Sunday, December 14, 2014
Central New York on a Bicycle
Although Tom Stevens made his bike tour over a hundred years ago, his ride is a testimony that bike touring can be done by anyone. His bicycle was not a Surly LHT. He did not wear special clothing nor did he travel with lightweight gear. All he had were his wits, a few essentials, and the kindness of strangers who he met along the road. Mountain passes, dirt and stone, or grass was where the rubber tires of his two wheeler rolled upon. Without a doubt, his record, in volume one, of his journey from the Pacific to the Atlantic is inspiring. I have read up to his arrival in Massachusetts. I love it so far. Its more than just a journal. Its a story of perseverance; its a discussion of a nations culture and its varied peoples. The concept of diversity today is nothing as it ought to be. Political correctness and the false idea that differences of opinion and differences in preference as being a blight on America has created an atmosphere of forced similarity (actually a forced denial of reality and truth) and declarations of racism at the slightest comment concerning stereotypes and conversations of American Society.
Thomas Stevens book, Around the World on a Bicycle is free of our modern sensitivities of national differences. Its a fun, simple read of interactions among people from coast to coast. I am looking forward for the rest of the story. So, below is an excerpt concerning his ride through Central New York.
"...Inquiring the best road to Geneva I am advised of the superiority of the one leading passed the poor-house. Finding them somewhat intricate, and being too super-sensitive to stop people and ask them the road to the poor-house, I deservedly get lost, and am wandering erratically eastward through the darkness, when I fortunately meet a wheelman in a buggy, who directs me to his mother's farm-house near by, with instructions to that most excellent lady to accommodate me for the night. Nine o'clock in the morning I reach fair Geneva, so beautifully situated on Seneca's silvery lake, passing the State agricultural farm en route; continuing on up the Seneca River, passing through Waterloo and Seneca Falls to Cayuga, and from thence to Auburn and Skaneateles, where I heave a sigh at the thoughts of leaving the last- I cannot say the loveliest, for all are equally lovely-- of that beautiful chain of lakes that transforms this part of New York State into a vast and delightful summer resort.
" 'Down a romantic Swiss glen, where scores of sylvan nooks and rippling hills invite one to cast about for fairies and sprites,' " is the word descriptive of my route from Marcellus next morning. Once again, on nearing Camillus outlet from the narrow vale, I hear the sound of Sunday bells, and after the church-bell-less Western wilds,it seems to me that their notes have visited me amid beautiful scenes, strangely often of late. Arriving at Camillus, I ask the name of the sparkling little stream that dances along this fairy glen like a child at play, absorbing the sun-rays and coquettishly reflecting them in the faces of the venerable oaks that bend over it like loving guardians protecting it from evil. My ears are prepared to hear a musical Indian name-- "Laughing-Waters" at least; but, like a week's washing ruthlessly intruding upon love's young dream, falls on my waiting ears the unpoetic misnomer, "Nine-Mile Creek." Over good roads to Syracuse, and from thence my route leads down the Erie Canal, alternately riding down the canal tow-path, the wagon-roads, and between the tracks of the New York Central Railway. On the former, the greatest drawback to peaceful cycling is the towing-mule and his unwarrantable animosity toward the bicycle, and the awful, unmentionable profanity engendered thereby in utterances of the boatmen. Sometimes the burden of this sulphurous profanity is aimed at me, sometimes at the inoffensive bicycle, or both of us collectively but oftener is it directed at the unspeakable mule, who is really the only party to blame. A mule scares, not because he feels skittishly inclined to turn back, or to make trouble between his enemies-- the boatmen, his task master, and the cycler, an intruder on his exclusive domain, the Erie tow-path. A span of mules will pretend to scare, whirl around, and jerk loose from the driver, and go "scooting" back down the tow-path in a manner indicating that nothing less than a stone wall would stop them; but, exactly in the nick of time to prevent the tow-line jerking them sidewise into the canal, they stop. Trust a mule for never losing his head when he runs away, as does his hot-headed relative, the horse; who never once allows surrounding circumstances to occupy his thoughts to an extent detrimental to his own self-preservative interests. The Erie Canal mule's first mission in life is to engender profanity and strife between boatmen and cyclists, and the second is to work and chew hay, which brings him out about even with the world all round. At Rome I enter the famous and beautiful Mohawk Valley, a place long looked forward to with much pleasurable anticipation, from having heard so often of its natural beauties and its interesting historical associations. " 'It's the garden spot of the world; and travellers who have been all over Europe and everywhere, say there's nothing in the world to equal the quiet landscape beauty of the Mohawk Valley," enthusiastically remarks an old gentleman in spectacles, whom I chance to encounter on the heights east of Herkimer. Of the first assertion I have nothing to say, having passed through a dozen"garden spots of the world" on tour across America; but there is no gainsaying the fact that the Mohawk Valley, as viewed from this vantage spot, is wonderfully beautiful. I think it must have been on this spot that the poet received inspiration to compose the beautiful song that is sung alike in the quiet homes of the valley itself and in the trapper's and hunter's tent on the far off Yellowstone-- "Fair is the vale where the Mohawk gently glides, on its clear, shining way to the sea." The valley is one of the natural gateways of commerce, for, at Little Falls-- where it contracts to a mere pass between the hills-- one can almost throw a stone across six railway tracks, the Erie Canal and the Mohawk River..."
There it is. A short excerpt from Thomas Stevens Around the World on a Bicycle. The writing is not spectacular and the sentence structure is not perfect, but it communicates a nice tale of a man's trek across country, in this case CNY. I hope this excerpt may provide a glimpse of motvation to step outside your home and begin a personal journey in your neighborhood. Run, walk, or ride. I can't wait to start my journey along the Erie Canal and then the Adirondacks State Park. Riding my Surly LHT around the state, maybe the USA one day. You never know where curiosity may guide you, but you will never know until you take that first giant step.
See you on the road.