It starts right above my wrists and ends about 3/4 of the way up my arm. On my legs, it begins at my ankles and ends just above the knee. It is the result of days in the sun while wearing bike gloves, short-sleeved shirts, and bike shorts. I wouldn't mind, it's just that my pale hands and dark arms look really dumb. But I guess it shows that I at least got some sun on this trip.
I left my hotel a little after 9:00 am and headed out along Route 5S east of Utica. The weather and the conditions were perfect: it was cool and not too sunny, with some moderate cloud cover. Given how much I suspected I would have to ride today, I was glad that the conditions would be favorable.
I spent the first several miles on surface roads going through industrial areas east of town and then into rural countryside. I passed through a number of small towns, one of them, Ilion, containing the Remington Firearms Plant where Remington rifles are manufactured. It was a massive factory.
Eventually, my route put me back on the canal trail that ran along the river. Unlike earlier in the trip where the trail was the old towpath for the Erie Canal, the trail here was clearly an old rail bed. And so there were the occasional inclines, but never too steep, and sometimes, the trail took you through carved out channels through the hillside as shown in the picture at right. The trail was sometimes paved, and sometimes that packed gravel. And sometimes it was almost like sand and difficult to bike through. The bike trail ran alongside Route 5S, and so sometimes I would just switch over to Route 5S if it looked like the surface would make for better riding. Sometimes this meant that I would wind up going up some hills. That could be tiring, but it was often worth it to have decent conditions to ride on.
The trip took me along a number of historical sites, like this one commemorating the battle of Herkimer in the Revolutionary War:
The Mohawk River valley is one of the most scenic parts of the state. I remember having traveled along the Thruway many times and always admiring the the view of the river and the high cliffs on either side. At one point, I decided it was better to ride on Route 5S as it was running closer to the river and afforded a much better view than the trail running parallel.
After three hours of riding I stopped at at Stewart's in Fort Plain. While taking a break there I checked to see how far I'd come already and it looked like it was around 38 miles. Then I checked to see how far I had to go and it was 67 miles. Now, I had known that today's ride would be longer because yesterday's was relatively short. But it looked like today's ride would be over 100 miles—something I'd never done before. There was something a little intimidating about having already done 40 miles and knowing that what remained was 17 miles longer than all the riding I'd done yesterday. But, this was my last day; it's not like I was going to have to do any riding tomorrow.
And so I continued along, alternating between road and path. Eventually, I started coming to place names that were increasingly familiar: Amsterdam Rotterdam, (New York was first colonized by the Dutch, in case you weren't aware). After Rotterdam I stopped for a break and to get some more water, which I was going through like crazy. It wasn't terribly hot, but it was warm enough that I was drinking a lot.
After Schoharie, the path was consistently paved and so I rode the trail all the way to Schenectady, with some beautiful views of the river. When I got to Schenectady, the feel of the trip changed substantially. No longer was I traveling in areas where the names were familiar, now I was traveling in places that actually were familiar. I biked down State Street in Schenectady before turning on Rt. 146 and heading for Western Ave in Guilderland.
Now, when I was in college, I lived on Western Ave and would often commute up either Western or Washington to classes at SUNY Albany. Soon, I was biking familiar streets and even biked right past our old favorite hangout, the Washington Tavern, and past our old apartment.
The familiar streets made the long journey less formidable, because I knew how it would end. When you don't know where the end point will be or have any sense of how far it is, it just can feel like the journey is going on forever. But knowing that beyond these rowhouses was the park and downtown, and beyond that the Hudson and the road to my dad's, made the riding easier.
And so I worked my way through downtown Albany and crossed the Hudson into Rensselaer. As is always the case when your final destination is in Rensselaer County, the trip will end with having to go up some big hills. And, indeed, I did have to go up a few inclines but knowing that I was almost there made them much more bearable.
Back at lunch, when I had used Google maps to figure out how far I'd come and how far I had to go, it told me that the first journey should take 3 hours and 16 minutes and that I would reach my final destination at 6:46 pm. Now, in reality, it had only taken me 2 hours 55 minutes to get to my lunch site and I was determined to beat Google's prediction for my arrival. And I did--I made it there by 6:22. It's the little things.
So, today I finished my fourth ride and the longest of all of them, some 816 miles altogether. And finished the ride by completing my first Century in doing so. Just three days earlier, I had been talking with Marcus about how I had never completed a century, though I'd come within a few miles of having done so. And here it was, a Century to close out my trip.
I am exhausted. There is probably a lot to reflect on that is not occurring to me in my tired mental and physical state, but for now, I have the satisfaction of having finished this trip. All that's left is sleep.