C2C Day 52: Boston – 86.7km, 366m (Cum: 5,894km, 29,573m)

We spent approximately half of our final journey into Boston riding on smooth-surfaced, busy bike paths passing through leafy corridors, even discovering a couple of large boulders just begging for an orienteering control to be hung from them:

The trail that we were following was called the Revolution Trail and it was made all too obvious which revolution they were talking about, especially when we arrived in Lexington. We had only a few minutes to pay a call to the Visitors’ Centre outside of which was the very green, Battle Green, where the first shots of the American War of Independence were fired by the British on 19th April 1775.

There was lots to see here but no time to see it in. On we went, passing through, but not pausing at, Cambridge, home to Harvard and the MIT .

We arrived only a little late outside the agreed point of rendezvous, JFK’s birthplace, a relatively modest affair for a man with his background:

20180808_113239.jpg

Then it was off, all 22 of us travelling the next nine miles in convoy. Despite my expectations that the whole shebang would disintegrate into a disorganised rabble, our cavalcade of cyclists remained largely cohesive. For the first part of the ride, this was because our route coincided with a massive traffic re-organisation scheme resulting in whole sections of  road being shut off to motor vehicles with police cops at every junction. It was like being in a royal procession as we rode unhindered through the traffic cones.

Even when this section ended and we found ourselves amongst the cars once again, we discovered that by assertive cycling, we could run through red lights unimpeded as motorists goggled at the geriatric vision of yellow and orange that reeled before their eyes.

Every now and again, we juddered to a stop at some Boston landmark: Fenway Park, the Red Sox’ stadium:

This quartet were all members of the Red Sox in the forties.

One of them is Dom DiMaggio, the brother of the more celebrated Joe; it may be the man on the right who played wearing glasses. There aren’t many spectacled sportsmen I can think of, ignoring snooker players: Navratilova and Billie Jean King, and Clive Lloyd.

We stopped outside the bar that inspired the TV series Cheers. I don’t think I ever saw a single episode.

The statue of Samuel Adams, revolutionary and signatory of the Declaration of Independence, seemed to have particular significance for Americans as they all queued to be photographed in front of him; the Brits politely declined.

We walked alongside Faneuil Hall, an historic covered marketplace where people literally gasped and stood open-jawed in amazement that we’d crossed the country on bicycles:

Finally we arrived at the harbour but found the gate to the water locked. An unsuspecting key-holder was propositioned and badgered into allowing us to ‘dip our wheels’ into the Atlantic, the traditional method of signifying the end of a coast to coast:

It only remained for us all to reach our hotel where the champagne was broken open and liberally quaffed:

This was followed shortly after by the official group photo and ones with individuals like ourselves.

We have completed 5,894 kilometres (3,662 miles) and climbed 29,573 metres (97,024 feet) over 52 cycling days, at an average of 113 kilometres (70.4 miles) and 568 metres (1,865 feet) per day.

The feeling now is one of relief. The significance of the achievement will not sink in for several days. Our bodies have propelled us forward for over eight weeks whilst our minds have constantly repeated that we’re crazy. Each day we have launched ourselves on a further journey into the unknown, for all of what we have seen and experienced, Niagara apart, has been a completely fresh adventure. It has been like having a blank page slowly filled each day with new exploits and memories. But the result of this is, not exhaustion, but certainly extreme tiredness, and it is only now that we can really relax.

Did I say relax? Well, not quite yet because we are not due to return to the UK until next Wednesday. When we were preparing for this trip, I knew that we would need some time to recover, but equally, that being in Boston was an opportunity that may not be repeated. Accordingly, we have booked on Friday to take the ferry to the northern tip of Cape Cod. We will cycle once again down the peninsula and across to Falmouth when we will cross to Martha’s Vineyard, looking out for the beach and other places where they filmed ‘Jaws’ (the astute amongst you will have recognised that the tagline ‘This time it’s personal’ is from Jaws 2). We will cycle to Plymouth where the Pilgrim Fathers landed, before catching the train back to Boston.

That will be it for long-distance cycling for a while – but there are rumours of another cross-country trip in 2021, to honour Bill’s ninetieth birthday and possibly the fact that he completed over 95% of this one, only forgoing the steepest climbs. We remain in awe of and salute him.

A few thank yous.

Thanks to Kate for posting the blog and photos when, more often than it should have, the internet failed us.

Thanks to Val who was usually to be found washing my socks whilst I hammered at the keyboard and for being my ever-present companion, except on hills.

Thanks to Rick, the tour leader, and Bill and Annie, the co-drivers of the support vehicle even though they will never read this, I hope.

