I woke up Wednesday morning feeling great. I dawdled around my hotel room getting my directions for the return trip all set to go, patching tires and repacking my bags. By 11:00 I was on the road again.
The route for the day was simple-stay on the Erie Canal Heritage Trail until I got a bit past Rochester. For the first twenty miles the trail was gravel and followed the Erie Canal as it wended its way through the woods. It was a pretty trail and very quiet, only three cyclists met me going the other way.
As I biked the trail I sang the mandatory trail song.
Every few miles or so the trail would be interrupted by a road to cross and after crossing one road, I was confused as to how to get back on the trail. There was a small park right on the canal, was I supposed to bike through it? So when a man said hello to me as he was walking by, I asked him if the trail went right through the park.
He told me yes, I could bike on the sidewalk and straight through the park to the trail. I thanked him but he was not finished talking to me. He proceeded to give me a rambling lecture about being careful about strangers “grabbing me” as I went along the trail. But his conclusion lacked conviction.
“Now, I don’t know if there are any people around here that would do that…but there are people out there…that do that.”
A few miles later I caught up to a group of three cyclists who were obviously on a bike camping tour and from their many bulging panniers, I would guess it was a long one. I was about to pull up beside the cyclist who was trailing the other two but as I went down a slope I hit a huge bump and from the thud, thud, thud of my rear tire I knew I had got another flat. Sadly, I watched them pedal out of sight.
Here is what I have realized in hindsight, however. All of my other flats on this ride were strategically placed. Therefore, this puncture must have had some purpose. The only thing I can come up with is that these three cyclists were not cyclists at all. They were really murderers posing as cyclists. Had I pulled up to them and started talking to them, I would have been instantly dispatched and then stuffed into a random pannier, never to be seen again. Yup. Having a flat tire clearly saved my life.
I took my time through the afternoon, pedaling slowly, and stopping to take pictures. I passed many folks out walking on the trail. It was a total reversal of roles, for once I was the fast moving vehicle on the “road”, having to watch out for and safely pass the slower moving pedestrians.
In the late afternoon, as I neared Rochester, the trail became paved and there were more and more cyclists, many on nice road bikes in full team kit. They looked ever so pro. I was enjoying the ride but the miles were ticking by pretty fast and I started to worry that I would go too far on the trail and miss my exit off.
I spotted a friendly-looking cyclist by the side of the trail and he didn’t seem in a rush so I stopped to ask him if he knew where 33A West was. He said he didn’t and I was about to go down the trail again but he stopped me and said he had a smartphone, if we went over to the shade he would look it up for me. I thanked him gratefully.
After a few minutes we found out that I still had about ten miles left on the trail before my turnoff. I thanked him again and then asked if I could ride with him. So we went along together chit-chatting a bit about our lives. After a few miles it was time for him to go home but when we stopped, in a wonderful gesture of kindness, he gave me his phone number and told me to call if I had any navigational problems.
I did mention my blog to him so he could find out how my trip went if he wanted to, so Irwin if you are reading, thank you so much, you are a wonderful person!
After Irwin and I parted ways, I paused to take some pictures of cool graffiti. I was clipping in when a cyclist went whizzing by me. And that is when I made a reckless decision-to follow him. This is gonna sound whiney, but I never get to try to keep up with speedy cyclists and here was my chance to do so. In hindsight, even though I stayed far enough back so that if he had to brake suddenly I wouldn’t crash into him, my choice to speed along the path with pedestrians around was not a wise one.
But it was exhilarating. He and I charged down the trail going 22-24 mph. I realized how bad I am at cornering. While he took each turn with ease, I lost time slowing down on each one. But I was kinda amazed at how easy I was keeping up with him, no heavy breathing, no pain. Ha. Just as I became proud of myself for keeping up, I felt a sharp pain in my side. For an instant I thought my side was cramping, but no, it was a bee buzzing under my shirt.
At that moment I had a choice: free the bee and lose the cyclist or keep the bee and keep up with the cyclist. My choice was clear and a few seconds later the bee stung again on the other side of my abdomen. I could feel it buzzing angrily as it started crawling toward my upper back. It was the ultimate suspense waiting for another flash of pain to strike , all the while pedaling like mad to keep the pace of the cyclist ahead of me.
After another mile or so the cyclist veered off the trail to a parking lot and I watched him go rather mournfully. I was happy to stop and release my trapped bee friend though!
Soon I was off the bike trail and on proper roads again, only a few miles from my destination. As I turned the corner onto the last road my tire once again went flat. And no wonder, two little pieces of metal were jammed right into the tire. Cool.
Twenty minutes later I had made it to Roberts Wesleyan College, where the concert was being held. My parents were coming down to Rochester for the concert as well so I called them to find out their status. They were still a distance away so I went off to get some supper. When I returned to campus I realized my front tire was very soft-the first time I have ever had a puncture in my front tire. Good thing I had asked my dad to bring some more tubes!
My mom and dad arrived and we went to the concert together. The band, Rend Collective, was amazing live! They are a group from Northern Ireland with joyful and triumphant songs about life we share in Christ. It was a wonderful experience, worshipping God together with hundreds of other Christians.
I was able to stay with a family friend who attends college here and I was able to slip into bed at 11:45, ready to get some rest for the return trip home.