Day 58: The day we slept in a haunted mansion

Day 58, 8/10, Holley, NY to Clyde, NY: 73.1 miles, 1,776 ft elevation gain, 12.1 mph average speed.

Trip totals: 3,670.5 miles (74.9 mile daily average), 135,579 ft elevation gain, 12.5 mph overall average speed.

Ted woke up and looked at the weather first thing, saw a huge storm on the radar, and developed a storm avoidance plan for the day. We would ride to Rochester to eat breakfast, then ride until the first bit of storm caught us, seek shelter, then race to our final destination before the giant storm caught us.

    The morning ride was beautiful, but a little monotonous. Canal on the right, trees on the left, dirt trail ahead. I know I sound like a spoiled brat complaining about this beautiful dedicated bike path, but the problem with monotony is that the miles tick by slowly, which is a problem when you don’t plan to eat breakfast until you’re 25 miles into the day. As we approached Rochester, the trail got nicer and nicer until it became paved about seven miles before we hit Rochester. We immediately picked up speed on the pavement, and the scenery diversified a bit, too, with some densely forested sections, A few large parks with tall trees, and some rusty vestiges of an industrial boom. It was lovely riding. 

         The good restaurants in Rochester all seemed to be 4 miles away from the trail and since we were racing a storm, we didn’t want to add 8 miles to our day. We found a popular cafe on Yelp in a town 7 miles down the road, so we decided to deal with the stomach pangs a little longer. 

The trail continued to be paved and beautiful all the way to Pittsford, where we left the trail for breakfast. We ate at the Village Bakery and Cafe, a modern artisanal establishment at which we spent far too much money. Everything was delicious, though, so we have no regrets. 

    While we sat at the cafe, we looked into motels for the night, mainly because there was a flood warning in the forecast, but also because there were no campgrounds the right distance away. We called two places, one with a number that was out of service and another that didn’t answer the phone. So we figured we’d just ride to the first town with a motel and see what happened. 

We continued on the Erie Canal trail and arrived in Fairport after about seven miles. We noticed that we were passing towns every seven miles on the dot and we were told that there’s a town every seven miles on the Erie Canal because mules used to tow barges down the canal, using the same path that we’re riding on now, and a mule can tow a barge seven miles in a day. That being said, the Erie Canal Song talks about going “15 miles on the Erie Canal,” so there is a bit of a discrepancy. 


  Fairport was very cute, but we didn’t stop because we had just finished a long break. There’s no way to know if a town is going to be a town with a gun and pawn shop / grocery / gas station / diner or if it’s a cute town with fancy coffee shops and such. So every once and a while we make a mistake, but it’s more fun to be surprised by a nice town than to dread a less nice town. 

At Palmyra, about 58 miles in, we got a call from one of our lodging options, the Erie Mansion B&B. They had plenty of space for the night!

   We continued on and that first bit of rain Ted detected on the radar had caught us in Newark. We knew it was coming, though, and were already on our way to shelter at Wegman’s, a grocery store with a cult-like following among people who’ve lived in upstate NY. As a lover of grocery stores, I was excited to see what all the fuss was about. I understand the obsession now; Wegman’s is wonderful. We both got hot deli sandwiches, cut pineapple, and a cookie, and ate in their nice cafe with free wifi. Everything was great, but the cookies were the star of the show. They were the perfect chocolate chip cookie, so we bought a pack of six for the road. 

As we sat at the cafe, both of our phones started buzzing and some alarms started going off in the store simultaneously – there was a flash flood warning until six. The big storm was catching up to us! We had 14 miles left to the mansion (two towns away!), so we scrambled to buy some groceries, ran outside, and started pedaling. We opted to stay on the road because the dirt trail makes for poor riding in a storm. We rode quickly through a gentle sprinkle to Clyde, home of the Erie Mansion. 

The Erie Mansion is gorgeous and sticks out in the dying town of Clyde. We waited on the porch for the owner, who arrived in a vintage pickup truck. Our host, Mark, is a fascinating man. He’s been collecting antiques for over 35 years and has enough stuff to at least fully furnish a mansion, as well as 12 cars and several motorcycles, mostly vintage. The mansion is stuffed to the gills with his furniture, and he’s got a valuable armoire sitting in the utilitarian stairwell leading to the side entrance, so the man’s got fine wood furniture coming out of his ears. 

