Friday, August 6, 2010

Day 47 – Little Falls to Latham, NY

Today: 74 miles, 2394 feet of climb, 1 flat tire
Cumulative to date: 3468 miles, 108883 feet of climb, 1 flat tire
Remaining: Approx. 227 miles, 13550 feet of climb

Early morning on top of the ridge line. Great views into the valley. That is Howard riding towards me.

On Wednesday the weather was perfect for us to explore the Erie Canalway Trail bike path. Then yesterday, the weather was miserable on a day there was not as much to see. Today, we were again on beautiful roads, including the Erie Canal bike path, and the weather cooperated with a perfect day.

This was on our right, also on top of the ridge line.

It seemed like one of those mid October days down south. Temperatures were cool, but the sun was out and warmed your skin nicely. There was no humidity. And the wind was rustling through the trees as we rode on the bike paths. Rays of sun would shoot through the trees as we rode. Best yet, the wind was at our backs.

Lock 17. For perspective, note the person going down the stairs on the left.

At the start of the day we headed out of town past Lock 17. I mentioned this lock yesterday. This was the lock that lifts boats 40.5 feet on the Erie Canal and is still the largest lock in New York State. I found out some more information today. When it was built in 1916, it was the highest in the world. Now, the highest lifting lock in the USA is John Day Lock on the Columbia River at 113 feet. (We were in John Day but I didn’t know about that lock at the time.) And the highest in the world is Strepy Canal du Centre in Belgium at 240 feet. That doesn’t diminish how impressive Lock 17 is. It used to have a retention side pond to save water by filling the pond when lowering boats and then reusing the water when raising boats. Use of the side pond was discontinued in 1946 when it was determined there was no reason to save water. But the design is such that the water fills the lock from one side and boats need to tie up only to that side.

Early morning. From left to right, Dave, Baltimore Mark, Jeff, and Alex.  Toronto Mark was in front.

Day 47 started with the five Geldings and Alex riding together. With the tailwind, we made pretty good time for the first 50 miles on regular roads, averaging 19.0mph. We climbed up a large hill and rode a ridge line for a few miles until descending into the town of Ft. Plains. There were great views of the Mohawk River and valley from the ridge, and we saw many farms and silos. We also rode through the towns of Canajoharie, Sprakers, Fultonville, Scotia, and Amsterdam. The first 50 miles were primarily on NY Route 5S.

Joe at Lock 8

After entering the canal bike path, our group slowed down to look at the scenery and take pictures. We passed a few locks, stopping at Lock 8 where there was a picturesque bridge and large sunny grass fields. I was again thinking it was a great day to be alive. Dave and I also stopped at Lock 23 which was originally built for the enlarged Erie Canal in 1842. Lock 23 was double chambered, allowing boats to pass in either direction at the same time. But it was abandoned in 1918 when the NY Barge Canal was built on the Mohawk River.

This is one side of abandoned Lock 23. I found some of the abandoned sections of the canal to be more interesting than their replacements.

Lunch was at a local place called Jumpin' Jack’s Drive In. Baltimore Mark said the food was good, as he went to college nearby. About twenty cyclists stopped for hamburgers, fries, onion rings, ice cream and soft drinks. They had something called a Jackburger, which was a double hamburger with coleslaw on it. My Jackburger was pretty good. The coleslaw on the burger worked well.

Jumpin' Jacks Drive In at Scotia NY

While at lunch, Alex was talking to Jim (our ABB mechanic) about the proper techniques for fixing a flat tire. This proved to be a bad omen for us. After lunch, within half a mile of riding, Alex got a flat tire. Then, my lucky streak finally ran out. Coming into the second SAG stop, something didn’t feel right about the bike. Sure enough, my front tire was flat. There is a reason why baseball announcers don’t talk about pitchers with no-hitters in progress, and there is a reason why cyclists shouldn’t talk about flat tires. I blogged about it and Alex talked about it. And look what happened. However, if you are going to get a flat, there is no better place to have one than right at a SAG stop. While fixing the flat, I had a drink and something to eat. And there was a real pump for me to re inflate the tire. I couldn’t find the cause of the flat, so a quick change of tubes and we were again on our way. To my knowledge, that leaves only Gerard and Katie as the riders who have yet to puncture.

On the left, Alex gets a flat. On the right, Gerard and Katie. I pass the torch to them. They have not had a puncture.

At the second SAG we also ran into several cyclists going from Troy to Toronto. Today was their first day on the road, and they had only gone 20 miles before stopping in the park where our SAG was set up. A few of the cyclists had very strange bikes. One had a ghost rider bike on top of the regular bike and the rider sat on the uppermost bike. Another rider had a 200 pound bike, complete with a hammock. Very interesting, but my first thought was it will be very difficult for them to cycle far on those contraptions. Pictures of both bikes are shown here. What do you think? Will they make it to Toronto? Will they make it through customs?

Will they make it to Toronto?

Toronto Mark, Dave, and Baltimore Mark went ahead either at lunch or when Alex got her flat. So the afternoon’s ride was just Jeff, Alex and me. We again rode on the Canal bike path to within two miles of our hotel here in Latham. It was a gorgeous early afternoon on the path and the miles quickly passed. The path is fantastic and I need to get back up here for the Erie Canal bike ride. (I saw plenty of markings for that ride today.) Before we knew it, we were at the hotel in Latham.

Here I am riding the Erie Canal Trailway bike path:

Today's bike path

Tomorrow we need to get our climbing shoes back on. At mile 5 we cross the Hudson River. Then we begin climbing after entering Vermont at mile 32, about 5000 feet of climbing for the day. I’m looking forward to Vermont, as it will bring back some happy memories of skiing at Mt. Snow when I was a young boy. More about that tomorrow.

Thanks to John and Linda who have recently sent me mail.

I do need to mention one other thing. Three riders have had accidents in the last three days. First, Ann was hit (grazed?) by a truck. Then, Bruno went down after hitting a raised portion of road. Today, Margot was cut off by a driver in a car and went down swerving to avoid the car. Fortunately, all three only got scrapes and cuts and continued to ride. But it brings home the risks we are taking. There is some danger. Something can happen at any time, even if you are careful. All three riders are very good cyclists, and yet they still had accidents. Most of us know of someone who has been killed by a driver in a car. Many times, we are riding legally and have had drivers cut us off or drive very close to us. As a result, several riders are a bit gun shy and to a degree we’ve slacked off on the pace lines if safety is an issue. I give thanks every day when turning off my Garmin at the hotel, being safe and sound. Let’s hope all of us make it safely to the Atlantic. Three days to go. If you are driving and see a cyclist, give them three feet of space and slow down a bit. Thanks.

Today’s route:

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