PTNY--ride across NY State

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James Cassatt

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Jul 22, 2004, 8:16:37 PM7/22/04
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PTNY由ide Across NY State along the Erie Canal
(http://www.ptny.org/canaltour/)
This was a 400 mile ride in eight days mostly along the trail that runs next
to the Erie Canal from Buffalo to Albany. It was billed as an easy ride,
mostly flat, for those who wanted to ride easy and see the sights. It
annually attracts in excess of 400 riders from all over the country. Since
most of the path was not paved, a hybrid was highly recommended. Given
this warning I equipped my Raleigh R300, a hybrid with drop bars, with
700x35 mm Kevlar belted tires drove to Albany and took the chartered bus
to Buffalo. My account of the trip is given below:

Day 0: Loaded the bike onto the truck and rode the chartered bus from
Albany to Buffalo. Since I grew up in Buffalo, after setting up camp, I
rode around to my old stomping grounds.

Day 1: The weather was beautiful容njoy it while it lasts since this was
the last nice weather we had for several days. I did not sleep well the
night before. There was a lot of noise from the traffic. In addition,
Nichols School, the site of our tent city, backed up onto the old NYC main
line. Judging from the train traffic at night, the railroads must be raking it
in. Since they wanted to have a mass start for the first day only, and I was
up early, I rode around to kill time. I met Emily, a charming 72 year-old
rider, and we rode together a bit. I moved to the front of the pack and took
off near the front. I stopped to take a lot of pictures. About 15 miles of
the trail was gravel dust, the rest paved or streets. I skipped the canal tour
and arrived in our first layover point Medina, about half way between
Rochester and Buffalo. I set up camp and had good pizza in town. I then
stopped at a model train museum located in an abandoned freight station.
There I got a nice tour from the guy who built most of it.宥enerally a
nice day.

Day 2: The weather was predicted to be hot in the morning with rain in
the afternoon. So I took off at 7:00 am with a goal of beating the rain.
Most of the first part was gravel dust. I kept thinking of how yucky this
stuff would be to ride on if it got wet. After the gravel dust, we picked up
the trail into Rochester. Although paved, it was filled with tree roots.
Horrible stuff to ride on. Just before the last rest stop it started to rain. I
found the directions at this point confusing. Not wanting to get lost in the
rain, I rode with a guy who had a good idea of where we were going.
Then the rain began to come down in buckets. We made it to the layover
site in Pittsford, the first (except for Kate, who always finished first).
There was only one volunteer in a car to great us. The rain stopped, and
we helped set stuff up.

In spite of the rain, this might have been my lucky day. Of the three
trucks carrying our gear, one broke down. Fortunately, my stuff was on a
good truck. Those with their gear on the broken down truck had to wait a
couple of hours for their gear.

At this point I had a lot of wet stuff with more rain in the forecast
tomorrow.

Day 3: There was no rain overnight. Although overcast in the morning, it
cleared up and the weather was generally nice. One of the problems I had
was that the people who were riding tended to be a lot slower than I. The
trip was billed for people who wanted to take it easy, and these were the
types of people who showed up. I don't consider myself a fast rider,
judging from the riders who blow by me on rides near home. However,
having put in excess of 2500 mi on the bike before the trip and done the
CAM weekend two weeks previous, I seemed to be stronger than most of
the people here. Hence I was delighted to find another rider, Donna, who
also seemed a bit frustrated by the pace, and we took off together. I spent
much of the week riding with Donna. In addition to being a strong rider,
she had a charming personality and a good sense of humor. The fact that I
was old enough to be her father did not seem to matter. We tooled along
smartly. They promised us some hills, but there was only one hill of
consequence, the one on Hogback Road.

We were among the first to arrive in Seneca Falls. After setting up camp
Donna, her friend, Margurite, who was left in the dust when Donna took
off with me, and I took the shuttle bus downtown, enjoyed the wine and
cheese party and capped the day with a nice dinner at a posh restaurant.

Day 4: The morning started off sunny, but it soon became overcast and
threatening. I road quickly along Rt 39, bikeway 5. This was a nice road
with very wide shoulders. I arrived at the first rest stop just as they were
setting up. I picked up Donna and we took off. We were on the road, and
I was able to ride fast with Donna on my wheel. We got to a confusing
place. The marker led us to go around a fence onto a very poorly
maintained trail擁n fact it looked more like a cow path. The recent rains
had left it muddy and pot holed. After riding a bit, I wanted to turn back,
thinking no one would have the nerve to put us on single track like this.
However, Donna insisted we were on the right track, and, as usual, she
was right. After a couple of miles we came to the rest stop just as they
were setting up. It was beginning to sprinkle and Donna said, "let's get
the hell out of here." So off we went. Just as we hit pavement after a mile
on this muck, the sprinkle turned into a steady rain. We hit Syracuse in
the rain. We made it to the information tent they were setting up. Then
the heavens opened up. We were joined by another a couple and waited
for a bit of a lull to head for the field house. There we chilled out,
literally, thinking about the poor folks who had to negotiate the cowpath
mired in mud. It rained off and on the rest of the day. Forecast for
tomorrow, sunny with a chance of showers in the afternoon.

