Myra's Bike Travels: Tour of New York State

my bike on ferry to Vermont

I come from New York State. Often when I tell people this they ask "Oh, how do you like living in such a big city?" I answer "I don't know; the biggest city I've lived in is Philadelphia." While a very large proportion of the population of New York State live in or near New York City, the vast majority of the area of the state is rural. In fact about 1/6 of the area of the state is occupied by Adirondack Park, the largest state park in the US. This is a mostly wild area full of hills, dense forests, clear streams, and lots of wildlife including coyotes and bears.

My first bicycle tour was in 1985. I was working over the summer in Rochester NY, where I was going to university, and decided that the kind of vacation I wanted was to hop on my bike and go somewhere. I decided I wanted to see Adirondack Park since I'd never been there. So I bought some panniers (rear ones only; this was a mistake, as the bike was very top-heavy) and headed out. I didn't bring along anything to write in, but I found myself wanting to write about my travels, so I wrote my diary in the spare pages of my addess book. I've added comments in square brackets []. One of the things I find strange about this diary is that when I mention taking showers it's usually in the morning. This is my usual time of taking a shower, but when I'm doing lots of exercise during the day it's much more sensible to shower in the evening and go to bed clean. I'm surprised that I hadn't discovered this obvious fact during this first bike tour.

Sat, Aug 17

bird at Fairhaven Beach

Started from Goler [apartment building in Rochester I was living in over the summer] about 8:30am, took Seaway Trail to Fairhaven State Park, arrived about 4:30pm. Set up camp next to Lake Ontario, went to get food and take pictures. Came back, ate dinner, spilled semi-hot tea on my left thigh, got a slight burn. Ranger came by and said I was in the wrong place, helped me move to the "right place": campsite Y on the tent overflow area. At about 10pm the people in X next door came back and I discovered my tent was practically in thier campsite. They went to complain to the ranger; when they discovered that I'd been moved once already they let me stay.

I did not have enough clothes with me for the night and I was too cold to sleep. [I didn't have a sleeping bag with me! I thought, this is summer, so I won't need one. Not very wise...] I shivered all night and around 2am went down to the lake to look at the stars, which we very beautiful. Saw a shooting star. Good luck?

Sun, Aug 18

Lynda & Bobby Seaway Trail

Started from Fairhaven about 8:30 after an essentially sleepless night. Took Seaway Trail again. Lots of hills until I hit route 104B, then pretty flat. Stopped at corner of route 3 and 104B to get water at a house. Really friendly people -- Bobby and Lynda. Continuing on, I had planned to take a rest at Southwick Beach, but I could not make it. About a couple miles after Selkirk I pulled over, parked my bike, and fell asleep under a tree. [I'm pretty sure that this extreme tiredness was caused as much by lack of food as lack of sleep. Back then I had the habit of skipping lunch, and I tried to keep up this habit while I was bike touring!] Bobby and Lynda came by on their motorcycle, asked if I was all right. I said yes. They offered to buy me lunch at McDonalds, I agreed. So they brought back some food [I had a fish sandwich, I remember it still!], we had a picic, and then I was on my way. I have discovered the value of a good lunch.

Got to Watertown about 6pm, Glenn [Foster, a friend from university] was very surprised to see me [as I'd turned up completely unannounced...]. I slept very soundly in thier spare bedroom.

Mon, Aug 19

Got up at 9am, took shower, ate breakfast (pancakes) cooked by Glenn. [And I noted that the Fosters were planning on taking Glenn back to Rochester on the 28th.] Went to Sears to get sweatpants and thermal undershirt; only got sweatpants because thermal stuff wasn't in yet. Ate lunch in Harrissville, talked with lady who wishes she could just take off and go touring. Got into Cranberry Lake State Park about 7pm, went to see bears at town dump, then set up tent and ate dinner.

Again too cold to sleep, about 2am went down to lake to listen to water (too cloudy for stars).

Tues, Aug 20

view of lake from Bear Mt

Got up at 6am, hiked Bear Mountain (beautiful view!). Took pictures at lake, took shower.

Ate lunch at Tupper Lake, bought thermal shirt at dinky clothing store, got to Meadowbrook about 5:30.

Wed, Aug 21

view from Mount Marcy

Biked to Adirondack Lodge, climbed Mount Marcy [highest mountain in New York State], met Doug and John [nephew and uncle who were going up the mountain at about the same pace I was] came back down with them. Got ride with them to route 73, stopped on way back at Lake Placid to buy dinner, went right by the campsite the first time [it was dark by then], got almost to Saranac Lake before I realized, turned around, found it, ate and slept.

