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Runyak for Liberty Days 63 - 67

Runyak for Liberty Day 63, August 12, 2013

Away from runyaking for seven weeks I was eager to continue. In that time I went to a local business, Kidd Co. owned by friends Page and Marty Kidd and had a banner made to fly on Swiftee's stern:

                                                Runyak 4 Liberty
                                                Flint, MI to Statue of Liberty

Going on the five-day runyaking trip this time instead of my wife Hope, was my old friend and past kayaking partner Lon Rich. No way did he want to run fifty miles, so we were able to fit my bicycle in the van, along with Swiftee, and his daughter Hannah’s ten-foot kayak. Arriving where I’d left off, Albion, NY we spent the night at the same “speakeasy” motel I spoke of the last time after finding the key in the mailbox beside the locked office.

The first day of runyaking did not go well to say the least. When over I was thinking if all five days goes this bad, I should’ve stayed home. It began by cabling and locking the kayaks to a utility guy-wire at Albion Boat Launch. I'd be running twelve miles back to kayaks from Sans Soucie Park Launch, the 14th available launch from the canal’s west entrance. Lon was thinking more like a three mile run, so we found a bridge about that far from Sans Soucie and looked for a tree where the bike could be cabled and locked. But, we ended up hiding the bike in bushes and leaving the lock, and key, in the van.

When finishing up my twelve-mile run - Lon’s three-mile run/nine-mile pedal, I said to Lon, “The key!” Meaning the key to unlock the kayaks. Both locks, the one back in the van and one on kayaks used the same key.

“You’re joking.” Lon said.

“No! I’m not kidding I’m serious.”

Usually I hide the key near where Swiftee is locked up. Today, thinking we’d be unlocking the bike first, I took the key when driving away from the kayaks.
I became very unsettled but Lon remained calm. Not thinking straight I said I'd ride the bike back get the key, and drive the van back. But that meant there would be no van when we finished. Lon’s first idea was to bike into Albion buy a hacksaw and cut Swiftee up to the free the cable.

“No! Don’t cut Swiftee!” I moaned. He later said it looked like I was about to cry. Seeing my reaction he come up with a second idea - buy bolt cutters and cut the lock.
He returned from an Ace Hardware some time later with new pair of bolt cutters - loaned after making a $10 deposit (who in their right mind loans a new $30 tool for a $10 deposit?). The tool’s handles were shorter than I’d ever seen on such an apparatus. I figured no way it had enough leverage to cut the case hardened steel shackle. Lon tried with all his strength and failed. We then together applied every ounce of muscle we could muster. We felt the lever give, first thinking the tiny bolt cutters was about to break in pieces, but indeed it sliced through the shackle. Lock destroyed, but kayaks free!

The twelve-mile paddle took nearly four hours. Not a problem for me but Lon, using his daughter’s ten-foot kayak, and not in his deluxe kayak (deluxe compared to Swiftee) whined most of the way. He mostly was afraid of tipping over. He wasn’t used to the instability of a shorter kayak. I later tried Hannah’s kayak to see how wobbly it was. I found it less steady than Swiftee, but the added six-inches length made it comfortably about the same.
Over the following four days Lon’s time on the bike seat increased and cockpit time decreased. I hope he came away with better understanding of what this crazy guy went through to get this far in such a boat as Swiftee. It’s a good thing he wasn’t with me when battling the waves on the Great Lakes!
After the paddle we drove the van back to retrieve the bike at Albion Launch. I walked to where I’d tossed it, that being in some bushes, but it wasn’t there!
“It’s gone! Somebody stole the bike!” I holler back to Lon.

“You’re kidding.” He said.

“No! I’m not joking, I’m serious. Somebody stole the bike!

Again, I became very unsettled but Lon remained calm.

“Now what are we going to do?” I wondered aloud.

“Call the police.” Was Lon’s answer.

A good answer, with a police report I could at least try making an insurance claim.

When returning the bolt cutter and getting his $10 deposit, Lon was given the address of the Orlean County Sheriff and State Police. They were a half-mile from each other. At the sheriff’s department all doors were locked; it was after 6:00 pm. We called 911.

“What’s your emergency?”

“I want to report a stolen bicycle.”

“Where are you at?”

“Parked outside your office.”

“I’ll have to call in a cruiser from patrol, it will a few minutes.”

I hung up. Disgruntled I told Lon, “They said it’d be ‘a few minutes.’”

“Shouldn’t be long.” Lon replied.

I said, “From experience, in copspeak, 'a few minutes' means at least an hour.”
…and so we waited, and waited.

