11.1 Miles on the Erie Canal
Bonjour! Time for my second post. It's all very exciting, no?
This past weekend, my human convinced her parents to go biking along the Erie Canal. Now, before any of you get excited, we do not mean on a motorcycle. No, we use our own two feet and push pedals around and around and around.
It is all rather time-consuming and tiring. My human did quite well, but for moi - not so much. I tuckered out half way through. Too many bumps (and on a full bladder).
We started the ride in a place called Medina, New York. It is about ten hours from New York City. The human insists we are closer to Toronto, Ontario, and Montreal, Quebec, than we are to New York City, New York.
Very strange if you ask me.
The weather was chilly at around 65 degrees Fahrenheit (or 18 degrees Celsius). There was a slight breeze, maybe 3 to 4 miles per hour (4 to 6 kilometers per hour), and the trail ... bumpy. Someone had gone through with a tracked vehicle and left nasty little bumps all along the trail. It did not help my constitution at all.
We began our bike ride around 3 in the afternoon and headed east towards the town of Albion. In a motorized vehicle, this trip would take around 20 minutes, but on the bikes it would take an hour.
The Erie Canal was first opened in 1825, and was 363 miles (584 kilometers) long. It stretches from Buffalo, New York, all the way across New York State to Albany, New York (the state's capital) where it connects with the Hudson River. That, as you probably know, is a river that flows into New York City then into the Atlantic Ocean.
It was hand dug and was originally quite small. They did not dig the modern one out by hand - oh no, much too large. They have expanded the canal since its beginning, and there are places where one can see the original canal. I am planning on convincing the human to take me, if I can visit. (Some sort of rule about cats not being allowed into premises.) Otherwise, I will send her along to visit for me.
For much of its early history, the Erie Canal was the main corridor through which people and cargo traveled. Ships laden with grain and other items from the Great Lakes would arrive in Buffalo, unload the cargo into canal barges which would then travel to Albany. In Albany, passengers would board the barges and float back to Buffalo. They didn't have motors, so mules would pull the barges along the canal. They walked on what was called a towpath because, of course, mules cannot walk on water.
Then railroads came and shipping grain on a train was cheaper than on a barge.
But, do not fear, the canal still exists, though not so much as a working canal, more of a fun canal minus the coffee shops.
The Erie Canal, currently, is seen more as a tourist attraction (though, the human complained about lack of bathroom facilities, coffee shops and smooth roads). The human, I might add, regularly biked in Seoul, South Korea, and Koreans have coffee shops everywhere even along the river.
But, back to the canal.
The canal is attempting to make itself better (I write this as though the Erie Canal is a living, breathing entity and not some man made river in the beautiful countryside of New York, but you get the idea ... I hope). It tries to beautify the area, open it up for easier traffic, and promote itself. The towpath that the mules once walked is now a place for people to walk, run or bike. I suppose one could see horses along the canal if they convince their humans to take them for walks, but I do know that dogs walk along the canal (we saw two).
The communities along the canalside are also trying to do more. In fact, the terminus of the Erie Canal in Buffalo has a park called ... Canalside. The human says that we will go visit once the weather warms up. It is almost June, and still hovering in the low 20s Celsius.
For the most part, I enjoyed it. I would have enjoyed it more had I been able to go to the bathroom before we went, or had there been appropriate facilities for felines. Not a kitty litter place in sight.
I am still adjusting to the human's bike riding. She always seems to find the bumpiest of places to bike, and while crouching on the back of her bike (safe in a carrier in a basket that is attached to her bike), I haven't quite mastered the motion. Thankfully, I don't get motion sick too often.
We saw plenty of water and trees, but one spot was something the human wanted to see - the only place where a road goes under the canal. Normally, roads bridge the canal, but this one goes under.
I would have enjoyed looking under the canal, but there was no way for us to descend to the road level without going down a steep embankment, and neither of us were about to do that!
The towpath was quite annoying. It was bumpy and gravelly. They are working on improving the area, but have left bunches of rocks strewn all over the place without patting it down and making the towpath smooth. While it might be all right for mountain bikes or walking, one can barely manage with a touring bike let alone a baby carriage. Also, there weren't many places to stop along the canal for a rest or a picnic or even safely pick up tired kitties and people. The lake of bathrooms is second only to the lack of coffee shops.
For my first adventure on a long bike ride, I enjoyed it. It was a new experience and once the weather (finally) warms up, I think I will enjoy being out in the countryside. This part of New York is more rural than what I knew in Seoul, South Korea. Much more rural than what I knew in Seoul. There are distinct disadvantages such as the lack of cafes and restaurants that will allow me inside, but there are advantages as well like clear skies.
I highly recommend you taking a trip along the Erie Canal. Both Medina, New York, and Albion, New York, are pretty little towns with a nice downtown. They have plenty of parking spaces near the canal and you can wander around looking at all the sights. There may not be much for picnic grounds, but they have restaurants. Once I sort out all the notes, I will have a post about the towns that we travel too as well.