And thanks to you for your interest, encouragement and comments; the blog would have been a lonelier place without you. I set out to write 52 days of drivel and succeeded. I apologise for the many inaccuracies arising from the inadequacy of the time needed to check my facts and for those times when inspiration deserted at the end of a day when little happened or I was too tired to record it. Together we made it through to the end.

See you all back in England.

Advertisements

C2C Day 51: Brattleboro, Vermont, to Nashua, New Hampshire – 116.6km, 1,162m (Cum: 5,807.40km, 29,289m)

20180807_111908.jpg

When we were in Brattleboro Visitors’ Centre, there was a cardboard cut-out of Kevin Bacon wearing an ‘I love Brattleboro’ sweatshirt. I meant to ask the connection between the two (although, because of the number of films he’s been in, you are supposed to be able to trace any actor to Kevin Bacon in six moves), but forgot. Well, I’ve just found out that Brattleboro has an annual Baconfest celebrating all things bacon, and in 2014, they invited Kevin but he was probably too busy advertising EE and posted a Twitter video excusing himself.

We have stayed in every type of hotel and motel from the scummy to the luxurious. Tonight’s hotel, the Radisson, falls at the ritzier end of the scale and fancies itself a bit of a castle with roof-top crenellations (which may be why it justifies not providing a fridge). Last night’s motel was at the other extreme: the Econo Lodge. The very name says, ‘we are cheap and aim for the barely adequate’. It achieved it. Still, generally the standard has been higher than on Route 66, and we had congratulated ourselves on at least avoiding staying at a motel where there had been  a murder earlier in the year, as happened last time.

Well, that may have lasted only until last night, because when the Five O’clock Club arrived in Brattleboro (much earlier than us), they found the motel swarming with police as someone had been found in one of the rooms, believed to have succumbed to an over-dose of heroin. It goes to show that, for all its veneer of opulence and respectability, there is a darker side to New England. In 2014, the New York Times ran an article with the headline, ‘Heroin Scourge Overtakes a ‘Quaint’ Vermont Town’, and that referred to our previous night’s resting-place, Bennington. On that cheery note, we’ll move on.

Today was heralded as the sting in the tail of the tour as a 71 mile day combined with 3,000 feet of climb in conditions of overwhelming mid-thirties heat. We set the alarm for 05.30, but the Five O’clock Club had set theirs even earlier so we were still one of the last to leave. There is evident benefit in this strategy as, at this time of the day, the temperatures are still in the low twenties and, this morning, there was mist over the river.

20180807_072403.jpg

We covered four states today, leaving Vermont and entering New Hampshire before veering into Massachusetts and swerving back again, making eleven all told, plus one Canadian province.

Almost immediately on entering New Hampshire, there was a sign for an NH liquor store. It seems the sale of alcohol is restricted in New Hampshire. Wine and beer can be bought in groceries which includes supermarkets but liquor (more than 6% alcohol) can only be bought at state-run stores. Apparently there are still 17 states which retain control over the sale of liquor, a throwback to the Prohibition era. A home brewer in New Hampshire is restricted to 100 gallons (or 200 if a couple)!

When we started out, most of the history was concerned with the early 19th Century as Lewis and Clark forged their way west, but now we’re in New England, the clock has been turned back fifty years and nothing is worth considering unless it has a 17- at the beginning. In Fitzwilliam, we came across this elm tree, accompanied by a plaque which explained that this had replaced the original, dubbed the ‘Liberty Tree’ in protest at the hated British stamp tax. “In August 1775, as a last act of violence prior to their evacuation of Boston, British soldiers cut it down  because it bore the name ‘Liberty'”.  The British behaving like hooligans abroad? That would never happen.

20180807_093650.jpg

Every village has its steepled church in white and its houses in the colonialist revival style:

20180807_092525

20180807_092631.jpg

Although we completed today’s ride in good time, the temperature had started to rise and by early afternoon, it was in the mid-thirties and suffocating. Our hotel was some distance to the south of Nashua and the heat made sight-seeing prohibitively uncomfortable so we opted for an ice-cold coffee and an uncharacteristically early finish.

Tomorrow, we ride into Boston for the final leg. In theory, everyone will congregate at JFK’s birth-place about nine miles out, regardless of when they set out, but the Five O’clock Club are restless. If they had their way, the meeting would be earlier still, even though to arrive at the rendezvous we have to travel 42 miles from the hotel, the last part of it along a busy city bike trail. Realistically, we are going to need five hours of cycling to take account of unforeseen eventualities, meaning a 06.30 start.

