Sunday, May 11, 2008

Long Relaxed Ramble

Another sunny day near 70, and another day that begged for a ride. Rather than hills, I wanted to start pushing toward 4 hours in the saddle, at whatever pace/distance that means. Today, I headed for Schoharie Crossing and beyond, with lunch at Karen's, and returning to Schenectady.

The first thing I noticed was a new ghost bike in memory of Al Fairbanks, where he was killed where the bike path crosses NY5S in Rotterdam Junction. This wasn't there a few days ago, and just magically appeared, as they always do. The couple in the background were finishing up their Erie Canalway tour in Albany later today, and had never heard of ghost bikes. Now they have.

Continuing west, I decided to stay on the south side of the river westbound today, just to be different, to avoid Amsterdam traffic, and to have a few options for dumping the morning's coffee. Stopped at the site of the Yankee Hill Lock (#28) and Putnam Store, since there are restroom facilities.

From there, instead of continuing on the paved bike path, I followed the "Towpath Trail", which follows the towpath of the original "Clinton's Ditch", the oldest version of the Erie Canal. This path is not paved, so I was rolling along at only about 6-7 mph just enjoying the forest and the river scenery. There's another lock along this route, formerly Lock 29, the Empire Lock, and it's been maintained very well. This was a nice spot, and the paved bike path misses this one. The eastbound lock chamber is twice as long, to accommodate two slower moving loaded grain barges instead of just one, in the interest of preventing traffic jams on the canal. Westbound barges were usually empty, and locked through more quickly than the loaded eastbounders.

This unpaved trail eventually took me to the main part of Schoharie Crossing State Historic Park, in Fort Hunter. The park is so named because the Erie Canal had to cross the Schoharie Creek at this point, a sizable tributary to the Mohawk River that parallels the Canal. Originally, barges crossed the creek itself, rejoining the canal on the other side. Spring floods often made this impractical and dangerous, so an aqueduct was eventually built to carry the canal over the creek. The remains of that aqueduct are still standing.

Just beyond the park, I had lunch at Karen's Ice Cream and Produce Stand, a huge sandwich with potato salad, and very cheap. By now, I had decided to return to Schenectady via the bike path, instead of crossing to NY5 on the other side of the river. A pretty good east (headwind) wind had come up, and I reasoned that the bike path's trees would spare me a lot of that annoyance, which they did. I slowly headed back east, stopping one more time along the present day Barge Canal, which uses the Mohawk River for much of its length. Below is a picture of one of the movable dams, this one across from Lock 12 in the distance. The Mohawk is really a series of pools between each of these dams from Utica on east to Waterford.

Continued on back to Schenectady, after about 3:35 in the saddle and 4:45 elapsed time. That was a very relaxed 46.6 miles at only 13-14 mph, but I realized that's the way I really like to ride. If I can average 4-6 hours in the saddle on tour, at an average pace of 10-15 mph, depending on terrain, that's all I need to do to cover enough miles every day. Now I need to keep bumping this up. There may be a Vermont tour in the cards later this year.


At 6:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey - you seem very knowledgeable on riding the canal paths! I was wondering if you could recommend a good ride for Sunday, Sept 21, 2008 when the weather is going to be fine. It's my wife's birthday and I would like to hav a ride wiht her and the 3 kiddo's (11, 9, 6). thanks!

At 6:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh yeah. We live in Clifton Park, NY :-)

At 8:40 AM, Blogger Rich said...

I would drive out NY5S to just east of Amsterdam, where there's a parking area on the right. >From there, it's only about 5 miles to Schoharie Crossing Historic Site, and about one more mile to a roadside stand on 5S that has sandwiches and ice cream, in addition to produce and cider donuts.

If that's too far, drive to Schoharie Crossing or Fort Hunter, and just bike to the lunch spot from there.

Enjoy your day!


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