Archive for the 'Cycling and Salvation' Category

Cycling the Erie Canal Path From Albany to Buffalo ( Part 2)

July 27, 2018

The following photographs were taken on the second half of my journey on and around the Erie Canal Trail.

href=”″ rel=”attachment wp-att-3890″> FDR’s Four Freedoms

Port Byron

The open road.

In Seneca Falls

Inside Woman’s Rights National Historical Park

An image of Sojourner Truth

Wesleyan Chapel where the first formal demands for woman’s right were made.

Inside Wesleyan Chapel.

From a bridge exiting Seneca Falls

Seneca Lake outside Geneva

Geneva City Hall

Stone house outside Geneva

Entering Palmyra


Joseph Smith and angel

Good eating!

Palmyra Village Hall

Entering Fairport

Entering Rochester


Mount Hope Cemetary

A man.

One of the greatest men and greatest writers born on American soil.

A developed soul.

Rochester underground

Kodak Building

The High Falls

At the High Falls

Mr. Douglass and Ms. Anthony at tea.

Susan B. Anthony Museum

Blue skies.

Drawbridge over the Canal

Brockport, where Ivory soap floats

Bridge at Brockport

Downtown Brockport

“Borrow a bike – it’s free.”

Leaving Brockport


A home in Albion

Strange claim to fame.

A church in Albion




On the way to Medina, evening falls on the Erie Canal.

On the way.

Entering Medina


A spooky old house in Medina

No relation

Once the Medina Opera House

Hart Hotel in Medina

Main Street

St. Mary’s Church, Medina

Entering Lockport

The “Five Flights.”


End of the line.

Cycling the Erie Canal Path From Albany to Buffalo ( Part 1)

July 26, 2018

This was my third adventure cycling along the Erie Canal; the first, however, in which I managed to cycle its entire length. My first go, from Syracuse to Albany, some nine years ago, was a thing of farce. Clueless, I managed somehow to do just about everything wrong – I got lost, I got caught in storms, I miscalculated everything — and consequently spent hours riding through darkness in desperate attempts to get to the flee bag motels I had booked myself into. I arrived at them, at length, exhausted, filthy, famished, and (for a bonus) sometimes soaking wet.

An observation: you know you are too hungry when Denny’s looks heavenly.

A tip: Cycling 90 miles a day through unknown terrain while stopping to take in any and all sights is neither reasonable nor wise, that much the more when you do not have a cell phone.

You learn.

My next two attempts were better, much better, but still, there were bumps on the road and time constraints kept me from completing the entire trail.

So…in the wake of a life-threatening incident, I was determined this time around to do what I had not done in my truncated previous adventures on the Trail: to cycle it in its entirety from Albany to Buffalo.

And so I did.

The Canal itself, even as it is now but history, remains, economically, technologically, and socially on several levels, a thing of wonder. Consider this: to accommodate the 568-foot change in elevation from Lake Erie in Buffalo to the Hudson River Valley, 18 aqueducts, and 83 locks had to be built across 363 miles. It was an immense public and very physical and much-derided undertaking of the kind, hostage to the savagery of Neoliberalism as we are, we no longer even seem capable of contemplating, never mind enacting and funding. Follow the Canal and you will follow the history of New York and to a significant degree the history of the non-violent aspect of the westward expansion of America. Completed in 1825, the Canal created prosperity and wealth all along its way: and not merely prosperity and wealth but prosperity and wealth that (unlike the internet) were widely, if not exactly fairly, divided. The Canal provided work – albeit, backbreaking work – to thousands and thousands of newly arrived immigrants, among them the Famine Irish, who were allowed a toehold in a country in which many wanted nothing to do with them. The Canal transformed towns into cities and created towns the length of its way. Some of these towns, such as Medina, grew so prosperous that they had their own opera house. Some of the cities, principally Rochester and Seneca Falls, established themselves as centers of the most progressive politics of the times, where figures as huge as Frederick Douglas, Elizabeth Stanton, and Susan B. Anthony lived and died. Harriet Tubman lived in nearby Auburn.