Assuming all 22 manage to link up at 11.30, we then have to negotiate our way collectively past nine landmarks including Harvard, the Boston Red Sox’s ground, Paul Revere’s house and the site where the US Constitution is held. It’ll be a miracle if we arrive at our final hotel by 13.45, the agreed time for a group photo.

At Happy Hour tonight, someone had composed a song which included all of the 51 (I think) places we have stayed at and I realised that even now, I can’t even remember anything about Monticello, Clare and Simcoe. Soon it  will be a memory, but at least this blog will serve as a reminder, which is part of its purpose.

We’ll finish today with the birthday girl herself engaged in her favourite occupation, climbing a hill.

20180807_085209.jpg

 

 

 

 

C2C Day 50: Bennington, VT, to Brattleboro, VT – 94.60km, 1,197m (Cum: 5,690.80km, 28,127m)

Val’s friend, Angela, has emailed her to say that she’s only up to Day 19, and can we cycle a bit slower! It’s a bit late, Angela, and at this rate, it’ll be Christmas before you reach this bit anyway. It would be easier if you read faster.

The cat at the top appears in Bennington and is labelled ‘Catitude’. Which reminds me that yesterday, we passed a sandwich shop called ‘Subs-Ta-Toot’.

Sometimes, it’s only when  we’ve been through an area that we find out something we would have visited had we known sooner. We were told that the cemetery to the Old First Church at Bennington contains the grave of the poet, Robert Frost. When we were married, one of Val’s friends bought us a photograph of a forest covered in snow with the oft-quoted lines, “The woods are lovely, dark and deep, But I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep, And miles to go before I sleep. But, even so, we weren’t going to go back up the hill – it’s not as if he was Butch Cassidy.

Today delivered on the promised climb, at 1,197 metres, the most we’ve done since Glacier National Park, Montana on Day 12. Not for nothing is this the Green Mountain state. Unlike yesterday, when the climb came in spurts, we had one big hill early on between Bennington and Wilmington, and then a mini-peak around half-way, but neither of them troubled us unduly, the result of eight weeks’ hard work.

It is only right that we mark the occasion with the return of a photo of Val climbing a hill:

Before we started the first climb, we passed the Appalachian Trail, five miles out of Bennington, an anonymous crossing of the road marked only by a sign warning of walkers. The Appalachian Trail is the longest hiking-only trail in the world at 2,190 miles and those travelling south to north are here nearing the end at Mount Katahdin in Maine. There’s a good book on walking the trail, Balancing the Blue by an Englishman, Keith Fossett if you can overlook the sometimes juvenile sense of humour and idiosyncrasies (and this is me talking). He mentions that it is the custom for local people to drive to crossing points to leave supplies for trekkers, a practice confirmed by the spaghetti house in town. The Trail takes about six months to complete whilst we’ve taken two months (nearly) to complete a crossing of eleven States so I think I’ll stick to cycling whilst I can.

Of all the states so far, I think Vermont is the one I’d like to explore further. Looking at a map of the estate, we are at the very south extremity of land that stretches 160 miles to the north – although it could be that all of New England is as good. Everywhere we have cycled today has been brilliantly green, whether it be thick forest or deep valleys:

We passed many well-appointed houses today, and were told that these are the second homes, weekend retreats, of wealthy New-Yorkers. We saw the evidence of this yesterday when as we cycled through Hoosick on leaving New York state just after mid-day. There was a huge traffic jam, like Scarborough on a Bank Holiday weekend, as cars returned to the city, slowed by the single traffic light in the centre of town.

In the museum we visited yesterday, there was a section on covered bridges in New England, of which only around 100 hundred survive despite there being at one time over a thousand. We saw two of them today:

By the time we arrived in Brattleboro, it was lunchtime and the temperature was into the thirties. Nevertheless, I googled the visitors’ centre and we cycled to the address given. This turned out to be an ordinary house and the owner of the property was as surprised as we were to find out that she’d been a victim of a Google mistake. We did find the genuine centre and were given a number of options to spend the afternoon pursuing.

The first two involved a trip of another eight miles deep into the Vermont forest. I didn’t tell Val it would be uphill but I think she suspected something was up when we turned on to Black Mountain Road. We found ourselves once again battling an uphill gravel track – it really wouldn’t have been the same if we hadn’t had the chance to curse this once again. It was worth it though as we found Scott Farm, devoted to growing more than 160 varieties of apple as well as other fruit. There was no-one about so I wandered around until I found a dry-stone waller busily engaged; he was responsible for this on the left:

Meanwhile Val found other personnel sheltering from the heat in the cooler and we bought two peaches and apples – Yellow Transparent, the second to crop of the season. We swapped tales of our favourite varieties – there’s no bore like an apple bore – and took away recommendations for Strawberry Chenango, Red Astrakhan and Dolgo crab apple.

