210602-It was the best of plans, it was the worst of plans

I normally purchase my ticket to Europe in early February; Covid made that impractical. Spring flew by working on a number of house projects. Late May I realized that I needed to tour soon, or not at all.

That led to a mad scramble, a hodgepodge of plans foiled by timing and Covid. I’d decided to cycle part of the Empire State, from NYC to the Canadian border near Montreal. The first section out of NYC has little to no camping. I then decided to start in Albany, and extend the Empire State Trail into Montreal. Except that you can’t currently enter Canada. A friend told me I could still fly into Canada, so I reversed the plan to start in Montreal, head to Albany, and then follow the Erie Canalway to Buffalo. Finding another trail from Buffalo to Cleveland (“Cleveland Rocks!”). I can extend the trip to Cleveland. Cleveland isn’t all that far from Pittsburgh. While there’s no trail to Pittsburgh, from Pittsburgh I could cycle the Allegheny Trail (which I didn’t do last year), and from there follow the C&O back into DC. From there I could ride home. And at all of those points I can ride a bus or train back home. I want to be home at the latest at the end of June for my annual week-long kayaking trip.

That’s the theoretical final plan. There were many plans prior to that one, confounded by being able to get a train from Buffalo to Durham, but not Durham to Buffalo. The Canadian border restrictions. Trains from Durham <> NYC and NYC<>Buffalo (and Albany) overlap schedules, making the journey by train two days! I always forget the size of the US. When in Greece I realized that the population and square miles of the country almost exactly match my home state of NC. Texas is twice as big as Germany! Traveling across even a small part of the US is a long way. I also confounded planning by starting on Memorial Day weekend, when the ticket offices for everything were hard to reach or closed.

A bus from Durham to Albany was 14 hours, leaving at 3:30 am. At first I thought, “Man, I don’t want to get up that early” only to realize that was only an hour or so after I go to sleep anyway!

The Greyhound website indicated that my bicycle would ship on a separate bus, and arrive “at a different time”. However, at the station the attendant said it would ride on the bus with me. Skeptical, but bus made the final cut for transport method.

Marnie dropped me at the bus station. There was, unsurprisingly, some negotiation about getting my bicycle on the bus. Fortunately, the woman behind me had a real attitude, and pissed off the driver enough that he made certain my bicycle fit.

You’d think that with Covid seating on the bus would be separated. Nope; we were packed into seats with less room than an airplane. We had an unexpected bus change in Richmond. Some wrangling meant my bicycle didn’t end at the bottom of the pile. The scheduled bus change in NYC went without a hitch.

It was during that ride that skies grayed. Rechecking the weather, the lovely forecast from a few days ago now indicated rain. Rain hammered the bus on the way into Albany. Looking for alternatives, I reached out to two warmshowers.org hosts, knowing it too late to hear back from them. The one I did hear back from wasn’t available.

Rain at a light drizzle, I decided to make the run to my intended campground some 20 km away in Waterford. Signs on the trail leaving Albany indicated “Closed” and instructed to take the detour, with no directions for the detour. Fortunately, the trail wasn’t THAT closed.

Arriving in Waterford only slightly damp, I cast about looking for my camp site. A local near the Welcome Center said he’d seen tents camped on the lawn at the Welcome Center. I found the showers and bathrooms at the back of the Welcome Center, so at least in theory I was in the right place.

A hot shower later, I fired up the stove. Or, more accurately, failed to do so. My lighter wouldn’t work, and my matches failed to strike. I was reminded that Sam (my cycling companion from France and the Camino) doesn’t carry a stove for the hassle. Dinner was tuna on a blueberry bagel.

Towards Buffalo tomorrow. The Trailway website recommends calling ahead to a lock when camping, which means I’m going to have to figure out how far I’m going to go. With rain in the forecast.

Then again, I’d called the Welcome Center three times with no response.