Sunday, 21 September 2014

Day 4 - Trumansburg to Victor, NY

The B&B proprietress had announced she would be up early and left coffee ready to brew, so I waited to have a predawn chat with her. But when the sky began to lighten, I headed down the slight ridge back to the main road that runs along the lake. Rain was forecast, and I was eager to get to Seneca Falls before running into any, assuming that I could wait it out by visiting the museum dedicated to the town’s historical role as the birthplace of the women’s suffrage movement.

The shore along that northern half of Cayuga Lake is close to the road rather than tucked away down steep inclines as is the case near Ithaca. So instead of luxury homes there were many more piers, boathouses, and buildings of one kind or another, but no cafes or restaurants open that early on a Tuesday. But the clouds merely threatened without producing any raindrops.

Upon the approach to Seneca Falls, past the Chiropractic College on its outskirts, I happened upon this landmark [photo above] commemorating the chance 1851 meeting on the street of the town between Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, which led to their lifelong collaboration as chief organizer and pamphleteer, respectively, of the women’s equality movement.

The Seneca, of course, were part of the Iroquois Confederation, but had sided with the British during the revolution. Historical signs dot the landscape of the area referring to the “campaign” or “expedition” of General Sullivan of 1779, in the midst of the war. From Wikipedia:

Sullivan's army carried out a scorched earth campaign, methodically destroying at least forty Iroquois villages throughout the Finger Lakes region of western New York, to put an end to Iroquois and Loyalist attacks against American settlements. With the Amerindians’ shelter gone and food supplies destroyed, thereafter the strength of the Iroquois Confederacy was broken. The death toll from exposure and starvation dwarfed the casualties received in the Battle of Newtown, in which about 1,000 Iroquois and Loyalists were decisively defeated by an army of 3,200 Continental soldiers. White Loyalists also lost their homes and lands in the deliberate scorched earth actions explicitly ordered by General George Washington, who was soon after known in Amerindian cultures by the pejorative “the Burner of Towns.” The survivors fled to British regions in Canada and the Niagara Falls and Buffalo areas. The devastation created great hardships for the thousands of Iroquois refugees who fled the region to shelter under British military protection outside Fort Niagara that winter, and many starved or froze to death.

Thus our proud history of gender equity, inaugurated by staunch opponents of American slavery, also originates at the crossroads where the way of life of the region’s indigenous population was finally destroyed.

The museum was closed on Tuesday, and I could not visit it.

I asked directions to the public library of an elderly Italian guy having his coffee in front of an imported food store and noted with the waitress in the coffee shop next door that there were many Italian names in the local cemetery. She confirmed that Seneca Falls has a large Italian colony and notes that the day’s soup special was called “Italian wedding.”

Western New York flattens out and is smoother riding, the towns more scattered but still popping up at comfortably regular intervals. However, the few main east-west routes are heavily trafficked. I asked a young girl sitting with her bike at Seneca Lake outside of Geneva how to avoid the highway and eventually found a back way through helpful attendants at gas stations. An agricultural experimentation station was the guidepost to the easier route 4 west, and at Hopewell Corner, friendly women clerks at the country store sold me Gatorade and spoke knowledgeably about the cooling capoline fabric that I had wisely bought in New York and which kept me fresh throughout the unusually humid days. Everyone speculated on when the rain would hit, myself included.

In Canandaigua the storm clouds gathered more ominously, and I found myself by chance in front of a bike shop with this clever hitching post.
The owner got out his map and showed me how to get to the town’s airport and follow Country Road 30 straight west again, but the rains interrupted, and I ducked under shop awnings up and down the main street, trying not to stay too long in one place to draw unhappy stares from the owners. The best place was a bench outside a bar where the drinkers slipped out regularly to smoke and acknowledged me tersely, thinking nothing of my slumped over, half-asleep form. I bought a new vial of electrolyte tablets and got my tires filled and enjoyed the busy movements of a fairly large city that I had never heard of.

There was plenty of time for riding left when the rains seemed to be letting up for good, and I rode steadily into the next town, Bloomsburg, whereupon I saw this unexpected sign in a yard [left]. Pulling into the gravel driveway, I greeted the man standing in his driveway with his dog and asked if he was Mr. Frasca. Yes, he said, to which I answered, So am I. His name was Dale Frasca, and he spoke of his immigrant grandfather from the area south of Naples, his 13 aunts and uncles on that side, a distant cousin in Brooklyn, took my card, and thanked me warmly for the unusual visit.

This detour turned out to be rather costly, as the storm clouds gathered again and I stopped to ask for water at a fruit stand, the owner showed me on her iPhone weather app the colorful line of storms approaching. “If you don’t get to Victor before they get here,” she said, “you’ll be stuck a long time.” I decided to make a dash for the town 4 miles up the road, mostly downhill, which turned out to be an error. The rains hit within minutes, and I was soaked but saw no reason at that point to turn back and flew down the approach into Victor and past the town to the refuge of a motel. The bike handled marvelously, and the despite the drenching never showed any sign of creakiness then or afterward. Would it have been better to stay at the fruit stand for two hours, then break for town in the near-dark? I didn’t stay to find out, and all was well. It was only 5 p.m., but we were done for the day.

The route: Continued north along Cayuga Lake on 89, then west on 116 into seneca Falls. 110 to Waterloo and Geneva, then 4 due west to Canandaigua, North Bloomfield Road and Country Road 30 past the airport and into Bloomfield, then north on 444 to VĂ­ctor. Mileage: Ulysses to Seneca Falls, 31; to Geneva, Waterloo, and Canandaigua, 34; Bloomfield and Victor, 14; total 79 with riding time cut short by rain.

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