Lon finally said, “Let’s go back to the state police and see if they can do a report.”

At the state trooper post we explained what we needed and that we’d been to the sheriff first.

“What kind of bike was it? Asked the trooper through a glass window.

“A blue Trek mountain bike.” I told him.

The trooper said, “On the scanner earlier, a deputy recovered a bike like you mentioned. Let me call them.”

Minutes passed and a deputy called my cell and asked for a bike description.

My id fit the recovered bike. A heavy weight fell from my shoulders.

It seemed earlier someone saw the hidden bike and reported it thinking some thief had stashed it. Within minutes Lon and I were in the stolen property garage of the
station signing papers for its release.

With bike in the van, on the way to our next hotel, we drove past Sans Soucie Park, where the kayaks were locked up for the night.

“Think we should stop and check, see if the kayaks are still there?” I asked Lon.

“Stop worrying, they're safe and secure.” He had to assure me.

Day 63 - 12.0 run 12.0 yaked

Runyak for Liberty Day 64, August 13, 2013

I figured things had to go smoother today. If not, misfortune would have to pack itself into a smaller time frame. Today's runyak distance would be nearly half of yesterday’s 24 miles.

We’d be breaking the seven-mile paddle from Sans Soucie to Arrowhead Boat Launch (landing #16) in half. A midway lunch stop was planned in the likable canal town of Brockport.

We'd arrived in the Brockport the night before after our new friend, the sheriff deputy, told us we’d find plenty of restaurants and lodging in the college town. We supped and drank excellent local beer at Stoneyard Bar & Grill which overlooked the canal where we'd land today. When arriving today in kayaks, it wasn’t yet noon and we had to look around for a restaurant that was open.

After eating we lingered at the canalside park bordering Brockport South Wall (landing #15). There was a couple canal houseboats docked there. I’d been seeing the colorful green and red crafts of the Mid-Lakes Navigation Co. for some time and wanted more information about them. One lady aboard one, the Otisco, explained she and her husband rented the boat in Macedon, a town I’d be passing through on my next trip to the Erie. Another canal houseboat along the wall, the Cayuga, displayed a “Just Married” sign. Honeymooning on the Erie Canal in a houseboat? Not the honeymoon suite at the Plaza, but to me it sounds better than camping.

Brockport like many towns I’ve passed through came in existence because of the canal and trace their origins to the 1820s. Many of the original buildings still stand and are well maintained, which give the towns a quaint old-fashioned look. Another commonality is at least one lift bridge, which usually is on Main St.

I paddled alone from Brockport to Arrowhead Boat Launch for Lon opted to bike it. There was a tailwind and paddling pace topped out at a very swift 14:20 per mile. The Arrowhead launch is at a golf course of same name. When looking for a place to leave the kayaks we saw a large three-walled shed, which was secluded enough, that there wasn’t a need to secure them. From there we’d landed it was only fifteen miles from Rochester, NY.

Outside Rochester, in the Town of Henrietta, we found a hotel for the next three nights knowing it would take that long to get through the metropolitan area with a population over a million.

Day 64 – 7.2 run 6.7 yaked

Runyak for Liberty Day 65, August 14, 2013

When leaving our hotel in Henrietta, we complained about how cold it was. Like back in Michigan, nobody here is complaining about a hot summer, but this is cooler than we'd experience back home. Not planning for weather this cold I’d packed only one long sleeve running shirt, my 2011 Boston Marathon shirt, one I prize very much. I’d brought it not to runyak, but to wear in the evening. I put it on and also tied my Boston Marathon jacket around my waist. When kayaking I thought I might need it to fend off the tailwinds. As it came to be, I never used it.

Lon's plan today was to run back to the Arrowhead Launch with me; then bike to Spencerport. Although he beat me there I did spot him moments after I launched taking photos as I passed under a bridge.

Spencerport was not a pre-planned midday stop. The NY State Canal Corp. map did not have a marked landing in the town. We scouted and found a floating dock, not your typical landing, but it would work almost as well as the wall landings of Brockport and where we'd finish the today, Henpeck Park, (landing #17).

NYSCC interactive map's landings are described as either, "ramp" which accommodate fishing boats, or "car top - low wall" which provide access for only paddle vessels. The landing at Henpeck had a swimming pool like ladder, but it didn't make the canal exit any easier.

