To Albany - Back to Beginnings - CycleBlaze

June 24, 2021

To Albany

I woke early to another beautiful day for cycling – clear skies and temps in the 70s. I would not let the headwinds for later in the dampen my spirits. I had fifty miles to Albany where I would catch the 4:10 train to New York City. I headed down to Evolve Eatery for coffee and picked up two PB&Js to go – one for breakfast and one for lunch. I was on my way at 7:45 – an early start for this tour.

It was a wonderful beginning to the last day on tour on a well-sealed trail that teased me with occasional views of the Mohawk River. A lot of work was being done to install/improve sections of the trail, including planting of trailside trees. In places where the Empire State Trail signs directed me away from my planned route, I chose to follow the signage, which usually put me onto a freshly paved and smooth surface.

They make a good PB&J
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Morning sun highlight the Amsterdam Castle
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Looking east, down the Mohawk River at Amsterdam, NY
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Looking west, up the Mohawk River at Amsterdam, NY
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Looking across the Mohawk River to Amsterdam, NY
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Heading out toward Albany
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Tree planting along a new section of Empire State Trail
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I was making good time so I relaxed a bit and made the occasional stop for pictures. At Lock 8, I got off the bike for a closer look and my helmet fell on the ground. What??  It had been sitting on the top of my rack since I stopped to remove a layer of clothes at Rotterdam Junction – 3.5 miles and 33 minutes earlier!  I never noticed that my helmet was no longer on my head – and had stopped for pictures several time in the interval. Clearly, my head was not in a good space (literally) and Vivien George gives a smooth ride!  

Remnants of Lock 25 at Rotterdam Junction - the onset of riding sans helmet
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The young buck remained here for several minutes, though I never did get a clear iPhone photo
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Leisure boats heading up the Mohawk River
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Lock 8 - where my helmet makes known it is not on my head
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Lock 8
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The last big city on the Erie Canalway Trail before reaching Albany was Schenectady. The city grew as a manufacturing center in the 1820’s as trade prospered along the Mohawk River and Erie Canal. General Electric began in Schenectady and still has many research facilities located nearby in suburban Niskayuna, on the bluffs above the Mohawk River. The well-marked route through Schenectady wound through the historic Stockade District on the northeast edge of town before traversing a nicely wooded section and climbing onto the bluffs above the Mohawk River. Unfortunately, there were no views to reward the short, steep climb, but I did pass by the GE Global Research Center and the Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory, a collaborator with GE and the US Department of Energy in the production of nuclear powered submarines. In crossing a driveway, I missed the connecting trail and inadvertently headed toward the security entrance for Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory – the armed guard was out of his booth in a nanosecond to ask what I was doing. I was grateful his gun stayed holstered.

After dropping off the bluffs, the next ten miles of the route followed mostly along the river. A number of cyclists, walkers, and joggers were out enjoying the trail and/or the views from Niskayuna Lions Park. A longer, gentler descent took me through Cohoes, where the Mohawk River flows into the Hudson. I’d been craving a chocolate milkshake to go with my PB&J and was hoping that I could find an ice cream stop among the commercial venues around Cohoes. I almost fell off my bike when I spied an ice cream cone atop a roadside restaurant – the Pig Pit BBQ. I found an outside picnic table and eagerly went inside, only to be told that their ice cream maker was on the fritz and there were no shakes, floats, or cones. I settled for a ginger ale, not quite what I craved but it did wash down the peanut butter.

The Stockade Historic District is the oldest neighborhood in Schenectady and was the first designated Historic District in New York State
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In the Stockade District
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Along the trail through the outskirts of Schenectady
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Along the bluffs above the Mohawk River - only distant views
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Not a chance
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Paul Mulvey"not a chance" - I couldn't agree more and it's not the way I progressed this part of the trail :-)
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2 months ago
Along the Mohawk River near Niskayuna Lions Park
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19 miles to go
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Barn with flags
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Pig Pit BBQ - plenty of BBQ but no ice cream :(
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After a short street section though Green Island, I encountered a major five-mile detour. A nice young man positioned at the start of the detour provided a cue sheet for the southbound route, and the detour was fairly well-signed. However, my progress was slowed by the predicted headwind and it seemed the signs were always beyond the point where one begins to think you’d missed them. Thankfully, I’d correctly navigated all the turns and soon found myself on a parklike riverside trail that branched off in several places to points of interest in downtown Albany. I kept looking for directions to the Amtrak station, but found none. My RWGPS route told me I had to cross the Hudson, but I could not figure out how to get on the bridge. After a couple of missteps, I made the final crossing of the Hudson for this trip.

