Northern Tier 2010

September 2, 2010

Moon Rocks in the Adirondacks

Filed under: Geology, New York, Section 10, Section 11, Vermont — Henry Scott @ 11:30 pm

I faced a tough decision early this morning: after a small breakfast in Blue Mountain Lake, Travis and I rode to the Adirondack Museum, which is housed in a large, rustic, yet modern building. Having grown up in New York, Travis had heard very good things about the museum, so we were anxious to see it. Unfortunately, it didn’t open until 10:00, which would have meant a two hour wait.

With hurting knees, waiting for the museum was the obvious choice for Travis, but for me it was harder because I want to make sure I have time for a thorough visit in Acadia. As I mentioned yesterday, I can get there on the 8th with modest daily mileage, but I ultimately decided to push on. The Adirondack Museum will be yet another site that will have to wait for a future visit with Jennifer.

I have absolutely loved riding through the Adirondacks: I can see how the combination of beautiful mountains, a sporadic population of small, seasonal vacation towns, and a decent balance of public and private land have continued to make them a popular destination.

The hills may be a little steeper than what I encountered in the West, but not by much, and they aren’t very long. But, being older, and much more eroded, they are heavily forested, and the many lakes give long stretches of rolling hills following the shores with gorgeous lake views.

I need to do more research about Adirondack geology, but the brief description I’ve read so far said there would be anorthosite in the interior, and that bright white igneous rock is exactly what I found. It is a somewhat unusual rock in that it is mostly made of just one mineral: anorthite. Anyone who has ever looked at the moon has seen anorthosite, at least from a distance: it is what makes the lunar highlands so bright.

Today’s ride took me up and down through Long Lake, Newcomb and North Hudson before ultimately delivering me to New York’s eastern edge with a long, screaming descent into Ticonderoga. From there I took a small cable-drawn ferry across Lake Champlain and entered Vermont. I didn’t need the welcome sign to let me know where I was: maple syrup was for sale on the boat.

I’m staying Dan and Judy, who I contacted through Warm Showers. They live in a two hundred year old farmhouse a few miles west of Middleburry. I haven’t seen their home from the outside yet because I arrived after dark, but the interior is fabulous. We’ve stayed up until almost 11:00 talking about touring: Dan did the Southern Tier a few years ago, and the two of them will be doing a five-month tour of Asia starting this November!

September 1, 2010

Adirondacks

Filed under: New York, Section 10 — Henry Scott @ 4:00 pm

I slept for nine hours straight last night. It cooled off considerably, which made it easy to sleep, but the relative humidity must have approached 100% because my gear was soaked from condensation when I awoke. I had a leisurely convenience-store breakfast at the Hilltop Market and got on my way. It was a foggy morning with poor visibility, so I stopped after just seven miles to do laundry and dry my camping equipment in Boonville.


By the time my clothes came out of the drier, the fog was clearing, and I continued toward the Adirondacks. I followed Moose River Road, but I didn’t catch many glimpses of the river until near McKeever — there isn’t much of a town there, but it marks where the route turns onto Highway 28, and where I first got a sense for just how pretty the Adirondacks are. I also started to notice outcroppings of the igneous and metamorphic rocks which form the structural foundation for these mountains.


I also caught up with Arlete at the intersection with 28. She is recently retired and has been following the Northern Tier with her husband, Dick, since May 7th. By riding fewer miles each day they’ve been able to cook just about all of their meals and really take in the sights. After reaching Bar Harbor, the couple plans to spend the rest of their retirement sailing. I felt truly inspired by their story.

From there I rode into Old Forge, which many use as a gateway town for Adirondack activities. It is very touristy and packed with cafes and gift shops. It also marks the western edge of the beautiful Fulton Chain Lakes, which I followed for the next twenty miles.


Along the way I went through Inlet, and I stopped at the library and an outdoor store. I meant for the outdoor store to be a very brief break, but I got to talking with the owner — he was incredibly enthusiastic and provided a wealth of information about things to see and places to camp. He also told me that another eastbound rider was just ahead of me, so off I went, in the hope of catching up.

I met up with Travis at Raquette Lake — he’s riding from Ithaca to Maine. We decided to ride together for the rest of the day and made it to Blue Mountain Lake which, as the name implies, is right at the foot of Blue Mountain.


We’re camped behind the Blue Mountain Inn, where the owner allows cyclists to camp and get a shower for a nominal fee. Soon after we arrived we were joined by Gabriel, a rider on his way back home to Quebec City. As bonuses, the proprietor of the inn brought us some leftover chocolate cake, and we we’re being treated to live music from a group of musicians playing on the porch.

