After two nights in a hotel we were both ready to be back on the trail. However, the clean laundry, opportunity to watch tv in bed, and hot showers was much needed and served to reignite our spirits. Over the course of the two days we had also had more than our fill of exploring Utica by foot, though we really didn’t visit many places other than Tramontane and the library the entire time we were visiting since there really wasn’t much else TO see.
Back in Ft. Plain I had learned of an interactive historical village in Rome, NY that would allow Little Prince to experience life on the Erie Canal during its boom period of the late 1800s, early 1900s. It also looked as though it was right off the path and therefore would not add to our distance too much or delay us by adding travel time. Getting out of Utica, however, proved to be just as confusing and harrowing as getting into the city had been. We followed city streets for a while, turned around at least twice, but eventually found our way on to back to the path in Oriskany and were able to follow the stone dust path until we reached Rome.
Rome, NY was very similar to Utica in that the road we needed was a four lane road with a rather high maximum speed limit. However, there were short access roads that we were able to use in order to avoid intervals of traffic. And at one point I decided to brave the side walks as Little Prince had been causing trouble attached to me again. This proved difficult when we encountered a McDonalds undergoing a remodel that included the sidewalk. But, we persevered and made it through, around, and over all of the obstacles to bikes that come from developing a car-centric city.
Turning down state route 46/49 there was supposed to be a separate path, but I didn’t see it and was more interested in finding the Erie Canal Village. As we rode along we saw signs for the village and knew we were on the right track, in fact we didn’t even realize we had been looking at it until we came upon the entrance and discovered that it was closed on Sundays. (Well, at least we have a pattern developing!)
I had been counting on the village being open and getting something to eat either there or at a grocery store along the way, having been thwarted in the plan it was time to bring out the handy-dandy smart phone and google a grocery store! Thankfully, there was one on the way to lock 21 in New London where we planned to camp for the night. So, we continued along looking for the entrance to the dedicated path.
Finally, we found the entrance and continued along the trail for a while until our handy-dandy navigation told us to turn back onto route 46/49. I debated following this advice but as I wasn’t completely sure where the grocery store was I decided to follow the lady’s voice and headed back on to the main road. It was not too busy and we rode along with no problem until we came upon a junction of state routes where there was a gas station. Apparently THIS was the grocery store google was sending us to. Not sure what to expect we went in anyway as we were getting pretty hungry and found a number of items to make a rather healthy, vegan, lunch including dried fruit, trail mix, nuts, olives, and hamburger buns. Taking our loot outside we crossed the state route and followed circle st and rejoined the trail (I knew there was an easier way than following the state route!) in less than a quarter mile and took a much deserved break at the crossroad to enjoy our bounty and the warm spring day.
Eventually, a large group of riders that we had earlier seen headed to Rome passed us as we ate headed our way and suddenly I became anxious that the campsites at the lock would be full and leave us with only stealth camping as an option. So, as we rode along the trail I, therefore, kept an eye out for good spots to camp if necessary. It wasn’t long, possibly three miles, down the trail from where we had lunch that we camp upon lock 21 and that large group of bikers. There were also a large number of people fishing along the canal and a number of tents set up in a group that looked to be all a part of the same large group of people.
While still in Utica yesterday I had called the lock to see if we needed to reserve a camp site. It turns out that while the website says you can reserve the phone number listed goes straight to the lock captain who doesn’t do reservations and so he had no idea how crowded he was going to be this weekend. Lock 21 in New London is distinctive as a campground because there are tent platforms available. While we could have just pitched the tent, I had learned that the polite thing to do was to first check in with the captain. So, even though it meant enduring the crowd of bikers and a boat going through the lock I waited patiently and Little Prince simply endured. This turned to our advantage because the lock captain remembered that I had called and offered his bathroom to us (this isn’t usually done as the bathroom is in the captain’s office) as well as the chance to refill our waters. This lock had neither potable water or bathrooms, so it is definitely one of the less luxurious locks!
Slowly, the evening progressed and the fishers all went home leaving only us campers behind. Unfortunately our fellow campers were not the most considerate of neighbors, and while Little Prince was able to fall asleep with no problem (other than the ones he imagined) I was kept awake by the drama unfolding more than 600ft away.
Memorial Day at last! Today we planned on making it all the way to the Green Lakes State park just outside of Syracuse. But it was also a day to honor the men and women who serve, and have served, in the American Military. It was with these thoughts that I packed our camp site up and got us on the road just around 8:30 this morning. The captain was not the same as last night but he was nice enough to let us refill our water and use the bathroom before we set out.
As we rode along, the path took us through the end of one town’s breakfast for veterans, over a few aqueducts, and then we passed a memorial decorated with flags. It was strange to witness and pass by these celebrations and yet not be a part of them. At the memorial we discussed some of the major military battles that have recently occurred and it made me wonder what our memorials to those that have died in combat while fighting “terror” will be. Will there even be a memorial?
Early in the afternoon we were getting close to the state park and started looking for the bridge which we needed to cross in order to reach it. We saw one wooden bridge and figured it couldn’t hurt to see if this was the one we needed so over we went. Seeing no signs I asked a man coming down a steep undeveloped trail (that I was REALLY hoping wasn’t the path we needed) if this was the path to the state park. As it turned out this was not the path we sought. However, serendipity was starting to play her hand in our journey because the gentleman I asked turned out to be Rob Benedict, a member of the Mohawk nation and a musician with a long and colorful resume! Rob directed us where we needed to go and even took time out to play us a couple songs. It is no wonder he has played for Pete Seeger and a number of other well known artists! The sound of the native flute is haunting and distinct, there is a certain magic when played that hints of times long gone.
Leaving Rob, Little Prince and I continued on our way to the state park and had no more trouble finding it. It also turned out that my hunch that most people would check out on Monday morning was correct and so we were able to get our choice of campsites. However, the price was a lot more than I had been expecting at $15! However, it was nice to have potable water, toilets, and the Green Lakes were amazing to see!
These are another geological marvel left over from the time of the glaciers when waterfalls pounded the earth, creating deep craters that are now filled with water of a clear quality and appear to be crystalline green, hence the name: Green Lakes.
The other nice thing about the state park was that there were kids for Little Prince to play with and be entertained by while I made dinner for us. We turned in around 8, which turned out to be early for a campsite since we were visited by another camper. The other problem was that this park was full of car campers and RVs so even late at night people were driving around the grounds with their lights on, which kept waking me up. Though, the icing on the cake for the night was when someone shown a flashlight in face and reported that they had found Little Prince crying on the side of the road because he had gone to the bathroom without waking me and couldn’t find his way back in the dark! Clearly, there was going to be little sleep for me now!