We are in Mexico, New York, which claims to be “The Mother of Towns”, having been founded in 1792.
The weather forecast called for “scattered sprinkles”. “Scattered” was correct, but the downpour did not appear to be “sprinkles” to any of us.
A coffee shop materialized around mile 30, in Skaneatles, just at the right time. No one was there when we got there but, when we left, there were about 10 other cyclists there. We were good advertising. This time it’s not the royal “we”. I was accompanied by a recent addition to the tour. He is from Milwaukee and we rode together yesterday until my flat tire and most of today.
The ride was great, over rolling hills through farms and forests; mostly on quiet and well-paved roads. The extra miles slid by easily.
Our planned stop fell through so we are a few miles ahead of the plan. We will shuttle to dinner and back (in Oswego, where we were supposed to end the day). Breakfast tomorrow will be on the road after 5.5 miles. The whole day will be 55 miles.
Most of this tour is planned well in advance and follows the same (or very similar) route year to year, with stops at the same places. COVID changed that and we’ve had a few last-minute scrambles, with the office person back in Cannon Falls, MN, spending the day on the phone trying to secure our food and lodging. So far, everything has worked out, though those who like to sleep indoors may disagree. We are at a Jellystone Park campground again. There are cabins available to rent here and I think there was a lottery last night to see who got to sleep indoors (at an extra out of pocket cost).
Dinner was at SUNY-Oswego. We ate with the students and were not limited to what we could fit on a plate, like most meals. They had a great variety of foods and strawberry shortcake for dessert – and not the weird sponge cake you find in supermarkets. I ate my fill.
I saw a huge Joe Biden sign covering the side of a house. I was surprised to see someone openly expressing his sexual attraction to President Biden in this conservative area.
Today is one of the days that makes this tour special to me. We are riding 95 miles through beautiful countryside – through forests, along lakeshore, past vineyards. We will end in Seneca Falls, NY, home of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and claimed to be the model for Bedford Falls in the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
When the route was reviewed last night, the grumbling and plotting began. Via US 20, it is less than 65 miles from Geneseo to Seneca Falls. If your aim is to get to the east coast as quickly as possible, that is the way to go. Then again, if your aim is to get to the east coast as quickly as possible, this is probably the wrong ride for you.
If your aim is for beautiful scenery and exploring the topography, the planned route is perfect. If you measure your day in BFUs (big fun units) this is a good one. (Ed. note: The section above was written before the ride.)
Response from one rider to this discussion: “We’re not really scenery kind of people.”
Rain off and on all night, including at time to pack up. Great way to start the day. I stayed in the tent reading a short story and waited for the rain to stop. It did so long enough to avoid getting any wetter. It rained off and on through the morning. We had a record number of flat tires – at least a dozen, including three for one rider. I had two – one front and one rear. Since I carry only one spare tube I had to patch one on the road. My CO2 inflator failed, so luckily someone was present with a pump to get enough air until the sag wagon came by with a floor pump. The best flat tire I have ever seen follows.
As Seneca Falls claims to be the model for the fictional Bedford Falls from “It’s a Wonderful Life”, I had to visit the It’s a Wonderful Life bridge.
More importantly, this is the birthplace of the Women’s Movement and the entire town is a National Park to commemorate that. The following photos contain the “Declaration of Sentiments”, the founding document from that first meeting in 1848. You can click on photos to enlarge. I think it is worth a read. It also served as a great counterpoint to the proliferation of Trump and guns yard signs today. (If you’re a student of history, 1848 was a pretty significant year for social movements in Europe as well.)
The ride, after two flats in the first 25 miles, was great. The drizzle stopped and we rode along the shores of the Finger Lakes and through mixed hardwood forests. The ride was punctuated by numerous short, steep climbs of the sort I love. There was one steep descent with numerous warnings to truckers and a warning from our router. It would have been great fun on dry pavement but required extreme caution today. A rider who contemplated the shortcut thanked me mid-ride for steering him this way.