No such prosperity is evident now. On the contrary. what the Canal gave, the railroad and then the highway took away. What remains now in many of these places are the ghosts of prosperity in architecture, beautiful architecture, and public spaces amidst a sense of resignation and hopelessness. Such ghosts are haunting. It seemed sometimes that everyone I saw, no matter what age, chained smoked and was covered in tattoos. Politically, this is largely Trump land.

Logistically, this time around I was much better prepared.

My lodging was divided into motels and the hospitality of fellow cyclists from the excellent Warm Showers, the latter of whom could not have been kinder or more generous and whose kindness and generosity I hope to return in kind. Finally, when I, at last, reached Buffalo, I was welcomed with open arms by the parents of an old friend, lifelong Buffalonians who provided the perfect ending to my little journey.

Here and there (as in Mike’s Diner in Schenectady and the Iron Kettle in Rome) I feasted in greasy spoons, that much the more poignant since such former New York City institutions have gone the way of the pterodactyl, replaced by Duane Reade and the like.

All in all, I took in a spectrum of sights and sensations, some majestic ( the Capital Building in Albany ) some personal ( visiting graves at the Shrine of North American Martyrs in Auriesville ) some goofy ( the Yellow Brick Road of Chittenango, birthplace of L. Frank Baum, author of the Wizard of Oz ) some awesome, (The Five Flights in Lockport ) and a great deal in between.

I set out early in the morning when there was still dew and, save the voices of nature (such as occasional bullfrogs who in the morning stillness sound like barking dogs ) and the sound of my rolling wheels, a sacred silence: a sacred silence allowing and inviting a kind of moving meditation, reflection, prayer.

And these things did I do. And, here and there, a fleeting reminder or a glimpse of the Always Something More.

Enjoy the pics.

A ghost of old Albany.

Uncle Dan’s childhood home.

“Uncle Sam” in Troy

Big dog in Albany.

Lombardi’s of Albany

The King’s Highway


Sunday morning in Schenectady.

Nott Memorial at Union College

A friend.

A friend.


A school in Canajoharie

Abandoned church in Fort Plain.


Union Station, Utica

Bagg’s Tavern, Utica

The Stanley Theater, Utica

Elvis in Utica

In Rome, NY.


Downtown Oneida

In Canastota


Yellow Brick Road in Chittenango, birthplace of L. Frank Baum who wrote The Wizard of Oz

“Follow the Yellow Brick Road.”

A fellow traveler

I’m not usually a supporter of the AOH but I am here.

Greasy spoon in Syracuse.

Downtown Syracuse, 7:00 am.

A church in Syracuse.

Halfway there.

Cycling the Erie Canal

September 4, 2016


For me, there are few things as invigorating as a long, quiet bike ride through a place in which natural beauty intertwines with both history and the daily life of town and city dwellers; few things I enjoy more then the contemplation and kind of moving meditation such journeys allow and invite. The Erie Canal bike trail offers them all in abundance if you want them and as the summer nears its end, I was fortunate enough to, once again, experience them.

And very happy I did.




Predictably, Trump signs were abundant, especially in the small towns. Indeed, it seemed to me the more economically devastated the town, the greater the number of Trump signs. I engaged, in fact, in a few conversations over coffee with various Trump supporters that echoed the utter incoherence of Trump himself, minus the man’s viciousness.

So it goes.



To give perspective to America 2016, to Trump and Clinton and all they embody, at the Jesuit shrine in Auriesville, I visited the graves of two recently departed friends to whose lives and teaching I am forever grateful and whose radical humanity I think of daily.



And daily was the green and the silence. And daily was the water.



Cycling the Boston Post Road

April 29, 2013

cos cob

Perhaps it comes as a result of too much Whitman and Kerouac in the bloodstream but ever since I was a kid and I learned of it snaking its way through the city I’ve been intrigued with the Boston Post Road, the Indian trail that, higgily piggily, became the oldest highway in America. It was not, of course, the car strewn thoroughfare paved of bituminous macadam found everywhere in the USA that I was moved to see, but rather the ghosts of that first, fabled mysterious road.

