14 June Sunday, Reston to Albany

Last year we planned to ride the Erie Canalway Trail from Buffalo to Albany. A medical condition prevented us from completing the trip so this June we decided to try again in June. For reference we relied heavily on Cycling the Erie Canal, a spiral bound guidebook with many detailed maps and info on lodging, food, and attractions along the trail. The trail follows the tow path where possible and at some points riders are routed along local roads.

Logistics for the start of the ride were a bit complex. The plan was to park our car in Albany and rent a car to transport us and our bikes and gear to the start of the ride near Buffalo and then ride back to our car which we parked in the long term parking lot at Albany/Rensselaer Amtrak station ($7/day).

The trail is primarily gravel or stone dust, which can be a problem since I normally ride in Keen sandals and gravel tends to get inside when riding. I was constantly having to stop and shake out the gravel. During the trip we were often glad we carried water as there are few water sources along the route and very few shops.

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Assembling the bikes in LockportStarting our ride on the Canalway TrailFirst day of riding

We left Reston around 9am for the 8 hour drive to the Holiday Inn in E. Greenbush, about 3 miles from downtown Albany. There were not many options for dinner near the hotel so we ended up at Sports Grille for an OK meal. We had packed out folding Bike Friday bikes in suitcase for the trip. Since we couldn't travel to the starting point with the suitcases, we need to unpack the bikes for transporting in the rental car.

15 June Monday, Albany to Lockport to Medina, 23 miles

After a mediocre complementary breakfast at the Holiday Inn Express we loaded everything into the car and drove to the downtown Enterprise car rental office. The Amtrak Enterprise office was closer but didn't open until 9:30. I then drove the rented Kia Optima and met Kerie at a nearby park across the Hudson where we moved our gear to the rental and dropped our car at the Amtrak lot.

We arrived at Lockport around 3pm where we assembled the bikes in an ice cream parlor parking lot next to Enterprise, providing some entertainment for the customers. We were on the road by 4:30, working our way through Lockport to the canal at Mill St. As would be the case during much of the trip, we were running a little later than we planned and we didn't linger long at the locks in Lockport. There were orginally five locks at Lockport (the Flight of Five) that were used to overcome the differences in elevation at that the Niagara Escarpment.

The Canalway trail is much more diverse than the Natchez Trace which we rode earlier this year. We definitely encountered more goose turds. The majority of the trail surface is crushed stone (stone dust) with some paved sections, mostly near urban areas. About 1/4 of the "trail" is on roads, usually New York State Bike Route 5. Unlike roads in Virginia, many of New York's roads, including Bike Route 5, have a wide paved shoulder.

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One of the canal structuresTour boat near LockportKerie on the first day of riding

During the first day's ride we encountered a short, well-signed detour where a bridge was being repaired. We saw one other long distance cyclist passing in the other direction and a couple of other day riders and a few walkers and runners. Throughout our ride we were impressed with the small number of cyclists we encountered, especially compared to the very popular W&OD rail trail in our area.

Arrived in Medina around 6:45pm and the innkeeper greeted us at the back door and locked the bikes in the spare garage. There's an impressive huge maple tree in yard. We quickly showered and walked to Zambistro for wild-caught salmon, potatoes and salad with Bells Two Hearted ale. In bed around 10:30. Even though the ride was short we were tired from the long drive an anticipation of how the logistics would work.

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Heading to MedinaCrossing the Medina bridgeKerie on the Medina bridge

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Our room at Historic Village B&BCrossing the Medina bridgeKerie on the Medina bridge

16 June, Medina to Pittsford, 52 miles

We woke up to a steady rain and had a good breakfast of yogurt, pancakes and eggs. We hung out at the inn until around 9:15 when the rain lightened up. We donned full rain gear as it was still drizzling. Shortly afterwards the rain stopped and not long after that the skies cleared and it was a crisp, very clear day, a refreshing change from the hazy DC area air.

Early in the day we saw a thru rider headed west hauling a BOB trailer. Stopped and chatted for a while about the route and the weather. Later we ran into Dave who was headed east. He was getting a late start from Albion and planned to ride to Newark which is about a 70-mile day. He's from Pittsburgh and has also ridden the Great Allegheny Passage and the Natchez Trace in April of this year, shortly after we completed the ride. He wants to return to the Trace in the Fall. He drove to Buffalo and planned to rent a car in Albany for the return trip. He said Hertz does not charge a drop fee and is much cheaper than Enterprise. We ran into him a few times during the day.

