Our route along the Erie Canal has been relatively easy cycling, it being mostly flat, as one would expect of a canal. There are times when the trail for bicycles diverts onto the roads, which is anything but pleasurable with heavy traffic and up and down hills in direct sunlight at 80˚.
Our campsites have been mostly free as we are allowed to stay at the locks and most have had all the facilities we need. It is also a great pleasure sitting of an afternoon as the boats come and go being lowered or raised by the force of gravity.
As many of you know we have been concerned about being kept awake at night in abject fear of bears. However, we have been fortunate so far to have to camp in only a few bear-risk areas. I am, however, still kept awake at night. All through the night, roughly every hour, vast freight trains rumble past pulled by two colossal engines, some a good half mile long. Because the rail track is close to roads and paths and unprotected by any sort of fence, they blast their horns several times on approach. It's like having the funnel of the QE2 in my tent. Does wonders for the constipation.
We do have one blood hungry predator to deal with every night: mosquitos! Hundreds of the little blighters and they love my blood. At the moment my legs closely resemble an abstract Aborigine dot-art painting.
We continue to meet great characters and get some really great interviews. At Rome we visited an historically important fort that had been rebuilt on its original site called Fort Stanwix During the mid 1700s traders would come by boat up the Hudson River but in order to continue on the Wood Creek to Lake Ontario, they had to portage their boats and goods across land between the two, roughly a couple of miles. Therefore the area became a crucial place and had to be defended. until the Erie Canal was completed in 1825 which connected straight through. But Fort Stanwix continued to be strategically important in keeping the peace, which it wasn't always successful at and it also served as a jumping off spot for British troops advancing and fighting further west. This was an appropriate place to visit just a few days after Memorial Day, an event second only to 4th July.
The generosity of the American people toward us knows no bounds: Very recently we were struggling with finding a campsite, when out of the blue a complete stranger offered us his empty rental house for free for the night! Our heartfelt thanks to you, Doug Hewitt, for getting us out of a jam.
The best visit I feel we have done so far is to the Erie Canal Village. The canal creation is such a pivotal moment in history, affecting the UK and the US. It led directly to the war of independence due to its influence on cotton prices and taxes and yet so very few visit the canal and learn about its history. It only started to sink in a week into the cycle along it how important it was in the development of America. New York City would not be what it is today without the Erie Canal.
We're now in Syracuse and I am nursing an injury. I lost control of the bike, thankfully at a low speed, on some sand on a downhill bend of the towpath trail. The bike wobbled violently then the whole thing toppled throwing me to the ground, hitting my head hard (thank goodness for helmets) and then dumping all 40 kilos of itself on top of me. I escaped only with a bruised hip, shoulder, cut arm and slight headache.
Our chores are done and we head out west again tomorrow. No doubt we'll meet more characters along the way who will have questions for us about our trip. None will be as entertaining as one man's question, as I rode into the outskirts of Syracuse this morning:
"Hey buddy, is that a bicycle you got there?"