‘Twas a hot, muggy day when we set out from Syracuse to start the first leg of our tour. It was my first time touring, so packing my bike and riding with a load strapped onto the back was an interesting challenge. Upon arrival to Syracuse Bicycle, I had discovered that a “fully-loaded” touring bike did not include the front racks, a feature that I thought I had specified with the guy who had sold the bike (a beautiful Long Haul Surly Trucker). As a result, we were forced to add some weight to Kyle’s bike and load up the back end of mine, making touring an even more wobbly experience for me, the newbie. Luckily, we tracked down a front rack we could pick up at a cycle shop once we arrived in Rochester. Meanwhile, I had a fun-filled time navigating the city streets of Syracuse as I adjusted to the fact that I needed to unclip from my pedals every time we came to a stop or the fall would not be pretty.
Despite this learning curve, I must have been doing pretty well, because we had several folks ask us throughout the day if we had come there all the way from California (seriously, we had at least two). We just laughed and told them that it was our first day touring and that California was in our sights. Of course, we did have one lady who foresaw our imminent demise behind her minivan window, but for the most part most people were very supportive and interested in our trek, cheering us on and offering assistance.
Around mid-day, I had my first wipeout after trying to ride beside my honey on a trail that must have been recently sprinkled with loose gravel. Of course, I had been riding with gloves up until right before this incident, forgetting to put them back on after a stop, so my hands took most of the abuse, followed by some bruising on my upper right leg. Luckily, no real harm was done so we were soon back on our way, taking care to ride the middle of the trail. We decided not to push it, so after about 21 miles we called it quits in the little town of Jordan along the Erie Canal (we had ridden 7 miles of road to the trail from our hotel in Syracuse and then 14 miles of the trail). See a future post for more information on the Erie Canal and its significance in our nation’s history – this post is about our first adventure.
Upon arrival, Jordan’s skies were looking pretty gloomy and almost as soon as we rode our bikes under the shelter of Tops (the town’s grocery store), the skies let loose a shower of rain. A local gentleman with a gray shaggy beard and rain boots approached us with advice for finding nearby motel. “It is going to be raining all night with some severe showers at times,” he warned. Still, we were not about to splurge on motel accommodations on our first night. Besides, as he left he joked, “I would be the village idiot if this small town weren’t so full of them!” The sun had peeped back out from behind the clouds and the rain had let up, so we were scoping out green spaces to camp when the man accosted us again with tips for camping. He suggested that we seek shelter under Jordan’s canal aqueduct (see picture).
Later that evening, we visited Jordan’s town library seeking restrooms and water. Two older ladies were manning the counter along with the library kitty, Master Bramley (Helen, correct us if we are wrong!) After telling them where the gentleman with the beard had directed us for camping, both ladies balked at the idea and one of the ladies began giving us directions. After just two directions, the other lady winked at us and told us she was directing us to her home. Indeed, we were told that in less than a mile we would come to a white house with a fenced in area, barn, and pond out front and given permission to pitch our tent wherever most convenient. Kyle and I took her up on her kind offer, and before long, we were at Helen’s home. We put up the tent, and before long, Helen was home and inviting us in for drinks.
Given the size of Jordan, we half-expected that Helen would be life-long resident. Nothing could be further from the truth! Helen entertained us for hours with her tales of the 15 years she lived in Germany, her six months in India, her African safari in Tanzania, her time spent in Florida, and a number of other places lived or traveled. Towards the end of our conversation, Helen’s stories were inter-mixed with flashes of lightening – our friend at the grocery store had been right about the weather at least. Right about the time her sister Laura came home, we all settled into the living room to watch the weather report which unfortunately was not informative except to promise us some much cooler weather for the rest of our trip to Buffalo. Laura invited us inside with our sleeping bags, but we decided to brave the storm since our shelter was already in place. Racing outside, we dodged mosquitoes and dove into our tent. Shortly thereafter we were asleep.
The next morning, Helen invited us back inside for coffee and a few more stories, this time accompanied by Laura and her two dogs, Smokey and Pearl. As we said our goodbyes, the two women gifted us with some maple syrup, sturdy bags and first aid supplies to use on our trip, promising to follow our adventures on our website. As we stood in the driveway about to take off, Helen brought out a couple of wristbands designed to protect us in our travels. As we cycled away with our new friends waving at us, I glanced down at the inscription – Peace be with you.
Not a bad start to our journey.