Tomorrow’s ride includes several bonus miles. Instead of going to Oswego, we are headed to Mexico and will be shuttled back to Oswego for dinner. Breakfast the next morning is still a surprise. We’ll be staying at another Jellystone Park campground.
Getting up to go to the bathroom during the night, I thought I saw an opossum. I gave it a wide berth and, looking back at it with better light, realized it was a skunk. Later in the night I met it again, this time exploring a fire ring.
The Canadian side of Niagara Falls was heavily commercialized. The strip we were on was hotels and fast foods.
We crossed the border to road construction, then someone crossing the street toward me and trying, for likely nefarious purposes, to get me to stop and talk. Next were streetwalkers at work at 7:30 on a Monday morning. That was all in my first 10 minutes in the country.
The first half of today’s ride was urban and suburban riding. The best thing I can say about it is that it was over by picnic. After picnic we were out in the country and it looked like the driftless area of southwest Wisconsin – quiet roads and steep hills; 7 mph up one side, 45 down the other.
The sky was cloudy all day, with chances of rain in the forecast. This never materialized. Arriving in Geneseo, we stopped at a coffee shop. When I got back on my bike I noted very little air in my rear tire. I rode gently to campus, walking the last bit. The cause of the leak appeared to be the rim tape slipping again. While replacing the tube I replaced the rim tape as well. Another tube to patch on the weekend. I just used my last new tube. At least this new tube appears to have a functioning valve stem after several faulty ones in this batch.
I didn’t wash my bike clothes in the shower, as they appeared to have no chance of drying. As I fixed my tire the sun came out. I washed the clothes and they are drying now. It will be a race against sunset.
The rider who left the tour with a detached retina is back after surgery and with vision nearly intact. He says he expects it to continue to improve. The rider who was not vaccinated rejoined us. My neighbor (who I had never met but lives within a mile of me) also rejoined us. Several new riders joined. Some of them have done this before, as they were greeted warmly by other riders.
New York and New England are left between us and the Atlantic Ocean. This week will feel a lot like home with the Adirondacks and Finger Lakes.
The greatest hits and worst miseries of the tour, not necessarily in order of how good or bad they were and not necessarily ten of each:
Tour top 10:
New York week (after the first 50 miles) -Finger Lakes/wading in Lake Ontario after a cold front came through, temperature and humidity went down, tailwind all morning; up and down through the Adirondacks, beautiful day in Lake Placid. If you took away the first 50 miles and replaced them with the first 50 miles of the next week, this could be #1.
Wisconsin week – Cannon Trail, the Great River Rd., Baraboo Bluffs/Devils Lake/Merrimac ferry, Kettle Moraine Scenic Drive. Great roads and no traffic all week. (Visits from family and friends put this one over the top, but it was already great.)
The ride into Baraboo contained the single steepest climb of the entire trip ( a short stretch of Terrytown Road).
The Sparta to Elroy Trail, while the first Rails-to-Trails conversion, has been surpassed by several others. It was actually the low point of the week. While the tunnels are a novelty, riding for 30+ miles on gravel is not my cup of tea and takes a toll on the bike. I know, gravel riding is the new thing, but I’d rather ride on pavement if given the choice.
I’m almost reluctant to admit that the area I ride regularly was the high point, but it also assures me that I live in the right place.
Needles highway/Black Hills/Badlands – The Needles Highway was the single high point. This was a magical fairyland, otherworldly in its beauty. I am amazed that I never knew of this place. I could ride that road ten more times and still see new things. The area was phenomenal and the road was the best we rode in >4300 miles.
The Badlands are also otherworldly. Different, in that they can be seen as bleak in broad daylight, but change minute-by-minute in early morning light. Like Needles Highway, I wanted to ride that same road again at sunset after riding it at sunrise.
