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