Erie Canal Bike Tour
Rachmiel Langer 

Tuesday August 26, 1997   •   To Buffalo

Two days ago I strained my lower back from the constant bending of collecting our supplies and packing the panniers. Not an auspicious start to the trip. Yesterday, we decided to cancel the preparation ride we were planning. Instead, I elected for a rest day with ibuprofin. This trip could be over before it started.

I woke today feeling a bit better. Perhaps another easy day would complete my recovery.

We left by late morning for the 2 ½ hour drive to Albany, picnicked in the car and arrived uneventfully; you don't see too much from the highway. Just a passing car full of teenage boys waving madly at our 14 year old daughter. Luckily, she was oblivious, wrapped up in her book.
Pile of Panniers
At the grandparents', we piled up our panniers and bags for a starting photo. As soon as we put the bags back in the trunk, it started raining. Was this an omen of the week ahead or would the rain gods be placated while we visited? We left after dinner, and it continued to rain as we drove for the next hour. Then, the rain tapered off into wisps of ground fog and we were left with wonderful river views and subdued reflections in the Mohawk river.

We arrived at the Utica station by 8:30 p.m., in plenty of time, since the only train with baggage service doesn't leave until 11:19 p.m. and arrives in Buffalo at the ungodly hour of 2:36 a.m.. I still can't believe Amtrak canceled their announced plan of roll-on service for bicycles in favor of smoking cars. Appalling priorities.

A practice run had let us know we needed one and a half bicycle boxes for each bicycle, since the Ryans have the same wheelbase as a standard tandem bike. Oddly, you can call Amtrak to see if they have boxes at a station, but you can't reserve them. The attendant generously gave us one used box and sold us two new ones. As we packed them, a maintenance worker at the station was very interested in the Ryans. He sat and chatted and watched carefully as we partially disassembled the bikes. A whiny mother dropping off three teen-agers also watched for a while and one of her sons helped assemble a box. You certainly can't travel anonymously with a recumbent, let alone a pair of them.

Unfortunately, I strained my back again packing the bikes and then found that the baggie of ibuprofin we had packed was decongestants.

The train was fifteen minutes late for departure and fifty minutes late by arrival. It was 3:25 in the morning, but the Comfort Suites hotel (in Cheektowaga) promptly sent a van over when we called. We had watched Amtrak load our bike boxes on and we watched them unload them and everything went smoothly right up to when the baggage cart disappeared behind the terminal. When we went around to pick them up, we found they had been unloaded sideways and were standing on their noses! We never could determine why the handler had ignored the "This side up" message preprinted on the boxes, especially since he had left them against the wall outside of the terminal. This meant we had to unpack them then and there, to inspect for damage. Yawn, yawn. Luckily, there was nothing worse than some scratches.

The Comfort Suites driver was very considerate and gentle with the bikes. He turned out to also be the night attendant at the hotel and when we arrived at 4:30, he invited us to come into the kitchen and collect some continental breakfast goodies to store them in the room's refrigerator until we woke. Somehow, he didn't expect us to make the posted breakfast hours. He also agreed to extend our checkout time from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m..

By 5:00 a.m. we were happy to be asleep.
Mileage Hours MPH
Cycled today 0 0:0 0.0

 Copyright © 1997, Rachmiel Langer

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