Idiots & Lunatics

Trip Start May 06, 2012
Trip End Jun 26, 2012

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Flag of United States  , New York
Friday, June 22, 2012

It has been a regular occurrence for me to have to explain my lycra clad & bicycle attached body to people who ask. When I explain to them what I am doing, it is more often than not that they proceed to tell me how brave I am - and I respond every time that it is more stupidity than bravery. However today I met 2 people who made me look reasonably sane in comparison. 

The first person I met was Dave, pictured below, who was cycling on the path and whom I talked to for about 20 miles. Dave was a charming American & he was cycling to his Doctor's appointment. This didn't seem too strange given that the towns are now an increasingly common commodity rather than for the first 50% of the trip where they were a very rare & not particularly attractive commodity. It was when he explained that he needed to cycle c60m to get to the appointment that I thought he was a little off kilter, especially when he said he could have motorcycled but the idea of getting up at 5am, in the dark, so that he could complete the miles was too compelling. While he recounted this story, I am thinking to myself 'what a lunatic'.... but the rather immediate dawning realisation was that I was conversing with a mirror of my own lunacy - I am getting up at ungodly hours to avoid the heat and spending hours on a bottom crushing, slither of a seat. 

He then proceeded to tell me that his Dr's appointment was to review a disc in his neck which had been damaged when he had been knocked off his bicycle 3 months ago. That made the fact that he was cycling 60m to the Doctor more impressive, and when I asked how he was getting home, the answer was obvious wasn't it.... I will cycle back! And this is when I realised that maybe we weren't the same because when I reach the Atlantic, I am not cycling back either to the Pacific, or home on a modified Pedallo! But then I am crossing the US for the 2nd time, so maybe we should both be committed to an asylum!

Unfortunately, Dave was a bit of a bad omen. Though the similarities of our cycling misadventures were similar, he was going to a Doctor to review his injuries from being knocked off his bike - and I have yet to befall that misfortune. However, later that day that I nearly did - and this is where the second lunatic makes his unwanted appearance. 

The canal trail as I would discover was only really a canal trail for about 100 miles of the 350m and I had covered the majority of that on my first day. The rest of the trail was a very mixed bag of road surfaces and locations. The trail clearly tracked the canal but often as not you were not directly adjacent to it but in woodlands along the side of it. This made for increasingly interesting paths, which were now not many metres wide but were instead as wide as the size of a bicycle tyre! Again you can see some of the pictures below. As the canal path is not entirely restored given that it was allowed to slip into disrepair due the the growth of the car and the Interstates, it means that there are a number of sections that you have to bypass by road because they remain overgrown and uncleared. It was on one of these sections that I nearly came a cropper. 

I had just cycled through a town and on exiting it a pickup truck decided to pull out directly in front of me. What was strange was that this big pickup had been sitting in a small car pack area for the entire 30 seconds or so that I came towards him. The road was clear and no cars had either passed or were visible, and though he had a clear view of me as the only person on the road, he waited till I was about 10m away before pulling out to block my path which is where he then stopped. Fortunately, I saw him pull out and slammed on my brakes and stopped 30cm away from hitting him. When I pulled up from my handlebars to look directly at him, it was clear that he wanted me to initiate some sort of confrontation, because all he did was smile in a manner that was unnerving. Normally, a driver would be full of apologies with their hands held up in acknowledgement of their error. But this was not the case today. There wasn't a glimmer of an apology, in fact he looked like he was a touch disappointed that I hadn't cartwheeled over his bonnet. I was about to break into an outburst of f'ing & blinding but I realised that his actions and his demeanour added up into an unsavoury combination that I should avoid. He had clearly pulled out with the direct purpose of having me crash into him. It was unnerving to realise that he had intended to cause an accident but it was clearly best to move on with some rapidity, so I got on my bike and cycled off and hoped that he was content with what had or hadn't happened and that he wouldn't follow me for round 2. Having been treated with deference on the road by nearly all American motorists this was a very rude awakening and a very unsettling experience, I am just glad that I had my head up at the time because if I hadn't put the brakes on as fast as I had, this would be a different recounting. It was only later that I realised that I had nearly become more like Dave than I wanted!

Unfortunately, that wasn't the only misfortune of the day, there were 2 others. Firstly, it drizzled all day and the secondly, I had miscalculated the distance to Syracuse. I thought it was 75m but it turned out to be 95m which turned the day into a 7hr jaunt rather than a 5hr one.... though this was more stupidity than lunacy it was a real pain! Having been so ill with sunstroke the night before, the idea of such a long day would have galled me at the outset but the overcast conditions kept the temperature down and the sun off my back and the light rain was never wet enough to require me to don any waterproof gear, so in fact the poor weather conditions were a blessing and meant that I finished in Syracuse feeling good

You can also see from the pictures that I passed through a town called Clyde on the Erie - which seemed appropriate given that most Americans don't get Clive, but call me Clyde. It put a big smile on my face and though it might not seem much, it doesn't take much during long days in the saddle.

Syracuse, which is where I stayed the night is a great little city and I was fortunate that I found a hotel right in the heart of downtown where there were about 3-4 blocks of restaurants, bars and shops. It was nice to be able to walk to dinner and also to have such a wide and great choice. I had a small bar crawl before having a lovely dinner.
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