Cycling the Erie Canal

Day 0

I flew into the small Buffalo airport in the morning and did some work there before taking the bus downtown. The route down Genessee St took us past smoke shops, four square churches, crumbling houses and fast food joints before we started getting into the old brick buildings of downtown. Dad was waiting outside train station and we took a long walk to hotel before meeting A at Campus WheelWorks in the Elmwood Village neighborhood. 

Dinner at Colter Bay

Once outfitted with our bikes, we had a short and pleasant shakeout ride back to the hotel. Dinner was a short walk to Colter Bay. The Buffalo Bills' first game of the season was on that evening, and the place steadily filled with fans as we helped ourselves to plenty of food & drink. A was particularly excited about the beef on weck, apparently a Buffalo staple. We enjoyed the festive atmosphere for the first half, and watched a bit of the game back at the hotel before bed.

Day 1

In the morning, we grabbed a good cup of coffee nearby, then picked up Tim Hortons for breakfast. After filling ourselves with breakfast sammies, hash browns, and doughnuts, we loaded up our gear, hopped on our bikes and headed downtown to the waterfront to start our ride.

Leaving the hotel

Heading to downtown Buffalo

Into the suburbs

We stayed close to the Niagara River as we rode north, our surroundings changing from light industrial to heavy industrial as we got out of town. Canada was just across the water, and we passed under several bridges across. After an hour or so, we reached the mouth of the Erie Canal and turned east. We stopped for a decent lunch in Locksport, crossing what was once the world's widest bridge.

Riding the towpath toward Medina

Soon after Locksport, we hit the gravel towpath alongside the canal and rode on that the rest of the way to Medina (pronounced "MED-INE-UH"). I squeezed in a quick run, which felt nice after the riding, and we showered off the day's dirt and sweat.

Our accommodations for the night was the nice and funky Hart Hotel. Even better than hotel, though, was the cocktail bar downstairs, the Shirt Factory. I enjoyed a watermelon juice with mezcal served in a green pepper cup, which I ate afterward, dipped in ranch dressing.

Cocktails on the patio

Cocktails on the patio

We stopped for a beer outside the town's Irish pub while waiting for our dinner table, then had good and big pasta dishes at Zimbistro. As I was polishing off my full portion of mac and cheese, another server stopped in her tracks and said she’d never seen anyone finish the whole thing before.

Tired and full, we walked back to the hotel and watched tennis, falling fast asleep before 10.

Day 2

We started the day with a pour over coffee at the Coffee Pot, having a full and thorough discussion of power lines and 19th century building materials while we waited for our drinks. A short hunt for postcards delayed our departure, and we got underway around 9:30am.

Packing up

Packing up

A second, inferior cup of coffee in the relatively empty hamlet of Albion was not quite worth the stop, though it did break up a long stretch of fairly monotonous riding along the canal. 

Medina Falls

Riding the canal

We had a good lunch canalside in Brockport, a lively little town. The low bridge over the canal went up and down several times while we sat there, leading us to speculate that boats can request the bridges be raised any time, rather than waiting for some scheduled raising.

The path became more interesting after Brockport, meandering behind lawns and through some tree cover. We stopped for an extremely large ice cream in Spencerville, which probably wiped out our calorie credit earned by the whole day of riding.

Selfie on the go

Things started to get industrial just outside of Rochester, the path weaving under highways and around water pumping stations before entering a nice city park with lots of bridges near the university. We had to turn off the path and cross a couple highways to get to our hotel for the night. I took another nice run back to the park before showering, watching football, and enjoying an unexpectedly tasty dinner at the European restaurant next to the hotel.

Day 3

The Holiday Inn Express was no great shakes, and we left early, around 7:30am. We biked out through the lovely little town of Pittsford, stopping for a yummy breakfast of warm crepes and hot coffee along the canal.

We made a stop for a second cup of coffee in Palmyra, site of the publication of the Book of Mormon.

Site of the Book of Mormon publishing

The gravel path was shaded and we made good progress through Freeport before hitting some rain around Lyons. It was lunchtime, but the only option was the grim-looking Lyons Grill and we decided to rest dry off under a tent in the parking lot with trail mix.

Huddling under the tent

We pushed through a steady rain to Clyde, then turned south onto roads through farmland to Seneca Falls.

Riding through farmland

After riding into town across the “It’s a Wonderful Life” bridge, we climbed a short hill and reached the Gould Hotel, our stop for the night. The rooms were great, and we were glad to rinse & wring out our filthy clobber.

A napped while dad and I went across the street to taste some good local beer at Fall Street Brewing. Afterward, we explored some National Park installations commemorating the town's history as a center of women's rights in America.

Falls Street Brewing Co

Women's rights memorial

We had a tasty dinner downstairs in the hotel bar, watching the US Open tennis final and some football before bed.

Day 4

We woke up before 7am and headed downstairs for the continental breakfast. We got underway shortly after 8, heading down to Cayuga Lake, then up and down rolling hills for quite some time before hitting the canal path again near Weedsport.

Riding behind A

Riding in front of Dad

From there, it was lots of riding through tree covered paths littered with soft muddy spots that made for some exciting fishtailing. We paused for a snack in Jordan, and a couple other times to view aqueducts along the trail.

Riding next to the lake

Things got smellier and more industrial outside Syracuse, and the path turned to take us through the NY State fairgrounds. After a short climb, we descended to the shores of Onandaga Lake. We entered the city by crossing a bridge, our descent taking us past factories and refineries with flames licking from their stacks.

A hard left and long roll through a mall parking lot to the train station, and we reached the end of our ride at our car. We stripped off our cycling kits and changed into street clothes, then went downtown for a celebratory beer and lunch at Pastabilties.

Lunch at Pastabilities

We walked off our big meal amid some lovely old architectural relics of downtown Syracuse, then got ourselves to the airport. As always, it was a privilege to ride with these gentlemen.

Cook men