Day 1: Barneveld, New York (96.53 miles)
So, I set out today on my fourth long-distance bike trip. This one is the longest yet, though it isn’t too much longer than last year’s 791-miler to Chicago.
I left my mom’s house at 9:30 am–a little later than I’d hoped, but I slept a little later than planned because I didn’t fall asleep until late. Probably a little pre-trip anxiousness that was keeping me awake.
I got underway and the weather was agreeable. It had rained a lot overnight but was clear now. It was a little overcast but that actually was nice and helped to keep the temperature down. The terrain was nice and gentle rolling hills and there were a number of old rail trails along the way that made the going nice and easy.
Along the way, my path took me on a dirt road. I had had my share of dirt roads last year in Amish country in Indiana. This was at least limited, but it was a seasonal road that is only maintained a few months a year. Because it had been raining, the surface of the road was often muddy and this made the going difficult, but before too long I was back on pavement and moving along.
I made pretty good time and after only 2-1/2 hours had gone about 33 miles and so I stopped for lunch. One of the best things about traveling through Upstate New York is the prevalence of Stewart’s Shops everywhere and so I stopped at one and grabbed a bite to eat.
At one point I wound up going through a Gloversville, NY. This was the first, but not the only, small Upstate New York city I went through today. It is clear that the town of Upstate are suffering. The buildings were run down, frequently empty. It has been said that although the Adirondacks are not part of the Appalachians geologically, they certainly are socio-economically; and that was evident today in many of the towns I biked through. It was sad to see these towns that had once been full of charm and life looking very clearly like they’d seen their better days.
Eventually, my route took me through a corner of the Adirondack State Park, the largest state park in the country. The roads were easy, but they were definitely starting to get hillier. The roads I was on were back roads and there is an direct proportion between how wide the road is and how steep it will be. Large highways and four-lane roads go up at gentle grades, even if it goes on for a while. On a back road, the inclines may not be long, but they are frequently steep and sudden. But the roads were lovely although at one point my directions would have taken me on a road that was blocked off and clearly did not exist.
As beautiful as the scenery was, the weather started to turn. It started to rain, at first lightly but then thunder could be heard increasingly and the rain started to fall more and more heavily. Eventually I found a roadside ice cream and hot dog stand with covered picnic tables where I could shelter from the rain and take the opportunity to recharge my phone, as the use of the GPS definitely drains the battery quickly. As I waited for the rain to let upI enjoyed a nice chocolate milkshake and checked to see how far I’d come already. According to the maps app, I’d already traveled over 50 miles, which seemed far, especially given that I still had a ways to go.
Now, for those of you wondering how it is I choose my daily stops, I usually start out by mapping out 75 mile segments and then making note of the hotels in that range. On this ride, however, there were no hotels within that range, so I had to keep going until one could be found, and unfortunately, that would not be for a while. It looked like I had at least 40 miles to go. I started to get a little nervous because it was getting late and there was still a lot to go. Finally at 4pm the rain let up and I headed out.
It continued to rain lightly and the skies were overcast. And a wind started to blow. Now, for those of you who have read this blog for previous trips, you may remember that strong headwinds were the bane of my trip to Chicago last year. And these were just as bad. They were really strong, cold, and coming directly at me. There was an extended uphill climb, challenging enough but downright exhausting when you’re facing 20-25 mph headwinds. A heavily laden bike with panniers is not aerodynamic to begin with; in heavy winds it’s a brick wall. When I climbed a hill and noticed row upon row of windmills, I knew that I was in a wind alley and that the going was going to be tough. And it was. At times I even had to pedal riding downhill, which is demoralizing.
The last twenty miles or so involved a fairly substantial uphill that came along just as I was running out of fuel. I stopped along the side of the road for some Hammer Gels (thanks, Mom!) and the last of the dates that I had. Those, in particular, are a nice boost to the system, and helped me get up the large hill and enjoy the long downhill after it (so thanks for the dates, Rania). What followed was a long gentle uphill climb through farmland. This entire segment I did not see a single car on the road with me. Twice cars crossed the road I was on, but I was the only one traveling down the road. That was nice, but the winds were still blowing strongly and my legs were aching. I finally did see another vehicle: an Amish buggy heading my way.
Eventually I got to my hotel and took a nice hot shower. I knew that my trip was longer than the usual distance but was astounded to discover that it was 97 miles–three short of a century. I suppose I could have ridden some laps in the parking lot, but I was exhausted and symbolic thresholds would have to wait. I got some dinner at the sub counter at the neighboring Stewart’s. Then I had my bananas and ibuprofen to help with my aching legs (so thanks for the tip, Laura).
The extra long ride has two immediate advantages: it’ll likely make my trip to Watertown tomorrow a little shorter, and, I don’t imagine that I’ll have any trouble falling asleep tonight.