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
It is with a heavy heart that I write this post. Today was the last day Mark and I rode together. Tomorrow he’s headed South to Syracuse to take a bus back to Portland. As for myself, I’m continuing West back to Cleveland. Staying with cousins in Buffalo, and a friend in Chautauqua. It’s going to be a long haul. I have 90 miles planned for tomorrow.
Riding with Mark has been really great. Mileages were good, he did all of the itinerary work which was flawless. But more importantly, we really clicked. I looked forward to every day traveling with him. We oftentimes didn’t ride together together on the road. He was a smidge faster than I, his lead compounding over miles. But he always waited at the intersections, ice cream and coffee shops, and cafes. We could talk endlessly, or cease communication and dive into our phones (I oftentimes to write these posts). No hard feelings. It was great. On the other hand, I’m looking forward to the rest of the trip back home. It’s hard to be optimistic staring down the barrel of a 90 mile day, but I think once I’m over that, I’ll have a blast. The trail follows quite a bit the Erie Canal Trail which is gravel and non motorized. Now, back to today.
Really unremarkable. Rolling country, check, flat, check. Three thing that made it bad was it was the heat. It was so hot! It should cool off tomorrow. Mark and I stopped at a gas station for pizza, breaking our pact to eat the English muffins and peanut butter that we had. Nothings new! Upon arrival into Pulaski, much to our dismay, we found another dead, nothing town. It was truly underwhelming. We kept on to Port Ontario, just a few miles away and where the AirBnB was. Mark took a swim in Lake Ontario, and we kept on to dinner. Fish fry sandwich. Good. Finally, after dessert, we headed black to the AirBnB for a good nights rest and an early start to the next day.
TM: 5:30, AVS: 11.6, DST: 64.32
Currently, I’m riding on the Northern Tier Route. You’ve probably heard me throw that term around a few times, and there may be some misconceptions. Even though it’s a “route” it still uses roads. Adventure Cycling is the premier cycle touring organization in the U.S. They map the routes, finding the best cycling roads, they also map lodging options, repair shops, food, etc... It’s really great. They have trails that go through the U.S. Including three transAmerican trails (I’m on one of them now), and many more.