Life and adventures from a high school perspective
An avid cyclist, rock climber, and all around adventurer, Francis Davis is taking to the internet to share his stories of cycling, climbing, and adventuring.
The boat crested the wave, wake foaming and churning underneath the vessel. Then the bow came over the other side, landing forcefully in the depression on the other side. I was battered with water and spray, eyes closed, leaning out, holding onto the sail with all the force my climbing fortified arms could maintain. We were flying. Hitting another wave, surfing, flying. A gust of wind hit, and we yelled “hike”, precariously balancing the boat on the edge of its capabilities, leaning straight off the boat to keep it as flat as possible. This is no work of fiction, I’m simply describing last night.
I rounded out my visit in Buffalo with a nice bowl of oatmeal, butter, and blueberries, said my goodbyes, and was off, later than desired, as per usual. I finally buckled to the siren call of Starbucks on my way out of the city, but then my will remained strong(ish). It was a day of fast food, Subway, and a hot dog stand. Time was of the essence. I had to meet my friend Matthew in Barcelona, NY so that he could drive me in to Chautauqua to spend the night. In years past, I typically spend a week with Matt and his family, but with time constraints this summer, it wasn’t in the cards. Unfortunately there was not a lot of time to stop. The day was interesting, this nearly nonstop biking certainly took its toll, both mentally and physically, which made me all the more ecstatic at the end of the day. The evening commenced with a small potluck at the Catholic House of Chautauqua, an annual tradition that I am somehow always in attendance for. After dinner, Matthew and I decided to go for a little sail. We had no idea it would turn out how it did!
I watched with a disconnected irreverence my plans for an early start disintegrate and die, falling upon my feet. It was no matter. In all fairness, I had gotten to bed later than expected, and of course, needed sleep. I had breakfast at another diner. After spending too much time their sipping coffee and eating hash browns, I was finally on the way.
Due to time constraints I decided not to go into Niagara Falls. Strictly, the Northern Tier goes through that way, then dropping into Buffalo. I neither had time nor wanted to ride that long so I skipped it. I was on the towpath for about 30/45 miles. Things started to get interesting when I was released from the towpath, solely at the whim of Google Maps not to steer me incorrectly.
Coming into Buffalo was interesting. I rolled through Buffalo University, then suburbs, then downtown. Not the most bike friendly city. Either way, I made it to Uncle Scott’s and Aunt Christine’s house just after 5:00.
Visiting that night was undoubtedly the highlight of the day. The last time I was here was about 12 years ago, I reckon. The evening chipped itself away over hamburgers, conversation on cars, and watching TV. It was great. On a more humanistic note, these are the first people that I have interacted with significantly since Mark’s departure on Tuesday. Without Warmshowers or even AirBnB, the conversational element that I do cherish is effectively stripped away. Unfortunate.
TM: 4:02, AVS: 11.0, DST: 44.68
They are always with me, the stars. Steadfast companions watching the night, protecting from above. I am reassured every night in the tent when I see them, an expansive canvas of white blips on a calm Black Sea. I always look forward to going to bed after a long day. I often muse about the attitude reversals that take place over summer / on a trip like this. During much of the school / work year, I appreciate sleep, but I’m not eager to go to bed, their is always one more project. On the road, I place a greater priority on getting into bed. Another interesting example: I am simultaneously thrilled and concerned when I ask myself, “what day is it?” How could I forget such a thing. During the typical year I am highly in tune with time; it is a requirement of the society I involve myself with. How can that subconscious rigor so quickly slip away over the summer? Fascinating.
Today was a good day to ponder these thoughts and more. It was the first and only day I spent completely on the Erie Canal Trail. It is dry, hardpacked, silty gravel. Easy to maintain a good speed, but incredibly dusty. On the downside, it can be rather mundane. No navigation to do, few landmarks - and this is more a product of New York than anything else - but it is so flat. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy flatness I’m riding, but the scenery is simply not the same. Mountain vistas in NH and VT provided thrills and daylong entertainment.
The day was mostly uneventful, I had a complete breakdown at a coffee shop / cafe 10 miles in, reading a whole Car and Driver mag and generally spending too much time. As a result of that, I arrived to Medina around 8:00.
Medina is beautiful, the archetype example of an economically (at least at one time) fruitful canal town. Old buildings and churches abound. After a lovely dinner in town at Zambistro I pedaled the few stray miles to the WarmShowers. At this point it was after dark, and I was somewhat doubtful that I had found the right place. Flashbacks to last night began to roll in my mind, but I decided just to set up camp in the large field, and put my bike under the pavilion. The air was cold as I settled into my warm sleeping bag, lulled into sleep by the soft glow of the stars.
TM: 6:07, AVS: 11.4, TM: 70.3
It’s been a bit of a day. With both sweeping success and pride, as well as demoralization, fatigue, and helplessness. I spent 9.25 hours on the bike. Let’s begin!
The beginning of the day had a melancholy tinge after Mark and I split ways. He was off to Syracuse to get a Greyhound back to Portland, ME. I was to continue on towards Cleveland. I started the day with some New Order and just pedaled. I was staring face to face with my predicament for the day: 90+ miles of riding. I was quite nervous. The last time I’d attempted a century in Cleveland 2 springs ago, with no weight, I barely finished. My strategy for the day was efficiency. As much time pedaling as possible.
The route for the day was nice, paralleling the shore of Lake Ontario, cutting inland, then coming back to shore. It was interesting. No remarkable stop offs for most of the day. Donuts, hamburger, snacks. At 75 miles, I reached Sodus Point and I came to a realization.
This attempt at a near century felt completely different from last time. Physically, I was feeling pretty OK. I was able to keep a pace of 10-11 MPH without too much difficulty. This was in stark contrast to last time, when I was struggling to maintain 6-8MPH and having to stop every few miles. This is where the success and pride comes in. I was overjoyed that I was able to do this much mileage. The wearing part was purely mental (and oh maybe the derrière). I spent 9.5 hours on the bike all told. I went all out in my media barrage. Audiobooks, podcasts, music, playlists. No matter, some of it was plain boring. To compound on this, I knew I was mentally fatigued. It was difficult for me to think rationally when I arrived at the campground I had planned to stay at and I found it to be closed.
I arrived in Palmyra, NY later than I had wanted, about 8:30. Light was fading fast. I was hungry, but as a sort of secondary priority. Scrambling to find new means of lodging, I found myself having to take a step back, relax, and make sure I was doing the rational thing. It is difficult when you’re tired sometimes. I went to Subway, had a sub, and mulled it over. My original plan had been to go to the Macedon hiker-biker-boater campground along the Erie Canal Trail. That was 4 miles from Palmyra. I’d scaled back my plan slightly to end in Palmyra on account of how late it was. The resolution then was to push on to Macedon. It was a good call.
I was overjoyed as I rolled past the fire station and found an open grassy field with some other tents. This was it. Sleep. I actually saw another fully loaded touring bike that night, but it was gone early in the morning. As I settled into my sleeping bag for the night, admiring the stars, I looked fondly upon the day. Onwards and upwards.
TM: 9:13, AVS: 10.6, DST: 98.78