Thursday, June 2, 2011
When Nature Calls
When Nature Calls
We've ridden out of the rain and into the sun! And a hot sun it is! It's amazing the difference between early May and now. We barely passed a soul on the road in the first few weeks since our CT break, but in the past week we've had to weave in and out of other cyclists on the road. So cool!
Along with riding on bike-filled roads, we've spent some time in some pretty packed campsites lately, meeting all sorts of new friends, and even some family!
After camping at Fairview Orchards, we were planning on camping in Saratoga Springs, but a Tornado Watch scared us and we ended up finding Paul and Wendy who gave us a place to stay indoors! The ride that day was hot, but I guess the head wind was sort of nice, cooling us off. We made it to Saratoga Springs and rode through Saratoga Spa State Park on our way to Paul and Wendy's. A nice way to end the sunny day. Or so we thought...
We called Paul up a little earlier and instead of getting directions, we just grabbed their address and plugged it into our GPS. Bad idea. Not only did we venture five miles out of the way, we ran into the meanest farmer ever! We were actually yelled at for wanting to buy 1/2 a pound of asparagus from the man. We turned around and left the miserable farmer to fume alone.
Our lack of Asparagus and uneasy feeling after the farmer yelled at us didn't help the situation when we found out we had gone to the wrong side of town. Five more miles back to Paul and Wendy's and we got there right before dark. They were a breath of fresh air after the lousy ending to our travels that day. We wished we could have spent more time with the couple. They had gone on some great bike tours and camping trips but a late night dinner and early morning waffle breakfast didn't give us enough time to swap all of our stories. We left them the next morning as they readied themselves for a Memorial Day weekend camping trip.
Wendy and Paul were not alone. The outdoors is calling everyone and the Memorial Day crowds were in full swing at the campgrounds and we had trouble getting in. Thank goodness we called the KOA in Herkimer a few days before to reserve a spot because Adam's brother Chris and our nephew, Ben, were coming to meet us.
Our day was long and hot, but as we were climbing some of the roughest hills towards the end of the day, Rich came up from behind me, grabbed the seat of my bike, and literally pushed me up the hill. I don't know if this qualifies as cheating or not, but I enjoyed the push. Adam turned around and wasn't sure what to think about this, or what to think about where Rich's hand was.
He stayed with us for a few more hills, but I was the only one to get that sort of push.
We arrived to the campsite with light to spare, but Chris and Ben arrived just after a thunder and lightening and hail storm ripped through the campground. We hid out in the bathrooms until the thunder passed and marveled at the size of the hail balls that were flying from the sky. We relayed the story of The Worst Hail Storm Ever to Chris and Ben when they showed up, but when a ranger came by, the grapefruit-sized hail that Adam was talking about was reduced to a small grain of rice. Talk about a story ruined.
We lived up the camping experience by spending the night inside Chris' Taj MaTent, catching up on life and against my liking, telling some ghost stories. The next morning we shared Spam, oatmeal, coffee in a pot, and a box of cookies for breakfast before heading out on the road. Breakfast of Champions.
All I have to say is thank goodness for Chris' superb attitude. If Adam and I got three flats in a matter of seven miles, we'd be miserable. Chris happily fixed each one while Adam did what he does best and grabbed pics of them. After seven miles of uphill, Chris and Ben turned back due to a tear in one of their tires. We rode on to Utica but all met up again at the closest bike shop because Adam's back tire needed to be changed out after we noticed it bubbling in a few spots.
All of the tire issues gave us the opportunity to have lunch and ride on a few more miles together. As much fun as we have riding just the two of us, when we ride with others, the mood brightens even more. The whole day long we had nonstop movie quotes to keep us entertained.
Close to 7:00, Chris and Ben turned back towards the car and we continued on towards the only campsite around, knowing full well it was already totally booked. We didn't have another choice, so we just headed in that direction. I asked Adam what he thought the chances were that someone might offer us a place to camp in their yard. 3% chance was his answer. Well, we must have been super lucky that night because about three miles from the campsite, Dave yelled to us from his garage and asked if we needed water. We pulled in, filled water, and got offered a place to camp in his backyard.
In the middle of the night, Adam got a different type of Nature Calling and grabbed the closest toilet paper he could find and ran to the woods. I barely noticed his leaving, but definitely noticed the big section of map missing the next morning. I guess I need to hide the map from Adam's butt from now on.
As worried as we were about finding places to camp, we were happy to hear so many people were enjoying the outdoors, but the picture we had in our minds was very different from the reality of this so-called "camping."
We rode into a full campground in upstate New York the other night looking to find a friend to share a site with. We rode around, noticing not tents, but RV after RV. They seemed only to get bigger. Sides popping out, awnings on both sides. These people weren't camping! They simply picked up their house, stuffed in their big screen T.V.s, and moved to a different location for the weekend. What really got us was that on the paths between campsites, people whizzed by on golf carts. They weren't even walking from site to site. I guess their goal was minimal time spent outside.
We finally found the camping area. There were four campsites and a lonely tent in the first site. A girl around our age was sitting at the picnic table and we went up to introduce ourselves. Emmanuelle was very friendly and after we explained that we had called the campground earlier and were told the campground was full, she offered for us to share the site with her and her husband, Martin.
Emmanuelle and Martin had just moved here from Switzerland and were on their first camping trip in America. I was happy we had the opportunity to meet the couple to show them that not all Americans "camp" in RVs and ride to and from other sites in golf carts.
We spent another lightening-filled night in the campground, said our good-byes to Martin and Emmanuelle, and pushed on spending a few days riding the Erie Canal route. It was nice on the path. Getting away from cars and being in the woods is a nice way to travel.
We resisted Nature's Call one night and snuck in a visit to Rochester. The canal path lead us right through the city so we hardly had to deal with any cars there, either!
The next day we should have gotten out earlier than we did because the temperature spiked to above 90! I was in heaven, but Adam was in a pool of his own sweat. We rode for a few hours, then had to hide indoors for a few hours before continuing on late enough in the afternoon for the worse of the heat to subside. We were 25 miles outside of Niagara Falls when we came upon our campsite for the night. After paying the camping fee, and getting $10 off just for being on bikes, we rode up to our spot and were instantly attacked by a swarm of mosquitos.
Thank goodness a gallon of insect repellent doesn't repel people too, otherwise we'd never have met Ray and Sonja that night. They were celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary by bicycling the Erie Canal route- their first bike tour. Ray and Sonja had raised their family overseas and done things like hiked up K-2, and helped to start a school for the deaf in Afghanistan. We loved hearing their stories of living such an adventurous lifestyle even with three kids. These guys weren't the first couple we've met that took crazy vacations with their kids (remember the Murrs who biked cross country with their 2 and 4 year old kids?). Of course it doesn't have to be biking cross country with kids, or living overseas, but we love hearing of families who continue an adventure type lifestyle all while having a family.
We woke up the next morning excited to visit Niagara Falls. It was really our first big tourist type activity so far this year. It should have taken no more than two- hours to get there, but with battling the 30 mph winds, it took us double the time. The first ten miles were on nice backroads, but then is got hairy. The last ten miles seemed like they had taken a beating and we were dodging cars as they flew by us on choppy roads. It was a good thing there was a lot of water at the end of that ride and we decided once we saw the Falls that it was totally worth it to battle those head winds and slums to get there.
We had a perfect afternoon at the park with peaches, grapes, and apricots that we picked up from a fruit stand and tuna wraps. This, followed by a nap, meeting a few other touring cyclists, Lindsey and Joe, some quality photography time, and numerous trips to the bathroom due to the sound of rushing water all day long, filled up our afternoon.