Travis and I are planning to start together tomorrow, but he’s nursing an injured knee and anticipating a short and slow day. I’m hoping to reach Bar Harbor on the 8th because that will give me a couple of days to visit Acadia before my parents meet me on the 10th, so I will likely go on ahead.

That said, I have a little less than 500 miles to go, so my intention is only cover about seventy miles per day for the remainder of the trip. Much of the riding will be over steep terrain, but I think it will be quite manageable at that daily mileage. Although I’m anxious to see Acadia, and return home to Jennifer, it is a bit sad to realize that the end of this trip is so clearly within sight.

August 31, 2010

Shooting the Breeze

Filed under: New York, Section 10 — Henry Scott @ 8:00 pm


As I mentioned yesterday, there were several other cyclists at Fair Haven State Park last night; we spent a while chatting as we packed up this morning, and we left as one big group. Michael and I stopped for a final glimpse of Lake Ontario and then to talk a little longer at the town grocery store before heading in different directions.

At the store, we were joined by a local farmer and truck driver who received the handle “The Milkman” from friends for obvious reasons. He expressed a lot of interest in our respective trips, and it was fun to hear about his experiences in the dairy industry.

I spent even more time than usual speaking with strangers for the first half of today’s ride. I suppose it was partially to procrastinate — today was humid, and although not yet mountainous, the hills are definitely becoming more significant. Today was also hazy, so my photography breaks weren’t very satisfying.

I stopped for a cold drink at a roadside bait shop near Texas (NY) and sat outside, in the shade, talking with the owner while she smoked a cigarette. After lunch in Pulaski I spoke with an elderly gentleman who told me about operating trolleys in his youth.

The burrito I had for lunch wasn’t very good: it was bland and dry. But, as I was climbing up the hills out of Orwell my legs came back to life. I’m not sure if the uninspired burrito provided just the fuel I needed or if, perhaps, I picked up a tailwind. Maybe the root beer I had with lunch was the caffeinated variety. I’m not sure, but I felt great for the rest of the day — that was fortunate, because I didn’t have many more opportunities to socialize.


My tent is pitched behind the Hilltop Market in West Leyden. The market is listed as a camping option on my Adventure Cycling map, but it turns out they haven’t provided campsites for many years. The owner, however, offered to let me set up out back, which I did. It’s actually a good spot: flat, grassy and safe. Plus, the market makes pizzas, so I’m going to bed with a very full stomach.

August 30, 2010

The End of Easy

Filed under: New York, Section 10 — Henry Scott @ 8:00 pm


Today was the last day of the easy terrain I’ve been enjoying since southeastern Iowa — I’ve averaged 111 miles per day since my night in the Muscatine Super 8, without having to work very hard, due to the relatively flat landscape. After an excellent night’s sleep in Holley I got back on the Canalway Trail and continued downstream with a gentle tailwind. The towns appeared to get progressively more affluent as I approached and continued past Rochester. I stopped for a late breakfast in Pittsford, and then left the canal in Palmyra — the original home of Mormonism.


I proceeded north to the southern shore of Lake Ontario and visited Sodus Point. Unfortunately, it has been a hazy day so the coastal views weren’t as pretty as I suspect is typical. I then rode inland again, through ubiquitous apple orchards, before coming back to the lake at Fair Haven, where I’m camped for the night in a state park.


Several other touring cyclists converged here tonight, and I’m sharing a site with Michael, who is from Karlruhe, Germany and circumnavigating the Great Lakes. The site beside us is occupied by four bikers from New Hampshire on their way to Erie (heads up, Mom and Dad, you may get a call requesting tent space in the yard).

The terrain became hillier throughout the day, even along the lake shore, and I expect more of the same tomorrow as I head into the Adirondacks. My daily mileage will surely drop, but I’m looking forward to spending my last week or two in the mountains of New England.

August 29, 2010

The Falls and Clinton’s Ditch

Filed under: New York, Ontario, Section 10 — Henry Scott @ 8:00 pm


I bumbled around Buffalo for a few extra miles this morning, despite good directions from my Warm Showers’ host, but it was interesting to see more of the city, and eventually I made my way to the Peace Bridge and crossed into Canada.

The customs agent was amazingly adept at leading our seemingly casual conversation to key points I’m sure she must address: “…so you’re traveling all alone — wow! And, do you carry anything to defend yourself, such as mace or, heaven forbid, a firearm? Do you carry much food to keep you going, such as fruits?”