Day 5: Donna, Marguerite and I picked up a couple of new riders, Steve
and his 16 yr old son Shawn. After leaving Syracuse, we hit the trail once
again. It was a bit of slow going with the wet gravel dust. We split into
two packs, Donna, Shawn and I in one and Steve and Marguerite in the
other. In all the day turned out well. We hit the next stop, Fort Stanwix in
Rome at noon and set up our bags. Across the street we found a Little
Caesar's Pizzeria and low and behold a laundermat. We were in heaven.
We fixed Donna's slow leak. There was a reporter from the local paper
who seemed intrigued that a woman could actually fix a tire.

Day 6: Seems strange, but this turned out to be a great day after all. It had
rained off and on all evening. During a lull in the rain, I packed my tent. I
remember standing in the information tent next to a young lady. All I can
say is that in my day, teenager girls did not use that sort of language.

Took off to the Y for breakfast in the rain. It continued to rain with
varying degrees of intensity throughout the day. Donna, Marguerite and I
left the Y together. Donna and I rode a bit faster and waited for
Marguerite at the first rest stop. Donna and I took off ahead of
Marguerite. Not wanting to leave her to ride alone in the rain. We stopped
and waited and waited and waited. Several people passed and said there
were many flat tires and they were being fixed. We asked the same of
another passerby and were informed that Marguerite was in good hands.

Soon Marguerite came and blew by us. As we passed her, she hailed for
us to stop to help a damsel in distress. The person had taken her bike to
her LBS and told them to make sure the bike would survive the trip. New
tubes, tires and $200 later, they failed to clean the idler wheels on the rear
derailleur. They were so gunked up that the chain had come off when she
fixed a flat. We could not pry the chain back onto the derailleur, so we
wound up taking the chain apart with the chain tool we were carrying.

Damsel rescued, off Donna and I went. The canal was wicked with all of
the wet stone dust being deposited on the bikes. Once we left the trail and
started riding on Rt 5 the paved roadway improved spirits. Stopped at the
next to last rest stop, chowed down and took off. We exited Rt 5. Neither
Donna nor I needed to stop at the last rest stop, but ugh more stone dust.
About four miles from the end, the dust turned to asphalt, the rain stopped
and we were in heaven. We put our feet to the pedals, powered up the
nasty hill to the school and were greeted by a beautiful view. The sun
came out and we saw ourselves looking at a beautiful rainbow.

It is hard to describe the high I felt that night.

Day 7: Finally no rain. Shawn, Steve, Marguerite and Donna left ahead
of me. With a day of no rain, I finally had a chance to take some pictures.
I was riding along when I saw the four of them stopped along side of the
road. Donna had hit one of those gates that cut across the trail. These
were made of wood and not painted. As a result then blended into the
background and were difficult to see. She hit hard enough to bend her
fork, but through a combination of skill and luck, she avoided going over
the handle bars. At the next rest stop, I trued Donna's wheel so she could
ride without the rim rubbing against the brake pad.

We stopped at the next rest stop, the oldest house in the Mohawk Valley.
We toured the house and sped on our way. The road was nice and smooth.
It was nice to see Steve moving right along with me. We arrived in Scotia
without incident. Since it was only a few miles from Steve's house, we
got to meet the rest of his family.

Last day: We had a nice breakfast in a mansion and took off. Since Dona
had a slow leak in her rear tire and a bent fork, we opted for the shorter
(by 4 miles) route. We upped the pace and Donna and I took off. We
skipped all the rest stops (they were not set up yet) and arrived at the end
among the top ten. We were greeted by Steve's wife and the video
camera. We waited for Marguerite, Steve, and Shawn. We said out good
byes and I biked to the train station to get my car. After getting a bit lost, I
got to the end point, picked up my bag and said good bye to my new
friends once again.

Summary輸 great ride not only because of the wonderful organization
and volunteers that made it all happen, but because of the wonderful
people who participated. For those interested, you can see my pictures at
www.pbase.com/jcassatt. Just select the PTNY album.

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