On the way back we passed Naulakha, Rudyard Kipling’s house:

I didn’t know Kipling lived in America, but it turns out he married an American and lived on his wife’s family estate in Vermont where he wrote The Jungle Book and Just So Stories. He abandoned the house when his first child died at the age of six, returning to London.

We completed the afternoon with a tour of the ‘hotch-potch’ of Brattleboro’s Main Street buildings including this 1861 (‘Italianate Revival’) building built by a shoemaker. The plaque at the top cost $12,000 and, being made out of bronze, required multiple teams of oxen to haul it from the station:

We finish with a sighting of the Loch Ness Monster. No wonder they can never find it in Scotland:

(PS Don’t forget tomorrow is Val’s birthday).

C2C Day 49: Latham, New York, to Bennington, Vermont – 80.00km, 814m (Cum: 5,596.20km, 26,930m)

20180805_135920.jpg

We started today on the trail we finished on last night. Although nominally still the Erie Canal path, it had ceased to follow the canal and was obviously on the course of an old railway line, but it was at least tarmacked. We were just north of Albany, the state capital, and although it was just after eight on a Sunday morning, the trail was alive with cyclists and runners; it was good to see it so well-used.

Today was a short day, because of the scarcity of hotels along our route so we had more time to spend in places we would normally have rushed through. There were few towns along the way, but the most substantial until Bennington was Cohoes (‘Quehose’). We were the only ones who chose to tarry here, first of all riding down its main street to admire various old buildings. Cohoes is evidently undergoing a make-over, an initiative from the mayor, and all the streets looked clean, sparkly and litter–free, a sight you will be familiar with unless you live in Britain. This building was undergoing a face-lift:

20180805_100939.jpg 

The Visitors’ Centre was shut on a Sunday but we were advised by a local – one who actually knew what his town had to offer for a change – to head north to Cohoes Falls. So we did.

Cohoes used to be known as Spindle City because of its textiles industry, processing cotton from the Deep South in its many mills, all now of course closed. We passed several of them on our way up and found that, rather than being allowed to deteriorate, they had been renovated and transformed into smart, trendy Loft Apartments:

 20180805_090700.jpg

If only someone would do a similar service for the East Mill in Belper…

We have come to treat the word ‘falls’ with suspicion as it can mean anything from a Niagara cataract to some creek bubbling over a few stones, but Cohoes’ Falls definitely fell into the former category. We were completely unprepared for the spectacular sight that greeted us as we followed a single arrow indicating the whereabouts of the waterfall:

 20180805_093446.jpg

This is 300 metres wide and 55 metres high (Horseshoe Falls, Niagara, is 820 metres wide but only 51 metres high). We were fortunate indeed because we were told that at this time of year, the falls are normally not much more than a trickle and you can walk along the river bed to see them. However there has been much rain in North-East US – and a tornado in Massachusetts – in recent weeks (so we have been doubly lucky because we have missed it), so the waters of the Mohawk river are swollen and the result breath-taking.

A panel told us that blueback herring leave their normal salt-water habitat to swim up the canal before spawning in the Mohawk and returning to the ocean via the Falls (or more sensibly, the fish passage). I thought it was only lemmings that threw themselves off cliffs.

Another panel in Cohoes told the story of Robert Craner, a local man captured by the Viet-Cong in 1967 and kept in solitary confinement (in a cell next to the senator John McCain with whom he communicated by tapping on the wall). He was subject to beatings and interrogation until released in 1973. He said that the moon landings took place in 1969, but he did not learn about them until four years later. He died of a heart attack in 1980.

We rode out of Cohoes and almost immediately the terrain changed. For weeks now, we have travelled along flat or slightly undulating hills, but we are entering New England and the inclines steepened, but, by way of compensation, we passed through tree-lined valleys and across the top of Tomhannock Reservoir:

 20180805_111411.jpg

Some time during the day, we left New York State and entered Vermont, but the precise moment was confused by a shop in Hoosick, New York, claiming to be in Vermont. The shop in question was the Big Moose Deli and Country Store which pulled out every stop to attract custom:

 20180805_125156.jpg

One way it did this was by luring gullible passers-by into taking photographs next to ludicrous subjects, not that we would ever fall for such a ploy:

 20180805_125502.jpg

Here’s me next to Bruce and Clark (darn it, I’ve just given away their secret identity) – spot the super-hero:

