgrounds, I meet lots of other people; in hotels, unless it's for an event, I've never met or socialized with other guests. It just isn't done.
Today Paul and I hung out for the morning, did a little maintenance on the bike (Paul brought my linesman's pliers so I could finally shorten the excess from the cable I replaced the other day, and while I had the tools and time, I replaced the one for the front shifters.)
We sunned for a while, then started packing up around noon. I had a super-short ride, although I had about 8km of dirt roads; on the positive side, Paul drove my gear over in his car. We stopped at a restaurant basically in Lawrenceville, although legally it was on the New York side of the line. I had a pretty good pulled-pork sandwich.
So tonight I'm at Tompkins Campground on Cowanesque Lake, a man-made lake on the Cowanesque river, one of the tributaries to the Susquehanna. (Well, it joins the Tioga, which confluences with the Cohocton into the Chemung, which feeds into the Susquehanna.) In addition to being flood control, it's a recreational lake and has a campground operated by the Army Corps of Engineers. It's the third flood-control lake on the Susquehanna I've camped on over the years, the others being Ives Run (just south of here on the Tioga, last year) and Sidney Lake (over near I-88 on the west side of the Catskills in 2013).
After helping me set up, Paul headed home and I went for a swim in the lake, then got a shower.
Afterthought: There was a pretty sunrise over Lake Cowanesque the next morning.
After breakfast and striking camp, I headed west on PA-49. It was less hilly than I expected, so getting on the road at 7 put me at Sandy's Diner at about 11. It's positioned just at the top of the divide—a few hundred meters east, a little stream is the beginning of the Cowaneque; a half kilometer to the west, the beginnings of the Genesee form a little creek running through a farmer's field.
Along the way I passed a staging area filled with parts for wind turbines. I stopped to take a picture, and one of the oversize load escorts came to look at my bike and we talked a little. He said he thought the turbine was a 2 megawatt rated unit.
I did not encounter any problem with the WhiNas (white nationalists) that live in the region—actually, I didn't even see evidence of their presence. It wonder to what degree it's just a few high-profilers coupled with the media's tendency to sensationalize.
I encountered a few horses today that were curious about me/my bike. I think both belonged to Amish households—perhaps the horses are thinking, "About time these humans figured out how to do it themselves." Or maybe, "Well, this one's self-motivated. How come I get the lazy ones?" Or, "Uh oh, capitalists must be cutting jobs again. I hope this doesn't mean the knackers for me."
After crossing the divide, there was some pretty nice downhill before flattening out as the river valley widened. I found myself thinking, "This is my valley." Upon arriving at the New York border, I immediately encountered road construction. I was supposed to take the WAG trail (named for the Wellsville, Addison & Galeton railway right-of-way) part of the way but the surface was loose stone, so I stuck to NY-19.
I'm at Trout Run campground near Wellsville tonight. There are some clouds but it's warm out, so I got a nice swim and some ice cream. All is well.
There was rain last night, but it stopped around dawn so I did okay. I had my usual peanut-butter and jelly bagel, instant oatmeal, Tang, and hot chocolate for breakfast. The food bag is, by planning, getting low as I approach Rochester.
I continued following the Genesee downstream. In Rochester, I think of the Genesee River and the gorge, but I don't think of a valley... everything is so flat. But before Letchworth, there is distinctly a valley. In some places it's gently sloped up to the east and west; other places it's the centerpiece of a wide, flat space bounded by distant hills. Much of it is in agricultural use.
Today was apparently Wide Load day. A house passed me, a big tank went by going the other way, and... I don't know what it was; it looked like a whale's tail, mounted diagonally to reduce it's width and height. It passed me, I passed it when the convoy was lunching, and then it passed me again.
There were gusty headwinds at times today, but other times it decided to be a gusty tailwind. When it was on and I was going into it, it was tough; when it was on and at my back, I clipped along nicely. By noon it was hot, and today is the first day I noticed the gritty, dried sweat after I got in and cooled down. It was hot enough I had ice cream twice—once in Portageville, once in the campground (where I also got potato chips...mmmm, salt).
I ran over a crow today. I was biking through a construction zone, so trying to keep to the edge of the pavement to share the bike lane a little. All of a sudden, this crow pops out of the high grass next to the road, looks at me and flaps his wings a little, cawing, like "Stop!" There wasn't time or space...so I went right over him. I didn't feel much of a bump, so I must have gone over the wing, or maybe it dodged.
The last part of the trip was through Letchworth. The river is rather high right now, given all the rain we had recently. It's the first time I've seen it with the new rail bridge over the upper falls. It really does look a lot nicer than the 1875 trestle-style bridge, and the new one is ballasted.
Today was the last day of the ride. I had a lovely, steady tailwind pushing me northward from Letchworth. The Genesee Valley does continue on through about Avon, but then everything flattens out as it approaches Rochester.
When I got near the airport, I moved onto trails and rode those most of the way to the river's end in Charlotte.
Today ended up being long, the only day over 100km. Though I'm tired, it felt easy—probably partly being psyched at getting home, and partly the tail winds.
I learned how pretty Rochester is. There were a lot of amazing things in my travels, but there are so many right here at home, too.
Tide pods are for traveling. They always seemed stupid to me—-what, in case I can't be bothered to make one liquid measurement? But I had a few for the trip, they traveled well and packed up more neatly than a bottle.
I thought about a lot of stuff, but the one that stands out is the Genesee River. Three days ago, my first glimpse of it was a little stream in a farmer's field. Today, it carried the immense amount of waters flowing over the waterfalls and out into the lake. If you trace it back, all that water started off in some little ditch somewhere, that joined other ditches into streams, and streams into brooks, brooks into the river.
Our world today is this superhero-enamored craziness, where we think we need some impossibly capable savior to fix things. It's what we see over and over again in movies and television; even when it's not explicitly super-hero, instead we have a non-supernatural hero who is impossibly competent and solves everything just by invoking a montage or some technobabble.
I think our world would be better of if we thought of society like the river: it can do amazing things, if we each contribute a little bit. But instead, we too often hold back, unwilling to contribute for fear it'll be wasted effort. And some insane portion of people, looking for the hero to save them, vote for the nutcase Donald Trump. He's got what every fictional hero has: he's rich, charismatic, and he's not restrained by reality. If real life were like the movies, our problems would be solved.
This was a strange walkabout. I felt the relaxation, the getting in touch. But I didn't feel the introspection, the working through painful confusion that I sometimes do. Perhaps there wasn't much of that this year: the social dynamics of UPS weren't complex or stressful (well, the boss could be at times, but...).
I hope you enjoyed the pictures and at least some of my ramblings. Thanks to mom for coming and traveling with me for a week, and Paul for visiting me on the two weekends. Thanks to my WarmShowers hosts for keeping me out of the rain, and to Papa John for driving me into town for shifter cables. And the nice people near Verona Lake who let me visit while waiting for the rain to pass. And all the friendly people I met along the way who asked about my adventures, and in doing so, broke up the loneliness of my travels.
Until next year, go be awesome.
- 1. Line-up is parking trucks in their slots for loading in the wee hours next business day, in this case Monday morning.