I arrived at the Amtrak station around 2 pm, in plenty of time to change out of my bike clothes and enjoy an Espresso Frappe, the closest thing to a milk shake they offered. Vivien George got to ride in the coach car with me, and Vincent enjoyed the views along the Hudson as we made our way back to New York City.

The detour was well signed, but signs could have been placed at greater frequency as reassurance that I remained on the correct route
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Downtown Albany
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Final crossing the Hudson for this tour
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We made it!!
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Vivien George is happy to ride in coach with me instead of the baggage car with a bunch of suitcases
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Vincent enjoys views of the Hudson River as we make our way to New York City
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So, that's it for Round One of my 70th birthday bike tour extravaganza. I'm planning on a final post here for thoughts of this tour and to give a preview of what's to come for the rest of the year.  Thanks all for following along.

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Today's ride: 51 miles (82 km)
Total: 702 miles (1,130 km)

Rate this entry's writing Heart 6
Comment on this entry Comment 7
Rich FrasierI’ve really enjoyed tagging along with you on this trip! The area looks lovely and your writing made it come alive for me. Thanks!
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2 months ago
Scott AndersonWhat?? That’s an amazing story about your bicycle helmet - both that you weren’t aware you weren’t wearing it and that it didn’t fall off earlier.

And, of course, thanks for taking us along!
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2 months ago
Susan CarpenterScott - I was also a bit flabbergasted on both counts, especially when I figured out how long I'd been riding that way.

Thanks for following along - I hope you and Rachael enjoy your trip along the canal.
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2 months ago
Susan CarpenterTo Rich FrasierRich - Thanks for the kind comments and for following along
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2 months ago
John PescatoreHi, Susan - really enjoyed your journal, nice photos and great writing.

A question about the Canal Trail in/out of Schenectady:

My wife and did a few days on the Canal Trail staying in Pittsford and really enjoyed it. Towards the end of August we will be driving up to Burlington VT for a wedding and will be doing some biking there.

I learned years ago to avoid driving back from upstate NY/VT on Sunday - we live in Maryland and have to head directly south, have been in massive traffic jams as everyone from NYC, LI and NJ come back from their weekends upstate!

So, I've added a stay in Schenectady on the way back and we'll do some biking from there. So the question is: from Canal Trail guide I have, seems for a 20-30 mile out and back (about what my wife will do) from Schenectady, heading West towards Amsterdam would be the more scenic choice. Kinda sounded like that from your journal - yes?

My wife is a runner, so we'll often do a ride like that together in the am and then in the pm she'll get a run in and I might do a ride to the east towards Albany.

So, thanks for any thoughts and glad you had such a great experience on your ride.
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2 months ago
Susan CarpenterHello John,
Thanks for your kind words.

Yes, the Canal Trail east of Schenectady is more interesting, with more varied landscapes and terrain. After winding through a nice wooded section, you climb up on bluffs before descending down to river. There is a short, steep climb that sneaks up on you, but the major descent is straight and not so steep.

I biked quite a bit around Burlington several years ago. I recommend taking the Island Trail and bike ferry over to South Hero and biking around the islands a bit. When I visited, Local Motion (the bike rental shop on the trail behind the aquarium) had a lot of route info. I also have a pdf file of some routes that I can send you.

Hope you have a great trip! Susan
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2 months ago
John PescatoreTo Susan CarpenterThanks, Susan. We've done a good deal of biking around Burlington over the years -a week long trip around Lake Champlain; a one-nighter from Burlington to Isle La Motte and back; and a supported ride with our daughter from South Hero. The ferry was never running, so never got to do the Island trail, looking forward to that.
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2 months ago