Or whatever remained therein.


I wanted to get a glimpse of the road that Paul Revere had ridden to warn of the coming of the redcoats, that General George Washington had fought to secure during the Revolutionary War, that President George Washington had lit out on for his first presidential tour, and all the rest of that early American boyhood school book stuff.


My interest was piqued considerably by a chance discovery of The King’s Best Highway by Eric Jaffee, a beautifully written and witty history of the road which I’d recommend to anyone who has an interest in the thing.

With the coming of spring I set out to see what I could see and, with trusty Trek in tow, boarded a Metro North New Haven line train to Stamford, Connecticut. My intention was to slowly wind my way down to New York along the Boston Post Road.
This I did, beginning with the nightmare of corporate architecture that is Stamford on through pretty Cos Cob and Greenwich, past working class Port Chester into pleasant Rye, Mamaroneck, New Rochelle and straight into the industrial entrails of the Bronx. Sadly, I saw no ghosts, only an odd plaque or two commemorating the way or some forgotten battle or general. But I did encounter a lot of beautiful architecture, a tiny old theatre where some great rock and roll bands once played, and a road that, like life, was seldom straight.

Here are some pics I took along the way.


Welcome to Stamford

Jackie Robison 1

Statue of Jackie Robinson who lived in Stamford.

Statue of Jackie Robinson who lived in Stamford.

Entering the kingdom of Conde Nast

Entering the kingdom of Conde Nast

Along the way.

Along the way.

Church on the BPR<a href="

Putman monument

Putman Cottage 2

Graceful Greenwich

Graceful Greenwich

Church established in 1704

Cos Cob Volluter Fire Department

Welcome to New York

Entering Port Chester

Entering Port Chester

Capital Theater

Capital Theater


Corporate America comes to Port Chester

Doorway of the Lifesavers Building

Lifesaver's Building

Lifesaver’s Building

Boston Post Road leaving Port Chester

Boston Post Road leaving Port Chester

The BPR entering Rye.

The BPR entering Rye.

Along the road in Rye.

Along the road in Rye.

BPR near the town of Rye.

BPR near the town of Rye.

Rye Crossroads

Downtown Rye

Monument for Rye Firefighters.

Monument for Rye Firefighters.

Sign in a window in Rye

Sign in a window in Rye

Smoke Shop

Smoke Shop

Rye High School

Rye High School

Doorway of Rye High School

Doorway of Rye High School

Wood frame house in Rye

Whitby Castle in Rye

Whitby Castle in Rye

Entering Mamaroneck

Good deal!

Good deal!

A family business survives

A family business survives

Little League

Mamaroneck FD

Mamaroneck scene

Old School House

The BPR in Larchmont

The BPR in Larchmont



Entering New Rochelle

Entering New Rochelle

Lovely house on the BPR entering New Rochelle

Roadside cemetary

Roadside cemetary

Tablet in New Rochelle 2

Armory in New Rochelle

For the Civil War dead of  New Rochelle



Empty Building

Empty Building

BPR leaving New Rochelle

BPR leaving New Rochelle

Leaving New Rochelle on the King's Highway

Leaving New Rochelle on the King’s Highway

King's Highway in Pelham Manor

King’s Highway in Pelham Manor


The BPR over the Hutchinson Bridge

The BPR over the Hutchinson Bridge

A view of the Bronx from the BPR

A view of the Bronx from the BPR

A view of the Knucklehead from the BPR

A view of the Knucklehead from the BPR

Dyre Ave and the end of the journey.

Dyre Ave and the end of the journey.

An Inkling of the Vastness: Cycling from Baltimore, MD to Doylestown, PA

August 8, 2011

On July 30 I joined a couple of thousand fellow teachers, parents and activists from across the country who traveled to DC to attend the Save Our Schools rally to demand an end to the  use of  children as political pawns, the  demonization of teachers, and the whole  disgusting, cynical and ruthlessly anti democratic corporate takeover of public education that has damaged this  nation for over a decade now.

