Erie Canalway Trail

Thursday, Aug 26

We left the hotel in Brockport around 10 am and got back on the trail, heading east. We passed through Spencerport, which looked like a pretty little town with a church with a white steeple. We passed south of Rochester, crossing over a lot of roads and occasionally going though small park areas. We were leapfrogging another couple of touring cyclists. They would stop, and we’d pass them, then we would stop and they would pass us. About halfway around Rochester, we saw them stopped on the trail, and they were doing a little repair on one of the bikes. The man (of a man-woman couple) had fallen off the bike at a bad crossing, where some road construction had left a 4-inch curb for cyclists to get back on trail. The chain on his bike was tangled, and he was in the process of untangling it when we rode up. We offered assistance, but he got everything back in order just as we asked. They thanked us, and we rode on.

We paused now and then along the trail to catch our breath, and at one point we looked down into the canal and saw a school of small fish hovering there. Other wildlife we saw today included deer - at two or three different places - and a couple of great herons who stood by and let us pass rather close to them. I would have stopped to photograph one of them, but I assumed it would fly off as soon as I stopped.

We cycled about 30 miles before taking a longer break, and by that time we were out of water, in need of a restroom and starting to get hungry. This was probably around 2 pm. A cyclist we met along the way recommended a Greek restaurant in Pittsford, in an area of shops along the canal. We stopped there (Aladdin’s) and ordered a gyro salad with three cups of iced beverages (coke and water). We rested there for a bit, and when we moved on, we first stopped at a gas station a short ways away and refilled all the water bottles with ice and water. I needed to use the restroom, but it wasn’t clear if the one in the gas station was for customers, so I asked the clerk if it was “a public restroom.”

“Oh, no,” he said, “the door closes.” (!!) I clarified that I meant to ask if it was available for customer use (yes) and wondered just what his concept was of a public restroom.

I would have to say, though, despite my sarcastic comment above, that everyone we have met has been very nice and helpful. Even in leaving Brockport, while we were cycling on the shoulder of a busy road, the drivers were very considerate and gave us plenty of space. Occasionally we have met an oncoming cyclist (or even a pedestrian) who has smiled and greeted us as we rode past, wishing us “safe trip!”

From Pittsford, we moved as fast as we could, but by this time the heat and miles were starting to sap our energy. Shortly after Pittsford, we passed an area where the canal-builders had used “the Great Embankment” as a means to cross a wide valley without having to use locks. They essentially built the canal on a terrace constructed on the hillside.

We arrived in Palmyra, our destination for the day, around 5 pm, but the entry was via a detour that routed us onto a busy road and then left us in a park at the edge of town. The park had an old “change bridge,” a metal bridge that was used to allow the mule teams to cross the canal and head back the other direction. There were also ruins of an old aqueduct (used to carry the canal and towpath across a creek or a roadway), but they were surrounded by overgrowth and difficult to see.

By this time, we were both dripping with sweat, tired and wanting to get to the hotel, but we wanted to stop and refresh ourselves with a cold beer first. Palmyra, for those who are knowledgeable of American history, is the home of Joseph Smith, the founder of the Church of Latter Day Saints. Palmyra is still a Mormon community, and beer or wine is not sold at a restaurant, only at a bar.

So we stopped at Lock 29, a bar in downtown Palmyra, and had a couple of cold ones and a great conversation with the bartender, Jenny. Steve asked her if she ever swam in the canal. “Oh, sure! As a kid I did,” she said. “We didn’t think about all the stuff that floats in the canal when we were kids.”

From the pub, we rode about 1.75 miles south Canandaiga Street to our hotel - the Best Western, where we set about getting showers, doing laundry, and ordering a pizza for delivery.

It was a long day, and we were covered with trail dust when we got here. But now we are cleaned up, fed, and ready for bed.

Total miles today: 51.31

team of mules

Team of mules on the Erie Canal. The muledriver was called a "hoggee." Molly was inspired to make this trip along the canal because her great-grandfather, John Swift, an immigrant from Ireland, worked on the Erie Canal as a hoggee between 1852 to 1857.

Steve at Spencerpot

Steve, at Spencerport

a school of fish

A school of fish in the Erie Canal

Steve, enjoying lunch at Aladdin's in Pittsford

Steve, enjoying lunch at Aladdin's in Pittsford

the Great Embankment

Sign explaining the Great Embankment

Collapse of the Great Embankment

The concrete of a 1911 construction of the Great Embankment failed, and there was a great collapse.

Steve on the trail

Steve, on the trail

sign for motorists

A sign requesting that motorists drive slowly - the road runs beside several homes at this point

Gen John Swift sign - Palmyra

Historical marker in Palmyra, NY. This John Swift is no relation to Molly's great-grandfather (the Irish immigrant), who was also named John Swift.

sign in Palmyra, NY

General John Swift (no relation) was a generous man - this sign is in Palmyra, NY.

Molly & Steve in Lock 29, a bar in Palmyra, NY

Molly & Steve in Lock 29, a bar in Palmyra, NY

Book of Mormon publishers, Palmyra

Book of Mormon, Historic Publication Site, Palmyra, NY

Molly's shins

Molly's shins at the end of today's ride

Aug 22 and 23 - Getting to the starting point
Aug 24 - Buffalo to Lockport
Aug 25 - Lockport to Brockport
Aug 26 - Brockport to Palmyra
Aug 27 - Palmyra to Weedsport
Aug 28 - Weedsport to Syracuse
Aug 29 - Syracuse to Rome
Aug 30 - Rome to Little Falls
Aug 31 - Little Falls to Amsterdam
Sep 1 - Amsterdam to Albany
Sep 2 - Albany

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