Erie Canal Bike Tour
Rachmiel Langer 

Wednesday August 27, 1997   •   Cheektowaga to Lockport

Assembling the Bikes
We arose at 10:30, somewhat tired, but nevertheless renewed and eager to cycle. We were glad to have breakfast within reach, but the room refrigerator was a bit too cold. Slush orange juice and iced fruit salad weren't too bad, but a frozen hard-boiled egg was a bit much.

Leisurely, we re-assembled and loaded the bicycles. We each carried a pair of rear panniers and a trunk bag; large camelbacks strapped neatly onto the seat frames behind us. I also had a 'map scroll' — a clear tennis ball container in the horizontal water bottle cage before me — which conveniently held the day's maps. We left around 2:00 p.m. for what we expected would be an easy 27 miles.

Riding in Buffalo wasn't too much fun — constant traffic with not much of a shoulder and difficulty finding the route. Either actual mileage didn't match the cue sheet or streets were differently named (names vs. route numbers). To their credit, the drivers were reasonable; no favors done, but no deadly maneuvers either.
When we crossed Elicott Creek in Buffalo, we also crossed the Erie Canal without realizing it, but we finally got ourselves situated at Longs Point Park. This is where the route first joins the canal. In contrast to the earlier traffic, it was quite a pleasant ride with few cars. Grass fields speckled with flowers abutted the canal while interesting old bridges of varied types crossed it. This became a recurring theme of the entire canal ride: each bridge across the canal seemed to be of a different style. One might be an arched steel beam with vertical supports; the next, a flat platform that rotated horizontally on a central pivot; another had an elevator mechanism that raised and lowered the entire span.

Longs Point Park
By 4:00 p.m. we reached the Amherst EC Trail, a paved multi-use trail. It was well maintained — paved asphalt, marked mileage and an occasional center line — but it had a number of blind curves and a few times became only a marked lane on the road — at one point going against traffic! It was narrow and twisted enough that there wasn't much chance to exceed the posted 15 mph limit. It would have been worse with crowds, but we saw only seven people: 4 skaters, 2 cyclists and a jogger. The biggest hill of the day was an arched wooden bridge over an offshoot of the canal.

After the Amherst trail, the ride into Lockport along the roads was the worst cycling of the trip. There was a mostly usable shoulder, but the cars zoomed by at high speeds leaving little leeway and often ignored us at the four-way stop intersections. Moderate headwinds which started after 5:00 didn't help. When the roads changed to multi-lane arteries (Rte. 93 and 78), it got even worse. The speeding traffic wouldn't even consider sharing the road; drivers commonly cut us off as we tried to change lanes or turn.

As we stopped to confirm the hotel reservation at 7:00 p.m., a pair of elderly women pulled over to chat. One had owned a bike shop for 30 years and had never seen a recumbent before. They also recommended the Fieldstone Inn restaurant. They had just driven 25 miles to eat there — right across the street. We didn't need any other convincing and had a satisfactory, bountiful, inexpensive meal.

Reluctantly, we rode the last couple of miles on Rte. 78 — with headlights — and finally arrived at the Best Western Lockport. It was a pleasant enough facility. They offset the price with drink and meal discount coupons, but as nice as a cold beer would have been, we weren't ready to face karaoke night. Surprisingly, when we ran into the manager in the morning, he queried us about how to attract a bicycling clientele. Find another location, we suggested.

The quick 27 miles we expected, turned into 44 with our wrong turns, but it was all flat.

Again, the rain goddess favored us; the closest we came to the evening's rain was to notice the wet pavement outside.
Mileage Hours MPH
Cycled today 44 3:41 11.9

 Copyright © 1997, Rachmiel Langer

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