A late-August Sunday morning turned out to be an excellent time to follow the western branch of the Niagara River river into Ontario, Canada: traffic was very light, and it was a perfect day for cycling. There is no development along the river, but rather all of the homes, which were gorgeous mansions, were not only on the other side of the road, but they were on the other side of a bicycle and pedestrian path, leaving beautiful views unspoiled for public appreciation.

The walkways became a bit congested with tourists near the falls, but not to the point of making it hard to take in the awesome volume of water plummeting violently, yet beautifully, into the mist below.


After viewing the falls and cityscape of Ontario’s Niagara Falls (a sister city to New York’s Niagara Falls), I continued downstream for another ten miles or so before taking the Queenston-Lewiston Bridge back to New York. I had been warned, repeatedly, to be cautious because since 2006 cyclists are “forced” to travel with motor vehicles over the bridge, but I couldn’t identify anything to cause concern. Then again, by the time I crossed it was early afternoon, and traffic was backed up, literally, from one of the bridge to the other due to customs delays. Following instructions from a bridge agent I went right down the middle, for once making much better time than my four-wheeled counterparts.


After fifteen miles along fairly rural New York roads I reached Lockport, stopped for lunch, and began biking on a ninety-mile section of the Erie Canal Canalway Trail. For today I covered about half of it and reached Holley. The path is essentially flat, made of crushed limestone, and a welcome change of pace from road riding.

There’s a town every five to ten miles, each associated with a low bridge that can be raised, vertically from both ends so it remains parallel to the water, to accommodate boats. The historical plaques along the way are fascinating and tell not only the story of how DeWitt Clinton pushed for the canal’s construction in the early 1800’s, but also a bit about each town and how it was impacted by, or contributed to, trade made possible by the canal.

I stopped for ice cream in Albion and had to ask for directions. I ended up speaking with my “guide” for several minutes, and it turns out he grew up in one of the canal towns and has strong memories of active sandstone quarrying nearby, with a steady stream of barges carrying the rock upstream to supply materials during a period of heavy construction.

The sandstone quarries are interesting to me because I’ve been reading about the 550 million year old inland sea in which the sediments were deposited leading to the abundant shale, sandstone and limestone which make up the western portion of New York. These relatively weak rocks were no match for several episodes of glaciation and, accordingly, this part of New York is fairly flat. To the east, however, there are more igneous and metamorphic rocks, and their more resistant nature has preserved more topography.


Upon reaching Holley, I crossed over the bridge and was immediately greeted by Erik, the bridge operator. A boat was approaching so he was in a rush, but he asked if I was looking for a place to camp (I said yes), and he handed me a sticky note with four digits on it, told me it was a pass code for the showers, quickly described what was in town, and offered to help in any way he could. I expected nothing other than a place to pitch a tent, so such hospitality was much appreciated.

Although today was hot, there’s little humidity, and my tent is set up in a great spot by the canal. I feel a very good night’s sleep coming on.

August 28, 2010

Empire State

Filed under: New York, Pennsylvania, Section 09, Section 10 — Henry Scott @ 5:00 pm


Well-rested after visiting family in North East, I had a great ride into New York (North East is just a few miles from the border), where I am again taking advantage of Warm Showers and staying with a host in Buffalo.

My nephew Christoffer joined me for the first fifteen miles to Jack’s restaurant — biking there for breakfast has become a tradition during family get togethers — and my parents drove to meet us, along with my niece Sofia and her friend Zoe. It was a wonderful way to start the day.

The rest of the ride was easy and very pretty — I stayed close to Lake Erie, with brief stops at Sturgeon Point and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Graycliff estate, and didn’t pull away until fairly near Buffalo. The terrain consited of gently rolling hills, and the weather was perfect. I even had a bit of a tailwind for much of the ride.


The sequence of resting for several days in South Bend, riding hard to North East, and then resting (along with fishing with my dad, playing croquet and watching sunsets over the lake) for a couple more days seems to have worked well for me. I think I beat the cold I feared I was developing as I left Cleveland, and my legs have had enough to time recover. I feel fresh and excited about the rest of the tour. Tomorrow I’ll head back into Canada, briefly, to see Niagara Falls from the Ontario side, and a lot of the day will be along bike trails.


I was glad to reach Buffalo in the early evening because it gave me time to explore the downtown area, and after checking in with my Warm Shower’s host I walked to Elmwood Ave for its Festival of the Arts. Unfortunately, most exhibitors had closed for the day, but there was live music and hordes of people, mostly hipsters of all ages, tooling around. I had dinner at a coffee house and sat by a large open window facing the street. My sandwich was good, but I loved watching the people.

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