Cyclists love countryside, small towns in Orleans County

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 11 July 2022 at 11:18 am

Photos by Tom Rivers

GAINES – There are 750 cyclists travelling along the towpath in Erie Canal today through Orleans County, including this group that is heading east in Eagle Harbor, headed towards the lift bridge at about 8:30 a.m.

The cyclists said they loved seeing the lush agricultural fields and experiencing the small towns. They left on Sunday morning from Buffalo and stayed overnight in Medina. Today they are headed to Fairport. The eight-day journey covers about 400 miles to Albany.

This is the 24th annual Cycling the Erie Canal trek. The event was cancelled in 2020 and returned last year but was at about half capacity, limited to 350 riders. This year it is back to full strength at 750.

These cyclists stop by an interpretive panel in Ridgeway above the Canal Culvert. This is the only spot where you can drive under the Erie Canal.

The Culvert wowed the cyclists, who stopped to get selfies with the big stone structure.

Many of the cyclists welcomed the chance to walk down the dark tunnel which has sidewalks.

Anne Gulay of Canastota in Madison County and Joe Wagner of Glens Falls stopped for a photo with the Culvert.

Gulay, 61, and Wagner, 67, said they appreciated the warm welcome in Medina and along the canal villages so far on the journey. They said they have already made many new friends among the cyclists who come from 40 different states.

“It’s fabulous,” Wagner said. “The people are fantastically friendly and supportive.”

These cyclists are near the historical marker in Gaines that notes the northernmost point of the Erie Canal.

These cyclists are approaching the Gaines Basin canal bridge, about 2 miles from the Main Street lift bridge in Albion.

Bob Schumacher wore a Santa suit and greeted cyclists as they arrived in Albion this morning by Tinsel. Schumacher highlighted Albion’s distinction as home of the first Santa Claus School. It was run by Charles Howard from 1937 to 1966.

Lori Laine, right, handed out painted rocks with a cycling theme. She was part of a local welcoming group that also gave the cyclists orange slices and pointed them to nearby local attractions. Tinsel used to be painted white but last month a new large-scale mural of flowers was completed by artist Justin Suarez of Rochester.

Laine is chatting with Valerie Lloyd, 70, of Hernando, Fla. Lloyd said she lived in Los Angeles for 50 years. She is enjoying the ride along the towpath through the rural areas.

“To see these small towns and the open fields is just wonderful,” she said.

These cyclists check out the Santa School-themed mural on the north side of The Lake Country Pennysaver building. Justin Suarez also did that mural.

These cyclists visit the mural at Waterman Park of a Santa in a sleigh over downtown Albion and the Courthouse Square. Stacey Kirby Steward painted that mural in 2015. Next year there should be a bronze statue of Santa at the site.

The cyclists will also be greeted in Holley as part of the trip. Holley is about the halfway point in today’s ride and is an official welcome stop.