Friday, July 24, 2009
Day 48 - Liverpool, NY to Little Falls, NY
"Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it." — Greg Anderson
"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference."—Robert Frost
I will begin today's story in the middle. You'll soon see why. But, today clearly—emphatically—demonstrated both of the quotes above. Our route was 79 miles from Liverpool, NY to Little Falls, NY. About mile 45, I was in Westmoreland, NY, a small town about a mile from Interstate 90, but not on the Interstate at all. I had stopped at a Sunoco gas station to use the restroom and possibly get some coffee. Before I decided, I thought, "Maybe there's a quaint cafe further down the street. That would be way better than gas station coffee." I pulled out my iPhone and used Google Maps. I searched on "cafe." Up popped a Starbucks. It was only a half mile up the road, but off course. I wouldn't usually choose a Starbucks over a local cafe—in fact, I've learned on this ride to always choose the local establishments. Go where the locals go. Skip the fast food chains. Favor the mom-and-pop shops. But, I also have learned to be curious. Always ask questions, explore, dig, find the unusual. This Starbucks didn't fit the lay of the land. I was curious why there would be a Starbucks in a tiny town like Westmoreland, NY.
I rode the half mile where the map indicated and reached an overpass straddling I-90. I looked all around. I saw an old hotel. I saw some homes. I saw no Starbucks. I called the phone number. The girl who answered said the Starbucks was located in Westmoreland and asked where I was. "Westmoreland," I said. I explained what road I was on. She said, "Oh, do you see the Carriage Motor Inn? We have an access road right across the street. Are you making a delivery?" I had no clue what she was talking about, but I saw the hotel. I said that I was just looking for their store. She assured me there was one there. I found the access road and then it began to dawn on me where I was going. I rode about a quarter of a mile and found the back entrance to an I-90 Travel Plaza. A fence and gate had a sign that read, "THIS ENTRANCE FOR EMPLOYEES & PERSONS ON OFFICIAL BUSINESS ONLY. NOT TO BE USED BY PATRONS." Well, I rode through that gate anyway and found the front of the plaza.
I parked the bike out front, walked in and was surrounded by Interstate travelers enjoying the amenities of the Travel Plaza. There was the Starbucks I sought. There was a Sbarro restaurant, a Burger King, a Travel Mart with New York knick knacks a plenty, a sunglasses and travel accessories store, restrooms, and even a couple of information kiosks with history and details about the local area, so you could be informed on what you were missing if you chose not to stop. And then it occurred to me. As I sipped my white chocolate mocha with toffee nut flavoring prepared to specific Starbucks standards, I realized that for the past 48 days, I have seen more of the United States than any Interstate traveler would ever hope to see. Even the last 45 miles, I had seen and experienced more of upstate New York than these travelers would experience all week. They will fill their bellies, return to their cars, step on the gas, and drive by the most amazing scenery, towns, and sights at 75 miles per hour and not see a thing.
I decided at that moment, that when I'm traveling for pleasure and want to really experience where I'm going, I will get off the Interstate and find the State Routes, the County Roads, and the two-lane highways. That is where you see the world around you. Now, here's what I would have missed today if I had chosen to drive on the Interstate instead of riding a bicycle.
I passed quiet century-old homes sitting on the banks of backyard streams. I rode through the Syracuse, but in neighborhoods most visitors will never visit. At our first support stop in Canestota, NY, I saw another section of the Erie Canal. In the center of Canestota, I found a small memorial park remembering the men and women lost in 9/11. It featured a small section of I-beam pulled from the wreckage of the Twin Towers. The engravings on the stone in front of the I-beam were moving and gave me pause that a small town in New York would make such a lasting memorial to those lost on that fateful day.
Further on, I passed "Cross Island Chapel—The World's Smallest Church" in Oneida, NY. It is 28.68 square feet and seats two. It's located on a tiny island in the middle of an algae-covered pond. There's even a small rowboat available to take you to the island. The church is available for "special occasions and meditation." It would be too small for a wedding, but my British roommate, Sean, remarked, "But, you could have a lonely funeral."
About six miles from Little Falls, I rode into Herkimer, NY. I was hungry for pizza. I passed a Pizza Hut, but I was looking for the local place. I found it on Mohawk St. —"Yetty's Pizza." Opened in the 50s, it's a comfortable mom-and-pop owned pizza joint. It was almost two, but a late lunch crowd was still eating. I found a table, placed my order, and enjoyed a great personal pizza with extra cheese, pepperoni, and homemade sausage. It was New York pizza, cut in the traditional criss-cross manner. As I was eating, I met Renee, a waitress there. We talked about my ride and she mentioned having been invited to do a local charity ride for missing and exploited children—a cause she is passionate about. She's never done the ride, but felt inspired to after talking with me about my Ride for Impact. I shared with her that I thought about doing this ride six years ago, but it was only three years ago that I really got serious about it. My friend, Pastor Don, (who I saw way back on Day 3) once told me, "A goal is a dream with a deadline." I encourage her to take that charity ride. Write it down. Set that goal. Fulfill those dreams now. I was glad I stopped in for pizza and found the road less traveled by. It reminds me of another thing I've learned on this ride, "Everyone has a story—You just have to ask the right questions to learn what it is."
The remaining six miles into Little Falls was quick but pleasant. When I got to my hotel, I found my roommate Sean asleep. He woke up to tell me that from mile 40 to the hotel was a full downpour. He didn't believe me that I wasn't wet. He and two others arrived at the hotel first. I guess that's another benefit of focusing on the journey and not the destination—you might avoid the rain!
Tomorrow's ride to Latham, NY will be 76 miles. We'll ride mainly along the Erie Canal. The weather looks promising—mid 80s and partly cloudy. We cherish each day's ride, but these last four should be extra special.
For those wondering what my wife and kids—Susie, Kyle, and Bethany—are doing, they arrived in Philadelphia this morning taking a red-eye from Seattle. The toured the Philadelphia Mint, saw the Liberty Bell, and rented a car to drive through Lancaster, PA, where they stopped at some of the Amish stores, and arrived at their hotel in Hershey, PA this afternoon. They plan to hit HersheyPark tonight and all day tomorrow. They're going to have a ton of fun!
For more photos from today's ride, visit http://gallery.me.com/eternaldesign2#100537
For more about the Ride for Impact, visit http://www.rideforimpact.org
Cumulative Miles: 3,681
Cumulative Flats: 5
Elev Gain: 1,714 ft.
Max Elev: 837 ft.
Avg Climb: 2%
Max Climb: 9%