Friday, August 20, 2010

Grime and Reason

It rained a lot last night and I got up to find a good amount of water in the boat. At least I get to use the bilge pump after carrying it all this time. I pack up and go before the shrieking camp kids are wound up again for the day

On recommendation from the park's front desk, I ride on to Chittenango for breakfast at a sweet local diner -- the kind where the waitress calls everyone "Honey". Of course eyes are on me as the crazy guy when I walk in after I pull my rig and park it in the front lot. I sit at the counter with some old guys on one end and two police men in the other far end. It's inevitable they would ask what I'm up to so I tell them while waiting for my order. "Here, honey, yer gonna need this for today" as she set down my plate of eggs, sausage, hash browns and marble rye toast.

So one man asks why I'm doing this, expecting me to say I was doing it for a cause or something. "I just wanted to see if it can be done" seems like an odd answer to him. It got me thinking about it, though, after I finished my breakfast and pedalled away. For the first ten years of my schooling I went to a rather innovative private school that let me go on my own learning pace, and I never saw grades or marks to compare myself with my classmates. Instead, our report cards just had colour-coded check marks opposite statements such as "Shows interest in the world around him/her". I guess from an early age I was programmed to find personal growth in play and exploration and it stuck. Sometimes there is no answer, but you find meaning in the search.

I want my own pictogram
I continue on to Canastota and stop at the museum, and had a lengthy chat with Shirley who was minding the place. We have an interesting talk about American and Canadian politics. I also find out that there was such a shortage of engineers when the canal was being built that some of the talent behind working things out was a mathematician.

Although the canal was partially filled in, Canastota has a few of the canal side buildings still intact.
Shirley at the Canastota Canal Museum
It is tempting to put the kayak in on this stretch of the old Erie, but there are so many obstructions like fallen trees and modern road culverts that it is unpredictable how far I could go without interruption. Converting the rig takes at least 15 minutes, so I just stick to towing. In all honesty, the water looks stagnant and phegmy with dark dirty looking weeds, and that's enough of an excuse!

The trail sometimes dwindles to singletrack, making towing laborious, but still more palatable than the canal water.

Near Rome, the old canal meets the new one and I try to find a place to put in but it is fenced off. After wasting a bit of time on a bit of a detour, I find a place in Rome but I change my mind as it is getting a bit late, so I keep on towing down the highway. I stop at a diner before searching for a place to camp.

A bathtub in which you can wash away your sins
Lock 20 is the logical place to camp, and when I get there, I find a group of odd bikes from a touring group from the Troy Bike Rescue. They are a fun, enthousiastic bunch of young people on their way back from a conference in Toronto. They have several weird and fascinating bikes created from junked bikes, one dubbed "The Camel", another was the "Ghost Bike"

The Camel
Ghost Bike
Across the locks is a loud religious gathering with a live band. One man comes over and feigns interest in us, but as I was talking to him I could tell he just wanted to steer the thread of conversation into the narrow needle eye of his religious perspective. Mercifully the music ends and they pack up and go, leaving us, the unwashed (there are no showers at this campground) with our ragtag fleet of bicycles and a kayak, to spin tales of ghost bikes into the night.


  1. Funny! I have always referred to those things as "Mary in the bathtub" too.


  2. I found out one of the local terms for it is "Mary-in-the-half-shell"!