Henpeck was a busy settlement in the early days of the canal. Today the park is the only testament to its glory days. It now is part of the much larger, Town of Greece. "Town" here in New York has the same meaning as in Ontario. We in Michigan never shorten "township." I like it that way; to me "town" shouldn't include rural areas.
Three miles from where I live in Thetford Township of Genesee Co. there was a settlement named Henpeck. I couldn't help thinking it was named for Henpeck, New York. That's because this area of New York has many name places familiar to Genesee and Oakland Counties of Michigan. Just south of where I began kayaking this trip is Genesee Co. NY. A large percentage of Michigan settlers came from this part of New York. How did they get to Michigan? - Via the Erie Canal.

The Erie Canal contributed more than anything to the growth of the Midwest, upstate NY, and New York City. Although NYC was the largest U.S. city before the canal's existence, it’s growth since, because of the canal, is what made it one of greatest cities in the world. The “Empire State” nickname goes back to the turn of the nineteenth century (some say George Washington was the first to use the phrase) but the aggressive manmade trade route linking it to the Midwest is what's sealed its empire legacy for centuries to come.

At the turn of the century it was known that the Atlantic seaboard city that could connect to the newer western states would lead the “empire.” Boston, NYC, Philly, Baltimore, Washington all vied for finding such route. Reading of the race reminded me of the US vs. USSR Space Race.

After exiting from kayak at the wall landing of Henpeck Park, we secured the kayaks for the night and left. Half-a-dozen fishermen were casting from the wall, but we had no qualms as to their safety. We drove off toward Rochester knowing all valubles were either secured or in the van.

Day 65 – 8.0 run 7.9 yaked

Runyak for Liberty Day 66, August 15, 2013

Walking to the van after awakening on Day 66, the first thing I wanted was to put on a jacket for again it was chilly. I looked for it in the van and back in the room to no avail. Not just an ordinary jacket but my priceless Boston Marathon jacket (priceless to me anyway). I crossed my fingers, hoping I'd stashed it inside Swiftee.

Arriving back at Henpeck Park, I tore the spray skirt off Swiftee, searched, but did not find the BAA Jacket. My heart sank.

I then heard Lon yell, “Wait a minute?”

A hundred feet away he saw something lying on a park bench. Yep, it was my prized jacket. It must have fallen to the ground when transferring belongings from kayaks to van.

Obviously, it was picked up by one of the fishermen, and they sat it on the bench thinking the owner would return for it. Any friend or family member will back me when I say I hold the world record in misplacing my possessions. Nine out of ten times I reclaim the lost items. That says plenty about humans; ninety percent are honest and do the right thing.

I’d a long runyak today, 26 miles, for the Canal map showed no landings in the city of Rochester. The next one was in Pittsford thirteen miles from Henpeck. We figured there had to be someplace midway to break it up. When driving the expressway and following the canal I notice a ramp near one of the canal “gates.” We later were able to find the ramp and from there I ran alone back to Henpeck.

On the paddle back to the “gates” I noticed quite the change in scenery. For one, canal walls were much higher. At times I was paddling below bedrock fifteen feet high.
The other difference was, the number of bridges easily tripled entering the urban area; many were railroad trestles.

The canal’s direction arcs and bypasses the downtown area of Rochester and it’s there that it intersects with the Genesee River. It was pretty weird traversing a river to continue on the canal.

The original canal went through downtown Rochester, via an aqueduct built over the Genesee River. The aqueduct structure still stands today. Hearing of the remains Lon and I went and checked it out the previous evening.

The old aqueduct is where Broad St. crosses the Genesee River. "Broad Street Aqueduct" it's called, the street runs atop and covers the older channel. Today the old aqueduct is a hangout for the homeless. Being interested in the canals history I dragged Lon below Broad St. to get a taste of the bygone days.

The walls were covered with graffiti so the dungeon-like place did have some color. A homeless person shouted at us. We didn't linger much longer. To him we were trespassing, we did not belong inside his "house."

After paddling across the Genesee River and continuing I soon came upon the “gates” and ramp where Lon was waiting. Lon seemed to have had enough paddling for the week, because of the kayak he was stuck with, but he did want to paddle the final two miles. In the final miles were two locks and he wanted the experience passing through them. They were a little over a mile apart. Just beyond the second was Pittsford Launch (landing #18) where Day 66 would end.

All locks are numbered from Albany to Buffalo, so for me going the other direction, the lock numbers descend just as I am. Locks 33 and 32 both would drop us 25ft. After exiting #32 I will have been locked down 100ft. thus far.

Vessels passing through locks are advised to call the lockmasters about twenty minutes before arrival. We did so, but arriving at Lock 33 the lockmaster was still busy doing some maintenance so there was a short wait time.

