Finish: Colonie NY
Weather: 75 degrees, sunny
Distance to date: 2,856
Last night I was checking out my route and calling possible motel locales with an eye on Amsterdam, NY. A very nice desk clerk told me he was fully booked, the other hotels in town had no power and the roads were closed. He gave me the NY emergency web address which I checked to discover that all bridges over the Schoharie Creek, including the Thruway and I-88 were closed except the bridge at Route 20. I found the Schoharie, which runs north about 30 miles east of Albany and right through Amsterdam. I discovered I could reroute along US 20, though the traffic would be gruesome with all other roads down. I also had a fantasy to fulfill along Route 5. I decided to sleep on it and deal in the morning.
The morning was beautiful with a halo of fog nestled in the Mohawk Valley. No changes to the emergency internet site,
but I knew I had Route 20 as a back-up so I took off. I left Schuyler and headed along the Mohawk Valley when around a corner, my fantasy came at me. Those of you who are regular blog readers may recall that back in Eastern Colorado I described riding through the endless plains as the mental image that filled my mind as I contemplated this trip. A second image, right along the NY Thruway, was the one that actually propelled my decision to ride. This spring, on a
drive from Canandaigua to Albany (VA client to AMC client) I saw a cyclist heading east along a stretch of road parallel to the Thruway, passing an old fashioned dairy bar and a vintage motel. That image stuck with me; I wanted to be the guy on the bike instead of the suit on the Thruway. And today, after 2,800 miles, I was that guy. I cycled past the same dairy bar and motel. Maybe someone on the Thruway will change their life because they saw me riding by. I will never know, just as the guy who inspired me will never know. We are not supposed to know in life how our actions affect others, but they do. It was the mystical kind of morning that hatches such thoughts.
I stopped at Mona’s in Herkimer for breakfast. The first day ever a cafe had more women than men. You go, girls of New
York! I fell in love with the waitress and she assured me that Route 5 was open the whole way, so I gave her a great tip, even though she put butter on my toast, which I hate.
Today was the Mohawk Valley, end to end, a gentle sweep of land that goes east to west, contrary to the predominant direction of the Appalachian Mountains. It has been a
major route west for centuries, and as I travelled I realized that my progress has been history writ backwards. Today
was the first time I saw markers and artifacts of the Revolutionary War, as well as some from the French and Indian War. Settlers came here in the 1740’s, more than a hundred years after settlement in Boston, but more than a hundred years before settlement in Colorado. I saw wonderful old forts and homesteads and gorgeous churches.
The Palatine Lutheran Church is like none I have ever seen. It is a golden rectangle in plan, instead of long and narrow, and the entrance is in the middle of the wide side, with the lectern immediately opposite. It is more theater in the round than alter and nave. It has an original thirteen star flag that is amazing. It was completely open, no one on site, so I had time to dally and observe.
At Palatine I decided, lunch in the next town. Bad call. Fonda had nothing but a Cumberland Farms, and next came Amsterdam. Poor Amsterdam. Irene came ashore here and
left a layer of mud over the entire river bed and highway. When I got close to town I shifted up to a parallel street. The west side of town was shabby, downtown was derelict, and the east side was worse. There was not a place to eat or even get a drink where I felt safe to stop in the whole city, and I am pretty intrepid. Even if there had been a room at the hotel, I would not have stayed in that town. So now it is 2:30 pm and I
am hungry and Schenectady is fourteen miles away so I shoulder one, but it also derelict. I had already identified motels in Colonie / Albany and by this time my hunger was past caring, so I just pedaled and, like a miracle out of the East, I saw the Dragon Buffet. I love Chinese buffets! This one was awesome with sushi and Peking duck and the best pork with mushrooms I have ever had. Suffice to say, after riding 70 miles since breakfast, they lost money on me.
Back to Irene. As I travelled east I could hear each stream rushing faster and see each creek running higher. The shore roads off Route 5 were barricaded, no riding on the tow path today. Outside of Amsterdam the grass was matted brown and the mud on the highway had dried, leaving a fine dust that kicked up behind every car. I wished I had a filter mask to wear. A gracious, historic, two story river mansion had collapsed and police crews were monitoring access. Even curious cyclists were not allowed too close. West of Amsterdam the Mohawk was still and brown. At Canal Lock 10 (there are 59 in total) and the waterfall that aligns with it, the river was clogged with all sorts of debris that had been pulled downstream and stuck in the pylons of the railroad bridge above. It was eerie to see the aftermath of so much
force while the river was so calm.
Tonight I am cozy in my EconoLodge. Albany has tons
of wicked cheap hotels. The budget chains have driven the mom and pops places into offering efficiency apartments.
Who can compete with a full size room in a newer building with Internet for $59?
Palatine Church Exterior Palatine, NY
Palatine Church Interior with original 13 star flag
Debris collected at Mohawk River Bridge