Day 5: Syracuse to Utica

While biking into and out of big, unfamiliar cities can be challenging, I sometimes feel like it might be easier to ride into a city than to drive in. Chicago is a good example – I’ve ridden south from Kenosha into the northern suburbs and then along the lakeshore and right into downtown and it was quite easy. Bike paths take you under all the freeways and along lesser used streets. It isn’t always scenic, for sure. Many bike trails are converted rail lines, and the trains didn’t always get routed through the best parts of town.

Leaving Syracuse was occasionally pretty, but mostly very commercial and industrial and there was a lot of traffic. In fact, when we were still downtown, a truck turned right when we had the right of way to cross the street – right in front of us.We yelled at the driver, who pulled over and was ready to start a fight with us. This – cars not observing our right of way – happened several times during the day. Do New York drivers have a reputation? (Dustin Hoffman in “Midnight Cowboy” “Hey! I’m trying to walk here!”)

But we made it out safely and got in no fights. We’d planned to meet Larry and Holly at an historical site about a hour out on the trail – and almost missed them, since we were running behind schedule. Thankfully, they waited for us and we had another great visit as we walked around the Chittenango dry dock, watching turtles and fish and eagles.

Larry on his bike

After riding a bit with Larry and Holly, we continued on with plans to stop for lunch in Rome. The signage along the trail, to be honest, is sometimes less than helpful. We supplement signs with an assist from Google maps, but it can get complicated if Google takes us off the trail and down city streets – it is trying to be helpful, but we prefer to stick to the safety of the trail as much as possible. When we aren’t sure which way to turn, we often find ourselves comparing results from our maps on our phones – “well, MINE says we turn right” – “but MINE says we turn left” while another person says “but the canal is THAT direction.” Lisa and I have travelled using maps from the Adventure Cycling Association- they are current and detailed and we miss them on this trip. I have some feedback for the bike planners of the State of New York which I may or may not share with them at some point.

We made it to a Subway in Rome for a late and much needed lunch, and then, though not very smoothly, through town and back on the trail. We soon hit a detour and ended up on a highway for a few miles. At another point, we encountered, a “Trail closed” sign but decided to go around it and came upon some kind of heavy equipment in the way, but we were able to walk around it.

These lock houses are very well maintained

We had calculated a 61 mile day, but when our bike computers told us we’d ridden that distance, our phones told us we were still 7 miles out. How does a 61 mile day become a 68 mile day? I think the answer is that we use Google while we are planning, but when we are riding in reality, distances vary- due to slightly different routes, detours. etc. The mileages on our plan should just be considered estimates and are probably short

This fellow was annoyed with us

But we made it to our BnB, were welcomed warmly, and with ice cold water, by Venus, the assistant innkeeper. We showered and were soon sitting in rocking chairs on the porch planning dinner. Our choice was Ancora, a five block walk away. Our Italian, life long Utican waiter told us there were three things you had to have while in this town: Utica Club beer, “greens” and chicken “riggies.” Greens is a wonderful dish of sautéed escarole, peppers, Parmesan and some other things. We shared it, loved it and will now add it to our home rotations. Chicken riggies is a spicy pasta and chicken dish (Paul had it, so hit all three.) It was a really wonderful meal.

Utica greens
Utica Club

Tomorrow, day six, we head off for Amsterdam and we expect a bit more heat as the state ramps up to some storms on Thursday, the day we ride into Albany.

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