 20180805_125401.jpg

Only half a mile on was a drive-through (never a drive-thru) coffee shop serving frozen coffee and apple cider doughnuts. Irresistible on a hot day where the temperatures hit 31 degrees C (forecast to go even higher tomorrow):

 20180805_132058.jpg

Finally we arrived in Bennington where we called in at the local Arts Centre, well worth the stop. It was showing an exhibition of around 100 cartoons from the New Yorker magazine. Everyone loves a good cartoon although what makes a funny one varies depending on one’s sense of humour, but I think that the talent of combining wit and the ability to illustrate the joke is a under-rated skill. It’s almost certainly a breach of copyright but here’s one by Erica Flake – the caption reads, ‘You’re right – they are more comfortable than briefs’.

 20180805_143559.jpg

You have to think a moment to appreciate this by Sam Gross:

 20180805_143157.jpg

There was an exhibition by Eric Sloane who paints New England landscapes:

 20180805_144838.jpg

as well as by a carver of animals and birds from wood, and by artists showing Native American life. A GV rating of Five (partly because I was let in half-price as a senior over 62).

We finally visited the 300 foot high Bennington memorial commemorating the 1777 Battle of Bennington when 2,300 American revolutionaries defeated 1,400 British troops – it wasn’t fair, we were outnumbered! In actual fact, the battle took place 10 miles away in New York, but the Battle of Walloomsac doesn’t scan as well.

20180805_153513.jpg

The 2,400 feet (800 metres) of climb we did today will increase by a factor of 1.5 tomorrow before the crescendo of the penultimate day which will combine a ride of 71 miles with a similar amount of ascent. Having brought us to our knees, the tour will decline with a leisurely decent into Boston. Only three days to go.

20180805_133712.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

C2C Day 48: Little Falls, NY, to Latham, NY – 126.2km, 408m (Cum: 5,516.20km, 26,116m)

20180804_110317

The photos of us taken today show us in our new cycle jerseys which were finally delivered yesterday, only five days before the end of the tour. considering that they were  a ‘rushed job’, we are very pleased with them. They are yellow so show up on the road well and they display our route across a map of the USA. In fact the tour has been so long, the map has to stretch across both front and back. I’ll post a photo of them close up when I get the chance.

We really took to Little Falls. The ice cream that we ate yesterday was bought from a shop in an old mill that made textiles, specifically military uniforms. The presence of the mill and the river reminded me of some of the towns in West Yorkshire:

20180803_164225.jpg

Before we left today we had to pay a visit to Lock 17. You will recall from yesterday (surely you can’t have forgotten already?) that Little Falls was founded because boats had to be transported round the big drop in the river. Well, this was translated into the tallest lock on  the whole Erie Canal, 40 feet high. For a long time after its completion in 1912, it was the tallest in the world. And it is huge:

20180804_073645.jpg

Fortunately there was a single boat using it as we arrived, and you can see how small and insignificant it looked in comparison with the interior of the lock from this photo:

20180804_073412.jpg

Today was a long day – 78 miles – but we crammed a lot into it, mostly unplanned. The trail which seemed to have disappeared yesterday has came back strongly today, and the majority was smoothly tarmacked – one section had been freshly laid this week. Apparently it is the policy of the Governor of New York to pave the whole of the trail in this way. If I were a New York voter, he’d get my support too. We cycled along some beautiful wooded paths, sparkling and green because of the high humidity – we are promised 100% humidity tomorrow. Sweaty!

We hadn’t gone long when we saw just off the trail this house, the home of Nicholas Herkimer, a general in the War of Independence who died in the 1777 battle of Oriskany, also mentioned yesterday:

20180804_080913.jpg

His grave was in a cemetery behind the house as well as a monument to his achievements:

20180804_081137.jpg

One reason for mentioning this is that, a few miles further on,  I had a puncture only the  third in nearly 5,500 km, and was mending it when another cyclist stopped to ask if he could help. He told us that he lived in a house built by Herkimer for his sister, a smaller version of the one above. He’d been digging recently and had found an 18th Century penny. Previously he’d dug up an old tree and discovered the roots overlay several horse-shoes; he has been advised that the tree was planted on top of the grave of the family horse in all probability. We would never have found this out were it not for the puncture.