Despite the almost unbearable heat, it was a good day.  Highlights included passionate, informed speeches by education war horses Jonathan Kozal ( who, recalling marching with MLK in 1968,  did not disguise his  disgust at the corporate reformers hijacking the mantle of civil rights ) a fiery  Deborah Meier  and a defiant Diane Ravich.  Actor Matt Damon also spoke and did so with articulation and intelligence, a welcome surprise.

The next morning I was to set out on my bike for the 300 or so mile ride home.  It wasn’t to work out exactly as I  imagined it to but…it was good.  Over the past few summers I had made a few long distance expeditions  — twice cycling both the Erie Canal and the Great Allegheny Passage – but they were both largely on bike paths which are a different kettle of fish altogether from road cycling.  They tend to be flat, there are no cars or trucks to contend with and the route is  mapped out for you.    This journey was to be the first I undertook that was laid out almost entirely on roads and I will admit to an unfamiliar feeling of  apprehension before setting out.   In retrospect, I would have planned far better and researched the terrain of the roads with scrutiny so as to choose which ones to take more intelligently. But…this is how I learn.   I am grateful to my friend Ben in D.C. who showed me all kinds of things that Google maps could do that are potentially of great value to a cyclist. Next time I will utilize them more intelligently.

I was to set out at dawn the next morning out of Washington but…. alas, due to a series of mishaps, miscalculations, and bad maps, it was not to be. Fortunately, friends were kind enough to transport me and my bike to the outskirts of Baltimore where I began my journey proper.  It was not immediately auspicious.  Within an hour of moseying around the city, I had tire trouble.  Luckily, as I struggled to make things right I was happened upon by a Baltimore firefighter named Keith who, having worked in a  bike shop,  set me  straight in a few minutes.  A good soul and a good  sign. Keith also warned me that Baltimore was an extremely violent city and I would be well advised to avoid certain areas.  I avoided them.   Baltimore has gone to some pains to make itself into a bike friendly metropolis with dedicated bike lanes (and, like apparently every city in the US except NYC, buses with bike racks) so I meandered happily hither and thither. I wound up at the brilliantly constructed Camden Yards, home of the Baltimore Orioles and one of the most beautiful ballparks in the US of A. The team was away, so  like many an American boy to whom baseball was once almost a religious experience, I joyfully peered through the bars unto the green grass of the field and took my time taking in the monuments outside the park, reveling in the feeling of being 10 years old that baseball, almost uniquely, seems to induce among many American males who once played the game. As evening set in, I set out to Cockeysville, a town some 15 miles outside of the city where I had booked a reasonably priced room for the night and where there was also a 20 mile rail trail leading in the direction I wanted to go. On the way I spent a good deal of time cursing out the map makers of Rand McNally but, eventually, arrived at my destination which was situated on a strip mall populated by Subway, Dunkin Donut’s, Pizza Hut and the like.   Herein lay one of the many crimes of corporate America: the place was utterly indistinguishable  from  tens  of thousands  of other places, utterly devoid of character, like a airport or a corporate middle manager. Alas! The next morning at dawn I was riding  the very pleasant Northern Central Railroad Trail heading north toward Pennsylvania.   At Monkton I left the trail to check out the still extant station house and there encountered  two volcanically enraged unemployed middle aged white guys;  Tea Party members who had somehow convinced themselves that the absolute destruction of all vestiges of the  social contract was, in fact,  a good thing and would somehow give them back the jobs and the dignity that they were so painfully missing.     I asked them —   very politely – how this war of  all people against all other people was to benefit anyone but those on top and if they were aware that the billionaire  Koch brothers bankrolled their Tea Party.  I asked them – very politely —  why they did not mention the  fact that their country had spent the last decade engaged  in two criminal wars.    They looked at me as if I were mad.  But they listened and the confab ended amiably enough.  They felt betrayed; betrayed by the Democratic Party of which they were formally supporters; betrayed by corporate America; which had exported their jobs to slave wage earners in  Micronesia or where ever; betrayed by a mass media who were nothing more than   entertainers and purveyors of ideology and idiot distraction. And  they had every reason to feel so.  It would not be my last such encounter along this little journey.         That day’s ride would be one of the most physically challenging experiences in recent memory.  Most of this was due to my own foolishness in not discerning the lay of the land.  I.e. hills.  Many, many hills made that much hillier by the scorching temperature. At any rate, I made it up the hills and made the best of it and followed Route 138 through tiny villages called Black Horse, Shawsville, and Drybranch into  Whiteford and Route and the border of PA.  Somewhere in there I crossed the Mason Dixon line. My goal was to cross the Susquehanna River using the Norman Wood Bridge at Holtwood where I would not have to pay someone to carry  my bike and me across the bridge in a van as is the case in most bridges.  Sometime in early afternoon, I turned on a road which bore a sign reading “Norman Wood Bridge / Seven Miles.”    The road went downhill and I before I knew it, I  realized with a  start that I was crossing the Susquehanna and had not pedaled for the entire seven miles.



