Friday, 19 September 2014

Day 3 - Deposit to Trumansburg, NY - Sept 1

There is an unsettling moment that often occurs on these trips when night is approaching and any options for lodging are not readily apparent. I had pulled into a couple of deserted towns with hardly a functioning store before making my way to Deposit, where it began to drizzle, and the deserted Sunday afternoon streets did not offer many opportunities even for a casual contact. It began to look like I might be facing a chilly night under the awning of a deserted shed or roadside fruit stand when a man walked by on the opposite sidewalk in what appeared to be the long robes of a Franciscan monk—hardly the outfit you'd expect to see in small-town Appalachia. He very cordially told me about two motels located on the edge of town a few yards from the banks of the Delaware. One was full, but the manager of the other did not find my arrival by bike remarkable and set me up with a convenient balcony. I even had time to shop and watch the sunset over the river as the evening cleared. As usual, anxiety over creature comforts was unwarranted.

The same problem recurred the following night (Day 3) when the shores of Lake Cayuga north of Ithaca turned out not to be populated with plentiful, cheap resorts but rather with fine vacation homes in exclusive settings. These areas are the worst for casual travelers as the only options for overnight stays are usually pricey B&Bs or elegant lodges catering to the premium trade.

First, I had to make my way into Binghampton, a fairly large city and SUNY college town. Locals told me that the old secondary road that predates the 17 freeway did not go all the way into town, but a useful map posted at the downtown crossroads of Windsor about halfway to the city showed the existence—apparently unknown to motorists—of a well considered bike route complete with its own signage [below].

The large student population probably stimulated the establishment of this convenient arrangement, by which one can make one’s way into the city via back roads, all clearly marked, which skirt the main highway. I was sitting in the central Binghampton plaza by breakfast time and took this photo [below left] of the impressive courthouse there. A fellow cyclist stared at me in a peculiarly unfriendly fashion, offered no information, and munched his doughnut. But a local directed me to a diner sure to be functioning even on Labor Day and shared his civic pride over the booming branch of the state university and other felicitous developments. Solo bike trips impel one to casual contacts of this sort, and they are comforting even when it takes two or three attempts to draw out a friendly response.

West of Binghampton is Johnson City, which looked suspiciously like the section blacks are expected to live in, then a couple of country roads lead to the northwest toward Ithaca, all containing killer hills that forced me to climb down and push for only the second (and last) time of the trip. But aside from a brief stretch on a too-busy main road without a shoulder, the rest of the way to Ithaca was delightful country pedaling over rolling hills.

Ithaca matched the perfect cliché vision I had formed of it as an Ivy League college town: a tiny downtown with the usual shops and an oversupply of restaurants outdoing each other for haut dining pretension. My attempt to get a quick dish without abandoning the poorly secured bike required three waiters ceremoniously presenting themselves by their first names and reciting the local ingredients used to prepare the menu items. Long afterward, a broccoli cheese soup appeared without the inedible stem removed.

It was late afternoon before I scrambled out, and the highway that runs along the lake on its west side did not look favorable for my purposes. The state park was hosting a huge Labor Day crowd, and I was tempted to try to sneak into a lean-to or cabin to spend the night but thought better of it. These are the trying moments in which one questions the wisdom of the entire outing; and yet if one relies on the locals for advice, something always comes through. A particularly friendly young farm couple directed me into the side road leading to the hamlet of Trumansburg to a B&B, where a sign on the door said to phone for assistance. As I sat on its porch, a lady in housecoat and curlers burst out the door and gave herself a heart attack as she hadn’t checked her messages. She turned out to be a charming hostess; her establishment and the village itself are located in the Town of Ulysses.

The route: West out of Deposit on 315 (old 17), becoming 28 to Windsor, West Windsor, Binghampton, 11 to downtown. Then 17C to Johnson City, Endwell, north on 29 (Taft Avenue), becoming Twist Run Road (76), north on 13, short stretch on highway 26, then northwest on 308 to 38 north at Newark Valley, west on 79 into Ithaca. North along Cayuga Lake on 89 to Frontenac Road turnout into Trumansburg (Town of Ulysses). Deposit to Binghampton, 30 miles; to Newark Valley, 25; to Ithaca, 27; to Trumansburg, 13, total 95, add 5 for wrong turns and indirect routes: roughly 100 miles.

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