Day 60, 8/12, Verona Beach State Park to Amsterdam, NY: 99 miles, 2,267 ft elevation gain, 12.3 mph average speed.
Trip totals: 3,840.9 miles (75.3 mile daily average), 139,869 ft elevation gain, 12.5 mph overall average speed.
I woke up without Ted’s prodding today. What, you ask, could pull me out of my deep slumber before 6? Five mosquitoes biting my forehead. Ted hadn’t fully closed the tent door when he got up this morning and those jerks found the opening. I killed all five, then started packing up.
We got on the road pretty quickly this morning and got on the trail after a few miles. The dirt was still wet and lose at some points, so the riding was slower than usual. We decided to hop onto the road that paralleled the trail to see if the speed made up for the stress of riding with traffic. Unfortunately, this road was a busier state highway that led into a large town (Utica) and it was rush hour, so it was not pleasant. Then a motorcycle with the loudest muffler I’ve ever heard zoomed past without leaving us much space, and that was the final straw. We were willing to sacrifice five miles per hour of speed for the tranquility of the trail.
After about 20 miles we reached Rome, at which point the trail had a gap and we got lost. The town was large enough that getting lost was an ordeal, and the town was bike unfriendly enough that it was a slightly dangerous ordeal. After riding past an old fort that is an NPS site, we found the trail again.
We met a bike tourist named Chris on the trail. Chris is from Harrisburg, PA, and he was riding a Schwinn bike that he bought 39 years ago with his newspaper money when he was 16! Chris has brought his bike on many tours and has updated the important parts of the bike (including recently adding a Shimano internal hub that Ted was curious about) over the years. I hope to still be riding my surly frame in 39 years. Chris is traveling ultralight with only 11 pounds of gear, a fact about which he is very proud (and should be!). He has an ultralight hammock for camping, but has mostly been staying in hotels. I’m intrigued about hammock camping, but I’d be too worried about having to find two strong trees that were well spaced. Chris is also the guy who told us about yesterday’s peanut butter trail that we were grateful to have avoided.
We rode the trail through some industrial areas on the outskirts of Utica until we reached the city, about 35 miles into the day, and ate breakfast at Top of the Morning Cafe. Breakfast was delicious and filling.
We got back on the trail and enjoyed the riding for several miles. Near Little Falls, we saw a sign for so-and-so’s Magnificent Mile-and-a-Half, and we figured it was going to be more of the same scenery, but maintained by so-and-so (sorry, I can’t remember the guy’s name). We were wrong; the scenery changed completely! Everything became more lush and green, and there were tall rock walls on either side of the trail. Truly magnificent!
We also saw another confederate flag in Little Falls, bringing NY’s total to five.
Shortly after the magnificent bit, I think trail maintenance got turned over to someone who’s never ridden a bike because we hit miles of thick sand. I came the closest I’ve come to falling a couple times when the sand was paired with a hill. Sand and hills don’t mix when on a bike, friends! And you could tell there was good packed dirt under all of that sand and that the sand was a relatively new addition. Why?
It started raining during this sandy section–our first actual non-drizzle rain of the trip–which exacerbated the sand problem, so we decided to jump off the trail and eat lunch in Fort Plain. The rain stopped, so we ate lunch in a park in town. It’s not the fanciest thing in the world, but I don’t think I’ll ever tire of tuna, cheddar, and Mrs. Renfro’s Habanero Salsa on a Triscuit.
We got back on the trail, but after that rain shower, the trail was in poor shape. We spotted a frontage road with minimal traffic between us and the interstate, so we jumped off the trail at the first opportunity. The road was actually New York State Bike Route 5, the route we’d been following whenever we got off the trail. The roads were mostly pleasant, bringing us through very cute Canajoharie and a couple other towns before we reached a couple of massive hills that would bring us to Amsterdam. We saw our first sign for NYC on the interstate we paralleled, and also saw a sign telling “the father” to stop discriminating against the Chinese, which must be part of some local argument, but seemed odd without context.
There were no campgrounds or warm showers hosts anywhere near us, so we had to find a motel. After cleaning up, we headed to Moe’s to get burritos. Moe’s was over 3 miles from our motel and up a massive hill, so we called a cab, which happened to be the only cab in the whole town. The driver reminded us of a guy you’d find in NYC: brash, but friendly, and quick to share his strong political opinions. It made us feel like we were close to home.
The employees at Moe’s were all either rude or bad at their jobs, but we eventually got our food. After dinner we bought some groceries and called the cab again. A different driver arrived with someone already in the cab, so we were a little confused. Apparently when you are the only cab in town you operate as a group shuttle service. We went a couple miles in the wrong direction to pick up another customer, then drove around for 25 minutes dropping everyone off, and we were dropped off last. Everyone else paid $5, but we were asked to pay $7 because we were the furthest destination (which, mind you, was less than a five-minute drive away when we were the only fare, which is less time than it took to get to either of the other fares’ homes). We complained about how unfair it is to be dropped off last and pay the most money, but the guy was unapologetic. It’s only two dollars, but it’s the principle of the thing! It felt like we were in Zambia again.
We tried to be productive, paying bills, writing blogs, etc., but fell asleep pretty quickly.