It was a “cheap thrill” for Lon, since there is no toll. Like myself he found it hard to believe that so much water was removed at no cost for such tiny boats.

Calling the next lockmaster, he said he was presently locking up a tour boat, the Colonial Belle. He told us that after exiting the lock it would make a u-turn and re-enter. He wanted to lock our kayaks down along with the Colonial Belle.

When the tour boat did come out we paddled into the lock, as we were told by the lockmaster, and the Belle came in behind us. Twenty-five feet lower, when time to exit we felt we needed to exit the lock first. The captain of the Colonial Belle must not have felt the same. He came barreling out of the lock with no concern. Lon had to paddle like crazy to get out of its way. The ensuing wave nearly capsized him. We had some choice words for the skipper. Was there some lock etiquette we did not follow?

The Pittsford Launch was only a couple hundred strokes away. Where we landed a family was fishing. The wife seeing the banner on Swiftee’s stern had to ask, “You paddled here from Flint MI?”

“Yup,” I said, like it was not a big deal.

Day 66 – 13 run 12.7 yaked

Runyak for Liberty Day 67, August 16, 2013

The fifth and last day of this trip would start at Pittsford Launch and end at the 20th available Erie Canal landing going east, Fairport Launch. I was eager to finish today, not so much to head home, but because there was a brewery in the town.

The two previous days I’d already dragged Lon to four Rochester area breweries. Today's Fairport Brewing Co. would represent the 378th brewery that I’ve drunk my favorite libation. The day's schedule revolved around arriving in Fairport at 4:00 pm. when the brewery open.

Lon’s only plan for the day was to get a six-mile run in. He planned to run on the Canal Trail. I’d decided not to use the trail when seeing I could cut off over a 1.5 miles by using roads for the canal took a swooping V-shaped southerly plunge.

When arriving back at the Pittsford Launch after running, I was thirsty and ready for some water. I looked in Swiftee – no cooler, no water. I’d gone though a pre-launch checklist but somehow I screwed-up.

Lon after finishing his run planned to go back to our hotel and catch a shower. Knowing he’d be passing nearby I called and asked him to drop off my cooler. I launched about a half-hour behind schedule because of the brain glitch.

In twenty minutes of paddling I was in downtown Pittsford, just one more cool Erie Canal town. The focus of most canal towns is near "Main St." liftbridge. This one was different; beyond Main St. was a pleasant canalside park. Because it was Friday many folks were promenading along the canal. My “Runyak 4 Liberty” banner caught the attention of many and a few wanted more information.

I love talking to these people, but for time sake, think the next time I will have business cards to hand out. My blog can say much more than I can in a few minutes.
On the way to Fairport I found more beautiful canalside areas. I wanted to debark and take them all in, but knowing Lon was waiting in yon Fair village I kept paddling.
Before Fairport was landing #19: Ayrault Road Boat Launch, which I chose to bypass. Across the way from the launch I paddled close to fellow on the trail senior to myself. I spoke to him because he wore an outfit similar to an elderly person I’d talked to on my June trip. He was a canal walker and employee of Canalway Trails, and went by the name of “Hank the Bank” walker. I mentioned the “walker” I’d met the last time.

“Oh, that would be John,” Hank the Bank told me.

“Yeah, he had a walking stick.” I recalled.

“Yeah, that’d be him. I’m surprised you saw him for he has a reputation of not doing his job. He's always found in coffee shops,” Hank the Bank tattled.

“Good luck with your (R4L) quest,” were Hank the Bank’s last words as I paddled onward to Fairport.

Arriving in Fairport Lon was clean and waiting. I needed to clean up a bit myself before heading to the brewery. I was well beyond the hotel checkout time so bathed with hot water I’d cached in the van.

In due time we made it to my 378th brewery just as they opened. I sampled several of their beers. None impressed me. During the conversation with the server I asked where the brewing system was.

She told me, “The beer is brewed miles away at our brewery.”

“But,” I said, “the sign outside says Fairport Brewing Co.; you mean to tell me this is not a brewery?”

When she told me it wasn’t I was pissed. Fairport Brewing Co. by default would not, could not, be my 378th brewery. Disappointed, on the drive home I drove ten miles out of my way to drink at Custom Brewcrafters in Honeoye Falls, NY. Making it my 378th brewery.

Day 67 – 6.5 run 8.2 yaked

Five day total 47.5 run 46.7 yaked

Map of 1600 runyaked


November 2013

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