Dusk found me in the pretty little town of Strasburg in Lancaster County, Amish territory,  where Robert Fulton happened to be born.  At the outskirts of town I asked a women who was standing in her front yard if she knew the location of my motel.  She did.  And she also knew that I needed a big, cold  glass of homemade mint tea and insisted I stay put until she gave me one.  She did that too and it was delicious. A good omen. Strasburg offers you something you rarely see in our increasingly and hideously corporitized nation: a confrontation with another  view of the world, another way of  living.  Strasburg is a town where cars, trucks and Amish horse drawn buggies share  the road harmoniously.  At first it’s unsettling, like watching two different centuries unfold at the same time.   Most of the buggies were carrying straw-hatted or bonneted Amish children who would wave to you when they passed.  Every time I saw one of these children I could not help but remember the murderous rampage that took place in an Amish schoolhouse in 2006,  in which the America that this community had gone to such pains to keep out came blazing in.    When it was over 10 such children were shot and five such children were killed. The killer then turned the gun on himself.  More to the point, I could neither forget nor truly understand the almost divine magnanimity the Amish people as a whole displayed in the wake of the horror:  they not only immediately forgave the murderer of their children but also comforted the murderer’s family. That day as I cycled slowly past Amish farms on silent roads with names like Paradise Lane I would see Amish men (all of whom looked almost ridiculously healthy) working their fields or hear the hooves of their horses approaching behind me, I was filled with the blessed sensation that somehow in the end all would be well.

There seems to be  little if any separation between what the Amish  say they believe and how they live and treat each other.    They breathe what they believe,  and who among us can say the same ? Even as I could never be one, I could not help but admire these people for their faith, their compassion and their tremendous integrity.

By early afternoon I had reached New Holland,  and, munching on fresh blueberries and nectarines I  bought at road side  stands,   rode Route 23 straight on through the villages of Goodville and  Churchtown  and the depressingly touristy St. Peter’s Village on my way to Phoenixville,  some 60 odd miles from Strasburg.

Phoenixville’s claim to  pop culture fame is that part of the goofy 1958 sci-fi horror film The Blob was filmed in the still  functioning Colonial Theater.  Indeed, for the past decade the town has held an annual Blob Fest in which movie viewers flee the Blob infested theater just like Steve McQueen and the teenagers did in the movie. ( Sounds like fun.