    Mark bought this mansion for $75,000. That is not a typo. Mark owner finances real estate and currently has around 80 homes in his portfolio, so he knows a thing or two about buying houses. Apparently people can’t keep up with the maintenance and taxes on a place like this, so folks are selling their mansions for pennies. This mansion was formerly a retirement home and an apartment. The lady who lived here before Mark wrote a bunch of grants and put $750,000 into maintenance and improvements, so it was in pretty good shape when he acquired it. Bring in a crazy amount of antique Baroque and ornately carved East Asian furniture and you’ve got yourself a proper mansion!

    We settled into our room, the Eerie Suite (we got a free upgrade because he hadn’t had a chance to clean the cheapest room), which was death themed and easily twice the size of our apartment. There were many taxidermied animals, many skulls, a “coffin table,” and a wall full of alligator skins. The sitting room had a snake skin border. It was intense. 

While we showered, a heavy storm began and the whole town’s basements started flooding, apparently, because we could hear pumps and sirens in all directions. During a break in the storm we headed to the Save-a-Lot to pick up groceries for dinner. We settled on two boxes of cereal because we didn’t feel like cooking. 

In town we saw Prius Repellant, a contraption I had never seen, but Ted had heard of. Apparently, it’s somewhat of a new trend among rednecks. Prius repellant is a $500 modification for rednecks with diesel engines who want to rebel against all of the treehuggers who care about the environment. And Obama. This article tells us they’re also rebelling against Obama. The contraption tricks a diesel engine into releasing more fuel than necessary, creating a black cloud of exhaust. It’s called “rolling coal,” and it’s the new most obnoxious thing I’ve ever seen. I understand that diesel trucks serve an important purpose for a lot of people, but to be proud of the pollution they produce is a whole new level of ignorant.

Image from college humor

We headed back and ate a box of cereal, then went downstairs for a complimentary tour of the mansion. The mansion was built by a doctor, then renovated by his daughter, the wife of the deceased Charles Ely, the owner of one of the world’s largest glass companies during the Erie Canal era, Clyde Glass Works. Fun fact: Clyde Glass Works was approached by some investors who wanted to purchase the company, but Charles declined. The investors ended up purchasing Corning Glass, which remains one of the world’s largest glass companies. In fact, they produce the Gorilla Glass that I’m typing on right now! Sadly, Clyde Glass Works collapsed, as did the town around it. 

The mansion was incredible. So huge. So ornately decorated. There is one bedroom that holds $65,000 worth of furniture. 

 Mark knows a bunch of parlor tricks and decided to crack a massive whip (so loud!) and blow fire for us. He also has a handlebar mustache, a penny-farthing that he rides around town, and a hat for every occasion. We got to see his day hat, his tour hat, his penny farthing hat, and his rain hat today. He is like a 19th century cartoon character. 

 Mark invited us to town to drink a beer with him. By “a beer,” he meant three beers poured into one giant yard-long glass called a Yard. We grabbed umbrellas and braved the flooded streets to drink a yard with Mark at The Little Barrel, one of Clyde’s two bars, at which we were the only three patrons. Drinking a Yard is tricky and requires a lot of patience, especially toward the end when a giant bubble forms in the bottom and if you tip it too quickly, the beer will end up on your face. As novices, we drank with two hands, but Mark is a pro and drank with one. We avoided spills and avoided dropping the expensive glass.

    Mark invited us to the town’s second bar, which was a little skeezier and had two other patrons who seemed like the archetypal town drunks. Mark bought the whole bar a drink (something he’s always wanted to do and with five patrons, it seemed like an affordable time to do it) and we all watched WWF or WWE or whatever it’s called. It was disgusting and I was immediately ready to leave. We drank quickly and headed back to the mansion, past more emergency flood services pumping people’s basements. 

Mark asked if we wanted to watch him pour himself a drink because “it’s kind of fun to watch,” so we did (he doesn’t have a liquor license so he couldn’t offer us a drink). Pouring himself a drink involved two gravy boats, a snifter, a lighter, and a bottle of bourbon, and it looked like this:  

 We headed to bed a bit later than we wanted, but it was worth it to hang out with such an interesting guy. 

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