Thurs, Aug 22

from overlook atMt Philo

Started out about 8:30, went to Lake Placid, did laundry, bought new rear tire, film, souvenier T-shirt. Ate lunch in Elizabethtown, met two other cyclists (Linda and Bonnie). We rode to Essex to cross Lake Champlain by ferry into Vermont, and we shared a campsite at Mount Philo State Park. They let me use their spare sleeping bag (luxury!). Another lady (Nancy from Toronto) joined us later. Slept well! Changed tire before shower.

Fri, Aug 23

Ausable Chasm

Left Mt Philo 9 or 10am after saying goodbye to Bonnie, Linda, and Nancy. Nancy invited me to stop by if I ever get to Toronto, and I will. I like her. [Actually I never did look her up, although I went to Toronto a couple of times.]

Biked to Burlington, took ferry to NY State, then to Ausable Chasm which was not worth the $9 I paid for it. [I'd been spoiled by the very beautiful (and much cheaper) gorges near Ithaca.] Then on to Plattsburgh, or specifically to Cumberland Bay State Park. Saw Hitchcock movie The 39 Steps at campground but did not really understand it.

Sat, Aug 24

sunrise at Cumberland Bay; for some strange reason this is the last picture I took on my trip!

Left Cumberland about 8:30, caught 9:00 ferry to Grand Isle, went through Vermont islands, crossed Canadian boundary into Quebec. Had the absurd notion that I could be at the campsites at the upper end of Lake St Lawrence (near Cronwall, Ontario) by nightfall, then go canoeing the next day. This is about 130 miles. Of course I did not make it. Lunch found me in Hemmingford, Quebec, by 5pm I was in Huntington (still in Quebec). I could not go the remaining 50 miles before dark (not to mention that before I got to Hemmingford it had started to rain) so I camped in a roadside park [which was not an official campground] by Route 138 just out of Huntington.

Sun, Aug 25

Well, the Quebec Provincial Police didn't kick me out of the park so I got a sound night's sleep. The small shelter I had set my tent up under kept everything pretty well dry, but there were still lots of water droplets on it so I had to pack it up wet. Biking along Route 138 as I went back into NY State I discovered that biking in the rain is not bad; you just accept that you will get wet and then enjoy it.

I got a flat and misaligned wheel from expension grates on bridge to Canada (Ontario this time) at Cornwall. Tried to fix it on island; patch held only to entrance of Park Long Sault. Rain finally stopped at about 6pm. Young bearded ranger (packsacker [as he called himself]) came over to admire my stove. This campground is almost deserted so late in the year.

Mon, Aug 26

One of the park rangers took me to a hardware store in Ingleside; they didn't have tube to fit my tire size. He then took me to K-mart in Cornwall, where I bought 2 tubes, a new tube repair kit, and a new rear reflector to replace the one that had broken off. I put the new tube in and was on the way by about noon.

I ate lunch in Morrissburg (croissants and fruit salad) and crossed into NY State at Ogdensburg. The bridge was corrugated and I was afraid I would whipe out. Luckily I did not. I got my chain sorted out ($.50) in Ogdensburg; the rain had made it squeak like crazy [and I hadn't brought along any chain oil!]. Just out of Ogdensburg I noticed my tire was soft. I pumped it up, and then after about 4 miles it was flat again. After 2 or 3 more pumpings I made it to Jaques Cartier State Park. I ate dinner and then 2 ladies from the next campsite invited me to share thier fire. I accepted and talked with them for awhile, then I went to bed.

Tues, Aug 27

Got up as usual, returned the blanket the ladies next door had let me borrow (wool army blanket -- boy it felt good!), took a shower, changed my tube (again!) found that holes in new tube looked like holes in last tube. I am suspicious. Is my tire doing it?

I bike against a headwind to Alexandria Bay, eat a huge lunch. I realize that I am eating more in an effort to procrastinate riding again. I am getting mentally and physically very tired. I take route 26 to 37 to Watertown. Those 20 miles from Alex Bay to W-town took (it seems!) forever; the headwind was so strong. My ankle (which has been hurting off and on since last Mon when I pulled in to Cranberry Lake) hurts and I have a new ache in my right knee. I decided on the way that I will leave Watertown tomorrow not by bike but by bus -- I do not want to spend 3 more days biking under clouds against a headwind. [I mentioned a bus in my diary but I'd conveniently arranged to arrive in Watertown the evening before the Fosters were taking Glenn back to university.] When I got to Fosters I found that they had room to take me (and bike!) back to Rochester. [In fact Glenn's Dad said he suspected that I would come back to W-town in time to hitch a ride with them.] I take a shower, fill out last few post cards (1000 Islands) and sleep.


At the end of my diary I wrote a list of things that I thought would be useful to bring along for my next biking trip. The main thing I thought would be useful was a sleeping bag, although I thought hot cocoa would be useful too (being hot and having lots of calories -- calories are good when you're bike touring).

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