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The Big Apple commemorating
Medina's apple industry
Wet ride start in MedinaNorthernmost point on canal

The trail was soft from Medina toward Albion, especially after the hard rain that morning. Lots of standing water throughout the day and the bikes were trashed, with lots of grit in the drivechain. At one point we rinsed off the bikes using a hose at one of the canal locks we passed.

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Entering AlbionStrawberry 5K/8KLeaving Albion

During the day we saw lots of birds, goldfinch, herons, geese everywhere, many herding chicks, swallows, groundhogs, catbirds, and a flicker.

Left our bikes with the very friendly folks at the Brockport Welcome Center where there are bathrooms, shower, free bikeshare, coffee, and restaurant recommendations. Lunch was at Java Junction, a cozy local coffee shop with good sandwiches. They could barely keep up with the lunch rush. We fretted about having taken over 4 hours to ride 25 miles, stopping much too often to take photos along the way.

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Vulture barnCanadian Geese herding
their goslings
Kerie and Fair Dinkum

As we approached Rochester the trail was paved although with lots of tree root damage. We saw a few more cyclists in Rochester but not as many as I expected. Upon arrival in Pittsford we had great maple-walnut ice cream at the Pittsford farm store. Our room at Delmonte Lodge was on the ground floor with a king-sized bed and there was no problem bringing bikes inside.

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Westbound riderCurtis Point in RochesterCanal lock

Dinner on the outdoor deck at Aladdin's on the canal at Schoen Place; falafel wrap, The Kind IPA, and chicken souvlaki (K). Strolled along the canal afterwards. An angler was fighting a huge carp when we left. Tried to speed the dry our washed bike clothes.

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Outside Del Monte LodgeOur room at the lodgeDinner at Aladdins in Pittsford

17 June, Wednesday, Pittsford to Seneca Falls, 53.5 miles

Late start after good breakfast at Coal Tower restaurant, blueberry pancakes and eggs. Lovely stretch of the trail from Pittsford east for several miles through an affluent area, many homes along the trail which was mostly paved. We didn't linger as we wanted to get in at a reasonable time to perhaps relax a little.

We had a midday snack at one of the locks, eating one of the many energy bars we've ben packing. In Palmyra where the trail crosses to the north we bought a veggie wrap to go and ate it along the canal in Newark near the Visitor's Center that we finally found after wandering around town.

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Aldrich Change BridgeGallups BridgeOn the way to Seneca Falls

From Newark the trail is a mix of on- and off-road segments with some rolling terrain on both, which provided some needed variety to the trip. Good shoulder on Old Lyons Rd. At Lyons we took a more direct route than the one suggested in the guide map, along Lyons- and Clyde-Marengo Roads toward Seneca Falls on very quiet rolling country roads with considerate motorists. When trying to follow "arrows" (circles with a line indicating direction) left over from an earlier Erie Canal group ride, we missed a crucial turn and ended up on very busy Mound Rd/414 which luckily had a good shoulder, all the way to another very busy Route 20 into Seneca Falls. We had to take the lane to keep drivers from coming too close. They weren't happy and a few raced their engines as they passed but none honked.

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On road route to Seneca FallsThe Gould Hotel in Seneca FallsOur room at The Gould

Once in Seneca Falls we took a short walk around town after checking in to The Gould, taking advantage of getting there before shops closed. Very good dinner at the hotel. Took another brief walk along the almost deserted canal docks, then back to finish washing clothes. Will try to get an earlier start tomorrow to attempt to get to Syracuse before rush hour. Not looking forward to the ride on city streets into downtown Syracuse during rush hour.

18 June Thursday, Seneca Falls to Syracuse, 47 miles

Bare bones breakfast at The Gould that is included in the cost of the room; cereal, yogurt, and muffin. Picked up lunch at a local deli that looked like a good local eatery. Photographed a touring couple with Colorado flags on Route 89. Riding on the road through Montezuma Wildlife Refuge was a welcome change from the stone dust canal trail surface. We made good time, having a good lunch at the park where we reconnected with the trail. Our clothes did not dry the night before so we laid them out on nearby benches in the sun.

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Packing lunch from Downtown Deli
in Seneca Falls
One of two riders from ColoradoBike Route 5 over Seneca River

Saw only a few other riders on the trail, that went from wide, hard-packed surface to narrow, almost single-track. Stopped at Camillus where there's a restored lock near the restored aqueduct where a nice woman gave us lemonade, took our photo, and told us about the ongoing restoration work. The aqueduct allows passage across a large creek.

