Erie Canal bike ride: Syracuse to Utica on day 5

Today was history day for me.

The highlight of the 58-mile day: meeting up with one of our East Coast Greenway friends who happened to be in the area.

We also got a look at the minivan Jack, with his daughter, turned into a camper during COVID… a folded full-size mattress that’s 4 inches thick, doors of the kitchen cabinets that do triple duty (they can be converted into extender for the mattress platform or a table), amazing storage space under the mattress platform, a refrigerator, generator to run everything and topped up with solar… Bikes go on a hitch rack outside. All for a bit over $3,000 plus minivan. Genius design (details on

This was a pretty straightforward day in terms of riding … a mix of paved (much appreciated!) and crushed stone, with some sections around Rome a little rougher.

Construction of the Erie Canal began in the middle of the state — right here.

The day’s route in part followed what’s now called the Old Erie Canal; the current route uses Oswego Lake and bypasses Syracuse and Rome, for example.

One difference from previous days was even fewer places to stop. Oneida is a few miles from the canal and could use some signage to lure hungry and thirsty cyclists (our friend recommends the HipStir Cafe), and most of Rome has seen better days. Trailheads had no trash cans, let alone bathrooms. Did portapotties get removed during COVID, or is it something taxpayers here don’t want to pay for?

We took it slow today, and I stopped for many signs along the trail. Some of what I learned:

– The Erie Canal quickly became busier than forecast, so work soon began on enlarging it.

– The enlarged canal had 32 aqueducts;

– Come winter, the canal froze and you and your boat might be stuck for months;

– And the canal water was filthy, so to get drinking water you needed to find a city hydrant or a well.

I also discovered Rome is the hometown of Rob Manfred, the commissioner of Major League Baseball. And I got a giant history lesson at Fort Stanwix .. renamed Fort Schuyler during the Revolution for Philip Schuyler (Eliza’s father).

In a nutshell: yet another bad British general (this one didn’t trust just about everyone on his side), Benedict Arnold before he became a traitor played a starring role, it’s why there was the Battle of Oriskany (the bloodiest battle of the Revolution, but probably one you don’t know) that broke up the six nations of the Iroquois confederacy that had lasted 700+ years … I am so grateful for the National Parks Service and the passion of the rangers in sharing their knowledge.

Author: alliumstozinnias

A gardener (along with the Brit) who has discovered there is more than hybrid tomatoes. And a cyclist.

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