After 13 years of marriage, my (then) wife, Wynne and I decided it was about time
for a honeymoon our first trip without children since we had been married.
We had been spending ever increasing amounts of time cycling together and
she was intrigued by my stories of bicycle touring. When we discovered
Harvey Botzman's book,
Erie Canal Bicyclist and Hiker Route Guide,
it seemed the perfect thing to do we would ride the length of the canal
There is something beckoning about the Erie Canal,
a marvel of engineering in its day, now all but abandoned; somehow it is
technology. If in 1840, they could dig this 363 mile-long trench with shovels
and horse-drawn plows, we could certainly traverse it by bicycle. Of course,
even at a leisurely pace on our loaded touring bikes, we would have zoomed
past the 5 mph mule-drawn barges that used the canal. Also, flatness made
sense for an inaugural bike tour, and the Erie Canal was certainly flat;
after all, each elevation change required a lock. It took 77 locks to raise
and lower boats just 568 feet.
Early in the summer Wynne got a Ryan
Vanguard bicycle a long wheel-base recumbent with under-seat steering.
I had been riding one for 2 ½ years, ever since I had back surgery,
and her test rides had convinced her that cycling in comfort was the way
to go. We cycled together as much as we could during the summer, ranging
up to about 50 miles, our intended maximum. After all, this was to be a
leisurely romantic jaunt, not RAEC (Race Across Erie Canal). She constructed
a second pair of panniers, from the Outdoor
Patterns kit, and we went off on training rides, loaded with books
We also tested out a pair of short-range Maxan headset radios from Campmor.
We could talk without having to stay wheel to wheel and without yelling.
The handlebar-mounted buttons made access easy and the headphone fit right
over our helmets. Occasionally we would pick-up baby monitors or other
devices, but with 5 channels, we could usually find a clear band.
We enjoyed anticipating the trip and spent lots of time pouring over
Harvey's book, picking our planned route (Harvey offers several alternatives
and side trips), making our own cue sheets and plotting the route on a
computerized map, DeLorme's
Street Atlas. We were able to print off excellent maps at a couple
of levels of detail.
Unfortunately, time limitations would only allow us to cycle from Buffalo
to Utica, but three-quarters of a canal was better than none. The arrangements
were made: we would drop off our kids with grandparents in Albany, drive
to Utica, take the Amtrak train to
Buffalo and cycle back to Utica.
We decided to travel light, on a credit-card tour, but somehow still
managed to pack almost 20 pounds each. I toyed with bringing a palmtop
computer, but this would be a real vacation no email in sight and outside
of pager range! Because we'd be traveling over Labor Day weekend, we booked
all our hotels in advance; we were committed.