Notes from the Road

Day 12 : Raquette Lake, NY to West Leyden, NY (57 miles)

The route today takes me through lake country. This is vacation home land—where every house has a quaint name like “Sunset Cove” or “The Hide-a-way” or “Loon-a-tic Place.” The weather is good, the trees are beginning to leaf out, and the land—finally—has flattened into rolling hills that I can actually ride.

When I get to Boonville, a minivan pulls over to speak to me. The driver is a physician who rode Portland to Portland a few years ago. He offers me a place to stay and a hot meal, but unfortunately his house is 30 miles back the way I came. I thank him and we part ways.

Unable to find a campsite in Boonville, I continue down the road to West Leyden. It is the worst road I’ve ridden on yet: full of potholes and broken glass. A beagle in a passing car barks at me and I nearly ride off the road. When I get to West Leyden, I camp out behind the Hilltop Market on a patch of grass, my first free campsite.

Free camping at Hilltop Market.

Day 13: West Leyden, NY to Selkirk State Park (45 miles)

The road today is long and somewhere around noon, my knees begin to hurt. Just when I have reached flatter land, just when my mileage has started to pick up, my knees start to give me trouble. Great.

Everyone in New York owns a dog, and none of them are friendly. I am out somewhere on some country road whose name I’ve already forgotten when a white pitbull tears out of the trees and chases after me. I pedal as fast as I can—geez dogs can run fast—and manage to get away, thinking that there’s no way I would’ve been able to reach my mace fast enough if it had come to that.

With the mountains behind me, I am no longer afraid of bears and moose. I am now afraid of dogs. I have been barked at by Great Danes, Saint Bernards, Chihuahuas, Doberman Pincers, Collies, Boxers, and many more dogs hidden (thankfully) behind fences and in houses. I don’t like dogs.

I get to Selkirk State Park in the mid-afternoon, set up camp, and just stare at Lake Ontario for awhile, hoping my knees will get better with rest.

Beautiful Selkirk State Park outside Port Ontario, NY.

Day 14: Selkirk State Park to Sodus Point, NY (63 miles)

Everyone in New York owns a riding lawn mower and everyone is mowing their lawn. Round and round. It all seems so futile. What’s the point? The grass grows. You cut it. It grows again. You cut it. I wonder how many cumulative hours of life are wasted on mowing lawns.

All of the trees (apple?) in the orchards are flowering, and everywhere there are lilac bushes in bloom. It smells great. It’s also really, really hot, and I forgot to put on sunscreen this morning.

When I get to Sodus Point, I stop at a restaurant for a pulled pork sandwich before continuing on to the campground, which is a mile out of town. The South Shore RV Park is one of the best campgrounds I’ve stayed at yet. Very clean and quiet, set right on the bluff overlooking Lake Ontario. I meet a couple of other bike tourists who are also doing the Northern Tier route and we chat a bit, comparing notes.

View from the bluff at South Shore RV Park.
Sunset over Lake Ontario outside Sodus Point, NY.

Day 15: Sodus Point, NY to Rochester, NY (53 miles)

As I am packing up in the morning, June, one of the ladies who is staying at the campground in her RV offers to make me a sandwich for the road. I gladly accept and am surprised when she brings me two PB&J sandwiches, a banana, and lots of cookies. (Thanks June!)

Underground Railroad Terminus in Pultneyville, NY.

The ride today mostly consists of the Erie Canalway Trail. It’s nice to get off the road for a bit, even if the packed gravel and strong headwinds slow me down. It’s overcast, but thankfully the rain holds off.

New Yorkers on the Erie canalway trail.

When I reach Rochester, I connect with Katrina and Jeremy—friends of friends—who take me out to dinner at a Belgian pub. I order a pasta dish that comes with mussels, which I am surprised to find I actually enjoy. Katrina and Jeremy have kindly offered their spare room to me, and I’m very grateful to be sleeping on an air mattress tonight and not in my tent. (Thanks Katrina and Jeremy!)

Total miles so far: 564.

Tomorrow: more New York. Then Friday: Canada and Niagara Falls!

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