49.2 mi / 11.0 mph / 1033 ft. climbing
Home: Holly’s AirBNB Glamping Tent
We took NY-5 east from Clarence. As a state highway, it was busier than country farm roads (or the Erie Canal Trail), but it had good shoulders the whole way and got us efficiently eastward. It connected us through a string of small towns filled with grand old houses, and none of them for sale. In 2014, the Erie Canal towns paralleling us 20 miles to the north had so many empty houses for sale, they seemed nearly abandoned. Which meant their overall economic state was some of the most-depressed we’d seen. So it was pretty remarkable how these new towns, eight years later, were, if not quite booming, at least far from dying. We’ve already learned that the previous eight years had stopped (or even reversed) the decay of other towns and cities along our route, but it’s hard to imagine that would have been sufficient to transform those canal towns into the every-storefront-filled towns that we passed through today.
For lunch we stopped at a McDonald’s, something I’d been craving, and something we hadn’t done in months. Some of the employees were laughing about the old people coming in and complaining about the price of an order of fries. “Yo, it’s not the old days…we don’t even have a Dollar Menu anymore!”
At Caledonia we left NY-5 and took quiet country roads the rest of the way. But those roads came with some really steep up-and-down hills. And deer everywhere, crossing the road, and bounding through the fields alongside us. The combination made for some pretty dangerous riding: on the downhills, we had to ride centered in the roadway, with our hands on our brakes, constantly scanning the brush and trees at the road’s edge, in order to maximize our reaction time if a deer darted out in front of us. Luckily we survived without any close encounters. But we did have one lucky encounter of a different sort. At a brief water stop in the middle of one of those empty roads, a guy working on his house walked out to greet us, and told us that he had rode across the country in 1991. Old school respect! And given the randomness of this road, I’m guessing we’re the only touring cyclists who have ever gone by his house, so it was fun that he spotted us and was able to chat.
At one point while shifting gears, I somehow got a sharp stab of wire into my index finger. I thought I had removed the broken springs that had been poking me months ago? Yeah, I did; this was something different. Oh, its the shifter cable, fraying apart, and one of the individual broken wires stabbed me! Well, that’s not good, but I’ll see if I can make it the last 10 miles to camp and replace it then. I tried to limit my shifting somewhat, but then it wasn’t really a surprise, when, with a mile left to go: snap! It was all the hills, that forced a lot of shifting. I was suddenly down to a 3-speed bike: three gears in the front, and the highest (smallest) gear in the back. Well, could I still make it? No, it turns out I can’t climb a 4% hill on a 125 lb. bike in that high of a gear. Still, a quarter mile out, it was worth it to just push it the rest of the way up the hill and change it out later.
Tonight’s lodging was something new: glamping! We had booked two nights (via AirBNB) in a giant canvas tent, decked out with a queen-sized bed, furniture, and lighting. We did it partly because it’s something Rett has always wanted to do, partly because there weren’t many other options of lodging (including camping) around, and partly because there were some storms and heat in the forecast that would not have been great in our normal-sized tent anyway.
Holly and her husband greeted us warmly, and her husband even pushed Rett’s bike up the trail on their 70-acre property with me, while Holly and Rett followed in the 4-wheeler. The tent was absolutely enormous, and built upon a solid wooden platform. We could wheel our bikes inside with no problem. The problem was one we had expected: it was 94 degrees outside the tent, and it hit 100 degrees inside. The outdoor shower helped some, and they loaned us a cooler with some ice, and then they even offered to let us take a dip in their swimming pool (something they don’t normally offer to their guests, but we tend to luck into special treatment). We declined, partly because the sun was getting low enough that it put some shade out into the yard, and cooked up stir-fried veggies on the site’s propane griddle. The setting was gorgeous, but beyond that, it wasn’t a lot of fun, and I was proud of Rett’s relatively-low amount of complaints about the unpleasantness.
Near sunset, we started to see some towering clouds build up, and then got quite a lightning show once darkness fell. But it was only after we were in bed (once again, yes, a full-on bed!) that some rain came thundering down on roof, not especially long, but heavy, and better handled by our canvas shelter than our normal tent.
The rain had cooled things off some, and there was enough of a breeze passing through the tent to make sleeping bearable, but the unbearableness crept up quickly, with the temperature already 80 degrees by 8am. Holly brought up breakfast (covering both “B”s of the AirBNB), and then I set to work on the bikes, replacing my broken shifter cable, and swapping out Rett’s rear tire with one of the two spares I’d been carrying for months (the casing was starting to show through).
Beyond that, we tried to do as little as possible, and with the temperature hitting 99 in the tent by afternoon, all we could find to do was to lay on the carpet and doze (the bed was far too warm). Still, it was better than riding in that heat! But we could only bear it so long, so today, we did take Holly up on her offer to take a swim. The water in the aboveground pool was cold enough that it was uncomfortable getting in, but it did a perfect job of bring down our temperatures. And it was nice to hang out and talk with the family for a while.
And it wasn’t just our own fever that was broken; when we got back up to our tent, the air temperature was down to a delightful 80 degrees. So it was no problem cooking another dinner on our own (though this time on our own camp stove, it was just easier and more-familiar than theirs). Once again, there were storm clouds all around the area, even busting trees several miles away, but not a drop of rain hit us all day. A bit of a waste of the “protect us from rain” aspect to the glamping day off, but it paid off in every other way.