A Gig on the Erie Canal

ErieCanalwayTrail

In my last post, I mentioned stopping in Ohiopyle Pennsylvania on the way home from our Southern Tier tour for a business matter. It was a meeting with Kasia Martin, Director of Bike Tours with Wilderness Voyageurs (hereafter: “WV”). WV is a company that’s been doing whitewater rafting and kayaking for over 50 years and more recently has been doing bike tours as well. WV’s home base in Ohiopyle, or maybe I should call it a “recreation complex”, is right at the intersection of the Youghiogheny River (or “Yough” for short and pronounced “yuk!”) and the Great Allegheny Passage rail-trail. Kasia was explaining that WV has created two new 4-day bike tours starting in 2015 in upstate New York. One is a relaxing cruise on the Erie Canalway Trail and going through Rochester, and the other is a more challenging loop in the Finger Lakes.

My “interview” over coffee with Kasia while sitting outside on a sunny day, was the most delightful in history. Kasia is a super-friendly and outgoing person, and you could imagine the interview going sorta like this:

K: “We’re starting a couple really cool new Bike Tours in Upstate New York! We’re really excited!”

B: “Hey … those are in my backyard! Can I help?”

K: “Sure!”

So off we went, back to Rochester, and we started the inaugural Wilderness Voyageurs Erie Canal Tour on June 1st. I had to scurry directly up to the Buffalo start from Potter Country Pennsylvania, as I was at my club’s annual retreat at the Susquehannock Lodge the weekend before the tour. Arriving in Buffalo the day before the start, I met Trip Leader Richard, as well as Bill and “Sherpa”, two other WV guides. Yes, since this was a beta-test, and Bill and I are newbies to WV, the first runnning of this tour had FOUR leaders for nine rider-clients. And yes, you can bet the riders had excellent support and a helluva good time!

Day 1: We met the group in Buffalo and loaded up the rig with people and bikes for a quick drive up to Fort Niagara, where the Niagara River meets Lake Ontario.

Fort Niagara
Fort Niagara
The Lighthouse at Fort Niagara
The Lighthouse at Fort Niagara

While Bill and Sherpa joined the group in a tour of the fort, Richard and I started setting up bikes and lunch. A nice ride along the shore of Lake Ontario, and then a turn south toward Gasport took us to the Becker Farms and Viscarra Vineyards for the night. Following some wine tasting, a great dinner, and a bit of raucous laughter, we retired to our brand new luxury cabins for the night.

Welcome!
Welcome!

Day 2: Following a casual breakfast with quiches, pastries and fruits, we headed for Lockport where the group toured the Erie Canal Discovery Center before visiting the current twin canal locks numbers E34 and E35 which replaced the original “Flight of Five”

Lockport Locks
Lockport LocksBelow the LocksAnd now the trail! …
The Erie Canalway Trail
The Erie Canalway Trail

Below the locks, we headed eastward toward a snack break in Middleport, lunch and a tour at the Medina Railroad Museum, and another snack break in Albion … all cool historic canal towns.

In the hamlet of Hulberton, we met Chris, the owner of Trailside Bicycles

Don't Miss It!
Don’t Miss It!

who arranged to let us stash the bikes for the night. Nice shop (selling fatbikes too!), great guy, but wouldn’t sell me the Penny-Farthing he has on display on the shop floor. I’ll be back and will keep working on him.

We loaded up and shuttled down to Mumford where we had a fantastic dinner and an overnight stay at the Genesee Country Inn.

Genesee Country Inn ... Nice!
Genesee Country Inn … Nice!

It’s an old plaster mill that was powered by a nearby natural spring (it’s still flowing quite well, of course), complete with a millrace underneath, and now converted into a beautiful bed and breakfast. Wow! I’ve been by there just short of maybe … oh … a million times or so on my local club rides, and always wondered what it was like in there. Now I know and can’t wait to return!

Day 3: Yet another scrumptous breakfast and back to the trail. This day, we cycle through Holley, Brockport, and Spencerport before crossing the Genesee River in Rochester. Here, the group is stunned by the at-grade intersection of the Genesee River and the Erie Canal. How the heck did that happen? (Hot tip: come on my next Erie Canal tour, and I’ll be happy to explain!)

After lunch in the park, we meandered on down the trail to Pittsford where we “camped out” at the Del Monte Lodge Renaissance Rochester Hotel & Spa. Camping like this involves first class rooms, service, and facilities, and it’s right on the canal trail so there was no chance anyone would go flying by. A few of the group had refreshments at the Lock 32 Brewing Company before dinner. At my suggestion, we all had dinner along the canal at Aladdin’s in Schoen Place. Several of us enjoyed ice cream after dinner at the Pittsford Farms Dairy before calling it a top-notch day of bike touring.

Gotta get some Ice Cream!
Gotta get some Ice Cream!

Day 4: After breakfast in the Spa’s restaurant overlooking the canal and trail, we hit the trail for Fairport (my old stomping grounds decades ago), and on to Macedon where the gang got to watch Lock 30 in operation. We made them work for their snack stop by parking the support rig on the opposite side of the canal from the trail! How do you get across? Well, you just walk right across the lock gates! Uh … when they’re closed anyway!

Lower gate at Lock 30 in Macedon
Lower gate at Lock 30 in Macedon

A few more miles through Palmyra and into Newark, and the riders found lunch waiting for them at the park downtown.

Only four days together, and here the group is exchanging hugs, high-fives and Facebook links like old buddies. Shared adventures, right?

Way to go team!!!
Way to go team!!!

After returning everyone to Buffalo, the support crew had another job to do. We headed for Geneva at the north end of Seneca Lake, the largest of the Finger Lakes. More about that in the next post.

Tailwinds!

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