Sunday, September 22, 2013

3 Ferry Bike Overnight

Waiting for the 1:45 p.m. ferry to New York.
I set out for another overnight. After missing a chance to tag along with a group who rode the three ferry ride the weekend before, now was my chance to accomplish that, plus test more camping gear, plus speed along my lazy training schedule for a bike touring vacation. I've been uninspired to pedal more than 22 miles (normal commute distance) in one whack.

Map of ride (for the curious).

Sometimes it helps to go someplace new. Because I dislike driving—period, I tend to take the ferry to New York state; it's an easy roll down the hill from home, enjoy a boat ride for an hour, then have nearly traffic free gentle roads in upstate New York. It works for me, plus treating myself to a Bangkok Thai burrito (think peanut sauce, sweet slaw, chicken, and rice) for pedal power. I'm so motivated by tasty food.

Ferry #1 - Burlington to Port Kent, NY
A north wind is intense, bringing cooler air and periodic showers, but clear weather is promised for tomorrow. I lock my bike to ferry rail, just in case riding the swells is as unsettling as a roller coaster. A ferry attendant assures me my bike will stay dry; loading facing forward becomes the stern after ferry backs out of the harbor.

Passengers descend to warmth below deck. I sip a cup of hot tea purchased from the concession counter and end up talking with an elderly lady who's run the gift shop for over 20 years. With engines continually humming and the smell of salty popcorn permeating a slight diesel fueled air, we gaze out the port hole. In the center of the lake the ship is rolling. Eye level waves are mildly eerie, yet she claims this is the most stable ferry of the three; the boat's mass is underwater. She reminds me of the part-timers at our local hardware store (I adore those guys), wizened, but not ready to retire, and always helpful with projects.

On my bicycle I fall into a comforting rhythm. It's virtually quiet after the noisy ferry ride. The road is deserted. I can be an unbalanced rider, swerving unnecessarily, but distributing weight on front and back rack stabilizes the ride. Tires are grounded. There is nothing quite like bike touring that anchors me in the present, body movements in sync with thoughts, slow, methodical, liberating. I am in my element.

Amongst apple orchards the headwind is negated. Ripe, juicy Macintosh apples dot the landscape. My father says the fruit is large this year. Migrant pickers hang off ladders, placing apples into baskets slung around their necks.

I purposely veer inland from the lake to add miles, staying away from the brunt of lake winds, but also because I love pedaling around Peru. It is home to huge orchards, more for mass harvesting than for u-pickers. Unlike tall, ripe cornfields lining my route, apple orchards are fragrance-free. One needs to imagine sinking teeth into a tart, juicy, crunchy Mac—the kind where biting and slurping is instantaneous. I thought of my own family who planned to pick tomorrow. I would miss that, but my husband is crazy about making applesauce. He'll be out in the fields again, soon after our vacation.

Mesmerized by the terrain, I doubled back to check out a postage stamp-sized cemetery, remnants of an old Amish settlement.

Then, honking geese light overhead, heard before seen. Gotta love those harbingers of fall.

I was pretty lucky with the weather. It sprinkled here and there, but not enough to unearth raingear. I planned to skirt Plattsburgh, however, a wrong turn sent me back towards the lake by 5:30. A dampness settled under my fleece shirt and I wished I hadn't worn a t-shirt underneath. But I didn't change either. Camping was only two miles further.

I pedaled onward, and entered downtown Plattsburgh. One block was closed to traffic. A war of 1812 celebration was just getting underway. A band was tuning instruments, food carts flanked a triangular park, and I stumbled into a booth where a kind man explained the upcoming events. Soon after, a guy in costume ambles by, in character as a French general on the British side. In a thick French accent he recites a lot of history—perhaps too much—and I couldn't wait to get away, but not before he obliged a photo. It's not every day that a cyclist encounters a person dressed in 1800's get-up.

I grab a burger at a food cart and stuff it in my handlebar bag for a 2-minute pedal over a bridge to the Samuel Champlain monument. Across from the entrance, white canvas tents dot a field, part of a reenactment that would take place tomorrow. I ate my burger in peace, looking over the calm waters. I gravitate towards this spot every time I visit Plattsburgh. The tiny cove and park is just the right size to fit within a neighborhood. After the brief history lesson, I try to imagine several American warships in the greater bay, defending against a British invasion. It's the last and decisive battle in the war—Plattsburgh's claim to fame—not too mention its rich history during the Revolutionary War.

Behind me the tall monument dwarfs the park space. A statue of Samuel Champlain adorns the pinnacle with an Indian crouched at the base. I especially like the latter tribute; Indian's lived along the shores long before Samuel "discovered" the waterway.

Then it's off to score on a few bananas and snacks to add to my food cache. Now, I'll have supplies to get me through breakfast.

My tent set up. Notice, I brought my new camping pillow along.
I arrive after 6, set up tent, cook and eat noodles, wriggle in a lukewarm shower, and dress in extra layers and hat, then curl up on a bench at Cumberland Head State Park's sandy beach, watching twinkling lights. I call home and chat with family for a few minutes.

 I found these fun, fleecy Acorn brand socks at a garage sale. Love em!
 I'll bring them with me on vacation.
I stay up for a while in the tent and read. Fireworks boom around 9:30. I presume it's part of the city festivities.

It's still cloudy and damp on Saturday morning, but fortunately it's not raining.

A cup of coffee warms my hands and body.

Waiting for ferry.
I pack a wet tent fly and damp tent, but otherwise everything else is dry. Though all items are within garbage bags inside panniers, I stored panniers overnight inside the vestibule. I'm glad I did. It rained for an hour before bedtime.

Ferry #2 - Cumberland Head, NY to Grand Isle, VT
It's an easy four mile ride—on separate bike path too—to catch a ferry back to Vermont. It's a smooth crossing this time, short and sweet at 15 minutes. I stand beside my bike and enjoy the outdoors.

I loop around Grand Isle's back roads. I struggle northward a few miles then turn for a tailwind, which should sweep me all the way home. Hungry again, I welcome the sight of a farmer's market.

At the "Kids Market" booth, a young girl doesn't mind if I mix coffee and hot chocolate. It's still chilly, but wearing a silk shirt under fleece top is the right combination this time. I inhale a delicious, maple walnut scone.

Onward I roll, past more apple orchards. Cars flock parking lots, spill over onto narrow country roads. I turn onto a dirt road that leads onto the Causeway.

Ferry #3 - Bike Ferry from South Hero to Colchester
It's a 3 minute crossing and I forget to snap a photo of my bike onboard. There is also nowhere to prop a ladened bike. I lay my ride slowly onto its side.

I like to celebrate and thank the volunteers who man (or woman in this case) the table, handing out information and collecting fees. They endure some tough weather for their 4 hours shifts. I offer to help move her set up to the other side so her back is to the wind, but she is unfazed. The folding bikes belong to her and her husband, who I realize loaded and unloaded my bike on the ferry. All volunteers ride 4 miles to their posts at the crossing.

I zip along.

The sun comes out as I enter the waterfront—finally! I slowly pedal uphill, sweating, because now I'm overdressed. But two miles later I pulled into our driveway, less than 24 hours after I left. My husband sees me and greets me with a fresh picked Mac. I bite into it and smile.

*I will be off-line until September 29th.

1 comment:

  1. What a great trip, thank you for sharing it. I'm overcome by the greenness of plant life growing everywhere in that part of the country. All those apples, I assume there could be pie, and cider, and tarts, to fuel the ride, if needed.


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