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Freedom mural
in Seneca Falls
Lunchtime selfieNear halfway point in Camillus

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Erie Canal statsCamillus Landing, midway pointLeaving Camillus Landing

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Riding toward Nine Mile Creek aqueductSolitary Bee signSolitary Bee burrow

As we pondered our ride into the city at the end of the trail, a local rider confirmed our route but said we should take Erie instead of Lafayette because of a wide shoulder. Lafayette seemed OK, with much less traffic and a wide lane so we took that nearly to our destination. Having gotten an early start we arrived before rush hour and the ride was thankfully uneventful. Before checking in to the Jefferson-Clinton Hotel we stopped for very good smoothies at Malt down the street.

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Jefferson Clinton Hotel in SyracuseOur room at the Jefferson ClintonRubber duckie

After showers we returned to Lemon Grass for an early dinner of Pad Thai with sinful dessert of honeycomb, frozen yogurt, and granola. Decided to skip the champagne toast here at the hotel. Now watching our respective TVs in the upgraded king suite with a full kitchen, sitting room, and bedroom.

19 June Friday, Syracuse to Rome, 48 miles

Breakfast of eggs, pancakes, and yogurt at Jefferson Clinton. Our on-road route worked out well. Traffic was light and we had either wide lanes, bike lanes, or paved shoulders. We reconnected with the trail on the other side of Syracuse. The trail was in OK condition. Saw almost no other cyclists either on the trail or road, and very few walkers or runners. Bypassed the canal boat museum but after lunch we spent some time in the Canastota Canal Town Museum, that has an incredible amount of information about the canal and town, $3/ea. Heard about paintings restored by a famous artist's relative who was a cyclist on an earlier Cycle the Erie Canal ride. The first U.S. made microscope was produced in Canastota. We learned about local author Walter Edmonds who wrote Chad Hanna and Rome Haul, two books about life on the Erie Canal. Much of the trail after Canastota was single track. The canal was mostly full of algae and trees. Glass cane made in glass factory by workers using glass scraps on their own time.

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Another takeout lunch at SubwayGenesee St leaving SyracuseLunch in Canastota

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Canastota Canal Town MuseumInteresting story of development
of sidewalks in Canastota
On the way to Rome

We reached Rome at about rush hour and the roads were busy but not terrible. One of the big differences between riding in New York vs. Virginia is the gridded street layout that provides many route options vs. our Virginia neighborhood streets that often don't connect, forcing traffic onto the major roads. Turin, the main road to the was very busy and had to take the lane a few times but there was a shoulder for much of the way. The Beeches Inn room, no. 64, is very small but seems clean and doesn't smell. Not many people here. Good dinner at the hotel restaurant of vegetarian penne (B) and maple salmon (K) with complimentary wine. Lot's of people there for an event (wedding?). Took a few sunset photos in the clear air.

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Construction of the Erie Canal
began in Rome
The Beeches InnOur room at The Beeches Inn

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Sunset at The Beeches 

20 June Rome to Fort Plain, 60 miles

Lots of on-road riding, mostly on 5S which is also bike route 5, with a wide shoulder that was in good shape except where milling of the asphalt on the main travel lane created a ridge at the edge. Saw a few more cyclists on Saturday recreational rides.

Started with good non-complimentary breakfast at the Inn as the only early customers (before 7). Omelette with toast and potatoes. Uneventful Saturday morning ride into town on Turin. Stopped for yet another Subway to pack for lunch. Stopped briefly at Fort Stanwix. Crossed the main street when two guys racing approached and barely stopped for the traffic light. Words with Kerie when they kidded about almost hitting me. Saw two loaded touring bikes outside a cafe at the same intersection.

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Farm near The BeechesQuick visit to Fort StanwixFort Stanwix National Monument

Trail was narrow single- or double-track but in good condition. Pit stop at Lock 20 where cyclists were preparing to break camp. Throughout the trip we've been following directional markings from an earlier through ride, probably the July event; a circle with a slash pointing in the right direction.

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Double-track Bike Route 5 in UticaLunch at Lock 19 outside Utica

At Barnes Ave had to lift bikes over RR tracks at an open crossing. At Utica/Deerfield we started a long stretch of 5S, wide shoulder but fast traffic. One section was like a one-lane limited access highway that didn't allow pedestrians but it was part of bike route 5.