We arrived in Canajoharie (pronounced Canjoharry by the locals or simply shortened to Canjo). Here is the traffic light in the middle of a roundabout (regard my forefinger as an unsolicited bonus):

20180804_102424.jpg

We sought out the local museum mainly because it had a section on chewing gum, Beech-Nut having had a factory in Canjo till production moved to Florida (New York) in 2011. I do remember Beech Nut selling chewing gum in the UK, but I don’t think they do any longer; Wrigley’s sell 35% of the world’s gum. Beech Nut stated out in Canjo selling smoked ham. Anyway, I’ve always wondered exactly what went into gum, and still remember being traumatised when, as a child, I was told that swallowed gum would take seven years to digest (not true! It was fake news). Well, I continue to wonder because the museum did not open till 12 noon on a Saturday. I was so annoyed! The busiest day of the week and they couldn’t be bothered to open till the afternoon. And it was a public library too. A public service should serve the public so a GV rating of a fat zero to the Arkell Museum.

New York finds us in Amish country again. I was told that they moved up here when land got too expensive in Pennsylvania, though I hardly think it is cheap here. We encountered an Amish family selling cakes and pies by the side of the road, and naturally stopped to buy some, including a whoopie pie, two chocolate rounds with a type of butter cream between, resembling an Oreo.

20180804_120509.jpg

Our attention was drawn to a Martyr’s Shrine, unfortunately at the top of a hill. We nevertheless put in the effort. I was expecting a statue such as is seen by the side of the road in France but what we found was a huge building styled a colosseum, holding 6,500 seated people and up to 10,000 with standing. The National Shrine of the North American Martyrs, to give it its full title was dedicated to three Jesuit missionaries killed by Mohawks in the 1640’s. It was amazing, as were the views over the surrounding countryside:

20180804_121606.jpg

20180804_121907.jpg

In a Visitors’ Centre (another canal-related one but it was free), we saw this relief map which illustrates our progress through the state. You can see how, by following the canal trail, we have cunningly avoided the Adirondacks to the north and the Catskills to the south – unfortunately we can’t avoid the Appalachians which we hit tomorrow:

20180804_130409.jpg

We approached but had to disregard Amsterdam including its car on a chimney (bitterly disappointing as we saw someone else’s photos, and it was very impressive) and the Kirk Douglas Park. Kirk, aged 102 in December, was born Issur Danielovitch, the son of a Belarussian rag-and-bone man, in this town (it’s interesting to read the account of his early life and its hardships on Wikipedia).

We had decided to visit Schenectady (‘Skenectady’) instead, partly because I like the name (say it to yourself several times and you’ll feel much better) and partly because it was another film location. In fact it has a number of film and literary connections. Mickey Rourke was born there, but my favourite son of Schenectady is the Spiderman villain, Dr Octopus – I’ve no idea why this city was chosen as the birthplace for a fictional character but Henry James, Kurt Vonnegut and Star Trek have all featured such inventions.

The film in question was the 1973 Redford and Streisand romantic drama, The Way We Were, the first section of which was filmed at Union College where Streisand as the anti-War Marxist Jew is attracted to the good looks and easy charm of Redford’s carefree privilege. Union College was well worth the detour. It is in effect a private university at the heart of which is this stunning Italianate memorial to its founder, Eliphalet (yes, Eliphalet) Nott. Although somehow we managed to miss the 18 acres of gardens but the surroundings were sumptuous:

20180804_161633.jpg

The sign of a good day is when we miss the start of Happy Hour. We were late again today. Tomorrow we leave New York just as we were getting to know it, and we have only four days of cycling left as we spend two days in the hills of Vermont.

20180804_150156.jpg

 

 

C2C Day 47: Canastota, NY, to Little Falls, NY – 91.90km, 313m (Cum: 5,390.00km, 2,5698m)

As well as being the location for the Boxing Hall of Fame, Canastota (Pop: 4,600) was also the location for the Biograph Company, active between 1895 and 1916, the first company devoted to film production and projection in the USA.  I am constantly surprised at the way in which small out-of-the-way places like Canastota have made a contribution influencing our lives so many years later.

We were following the Erie Canal for only a short while today. As we have worked our way east, the standard of maintenance of the canal has dropped as the original has been by-passed by a larger replacement. At times, it looks like the Cromford Canal, clogged with weed or fallen trees, or covered in green algae, a sorry sight:

What we have seen very little of is actual boats travelling along the canal, even when wide and navigable. When we were following the Canal du Midi in France to train for this trip, there was a constant flow of pleasure cruises hired out by holiday companies in the same way you can hire  a barge in the UK. The future of the Erie Canal would be better secured if only someone with similar initiative would do the same, with consequent benefit to towns and businesses along the course of the canal.

