Day 8: Syracuse, New York (95.68 miles, 661.12 total miles)
I woke up this morning actually feeling rested. For some reason, on this trip I’ve been getting about 6 hours of sleep and even on days when I could sleep in a little late, I tend to wake up early anyway. I’m sure part of it is anxiousness to get moving and on the road. But last night, I guess I went to bed early enough (and Jen was kind enough to offer me her really comfortable bed and take the couch) and so I slept about seven and a half hours and felt pretty good when I woke up.
Jen was leaving on her way to work so we said our goodbyes and then I got ready to go. I headed out down Monroe Avenue and within a few miles I was back on the the Erie Canal towpath. The trail in Rochester was paved and the going was easy. The weather was sunny and the temperatures moderate, which made the trip really enjoyable and I was making really good time. It was interesting to see how the canal was used for pleasure craft and there were a number of locks still functioning. And there were a number of neighborhoods that were right up against the canal, and there were a lot of people out for a run or a walk on the path or boating in the canal.
Some pictures of the trail: paved, gravel, and with townhouses alongside:
The trail eventually became a lot more forested and much more of a dirt trail with occasional paved patches (usually around intersections or inclines that might be subject to washout). The dirt patches definitely made the going a little tougher. I could cruise at around 17 miles per hour on pavement, but the dirt sections would keep me to 13-14 miles per hour.
Around 2-1/2 hours in, traveling through a wooded section, I came across a couple biking in the opposite direction. The man asked me if there was anything good ahead worth seeing. I said that it was beautiful scenery and he responded, “So, canal, locks.” “Yeah, pretty much.” He asked where I was coming from and when I said that I was coming from Rochester he said, “Wow, that’s gotta be 40 miles!” That didn’t seem possible; I’d only been riding for two and a half hours, but it was possible that I was close. I decided that when I got to the three hour mark, I’d stop for lunch and check my progress. Almost precisely at the three hour mark, I stopped in the town of Lyons for lunch and took an hour or so to rest up and carb up.
There are a few things that definitely make a long distance bike ride enjoyable: weather, terrain, road conditions, and fully inflated tires. I had three of the four but only discovered after lunch that my rear tire, which had seemed to be well inflated, had actually been under-inflated by 15 pounds. So, I put some air in the back tire and checked the front tire and then got back on the road.
The route was now on surface roads, mostly on NY-31, and the difference in rideablity was incredible. The combination of being on flat, well-paved roads and having a fully inflated tire meant that I could go much faster. Even the inclines were relatively easy and I had a much easier time with them than I did similar uphills yesterday. At one point, a car passed me, giving me a wide berth. I noticed that it had two bicycles on the back and so it made sense; they were cyclists and were being considerate as a result. Then I noticed that the car pulled over ahead of me and the man got out to take some pictures of a patch of purple wildflowers at the side of the road. As I biked past, the man looked up at me and said, “You again!” It was the same man and his wife whom I’d met on the trail a while back.
I stopped and we talked about what had brought us there. They were from Long Island and staying in Seneca Falls and touring around the area. I told them about my trip and they were enthusiastic in their support and wished me well as I headed off and they remained to take some more photos. A few minutes later, they passed me on the road and honked as they went by.
A little while later, the route took me through the Montezuma Wildlife Refuge, something I’d seen from the Thruway my entire life, especially as we traveled the Thruway back and forth from Buffalo. The road quickly turned into a dirt road, and then a bumpy dirt road, and then a really bumpy dirt road. I eventually made it through and re-emerged on paved roads, but I didn’t see a single bit of the wildlife ostensibly taking refuge there.
I stopped for a quick refuel and hydration stop in Port Byron, not 200 feet from the site where Joseph Smith was baptized as a Mormon. From there, the route was a combination of surface roads and canal trail. For several miles, there was a road (Towpath Road) that ran parallel to the canal trail and I opted for the road. The trail is nice and enjoyable, but I will take hard pavement over the loose dirt/gravel of the canal path, especially when it’s late in the day and your legs are tired.
The last portions of the route were mostly on the towpath before getting to the Syracuse outskirts. The route through the city was easy and Syracuse was graciously flat. The final stretch on Route 5 was quick and easy.
In the evening, I went for a swim and then grabbed some dinner at the restaurant next door. Coincidentally, it was trivia night at the restaurant, so I decided to play and represent our occasional trivia team on the road. And so Tremendously Tremendous made its first road appearance and did well because I could recognize the country of Yemen on a map. I managed to come in second, but the prize was a coupon that I couldn’t use on the same day. So, since I won’t be back in this neck of the woods for a while, I gave the whopping $7 coupon to the team next to me.
I picked this hotel last night because of its amenities, but it was a little farther than most of the hotels in the city, as it is on the eastern edge. That means that tomorrow will be a little shorter and hopefully will give me a chance to rest a bit before the final stretch to Albany on Wednesday.