Saturday, July 25, 2009
Day 49 - Little Falls, NY to Latham, NY
"Low bridge, everybody down
Low bridge for we're coming to a town
And you'll always know your neighbor
And you'll always know your pal
If you've ever navigated on the Erie Canal"
—Fifteen Miles on the Erie Canal written in 1905 by Thomas S. Allen
Today's route from Little Falls, NY to Latham, NY was almost entirely along the Erie Canal. The Erie Canal was opened October 26, 1825. Today, it extends 340 miles across the state of New York from Troy on the Hudson River on the east to Tonawanda and Buffalo on the Niagara River. In 1903, the Erie Canal was enlarged by adding three branches to it, thus creating the Barge Canal System. There are 57 locks on the Barge Canal. The lifts of the locks vary from 6 feet to 40.5 feet. In Little Falls, the evening we arrived in town, Chuck and I investigated Lock 17. This lock's lift of 40.5 feet is a greater lift than any single lock on the Panama Canal. It uses a guillotine gate on the downstream end of the lock rather than moveable doors like our Hiram Chittenden Locks in Ballard north of Seattle.
As we left Little Falls, we were in a world of fog. Heavy mist clouded our sunglasses and moistened our faces. Looking to our right, we saw a few trees and then nothing but white space. Looking up ahead on the roadway, we could see a cyclist 100 yards ahead but that was all. After a few miles, the fog lifted and the sun came out. The sun would stay with us all day, baking us in it's sorely missed rays. I reveled in the sunshine today. It was good to have it back.
Our first stop was at the historic Fort Klock, built in 1750. This fortified homestead was the home of Johannes Klock and the Battle of Klock's Field on October 19, 1780 was a battle in the Revolutionary War. The homestead wasn't yet open but it was interesting to walk around the building and peek into the windows.
As we left Fort Klock, we were passed by two Amish horse and buggies. The second one was quite a sight. The riders had attached a long canoe to the roof of the carriage. I guess even the Amish like to hit the streams once in awhile! The scenery was varied, but always attractive. We were cycling through small villages, past farms and homes, and past forests and woodlands. As we rose up above the valley, we had some amazing views of the rolling New York hills and forests. I could tell we were beginning to touch Adirondack terrain when we saw some rocky cliffs and outcroppings. The Adirondacks were out of our reach today, however, as they are several miles north of us. We passed the Beech-Nut baby food and chewing gum factory in Canajoharie, NY. This gleaming white factory on the Mohawk River has been there for 118 years, but just this year production was moved to a state-of-the-art new production plant 20 miles east.
Another interesting stop today was at the Kateri Shrine and Indian Museum. Kateri Tekakwitha lived from 1656 to 1680 and was the daughter of a Mohawk warrior and a Catholic Algonquin woman. She received Christ and was baptized on Easter Sunday at the age of 20. Four years later, she died. Her last words were, "Jesus, I love you!" The shrine is a memorial to her. Native American Catholics venerate her and she is currently in the canonization process for sainthood. A pamphlet included a prayer you can pray for her canonization to become a saint. Hers is an interesting story, yet the particulars of Catholic worship and veneration of saints stands in contrast to my Protestant and spirit-filled Christian faith.
After our first SAG stop, we rode along a portion of the Mohawk-Hudson Bike Path that paralleled the Mohawk River. The Mohawk is one of several rivers that have been "canalized." The old canal that original was parallel to the Mohawk has been abandoned and the Mohawk has been made into the canal. This process involved dredging channels to assure a consistent depth and building dams to maintain a fixed water elevation above the stream beds. The bike path had great views of the river. We passed Locks 8 and 9, both much smaller lock than Lock 17 in Little Falls. As we neared our second SAG stop, we skirted the city of Schenectady, NY, then crossed into Scotia.
In Scotia, we stopped at the Jumpin' Jack's Drive-In. Having been to three drive-ins over the last two weeks (White Turkey in Conneaut, OH; Ted Wahl's in Avon, NY; and Jumpin' Jack's in Scotia, NY), I decided this one wasn't nearly as good as the other two. Who would have thought that I would be a connoisseur of drive-ins after 52 days of cycling across the U.S.? We rejoined the bike path and now had some beautiful scenery to bike through. The shady trees, views of the river, rolling hills, business parks and neighborhoods, were just part of the scenes that whipped past us.
Soon we left the bike path, climbed up out of the river valley, and into Latham. After a filling dinner, we enjoyed a great time at our T-shirt swap. It's something like a white elephant gift exchange, but with t-shirts. There was the usual stealing, trading, and good-natured ribbing. In the end, I got the shirt I wanted—one from the aforementioned White Turkey Drive-In in Conneaut, OH!
Tomorrow, we will leave New York and enter our 12th state—Vermont! We will also once again—and for the last time—be in the mountains: the Green Mountains of Vermont. We will cross the Appalachian Trail. (All you hikers out there know about this one. The Appalachian National Scenic Trail, generally known as the A.T., is a marked hiking trail in the eastern United States, extending between Springer Mountain in Georgia and Mount Katahdin in Maine. It is approximately 2,175 miles long.) We'll also be in some very scenic, touristy areas of Vermont. I'm ready for some climbing and some scenic riding! On Monday, I'll finally meet up with my family—my wife, Susie, and my kids, Kyle and Bethany. They've spent the day enjoying roller coasters and water park rides at Hershey Park in Hershey, PA.
For more photos from today's ride, visit http://gallery.me.com/eternaldesign2#100552
For more about the Ride for Impact, visit http://www.rideforimpact.org
Cumulative Miles: 3,758 ft.
Elev Gain: 1,980 ft.
Max Elev: 614 ft.
Avg Climb: 2%
Max Climb: 10%