Huge caravan of canal cyclists reach Orleans County

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 12 July 2015 at 12:00 am

Photos by Tom Rivers

MEDINA – These cyclists head down the Canal Towpath just before the lift bridge in Medina, where they turned to head towards the middle school.

There are about 600 cyclists staying in tents in Medina tonight before they head about 60 miles east on Monday to reach Fairport.

Today was Day 1 of an eight-day, 400-mile trek from Buffalo to Albany. This is the 17th annual “Cycling the Erie Canal” bike tour.

The cyclists were treated to a concert in Medina, a historical talk about the canal, and a chance to use the pool and showers at the middle school.

This year’s tour has attracted more than 600 cyclists from 36 states, as well as international participants from as far away as Australia.

Michael Della Rocco of Schenectady is on the bike trip for the first time. He has traveled the eastern end near Albany before, but today was his first time seeing the western end from Buffalo to Medina.

He enjoyed discovering some of the small cities and towns along the way.

The Medina community proved very welcoming, he said. Someone had a banner up near Marshall Road, welcoming the cyclists.

“The good part is you ride at your own pace,” said Della Rocco, a retiree. “It’s not a race. It’s very comfortable.”

Dick and Becka Swartzlander of Oil City, Pa., work together to set up their tent outside the middle school in Medina.

The couple was in Medina about three years ago for the Thomas the Tank Engine ride with their grandson and other family. That’s where they learned about the canal cycling trip.

They said they have been training for the long trip. They’ve enjoyed seeing some of the towns along the way and seeing a working canal with lift bridges and boats.

“It’s been real nice,” Mrs. Swartzlander said.

The cyclists should reach Albion early Monday morning before heading to Holley and eventually reaching Fairport.