Friday, June 22, 2018

Erie Canal Tour Day 6 - Fort Plain to Albany

We did it! Six days and about 390 miles.

The last day was 75 flat, winding miles through the river cities and towns along the Mohawk and the Hudson. We went through Canajoharie, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Schenectady, Niskayuna, Cohoes, Watervliet, and Albany. Then we got in the truck and drove home.

I think I'm more tired from the six hour drive than the bike ride.

Here is the only other picture I took on the ride, this is at the WWI memorial park in Amsterdam, where we took a break.

I was thinking about using that cannon to blow up Fort Stanwix as I munched on some pistachios.

All in all, this was a great tour. If I had done it by myself, without Max, I probably would have taken the same route and the same number of days. We are all ready for RAGBRAI.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Erie Canal Tour Day 5 - Verona Beach to Fort Plain.

We are camped at the free hiker-biker campground next to the lock at Fort Plain. This is a festival of transportation. Immediately across the Mohawk River and Barge Canal is the CSX (former New York Central) main line. Across the road is the New York State Thruway.

It might be a little loud here. There are amenities though. You can get water, and there is an outlet on the outside of the lock master's building. There is also a spigot where you can take a "shower".

It will do nicely.

There are also 3 other bike tourists here, so we've had a nice time comparing notes.

We had a nice dinner in Fort Plain, at a fancy place with a preposition called "Table at Fort Plain". I had a humongous ribeye, and Max had Kraft macaroni and cheese from the kids menu (which the waitress apologetically admitted was Kraft). Max was peeved when my ribeye was prepared perfectly.

The other meals today were really good. There was no breakfast at the campground at Lake Oneida, so we rode 17 miles to breakfast in Rome, NY.

Right in the middle of Rome was a reconstruction of Fort Stanwix, which was originally from the French and Indian War, and was in use during the Revolutionary War. It was very cool to ride around it and imagine how unpleasant it would be if you had to storm it.

Most of the day after Rome was spent riding along the Mohawk River and Barge Canal, which is in a valley, so we were pretty motivated to stay next to the river instead of climbing up a bunch of hills. Even if that meant riding gravel trails. So much whining from the boy. He would have whined more if he had a couple 500 foot climbs.

More perfect weather, moderate tailwinds, and a bunch of flat smooth pavement. Another great day of touring.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Erie Canal Tour Day 4 - Seneca Falls to Verona Beach State Park

Can it get any better?

High temperature today: 74.
Tailwind speed: 15 mph.
Hills? Not really.

We knocked out 71 miles, and were in to our camp ground before 4:00. It just doesn't get any better.

I'm really liking this new tent. It's super roomy, super compact to pack up, and it looks like it will be bulletproof in foul weather. This is our first time camping in it, other than a test run in the yard.

It replaces an awesome MSR Hubba Hubba that I had for about 10 years, which has a broken pole that I've been making do with for a couple years now.

The bike is looking very bike tourey now.

That's laundry hanging out to dry on the panniers. I'm not doing any laundromat visits this trip. We rinse the clothes out at night, hang them to dry on the bike, and wear them again. Max gets it.

Dinner was at a wonderful restaurant (Gary's) in the community of lakefront vacation homes next to the campground. Seafood, margaritas, homemade pie.

Max is refusing to let me take his picture. I have to sneak up on him.

It was all roads today, no trails at all. And we even ventured off NY Bike Route 5. It's basically regular old touring, no special route choices because of the boy. Who is rocking it. He's not particular tired.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Erie Canal Tour Day 3 - Rochester to Seneca Falls

What started out as a really tough day turned out really nice.

The original plan was to camp at the state park a mile outside of town, then ride in for dinner. However, the forecast said a bunch of rain this evening and thunderstorms, so the prospect of riding to dinner in the rain was not appealing. So I booked a room at the historic Gould Hotel in the middle of Seneca Falls, which has a restaurant on the first floor, so we don't even have to go outside.

They have really tried to swank up this place. A chandelier in every room! I am lying in bed looking at this. It's SO SPARKLY!