When we left the canal, we passed mile after mile of large houses, testifying to the wealth of this part of New York. These dwellings were not part of a town, just an urban sprawl. It’s a shame that the state has been allowed to be spoilt like this, in my opinion. This is a typical example of a house standing in acres of grass (hardly anyone  actually grows anything, they just mow the grass every week). You’d probably build at least twenty houses on this plot in England:

Today was both a short day of only 55 miles but also a day interrupted by rain so we took refuge in the Oneida Historical Museum in Utica (‘Ootika’) where we met the director Brian (I’m never sure whether these posts are paid; Brian was in his forties and ‘at work’ on a Friday so I assume he is). He is a regular cyclist and let slip that he’s done an Ironman two weeks ago. (Well, we’ve cycled 5000 kilometres; how long was your Ironman again?) We have rather had our fill of canal museums and this made a change, being concerned in part with what we call the War of Independence (The Revolutionary War), which like it or not, we lost. There was a battle near Utica called Oriskany in 1777 one of the bloodiest of the war; the Americans lost 50% of their troops, the British 15%, but this was not a victory as the British left most of the fighting to the Iroquois who subsequently fell out causing the loss of a valuable ally and ultimately the whole campaign. There was a cannonball on display from the French and  Indian War of 1756. Unfortunately the rest of the museum was less inspiring and failed to explain the history of Utica (based on textiles) so it only gets a GV rating of Two.

Our search for a decent bakery continues without a great deal of success. Dinner-time coincided with Utica, but the fact that we passed two bakeries that were not just closed but closed down altogether suggests that if the US is eating bread, it is not fresh from the local bakery. On our way out, we saw an Italian Bakery so we called. In Italy, you are never short of something to eat at lunchtime (although, of course, by actual lunchtime, the bakery will have closed for lunch) because you can buy sumptuous focaccia with sun-dried tomatoes and soaked in olive oil, or savoury tarts or pasties filled with spinach, eggs, onions. But not in an American bakery where ‘pastry’ means calorie-crammed sweet pastries, buns, cakes and biscotti. That’s not what we wanted so we moved on.

We saw another Italian Bakery in Frankfort and tried our luck again. We met Rick Vitti whose family has run it since 1961 when it used to be a German bakery. He looked at me blankly when I described the savoury delights on sale in Italy, but despite his grandparents being Italian immigrants, he’d never actually been to Italy, or indeed out the country. He was selling cannoli and pustry. I’d heard of cannoli, but didn’t know what they were (Sicilian tubes of fried pastry dough filled with ricotta). I’d never even heard of a pustry, and this turned out to be a small pie filled with chocolate fondant. OK, it still wasn’t savoury but it was delicious. Val asked for a cinnamon twist, but Rick advised her not to have one on display as they were made yesterday; he fetched some fresh from out the back. This explains why he’s still in business while others have closed down.

Earlier in the tour, I ordered some pie and was asked if I wanted it ‘a la mode’. I hadn’t a clue what this meant either, but I was told that it is generally accepted as meaning ‘with ice cream’.

Little Falls is a great little place. It’s the sort of town that when you’re standing in the queue for Old Sal’s Home-made Ice Cream (two scoops for less than $2), someone will introduce you to the local judge.

The hotel is opposite the town’s Historical Museum which was due to close at four so we headed there straight away and met our second cycling museum director of the day. He gave us a quick guided tour of the highlights.

Little Falls started out as a Mohawk village because the drop in the river meant that all boats and their cargo had to be carried around the ‘falls’. The settlement developed into a village when it became a fur trading post between the local Mohawk tribe and French trappers coming down from Canada. Eventually it grew into ‘the Cheese Capital of the World’. The fame of  cheese in Herkimer County meant that the USA’s first cheese exchange (if you can imagine a cheese exchange) was sited in Little Falls. It fixed the price of cheese for the whole country, thereby influencing the cheese prices in Europe, hence the title. An GV rating of Four (which takes account of a recommendation for ice cream and dinner).

Little Falls also doubles as a film location. Earlier this year, A Quiet Place was released starring Emily Blunt. This well-received sci-fi horror – 95% on Rotten Tomatoes and they’re inevitably making a sequel – was based on the ingenious premise that aliens have taken over the world, they are blind but have hyper-sensitive hearing so attack anything that makes a sound. It was filmed on Little Fall’s Main Street.

C2C Day 46: Waterloo, NY, to Canastota, NY – 119.60km, 455m (Cum: 5,298.10km, 25,385m)

20180802_071309.jpg

This is what a casino looks like at 07.10 in the morning when all the punters have gone home. I was told that it cost 144 million dollars to build, but is not making as much money as the owners hoped so they went to New York State and asked for a tax break. Their plea was not met with sympathy.

