Day 9: Utica, New York (51.04 miles, 711.16 total miles)

I’m so tired.

When I looked at the remaining miles and saw that my plan to stop in Utica would only be about 50 miles or so, I briefly considered going beyond that point so that the miles remaining on the final day would be shorter.

But to tell the truth, I am so wiped out that the thought of a long day on which I would not get to my hotel until the early evening was not at all appealing. I really just wanted to sleep. And so I set out, knowing that today’s ride would be a relatively short one, and I was fine with that. Last year, my Day 9 ride was likewise short and with the time zone change allowed me to get to my hotel by the mid afternoon and actually take a nap and resting up well before my last, long day (last year’s final day wound up being 90 miles). And I was better for it for having not pushed it the day before.

Knowing I had fewer miles to go today, I slept in a little and didn’t wind up leaving till around 10. I was perhaps only half a mile away from the hotel when I noticed a tell-tale wobble in my back wheel that could only mean one thing: a broken spoke. Now, my bike has disk breaks, not the old-fashioned pads, which means that the wobble is not entirely crippling to riding. But, this is a problem best addressed quickly and so I did a map search for a bike shop and fortunately there was one more or less on the way, three miles away.


So, I biked over to Fayetteville to Epic Outdoor Adventures. They had a really solid bike repair shop and I talked with the bike techs about my trip while one of them (named Marc), fixed my broken spoke and trued the wheel. I was lucky that I had noticed this in a well-populated area. There were times on this trip, especially in the reaches between cities in Canada, that I worried about breaking a spoke so far from anyone who could fix it. It’s one of those repairs I just cannot do on my own. I can fix a lot of things on a bike and have patching a tube down to a science, but spoke repair requires taking the wheel, the gear cassette, and so much apart, that even if I wanted to, I would lack the proper tools to do it. Fortunately, I didn’t have to, and Marc expertly fixed the spoke and got me on my way. There was a slight detour in getting there, but the repair only took about 25 minutes or so altogether. And yes, I have noticed that the two individuals who have helped me out cycling along the way both share some variation of my name (Marcus and Marc—Marc did ask whether I was a “C” or a “K” Mark).

Of course, the bike shop was atop a fairly large hill, but that meant that the ride back down to the trail was easy and I could coast. I picked up the canal trail again and headed east. The trail was still that packed pebble gravel, but the going was easy and the scenery beautiful. And I did see these interesting birds (I don’t know what they are) walking across the bike path ahead of me:

At one point, after passing through Chittenango, I noticed up ahead some people sitting under a tent with tables and large orange coolers. As I biked past, they asked if I would be interested in taking a survey about the trail and offered me some of their free water and lemonade. Well, that was too hard to pass up and so I chatted with them for a bit as I filled out their survey. They’re attempting to get a sense of who uses the trail so that they can try to get more funding for its upkeep. I was all about that as sometimes the conditions are perfect (wide paved paths), and other times they’re not (dirt and mud). And so we talked and they were surprised to hear about my trip. I would have thought that this kind of thing was more common, but I guess not. At one point another older couple came up and the first man said, “He’s on a bike trip—biked around the lake.” The second man said, “Oh, Oneida Lake?” And when I said, “No, Ontario” he looked genuinely stunned. I guess that made me feel good. Especially as here I was on day nine of a ten day trip.

They were kind enough to offer to refill my water bottle and I finished the survey and headed on my way. They have a good point about this canal path: it’s a really wonderful resource but could be a lot more. There were times when the trail shrunk down to a very narrow strip. I was lucky that I didn’t encounter anyone coming the other direction.

I wound up stopping for lunch in Oneida, taking the opportunity to rest up a bit. I’d only traveled 28 miles or so, but those 28 miles on day nine feel like 50 miles on day one. As I headed out, the weather was beginning to turn. It was overcast and looked like it was going to rain. From here on out, my route would be on roads rather than the trail—Route 5 or Route 12. They were good roads with wide shoulders, though I did detect that they were going up a good deal more than they were going down. They had the appearance of rolling terrain, but the downs were never quite enough to push you up the next up. If you look at the elevation chart below, you’ll see that my impressions were right: it was a steady uphill climb.

It eventually did begin to rain and so I pulled over and covered the panniers with the rain covers and then kept on going. It wasn’t a heavy rain and at this point all I wanted to do was get to the hotel. Fortunately, after the ten miles of steady incline, there was a nice downhill and then a leveling off before another downhill leading into the city.

When I got to Utica, not only was the terrain headed in the right direction, but the weather was improving. As I entered downtown I saw a big street banner announcing a Lebanese Festival, but before my mouth could water at the thought of shawarma and fresh hummus, I noticed that the festival had ended on Sunday. Oh well.

I got to my hotel at 3:45. The front desk clerk was incredibly friendly (and kept calling me “boss” which for some reason I found amusing rather than obnoxious) and confirmed that the room I had reserved did indeed have a whirlpool in it. I had discovered the healing benefits of these on previous trips, but had been unable thus far to find accommodations with one prior to this day. At this point in the trip, given how every muscle is aching and every joint is sore, whatever the costs for this privilege might be, it would be worth it. When I entered my room, I chuckled: it looked exactly the same as my hotel room from Day 9 a year ago. It is the same chain so that’s not surprising, but I must have forgotten that.

So after a quick shower to wash all the road and trail grime off, I sat in the whirlpool to soothe my aching muscles. And then, given the earliness of the hour, lay on the bed to read: and promptly passed out for at least an hour. Clearly, I needed it. After waking, I went to the front desk to ask about dinner options and learned that there was a Delmonico’s right across the street: perfect. So, I went and had dinner, doing my best to use up the 3900 calories I burned today on the ride.

Now I’m back in the room, getting a chance to work on this entry earlier than usual. My hope is for a nice, long relaxing evening to rest up for tomorrow’s final ride, and to get to bed at a decent hour so that I can be up early, rested and ready. Oh, and I’ll probably take another soak, too.

map of route

Location:N Genesee St,Utica,United States