Rain overnight before the first day of the Cycling the Erie Canal ride might have worried some riders. But the overcast morning kept everyone cool as the ride got underway Sunday around 8:00 a.m. Riders were in evidence from Texas, Florida, Missouri, California, Toronto, Arizona, as well as neighboring states. Mothers rode alongside teen and younger daughters, couples rode together, adult children coaxed their parents to join them, a boy scout troop sponsored by a church hit the trail. The large group quickly stretched out along the 46-mile first day.
IMPRESSIONS OF DAY ONE:
- The cities of Buffalo and Tonawanda have welcomed riders and other recreation to the waterfront with quite a bit of development, including paved multi-use trails along the Niagara River and Erie Canal.
- One section of the bike ride took riders through city streets to get from the Buffalo waterfront onto the Canalway Trail, highlighting one issue that Parks and Trails New York is working on, trying to 'close the gaps' in these urban areas, just like through Syracuse.
- Stops in Lockport and Middleport highlighted historic structures that were in use when the older version of the canal was in operation, mid-to-late 1800s.
- A trip through locks in Lockport, that was an optional part of the trip, took us through structures 100 years old, still operating. These locks were not the original water-lifts of the historic canal. Some rerouting and re-engineering allowed for fewer locks overall.
- The tent cities offer riders bike repair, massage, pre-arranged tent set-up as an option, entertainment and history presentations.
RIDERS NOT ALL THE SAME:
Some of the riders are seasoned cyclists, having done other long-distance tours in other states. Those stories are freely shared, often hinted at by jerseys from the past conquests. Other riders have cycled this route before, enjoying the history, the relatively flat course and the organization by Parks and Trails New York. Still others have little prior riding experience and have chosen to join family members who have done the tour or simply forge out for a new experience.
A cloudy but dry morning gave way to a partly sunny day with a good tailwind, making the first day a very pleasant riding experience. The overnight tent city in Medina even had a swimming pool open for riders. So, 46 miles down, 354 to go.