The End of the Trail (Canalway Trail, that is)

The weather we’ve experienced while riding the last couple of weeks has been better than we expected.  Even on the nights that brought rain or freezing temperatures we felt comfortable in our four season tent and winter sleeping bags.  As Friedel and Andrew of TravellingTwo.com pointed out recently, “Summers are too hot, and the bike paths too crowded.  Spring is too wet, and winter too icy.  But autumn?  It’s perfect.”  We couldn’t agree more!

Our ride along the Canalway Trail has been beautiful and serene, giving us each plenty of time to work through all the thoughts that run through a person’s head upon leaving their home for a multi-year bicycling adventure.  The trail has also been fairly gentle on our bodies, which is a good thing, because when you periodically consider turning around and going back to a nice, warm home, where everything is familiar and comfortable, the last thing you need is an injury as an excuse to actually follow through on it!

After spending the night at the campsites along Lock 15 on the Canalway Trail, we continued to head west, stopping at Lock 16 in Mindenville, NY, for a “quick” breakfast.  As luck would have it, we arrived just in time to see the lock operator let a barge through, and to meet and talk with several state employees who worked on the canal.  We met Louann, who I was particularly interested in talking to, and she enthusiastically answered all of my questions about being a woman working on the canal, a very male-dominated workplace.  She had been working on the canal for over 20 years and was just a few shy years from retirement.  I caught her, the lock operator, and captain, in action, in this video:

Hunger and curiosity satiated, we hopped back on the trail, riding along fields that lined the Mohawk River, and came upon a “historical” plaque, squarely placed in front of an expansive field, that explained that Germans from the Palatines had “settled” in the region in the early 18th century but were “displaced” when the French attacked the lands.  The Palatines were eventually given rights to return and own 24 miles on either side of the Mohawk River by the New York governor of 1723.

It’s signs like this that really baffle us and exemplify how we as Americans conveniently “remove” parts of history from public memory.  Nowhere on the plaque was there any reference to the fact that the Germans themselves and others who had settled there had actually displaced Native American Mohawks, whose ancestors had inhabited the area for more than 10,000 years prior to their arrival, and that nothing had been given back to those original inhabitants in retribution for the occupation of their land.  In classic ironic fashion, photos on the plaque showed drawings of the Mohawk people and in small print in the lower right hand corner of the plaque you could read, “The land given to the Palatines in the upper Mohawk Valley was once part of the Mohawk Nation’s homeland.”  Oh, well, I’m glad they cleared that little historical fact up for us!

The “Historical” Plaque along the Mohawk River

From there the trails led us into Little Falls, NY, where we rode into town to visit another food cooperative that Kai had discovered in researching the area.  It was a great little place, a renovated church, and we got lots of healthy snacks to take along with us, but we were disappointed to learn that it wasn’t a true cooperatively owned store.  Run by the local YMCA it only held the word cooperative in its title but not in it’s business practices.  We’ve found several instances of this type of misrepresentation of a business as a cooperative lately, one dealing with a housing complex and a couple of others by grocery stores.  (Learn more about cooperatives and cooperative principles here.)

Near Little Falls, NY

Photographing Sheila on the Sly

The “Cooperative” in Little Falls, NY

 

With wet and cold weather, including thunderstorms, on the way, we veered off the path toward Verona Beach, NY, and Paradise Cove Camping and Boating.  Although closed for the season, the owners, via phone, told us to make ourselves comfortable under a pavilion for the evening and to make use of the hot water/showers and bathrooms, a welcomed and appreciated offer!  But it wasn’t easy to get there, as we discovered signs indicating that a bridge further up on our route leading into the campsite was closed and “inaccessible” to vehicular traffic.  After chatting with a local boy passing by on a motorcycle, we determined we could probably make it over the bridge with our bicycles so we continued onward, eventually coming upon the obstacle course that required us to remove all of our panniers, carry them, and then our bikes, across the bridge, then to re-seat the panniers on the bikes and carry on.

Hard to leave this trail when it looks like this!

The Obstacle Course (aka “closed bridge”)

 

Although possessing a natural beauty of its own, the camp was a bit of a disappointment.  The previously referred to “pavilion” was barely standing intact and Kai actually broke through rotting wood in the floorboards as he stepped upon it, and we couldn’t take the showers we had been fantasizing about for the entire day because they ended up being pay showers and we didn’t have any change on us.  Nevertheless, we did have shelter from the storm (which made a huge difference) and the next morning the sun was shining once more.

Paradise Cove, the morning after the storm.

The next morning we made a mad dash for the open road.  Taking an alternate route to avoid a repeat of the bridge’s obstacle course, a few miles out we discovered from a local gentleman that the road we were on also had a bridge closed to traffic and that we would definitely not be able to traverse it by bicycle.  Ahhhh, of course!  What else to do but to turn around and laugh our way back to the obstacle course?

With a morning like this, how could anything go wrong?!

Right back where we started!!

 

Soon enough we were back on the trail, heading toward Syracuse, where we had previously set up a warmshowers.org overnight to avoid more thunderstorms and cold rain.  Although we did get some of the rain, the trail protected us from heavy downpours, and gave us that spectacular light that is created only by grey skies.

View of New York Windmills/Farm off the Trail

Geese on the Old Canalway Trail outside Syracuse, NY

 

Once our route forced us off the trail, the rains really started falling and we entered Syracuse at dusk, harrily riding the shoulders of the city streets, hoping the Friday evening commuters, distracted by their frantic desire to get home (or the next best place) after a long week of work, would notice our lights and safety gear through the rain.  We arrived at our host’s home exhausted but safe.  After quick and glorious (the adjective I will be using to describe showers from this point in my life) showers we spent the evening in conversation over dinner with our hosts, Charlie and Barb.  The next day we worked on our bikes, researched our route options, reviewed upcoming weather forecasts, and visited the local Farmer’s Market, where we bought more food than our “food pannier” could carry.  (Thanks Charlie & Barb, if you’re reading this, for opening your home to us!)

Finding lots of goodies at the Syracuse Farmer’s Market

One of three of Barb & Charlie’s little guys made himself at home on Sheila’s lap.

 

After some deliberation, Kai and I decided it would be best for us to flee the Northeast and visit our friends and family in the Midwest, as forecasts called for continued nasty cold, wet, weather and freezing nights. With that decision made, we said our goodbyes to our new friends, and with hours to spare before catching an Amtrak to Chicago, we had time to visit the Syracuse Real Food Cooperative and then the independently owned MelloVelo Bicycle Shop, both full of great people who were enthusiastically supportive of our cycling endeavors.

Pulling up to the Recess Coffee House, where we planned to sit for a few hours and catch up on all things virtual, we had a reminder of how kind-hearted and generous people can be, when a worker from the Real Food Cooperative suddenly pulled up beside us and handed Kai his keys. Kai had unknowingly left them on the counter at the cooperative, and with a huge smile on his face, he explained how he had deducted, based upon his conversation with Kai earlier that morning, that he might find us at the nearest internet coffee shop.  With that, he hopped back in his car and sped away and we were left standing there, stunned and smiling from ear to ear.  To the kind stranger who went out of his way to help us – THANK YOU!

Syracuse Real Food Cooperative

Next Stop: Chicago via Amtrak

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