Thursday, August 19, 2010

Erie Spirits

Most of my route today is dry, following the path of the original old Erie Canal. The new route of the barge canal now heads up north of Syracuse and into Lake Oneida, far too much of a meandering detour for me. Parts of NY31 were built on on top of the old canal, and as a result the towpath route weaves in and out of the highway. Where it is parallel, I take the paved shoulder for the convenience.

I stop at the old Jordan Locks, which is now a lonely ruin by the side of the road, and just for fun I tow the boat though the now grassy lock chamber. I figure Cruise-eau could be the first boat to lock though those stone walls in almost a hundred years! If these stones had a spirit, shaped by those who cut them for a purpose, I thought they could be singing at the sight of a familiar object :)

Farther down the towpath trail, the ghost of the old canal reappears, choked with weeds and just a hint of water. It's hard to imagine that this was once one of the most vital links to the American Mid West, the grandest infrastructure of its time, and responsible for New York becoming the "Empire State". Goods from all over the States floated past here: Appalachian coal, cotton from the South, woven goods from New England, grains from the West. It positioned New York City as the king of port cities on the Eastern Seaboard.

Then I miss a turn on a road crossing and I find myself on a hill overlooking the I-90. It's interesting how these parallel lines of old and new exist within a mile of each other: the former built and fuelled with muscle power, drifting steadily to what was then a future of unimaginable promise; the latter pumped up on oil, the fast road to    (insert destination here)     .

I stop in Camillus and realize I am halfway to Albany. I spend a lot of time talking to people there, from an old volunteer at the museum, to a young man who was really interested in the kayak cart. I go across an old restored aqueduct, and no mater how often you see one, it is still fascinating to see a bridge built so that water can cross water.

The old canal once again disappears heading into Syracuse, buried under the city streets. I have an interesting time navigating the rig through the busy roads. I stop at a store to get some drinks, and they generously give me a couple of slices of pizza, fresh out of the oven, free! It is enough to fuel me for the ride through downtown Syracuse, past the fountains at Clinton Square. A crazy woman dares and offers to help me to put the kayak in the fountain but I decline.

Getting out of Syracuse is confusing and I have a hard time finding the continuation of the canal trail on the other side of the city. It is sticky hot and the afternoon traffic is steady on the hilly city streets which were on the recommended route I found on the internet. I stop to check my GPS and map, and a man tries to offer help, but he himself is not entirely sure which way I should go. Luckily, two cyclists, Mitch and Kathleen, who were on an afternoon ride pass by, and say that they are on their way towards where I need to go, so I follow them. They are on nice racy road bikes, and while I can somewhat keep up on the flats and downhills, they lose me in the climbs. After numerous twists and turns, climbs and descents, we finally get to the towpath entrance, and they tell me of a good campsite at Green Lakes. I see them again miles after, when I get off the path an on to the road to the State Park We say our final goodbyes just outside the park office where Mich refilled his water bottle for his ride home.

Green Lakes Park is a bit hilly and my campsite is a good climb to get to. My gears are starting to get out of tune and annoyingly act up in the last steep climb, slipping at the lower end. Great timing. I set up my tent amid the sound of screaming children, which seem to be a feature at every State and Provincial Park.

After a shower, I get sweaty again riding three miles up a big hill to a golf course clubhouse to grab some dinner before they close, as they are the only place around with food. I enjoy a nicely prepared panini and a couple of pints of draft beer on the terrace. The view is spectacular over the lowlands where the old canal runs, and as the sun sets my spirits remain high.

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