Cyclists make annual trek along the Erie

CANAJOHARIE – Groups of cyclists dotted the roads in Canajoharie Friday, completing the day’s 50-mile leg as part of Parks & Trails New York’s Cycling the Erie Canal Tour.

Biking more than 300 miles from Buffalo to Albany, the tour this year sports more than 520 cyclists and 60 volunteers from more than 35 states who have been making their journey since Sunday, camping out Friday night at the Canajoharie High School.

With plans to continue to Scotia on Saturday, Al Hastings, ride director, said they will be completing the tour Sunday in Albany.

“The ride has been great,” Hastings said. “We had some hot weather and some rainy weather, but I think bicycle tourists are used to that.”

Cyclists rode into the town Friday afternoon before heading to the high school to set up camp. More than 500 cyclists would fill the field outside of the school with their colorful tents and gear. Many of those who arrived were setting up tents and maintaining their bikes, while others used the portable shower facilities to clean up. Many more were still riding into town around 4 p.m.

“They will all be here. If they aren’t here, they are on the road,” Hastings said.

Hastings said there are hundreds of these tours across the U.S. yearly.

“Our folks are interested in history, a lot of them, and we provide speakers in the evening to talk about the development of the canal,” Hastings said.

Rey Reed of Gardena, Calif., has ridden around the Northeast often and had always wanted to ride through New York state.

“I love to explore the eastern part of the United States a lot more than the western part, even though I lived in California for 37 years,” Reed said.

Hastings said some of the bikers needed to use roads due to portions of the canal trail being incomplete or damaged by the flooding in June.

Karen Novak of Blacksburg, Va., has been riding the whole trip.

“The ride has been good. There has been parts that have been a bit more challenging than I guess I had anticipated, but it’s good,” Novak said. “The scenery is beautiful, it’s nicely organized, the people are really pleasant.”

Novak said she was riding with her husband, who has always had an interest in the Erie Canal.

“He recently retired, and this offered us an opportunity,” Novak said.

Stuart Levengood, of Gilbertsville, Pa., is riding for the fourth time with his daughter and son-in-law.

“I did 21 miles this morning, and that was it. I’m not up to my usual standards,” Levengood joked.

Levengood said the weather this year has been good, compared to last year’s heat wave.

“It was hot and dusty,” he said, but he was happy to ride again this year.

“I just like to ride my bike, no matter where,” Levengood said.

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