90+ miles today, the longest yet! I'm resting at my parents' house, and it sure feels like home. If I hadn't started my journey in Ithaca, I would feel like The Trip was over - but it isn't! I'll be here for a week or so, then on to try the 1-day route to Ithaca.
To back up to Amherst, I ended up staying an extra day with Ryan and co. to help finish the sheet mulching, and also participate in a work day/meditation/lunch at Sirius Community. Quite worthwhile, all of it. Moving firewood around the property and clearing out light for the oldest being on the land - a regal and spreading mountain laurel. There was a nice meditation of personal and planetary healing (this is a main focus of the community), then lunch with guests and community members. At UMass, we got nearly finished with the garden, and celebrated in the dining hall overlooking the magnificent work.
Sunday morning I got going early, the first part of the ride a beautiful and swift descent from Shutesbury to Amherst on country roads. The sun came out to present the most gorgeous of days .... At the top of a hill 10 or 20 miles from Amherst, a fellow in a pickup stopped to tell me he had seen me pass his office, and was "very impressed!" I'm not sure what exactly he was impressed with, but it was awfully nice of him to stop ... it made me think about the fact that maybe I have impressed or inspired far more people than I realize. I hope this is the case!!
The Berkshires gave me the longest climbs I'd had since Vermont, but it seemed plenty doable. I made it to Pittsfield, MA (~45 miles?) in good time, had a relaxing lunch, and wandered down to Lenox, where I had yet another great contact from my aunt Julie. I got to Charlene and Felix's and spent a little time in the woods behind their house to roll in the dry leaves before they got home. Swell folks and swell hosts! We chatted and went to Kripalu (10 min drive!) for an extremely healthy dinner. Quite the place, packed to the brim with yoga teachers and classes. A bit glossy/commercial/pricey overall, but I think the teachings are sound otherwise. I slept extremely well and got on the road early again, pre-dawn.
It was another climb to get through the rest of the Berkshires, though quite pretty. Trees are mostly bare. Then the hill turned downward, and as I was nearly flying, I gazed out on the most precious looking country-side hill. It turned out I was looking at New York State! "The Empire State," as I like to pretend it isn't called. With the smells, flora, and taste of home so close, I pushed ahead on the bike to Albany. I found a great trail up the Hudson, and started to dream that I would make it to Clinton that day - 150 miles, a few hours in the dark. Well, the trail was going north, and I should have gone northwest .... Discovering my folly and divergence from the prescribed route, I stopped in for directions (got more than I asked for, in about a half hour of explanations and computer musings from office workers looking for an excuse to not work!). What I took from it got me on the right course, but I panicked and tried to get to 5W via rte 7W. 7W was a highway, felt like the interstate, in fact. woops. for about 10 miles, I got my legs into a perfect groove, and my concentration was intense. every car or truck that passed felt too close, but I had to press on, so I surrounded myself in a protective bubble of white light, kept breathing, and made it off the interstate finally. I stopped for a sandwich, and found myself shaking with adrenaline. I knew something was up, because even all the city and car smells were pleasant to inhale. i felt good, but had to chill out or risk burn out.
A few more miles (on mostly sidewalk, which was a pleasant relief, this time) got me to Schenectady where I again lost track of the route and was misled by sporadic Bike Trail signs. I stopped into a gas station to look at a map (haven't carried a map since Maine ... it is what it is), and when it started raining and my muscles started tightening up, I decided to stop for the day, well short of my impossible goal. My sister's fiance's mom Helga lives right near Union, so I called her, and she very graciously put me up, on zero notice. Thanks Helga! Really nice visiting, and I felt unfortunately rude to have to speed off again early in the morning. But speed off I did, by 7 or so.
It was humid, cloudy, and unseasonably warm ... i found my way back to the trail, and got moving pretty well. The Mohawk River and Erie Canal have large sections of bike path along them. About 1/3rd of the length to Utica is paved, 1/3rd is unpaved, and 1/3rd is inaccessible. More or less a flat day, with my only stops being to read the informational signs (canal history, some herb profiles, maps, etc), and check out General Herkimer's house. The whole day was grey and heavy, which is how Utica/Syracuse/Ithaca seem to be so often after November. But I had to remind myself it had been as beautifully clear and sunny here the week before as it was in MA. Anyway, the canal is pretty cool, what with all the locks and water birds and outcroppings of cut-away hills. A fascinating look at history, geology, and canal culture. I've never been more glad to see Utica (and I understand its layout better than ever, just from one ride through).
Within 6 or 7 miles of Kellogg Street, it began to sprinkle, then rain. I reluctantly put the covers on my bags, and hunkered down for the home stretch. Most of the rest of the trip was uphill, making for a very humbling journey and arrival. My dad passed me and honked, about 2 miles from home. My glasses allowed limited vision, and I had to get into focused riding mode, rather than taking in the familiar scenes. And then ... I made it home ... woo! Things seem really well here, like there's a vibrant health about the place, people, and animals. Good news.
My Achilles seemed at an all-time low point after Sunday's ride. Then Monday I woke up and it felt better than ever! Lots of theories, but as long as I kept tabs on it all day Mon and Tue while riding, it was quite strong. Thank goodness, I feel hopeful for a real recovery.
I'm interested to see what the Canal culture develops into in the next decade or two ... I couldn't help but think about how great a completed bike/horse/pedestrian path would be, to link up the state further. And though the water doesn't always look so inviting, boat transportation/recreation seems pleasant. It was extremely coincidental that the headline of the Utica paper today was about canal traffic being up from last year! We'll see.
A Thanksgiving entry is in line in the next couple days!