Erie Canal Bike Tour
Rachmiel Langer

Friday August 29, 1997   •   Spencerport to Newark

We got off to a leisurely start at 9:00 a.m. and rode along Rte. 104 looking for breakfast and a local bike shop. Rush hour traffic wasn't much fun, but everyone was civil. After last night's dinner, we were quite happy when we came across a Friendly's restaurant. The staff were quite interested in the recumbents and generously let us park them in the lobby. After that, we located the bike shop we were looking for, although it had changed hands two months ago. They were kind enough to let me use their bike stand to adjust my rear derailleur, but we couldn't find a replacement flag for Wynne. (Her clip-on flag had apparently been snagged by a tree on the towpath yesterday.)

Bridges in Rochester
We made our way back to the canal towpath, via one of the paved cloverleaf entrances, and followed it through Rochester. It wasn't too bad — all the smells and sounds of a city were present, and we did have to dodge broken glass — but the towpath kept us buffered from all the high-speed roads and elevated highways that it threaded through, and there wasn't too much traffic. I'm not much of a fan of bike paths, but it was effective for bypassing the city. I don't imagine I would use the path much for serious local riding. We saw various joggers and cyclists. The type-A riders blew past us in one direction or the other and everyone else was relatively friendly. One older man walking his mountain bike with a flat tire helped us pick out the towpath, here known as the Canalside trail. We couldn't reciprocate with the cell-phone he hoped we had, and he wasn't interested in the tools we offered.

Genessee and Erie Canal
In the center of Rochester, a stone aqueduct crosses the canal with striking views: west encompasses various bridges across the canal and east looks upon the Genessee River crossing the canal from north to south, with woods on every shore. As Wynne pensively looked over the next stretch of the canal, I could imagine her wondering, "Towpath, what towpath?"

Past Rochester, the town of Pittsford has developed the towpath into a full boardwalk — very trendy looking with lots of cyclists, skaters and pedestrians. Quite crowded for a weekday afternoon. There, while fielding questions about the 'bents and our trip, we stumbled upon the canal-side restaurant which Wynne's father had frequented during business trips. It distinctively looks like a house with two floors of outdoor balconies overlooking the canal. We discovered that it is now Aladdin's, a reasonably priced, natural foods restaurant, so we stopped for lunch. It was one of the best meals of the trip: tsadziki soup, a baba ganooj sandwich, pine-nut salad and fresh lemonade. Considerately, they seated us on the balcony where we could watch the bikes.

Afterward, people at the restaurant watched our bicycles while we ran into another bike shop and found a new flag for Wynne.

Everyone was quite interested in the recumbents; we were barraged with questions as we unlocked the bikes and we had a two-floor balcony audience as we finally rode off.

Beyond Pittsford, the towpath reverted to stone dust, but it was improved over Harvey's descriptions: the 'shoreline' in Fairport is now stone dust, the 'grass over stone dust' is now cleared with small gravel over packed dirt, and best of all, the 'narrow dirt trail' in Macedon is now paved to O'Neil Road in Palmyra and a new stone dust path on the south side of the canal leads all the way to Lock 29. We stopped at the Lock 29 park, but after that the towpath quickly degrades into overgrown singletrack.

From there, we followed Rte. 31 / Bike Route 5, another four-lane high-speed route, but there was a useable shoulder. Most people passed safely, but some angry honkers and screamers were out, perhaps starting their Labor Day weekend early. We passed through a few depressed towns, their means of revenue apparently long gone. In comparison to the stone-dust towpath, we could make great time on the road, despite the first (measly) hills we'd seen this trip

We pulled into Burnham's Canalside hotel, right on the canal (but not much of a view), by 6:20 p.m. As we stood in line to check in, we answered another round of questions about the 'bents parked in the lobby. "Where's the motor?" "You do that for fun?!" A one-armed woman who worked at the hotel, was very interested in recumbents, especially when we described recumbent trikes.

We had a satisfactory dinner at the hotel, but the highlight of the evening was the sauna. As gracious as everyone else we had met, the hotel staff let us use the sauna together by having us wait until after 'official' hours and locking ourselves in. It was a great way to cap a wonderful day's ride.
Mileage Hours MPH
Cycled today 51 4:38 11.0

 Copyright © 1997, Rachmiel Langer

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