As well as offering gambling, the casino also offered the facilities of a spa. I’ve never been to a spa and some of the opportunities available have opened my eyes to what I’ve been missing. The massages include ‘Vinotherapy Signature’ with ‘Anti-Oxidant Mourvedre Oil Treatment Enhancement’, and I don’t really want to think what’s involved in a ‘Couples Classic Swedish’. Alternatively, I could go for a Gentleman’s Lambrusco facial with Vitamin C Brightening. What have I been doing wasting my time cycling these last seven weeks?

Although we were nominally in Waterloo, the town itself was six miles away, but I would have liked to have visited it as it contains ‘One of the Top Five Main Streets in America’ according to a recent survey of architects. However it was a 67 (actually 75 by the time we’d finished) mile day and it was our time to organise Happy Hour, so we had to pass on the 12 mile diversion, just as we did on a deviation to Seneca Falls, home of the It’s A Wonderful Life Museum, the town supposedly being Frank Capra’s inspiration for Bedford Falls. They have a festival every December (obviously) and this year no fewer than four of the original cast will be in attendance including Zuzu in the person of Karolyn Grimes, the actress who played her in the 1946 film. Wow.

20180802_081825.jpg

It was a strange sort of day in that we continued to follow the Erie Canal trail but for most of the day, the canal wasn’t in sight. Over the years, the course of the canal has changed as it has increased in size so we were often shadowing not much more than a mound. We did go off route to track down what remains of a one-time 31 arch aqueduct only to find that it could be found only down a footpath two miles away. We did come across this at Nine-Mile Creek, claimed as the only working Aqueduct in New York State, ‘and possibly the country’. Built in  1841, it carried traffic for 76 years until a larger canal was built elsewhere:

20180802_110849.jpg

We cycled through one of the big cities on the path of the canal, Syracuse (‘Sirracuse’). You could tell that it was a university city because of the immediate improvement in cycle tracks and lanes. We came across this Loch Ness Monster which includes a seat and its tail on the other side of the path.

20180802_120603.jpg

Just as Rochester was known for handling flour, Syracuse was known as the Salt City and supplied the whole of the US with salt from the brine springs in the area. It was ideally placed therefore to benefit from the advent of the canal and became prosperous on the back of it.

20180802_132132.jpg

This photo shows three banks erected on Clinton Square. These were typical of many buildings in the city including this one which bears similarity to the Flat Iron building in New York:

20180802_121755.jpg

There are many canal museums along the way and it is difficult to choose which to visit so we opted for Syracuse’s, housed in the only remaining weigh-house. Canal boats were weighed empty every three years or so and then laden each time they passed through Syracuse so as to determine the toll payable. Irish and German immigrants were attracted to the city bringing with them brewing skills such that in 1880 there were 40 breweries, producing 300,00 barrels per year by 1896. Also featured was an exhibit devoted to Elizabeth Cotton who was left-handed and played the guitar upside down (the guitar, not her). There’s hope for me yet. A GV rating of Four.

The one museum we were looking forward to most was towards the end of the day in Chittananga, the All Things OZ Museum, dedicated to The Wonderful Wizard of that name – L Frank Baum, author of the book was born in this town in 1856 (What does the ‘L’ stand for? Well done, the boy at the back, it’s Lyman). There was a problem, the museum only opened, staffed by volunteers, on a Wednesday and Saturday but an appointment might be possible. The telephone number given went to an answer-phone message which provided another number with no response. But that didn’t put us off; it was only a couple of km away after all.

We confirmed that the museum was definitely closed but found that the pavements of Chittananga are paved with yellow bricks. The town holds a three-day Oz-Stravaganza festival every year; apparently there are still Munchkins alive today just as there are survivors from It’s a Wonderful Life.

Useless Trivia Department: L Frank Baum got the idea for the name of the Emerald City from his filing cabinets, one of which was for documents A to N, the other for those from O to Z.

Here is young starlet Val as she uncannily channels her inner Judy Garland on her way to meet the Scarecrow who needs a brain (no suggestions as to who should play this part, if you please):

20180802_153757.jpg

Tonight we are in Canastota, home of the Boxing Hall of Fame, which interests me not a lot. However, once a year, they have a ceremony to induce new Famous Boxers and the great and the good of the boxing world stay at the Days Inn. Their photos decorate the lobby. This hotel has been home, for one night at least, to Mohammed Ali, his trainer Angelo Dundee as well as the Raging Bull himself, Jake Lamotta, Lennox Lewis, Barry McGuigan and Roberto Duran. Tonight, I might be sleeping in a bed once occupied by one of these pugilists, and if there’s a big hollow in the mattress, I’ll know it was a heavyweight.

20180802_090217.jpg