It remains  a beautiful theater. Like all  Pennsylvania postindustrial towns, Phoenixville is a town reeling on its heels, filled with interesting and even beautiful architecture but struggling to survive.    Some sections are simply squalid while others, such as Bridge Street where I stayed, are doing their best to breathe new life into the old town with the typical fare of  bars  and restaurants.    I wish them luck. That night as I ate my dinner in one of those restaurants I could not help but over hear from the table next to me two women engaged in an intelligent if angry discussion of Obama and American politics including the debt ceiling farce, the exporting of jobs and the endless wars.  I was heartened enough by their conviction and intelligence that I piped in about the rally I attended in DC some three days before.   I was dismayed to discover that these decent, reasonably informed, intelligent,  Left leaning folks had  no grasp of what what really happening to education in America and had bought into the Time Magazine/ Arne Duncan narrative of failing schools, bad teachers, impossible parasite unions and redeeming charter schools, lock stock and barrel.    They were astonished, however, to find out  that charter schools were publicly funded but privately run, accountable to no one but their board of directors. Like most Americans I’ve spoken to about it, they were equally astonished to hear  of the immense roles of non elected billionaires like Bill Gates, the Walton family and Eli Broad and others in imposing their will on and outright making public policy in the highest offices in the nation. But they listened and they said they would look into it.  And I bet they did.  And I bet they are well pissed.

The last day of my journey began with a spin around Phoenixville before pedaling over to the Schuylkill River Trail, which runs from Valley Forge all the way to Philadelphia. My destination, albeit not to be realized on two wheels,  was Milford, New Jersey by way of Doylestown, New Hope, and Lambertville, N.J. . My first stop on the way was the scene of the Valley Forge Encampment where   General George Washington held together the Continental Army during the long savage winter that the English occupied Philadelphia. It is mostly green space, a 10-mile circumference with a monument here and there.

There is a fine visitor center containing artifacts of the encampment and many illustrations.

Further on down   Schuylkill River Trail there  was a sign for the Betzwood Motion Picture Studio,  a strange thing to encounter in PA.

The next destination was Norristown, a forlorn and seemingly forgotten place that I wanted to get out of as soon as I got into it.   Sadness and defeat hang over the place like a shroud. Here and there one saw the shells of former  mills, factories or  breweries  but most of all one saw fast food joints and boarded up storefronts.  Unable to find a smaller road, I  took Route 202  out of town as fast as I could.

I  stayed on that miserable road far longer than I should have,  passing  massive shopping mall after massive shopping mall with big trucks zooming way too close for comfort. Toward afternoon, I could see rain was coming.  This  was not how I wished to spend my  last day on the road.

Somewhere in a place called Gwyneed, I called a friend who works in Doylestown and asked him if he knew of better routes.  He did. The routes  — Evan’s Road and Upper State Road – were great improvements over 202 and allowed me to enjoy what turned out to be the last couple of hours of my journey.

By afternoon, just as the rain  began falling I rolled into Doylestown, a lovely little city of  winding streets and beautiful architecture that has somehow maintained its heritage without becoming a toy town for the rich and poisonous.

They even had a monument for a public school that had  burned down, an unimaginable tribute in a time such as our where a handful of idiot billionaires seek to end public education altogether.   Margaret Mead and James Michener grew up there and had attended the school.  Fortunately for them ( and us ), their teachers were not forced to contaminate  them with standardized corporate induced idiocy.

As I set out for my  trip from a rally defending public education, I took the monument  to be a good omen.

I stopped into a café in the center of town to have a coffee and watch the rain. The café owner asked me how far I had traveled and when I told him he refused payment.  A sweet gesture.  I  decided that it would be foolish to go on in the rain so I called my friend who worked in town and with whom  I would be staying with that night and asked him to pick me up.  He did so and I spent a pleasant evening with him and his family in Milford, N. J., arriving there on four wheels rather than two but arriving safe and dry.

My litte journey had ended.   I had accomplished most of what I had set out to do and I had learned a bit about doing it better the next time I do something of the sort. I felt grateful I had the opportunity and the wherewithal to undertake the trip and grateful too that I had been provided another  inkling into the vastness of this immense, pained, perhaps yet-to-be-born  even as it  is dying nation.

A great thank you to Setareh and Ben as well as Carl and Betsy  whose kindness allowed  this little journey to take place.