Bike path through Grand Teton National Park, climbing Teton Pass, descending to Jackson Hole and a great bike path. The path through the park kept us away from traffic and in view of the mountains. I met Santa Claus at the foot of Teton Pass, along with a group riding from Texas to Alaska. The pass was steep and tough, getting steeper as it went. Standing at the top of the pass was a feeling of accomplishment and gave a great view of the valley below. After descending to the valley we were led on a secluded path into town. The valley is well set up for bicycles, with paths connecting the towns.
Thompson Pass – first time over the continental divide and first big pass, descent into Thompson Falls, a town mostly owned by a single family, where we saw their bar, ice cream shop, catering service, and bus service.
Devils Tower. A campground situated right at the base of the tower. The tower itself rises out of nothing. It is not part of a mountain range but, like Ayers Rock in Australia, is just there. It is no surprise that it was used as the backdrop/centerpiece of “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”.
The margarita party was our first real chance to sit down as a group and just hang out together.
Smugglers Notch. A day that started with threatening weather that never fully materialized. The pass enveloped by clouds as we ascended, never really sure how high it was, on the approach or while actually climbing it. A climb that was over before I realized it; not because it was easy (it wasn’t) but because the top was invisible until we were there. The steepest descent of the trip, made hazardous by the wet pavement so we took it slowly.
Riding 105 miles in 40° rain. The camaraderie made it tolerable. A day that I would have stayed in bed had I been on my own.
Climbing a mountain pass in a hailstorm. Another day saved by a group – the same group. As Greg told me before the trip, the 70 degree and sunny days will all blend together, but it is the days like this that will make lasting memories.
72 mile ride that turned into 102 mile ride, the last 1/3 into a brutal headwind, finishing with a helmet splitting crash in an endless industrial waste land. The only day that I wanted the van to stop for me. I got back on the bike and rode the final ten miles, so I did ride EFI. We stopped at a convenience store for a cold drink and found other riders draped over coolers and freezers. Misery loves company.
The first half of that day was actually really nice.
Mile after mile of horrendous pavement,90+ degree heat, and endless headwinds across the Great Plains.
Mile after mile of flat and boring countryside in Michigan with bad highways and rude drivers.
Re-entering the US at Niagara Falls and riding 50 miles before getting into the countryside.
Bone jarring expansion cracks through Central Minnesota.
Hill City to Custer – uphill, bad headwind, relentless sun/heat, horrendous traffic, grooved pavement causing painful whining noise – and there was a reasonable alternative route nearby.
A few random thoughts:
I had some great encounters with bikers (of the Harley persuasion) – both on-the-road salutes and chats at the roadside.
In the first week I waved to a Corvette behind me to acknowledge it and, as it passed, I saw a peace sign flashed out through the T-top.
A random motorcyclist flipped me the bird for no apparent reason.
A friendly bar owner brought watermelon out to us on a hot, dry, and windy day.
On another hot day I stopped in a coffee shop for an iced coffee and the air conditioning was so cold I just hung out for awhile. It was a day when I realized getting somewhere was only a small part of the plan.
When I walked into a brewpub, I was met by applause. Another rider had arrived before me and told our story and they knew I was part of that group.
Greg repeatedly referred to the Lake Michigan ferry crossing as “The shortest longest day”. We rode only 40 miles but got into camp with just enough time to pitch our tents before it got dark.
Somewhere out west (I think on the Tetons day) a Russian couple riding from Denver to Seattle stopped in and joined us for lunch.
On another day, in the middle of nowhere, I happened upon a scruffy-looking guy walking his bike in the opposite direction. I asked if he needed help. He said, “Is the next town about 4 miles ahead?” I agreed that it was. He thanked me and kept walking. (Only 4 miles from town it wasn’t really the middle of nowhere – it just seemed like it.)
The look of incredulity when I told some kids at a lemonade stand (on our last day) that I had ridden >4300 miles for that lemonade.
That’s it for now folks. Daily life is intruding on my writing time. I have a sewer line to clear and more. Posts will be a little more irregular after today. Maybe when my bike gets here I’ll look at the odometer and give you my total mileage. Maybe not. Numbers don’t really say what I want to say. Thanks for joining me on this journey. It’s been real.