At Little Falls saw a few kids fishing with their buggy parked along the trail. At lock 17 saw a group of boys on bikes, some with fishing poles. It was like a scene out of Tom Sawyer. They were truly free range kids.

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  Free Range kidsHigh speed road crossing

Talked to a local outside Little Falls who said the trail between St. Johnsville and Fort Plain was still closed. He suggested we use Route 5 as the detour, as did the interactive canal map app. Rt 5 is similar to 5S and we made good time although at that point, between miles 50-60, we were tired and fighting a headwind and ready to get to the inn.

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Herkimer Home State Historic SiteCrossing into St. Johnsville at Route 61
where trail is closed due to landslide
Our room at A White Rose B&B
in Fort Plain

Fort Plain has seen better days. Several houses are abandoned and/or condemned or in very bad shape. The downtown area has many empty storefronts. It's a city with potential as a walkable community but many of the downtown houses would require extensive maintenance.

The White Rose Inn is nestled among these unmaintained homes with a well-trimmed yard and the house is in good condition. Our bikes are in the garage but unlocked. I decided to lock them to the roto-tiller. The innkeeper says there is no problem but I'd rather be cautious (paranoid?).

The rain we raced to avoid started right after we arrived but only lasted a short while. Fortunately the innkeeper's husband offered us a ride to The Table, over a half mile away and we agreed. Good meal of panko-encrusted haddock with green beans and wild rice and quinoa. Pleasant walk home. Lot's of people still out enjoying the nice evening. We're in the Adirondack room, sharing the bathroom with another guest. Breakfast is at 8.

21 June, Sunday, Fort Plain to Schenectady, 47 miles

It was raining in the morning but it had stopped by the time we left around 9am. At about 18 miles into our ride we encountered a rough section of trail, probably caused by

horse hoof prints, probably from one of the Amish horse-drawn buggies. Again we saw almost no other cyclists on the trail other than some cyclists who were out for what looked like a club ride who rode briefly on the trail in Canajoharie.

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Kerie at The NoseLunch at Schoharie State Historic Site.
Old aqueduct in background
Pedestrian/bike detour on 5S over
Cobbleskill Creek. The two lane bridge
was turned into a single lane
just to accommodate ped/bikes.

In the Amsterdam area we saw more people. Skies cleared and the sun came out. At lock eight one of the few cyclists we saw during the day passed Kerie too close and scared her. We stopped for a while along with a few other cyclists at the lock to watch a boat from Rhode Island pass west through the lock.

Just before Schenectady the Mohawk Hudson Trail is parallel to the interstate, through a cloverleaf, going under one of the ramps in a big loop around the cloverleaf. VDOT could use a similar design for building the I-66 parallel trail.

The Parker Inn was built in the early 1900's. The original elevator is small and we could barely fit one of the bikes inside. Our room was clean and fairly modern.

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Lock 8 west of SchenectadyOur room at The Parker InnThe Parker Inn, Schenectady

Good dinner at Thai Thai Bistro nearby. Later we rode by the historic Stockade District. In the local paper we read about homes that were flooded in 2012 during Hurricane Irene. Homeowners want to raise their homes but they fighting red tape. Downtown Schenectady seems to be doing OK although struggling. Most storefronts are occupied but many of the shops seem to be struggling. There are lots of restaurants, a few bookstores, and some practical shops as well.

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 Schenectady scenes 

22 June, Monday, Schenectady to Albany, 32 miles

As we approached Albany we saw many more cyclists on the trail which was now paved. We planned to stop at Chohoes Falls but missed the turnoff. Rode a long stretch on road that was not pleasant but well-marked. We stopped along the Hudson to eat our final Subway lunch. We eventually made our way across the bridge across the Hudson to our car at the Amtrak station. Kerie waited at the same small park where we met before the trip while I rode to the station, picked up the car and returned. We packed the bikes and our gear and headed to Vermont for a brief stay at the family cabin, passing Cohoes Falls on the way.

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Mohawk Hudson Bike Hike TrailLunch on the HudsonArrival in Albany

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USGS Hudson River info displayBridge across Hudson to Amtrak stationPacking the car

We were fortunate to have mostly good weather throughout our tour, despite regular rain in the evenings and morning. The trail surface was in very good condition and the wayfinding signage was relatively good, especially since we were able to follow directional arrows from a previous west to east ride. Our average mileage of about 50 miles/day was about right for us; allowing us to take our time during the day and arriving at the lodging in time to clean up and eat an early dinner. Our decision to purchase and carry our lunch worked out well as there were some stretches with few eating options.