Not to worry, their best efforts can only do so much to compensate for when we bring the bikes in.

With all the bikes and panniers lying around it looks pretty much the same as our room at the Motel 6 last night. The real difference is I'm all worried about getting grease and dirt all over the walls and carpet, which is never an issue at Motel 6, because there is grease and dirt all over everything when you get there.

Due to the oppressive heat yesterday, with more expected today, we got off to an early start, with breakfast eaten and pedals turning before 8:00 AM. Unfortunately the heat started early too. So it was ride a half hour or so, and take a cool down break in the shade or in a nice air conditioned gas station convenience store.

To be honest, we spent way more time sitting in gas station convenience stores than sitting in the shade by the scenic canal.

But we pressed on, despite a flat tire, and temperatures in the 90s, with humidity. The hope was to get in by 5 before the storms came.

But the rain came early, around 3:00, while we were still about 12 miles out. And it was great! Ripping tailwind, cool refreshing rain, and an immediate 15 degree drop in the temperature. We did the last 19 miles without stopping, and were in to the hotel by 4:00. (I know you are thinking 12 mph is not impressive. Remember my bike weighs about 100 lbs with all the gear on it.)

Max was not happy with his pasta with marinara sauce though. He has been ranting about how fancy restaurants mess up even the simplest dishes, by adding special touches like spices and "nuances". I tried his pasta - it was just lousy marinara sauce. My pot roast was great, and I replenished my electrolytes so it was mission success for me.

There was one other panic attack catastrophe to overcome. When I got in after riding an hour in the rain with the phone in the back pocket of the bike jersey, my phone was dead. Obviously I have ruined yet another phone by getting it soaking wet again.

Nonetheless, I started thinking of all the other very tenuous reasons why the phone might not be working, while searching on my Chromebook to see whether it is possible to buy a phone in a store that works on Google Fi.

Maybe the battery is just really dead because I left the hotspot on all day. Even though it was on the charger for 2 hours.

Maybe the charger is bad.

Maybe the outlet is bad. Nope, Max's phone charges right up.

After reading every thread on Reddit about dead Pixel 2 phones, I tried the silliest, dumbest cure ever. I blew into the USB charging port.

And it started charging right up. There was crud in the USB port. That's all.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Erie Canal Tour Day 2 - Lockport to Rochester

Tough day today with the hot hot heat. But we persevered, took cooldown breaks, stayed hydrated, and arrived at our perfectly fine lodging options for the evening.

I was chatting up another bike tourist this morning at our motel in Lockport. He was riding west, and told me the canal trail is more often than not hard packed crushed stone, but sometimes the stone was not well packed and it was a slog. He said the alternate routes on NY 31 and Bike Route 5 were really good, with huge shoulders and little traffic.

So as soon as we got out of town, we hit the crushed stone, and Max was pretty unhappy. His bike (which was inherited from Mama) has 650c triathelon wheels and skinny tires. So we hopped of the canal trail right away and took to the roads. The canal trail had a definite lack of shade, also.

Max rocked riding on the regular old roads, no problems, no terrifying lapses into hazardous and unsafe behavior. He rode it like a pro all day. I am so proud.

But it was around 90 all day, and that really sucks the life out of you. Here is Max at one of our many cooldown breaks, in Albion, NY. Sitting under that shady tree for 15 minutes really helps.

So I picked our 6 this evening because there was a reasonable looking mom and pop restaurant just a half mile up the road. We are in an industrial area next to the airport, sandwiched between a railroad freight yard, an interstate, and said airport.

So we rode up to the restaurant, and it was closed!!! What to do! Quick to Google Maps on the phone! It turns out there is only one option, another 1.8 miles away, besides fast food, which is also 1.8 miles away.


Hey Max, you think the fancy place last night can wreck a steak, just wait and check out what's coming up tonight!

With dread cause by many train wrecks of abominable service and botched meals at Appleby's, we set out. And it turns out it is jammed, we had to wait for a table, and it was properly and efficiently operated. Who would have thought.

