Thursday, August 30, 2012

Day 76: Rochester, NY

My day started improving last night. And by that I mean, after a toughish day yesterday, my mood started improving when I arrived yesterday afternoon at the terrific Historical Victorian Bed and Breakfast in Medina, New York. Betty, the owner (with her husband, Reinhardt), was laid back, but attentive, and showed me to a huge room, with a huge en suite bathroom. She also directed me to Zambistro's for dinner (apparently a play on the owner's name, Zambisto, displayed on local realty signs), which was a huge step up from some of my recent meals. I wrote Day 75's blog there, while being waited on by a slightly overwhelmed waitress, who was dealing with a full house on her first day on the job. What she lacked in polish and knowledge (my family will know how much it hurts me to ask for a food recommendation and not be able to get one), was compensated for in her earnestness, youth and effort. Yes, I overtipped.

After a good night's sleep on an excellent mattress, and fueled by Betty's pancake breakfast and a quick dip in her outdoor hot tub (something I didn't even know existed when I booked), I was ready to go for a ride! To boot, the weather was picture perfect (no arm warmers needed), and I even had a brisk tailwind waiting for me.

Notwithstanding my plan, last night, to start on the Towpath, New York State Bike Route 5, with a huge 5 foot shoulder, was staring me in the face as I headed out of town. I went for it, and, combined with the tailwind, put in about 10 miles of extremely pleasant, low effort riding, to the town of Albion. Which must have more historic churches, per capita, than other town. Quite beautiful, architecturally. There was also a marker noting that Terry Anderson grew up there (remember him? -- held hostage by the Iranians for years).
For a change of pace, I then switched to the Towpath, crushed gravel and all, and rode into the town of Brockport, which, as a small college town (SUNY campus), was delightful. There, I hung out at a cafe, enjoyed a banana smoothie, and chatted with another biker who had ridden the Towpath its entire length, from Buffalo to Albany.

By the way, I'm not too proud to admit that I didn't intuitively grasp why it's called a towpath. When the Erie Canal was built between 1825 and 1832, they needed mules to tow the barges with goods and passengers -- no self-propulsion in those days. Doh. Eventually, the Canal was widened and deepened (is that a word?) for the advent of motorized boats, and then, around 1960, it quickly faded from commercial significance as the NYS Thruway was completed and, more significantly, the St. Lawrence Seaway opened. Today, it's mostly used for recreational boating and houseboats. End of short history lesson.

But reading the various plaques at each town about the Canal's building, and its significance to the town's existence, took me back to the far Western portions of this trip, where every town had a story about why it sprung into being as a trading post, garrison station or something else. Crossing America (and occasionally, Canada) by bicycle has really given me a much more attuned sense of -- and appreciation for -- how and why this country was built and expanded. Big infrastructure projects, like the Canal, had huge, positive consequences for the economy, a lesson I wish we were more capable of remembering and applying today. End of short (yes, anti-Republican) rant.

The balance of my ride from Brockport, into Rochester, my destination for the day (slightly over 46 miles), was less notable, as is often the case for me with the portion of the day's ride after 30 miles (I think I get tired, bored, ready to be there or all of the above). Except I was struck, riding into Rochester, by the tall - and quite beautiful -- building with large lettering on the top spelling out KODAK. And nearby, relatively empty, were Kodak-reserved parking lots. In terms of the world moving on and needing to be repurposed, not all that different from the Erie Canal, when you think about it.

Here are today's route and metrics:











1 comment:

  1. Very sad about Kodak. And I'm afraid Xerox, the other once-great, once state-of-the-art high-tech Rochester based company, may also be on the way out. Still, they have the great Eastman School of Music and the small gem of an art museum, Memorial Art Gallery.