So I replenished my electrolytes, and Max was a very happy young man because they had Kraft Macaroni and Cheese on the kids menu with applesauce on the side. His humanity was restored, it had vanished somewhere around mile 60 today.

So this is a great adventure so far, with Max riding his bike like a pro, better than most adults I know, but totally still an 11 year old boy when there is Kraft macaroni and cheese at Appleby's. It's been a great Father's Day.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Erie Canal Tour Day 1 - Buffalo to Niagara Falls to Lockport

Here it is. It's pretty amazing.

We set out from our fancy hotel this morning, heading towards a diner we passed just up the road the night before.

Max (who is map-obsessed) says "Today is the closest I will be to Canada all summer."

As if by magic, a Tim Hortons appears right in front of us.

We love Tim Horton's. So much sugar. So much gluttony.

We rode about 8 miles through industrial areas and bombed out neighborhoods to get to downtown Buffalo, where we searched for the beginning of the bike trail along the Erie Canal. And then, right before us, as if by magic, this appeared before us to guide us.

Yes, it's a larger than life statue of Tim Horton, commemorating the site were he played in his first NHL game. It also happens to be the start of the bike trail.

All those donuts fueled us over 20 miles across Grand Isle into Niagara Falls. Which included riding over this horrible bridge onto Grand Isle.

And over another one just like it to get off Grand Isle, which dumped us out right at this tasty diner.

And after just a few more miles of bike trail along the Niagara River, which gets steadily more terrifying, we are there.

After a short break to take it all in, we knocked out 20 miles of back roads to get to our motel in Lockport. I am delighted that Max rides competently and confidently through city streets and country roads. We are pretty much at the point where we can tour anywhere, not just on bike trail networks.

It was 53 miles, flat, mostly with a tailwind. Which is fine, because this is a training and practice tour to get in shape for RAGBRAI.

After we got cleaned up, we headed into downtown Rockport for some dinner and ice cream for dessert. Rockport is a pretty interesting small city. The canal is not historical - it is still in use!

Dinner was at attempt at splurging. I don't think the boy should have to tour on pizza, chicken fingers, and pasta. So we went out to a nice restaurant for steak. This didn't turn out so well.

The restaurant was called Shamus. I think it was about as fancy as this area gets. Some diner had a freakin' Bentley Continental GT Supersport parked out front.

But this will not influence Max. When he orders his $38 steak medium rare and it comes well done, he will not be happy. At all. In fact he will be on Yelp writing a review from his phone before the waitress eventually comes by to ask how things are.

Given that he received an abject apology from both the server and the owner, and they took it off the bill, I convinced him to raise his one star review to two stars.

We had some terrific ice cream afterwards at a place called Lake Effect. This restored Max's spirits, and he declare the ice cream to be as good as Cindy's soft serve. I found my peach champagne sorbet to be somewhat beyond Cindy's league....

Erie Canal Tour Day 0 - Getting to Buffalo

And we are ready to begin! High in our fancy hotel overlooking a deserted JC Penny parking lot outside of Buffalo NY. 

This is across the street from Cabela's, so we can do some last minute supply shopping and looking at dead animals.

It was a project to get here. We loaded up the truck and drove to Albany, NY.

We stayed at the Motel 6 in Harrisburg, PA on the way to break up the long drive. The 6 was a perfectly good 6, $53. Win win win. Breakfast across the road at John's Diner, which was also a win.

Lunch at Tino's Pizza in Oneonta, NY. Hit the spot.

And at last, we make it to the Rensselaer, NY Amtrak station across from Albany. We took the train from Albany to Buffalo, and we are going to ride back.

It is super easy to bring your bikes on the train these days. You take the panniers off, hand the bikes to the conductor, he hangs them in the baggage car. When you get to your destination, he unloads them, you but the panniers back on, and ride away.

The train ride was 5 hours, from 7:00 pm to midnight. We visited the cafe car for snacks. Gin and tonic from a can is vile. Don't do it.

The train ride goes past the boy's bedtime.

It was a quick two mile, after midnight ride to the hotel, where we were in bed by 1:00 am.

Things are looking great for the upcoming week. The weather is looking perfect.