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Apr. 5th, 2018

Ripples from the Watershed

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Nov. 18th, 2013

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

Jul. 29th, 2013

A brand new adventure with Riley as he journeys toward Lady Liberty

Runyak for Liberty 

On the final day of the Horseshoe to Horseshoe Expedition, I veered off course toward Niagara Falls and wrote the following:

"Over two miles ahead from where I launched, the Niagara River divides into two channels, the Chippawa, and the Tonawanda. Between the channels rests Grand Island, NY. I would be taking the Chippawa Channel, but I had a reason to paddle toward Grand Island.

      In the back of my head I'm saddened to see the Horseshoe to Horseshoe Expedition coming to an end, and have thought of what I'd do come the summer of 2013. One idea that has entered my foolish head is to paddle 370 miles from Tonawanda, the western terminus of the Erie Canal to the eastern terminus, on the Hudson River.

      From there, following the Hudson, New York City is another 145 miles. Circling the Statue of Liberty seems crazy enough to be an ultimate goal. Presently, I will not commit to doing it. I'm not willing to say it will happen, but if I do, I’d need a starting point from the Niagara River. The best starting point from Niagara River would be Grand Island, NY.

      Anyone following my travels knows continuity says I must go to Grand Island now by kayak, and if I return, I can start where I was today.

    When close enough to Grand Island I touched two possible starting points in case I should continue, and then headed back to the Canadian side of the Niagara River.”

Well, its nine months later and today I set out to test whether runyaking to the Statue of Liberty is possible. Of course kayaking to NYC is possible, but physically can I runyak it? Two-day excursions would be out of the picture being far from home. The true limitation would come down to how far could this senior citizen run in a week? Setting fifty miles of running over five days as a basis, I headed for the Erie Canal.  

I’d made it to the Falls solo, but I decided to ease the rules a bit and invite my wife, Hope to come along. Another difference, before I was following the waters of the Flint River. I guess that won’t be the case once off the Niagara River and in the Canal.

With two kayaks, both fitting inside the mini-van, Hope and I arrived on Grand Island, NY looking for the place I’d touched last September en route to the Falls.

It turned out to be inside a state park. “Dang,” I thought, “there goes another rule, in that I’d never paid fees for entry, launching, or parking.”

Pulling up to the park entrance booth and knowing I wouldn’t launch until the following morning, I asked if an entry pass would be good for twenty-four hours. The nice lady in the booth said the pass was only good for the day purchased but allowed me enter and “check out” where I’d launch without paying.

After finding the place I’d previously “touched” we left Grand Island and booked a hotel near the Buffalo airport, unsure of how many days we’d be staying.

Runyak for Liberty Day 58, June 27, 2013

      I arrived back at the state park quite early the next morning. The gate was open and nobody was taking money! I was ecstatic when placing Swiftee near the river for my parameter of never having paid entrance, parking, or launching fees was still intact.

My smugness remained while driving back to where I’d finish kayaking, a mile or so up the Erie Canal in North Tonawanda, NY. Hope, not wanting to paddle the wide Niagara River opted out of the paddle, saying she’d while away the hours at the North Tonawanda Launch until my arrival.

      I’d picked up a serious cold before leaving Michigan so the run of nearly ten miles to Swiftee was a combination of sniffling and sore throat. I ran at a slower than normal pace, 12min/mi; not because I was sick, but in an effort to conserve leg energy for later in the week.

      After launching from Grand Island I paddled into the Tonawanda Channel of the Niagara River. Not two miles into the paddle I came upon five kayakers paddling the opposite way toward Buffalo. We stopped and talked several minutes.

They were a kayaking club from Grand Island that paddles every Thursday. They wanted me to paddle with them. I let them know I’d like to, but I was on a mission and time was of the essence.

Further explaining my adventure and how far I’d come they were very impressed. What I remembered most was of the women saying, “You must be very brave.” What, me brave? That’s never crossed my mind. Sages will tell you there’s a thin line between bravery and stupidity. I fit more closely into the second category.

Two miles later, I paddled under a very large bridge that connects Grand Island, NY to mainland. Its’ part of I-190 but had a pedestrian/bicycle sidewalk. I’d ran across said pathway earlier to get to Swiftee.

From the bridge to the Canal entrance, Niawanda Park was on Swiftee’s starboard. I’d run the length of the linear park on a paved trail earlier. While paddling, and wearing a captain’s hat, I got my kicks by yelling “Ahoy!” from my tiny boat to those on the trail.   

When arriving at the canal entrance I approached it with some caution for one of the kayakers I’d just met warned that the entrance was tricky, and that I needed to be careful. I didn’t find anything that would cause concern. I even took a moment to video the terminus.

A couple miles later I spotted Hope and the van. Feeling run down from having a cold I was glad to finish.

Day 58 - 9.5 miles run 7.9 miles yaked.

Runyak for Liberty Day 59, June 28, 2013

      The forecast for the day was to be a wet one. Paddling on the Great Lakes the past three years, I watched weather reports closely for wind and storms. On a canal I need not worry much about weather as previously. I’ve driven so far to get here I will deal with whatever Mother Nature presents for the day.

      Paddling out of North Tonawanda I noticed the canal looks much like rivers I’ve paddled but with more boat traffic. There is a slight current and it’s in my favor. That means, although hard to believe, some water molecules of my home watershed, the Flint River still presses against my paddle.   

      With rain in the forecast Hope again decided not to put her kayak in the water. She found things to do that kept her busy near the West Canal Marina launch.

To find landings for Swiftee I’m using the New York State Canal Corporation’s Interactive Canalway Water Trail Map. I’m finding it very valuable, for it even provides photos of the landings. The North Tonawanda Launch where I launched today is the 2nd landing available on the canal going east. At the 5th listed, West Canal Marina, I spotted Hope and landed. I did not exit the boat, for standing by Hope, on the dock, was a West Marina County Park employee. From speaking to him I learned there was a bridge between his facility and the 6th landing, Amherst Veteran’s Park, on the opposite side of the canal. I decided to paddle there and run back via the bridge.

      There was no such bridge. The park worker turned out to be ignoramus or just having some fun at my expense. I’d now have to find another place to land.

The next landing, 7th on the map, Lockport UpperTerminal Launch, was too far away. Using it meant I’d exceed sixteen miles of running for Day 59. I’d have to find a place somewhere closer to land. I need to keep the run miles close to ten a day if this Runyak for Liberty “test” stood a chance.

      On route to this impromptu landing I was hoping to find, I spied something floating in the middle of the canal. A turtle sitting on a small piece of debris? I paddled closer. My second guess, although far-fetched was a turtle floating on a dead opossum. It turned out to be something even more disgusting, a dead snapper all bloated up dwarfing its shell.

      A mile from where I’d find an exit point I saw the first evidence that I was on a canal and not a river. I truly didn’t understand its full purpose but it’s some sort of gate. For flood control maybe?

      The spot where I landed was nothing fancy. In fact it was downright precarious. It was where a pipeline crossed the canal and boulders covered it. I paralleled the rocks, carefully exited Swiftee, and then climbed up the steep embankment to where Hope was waiting with the van. But to get Swiftee to the van from below was an invitation for disaster. Instead I cabled and locked him to the pipeline warning sign for the night.

      All I had to do was get in the van and drive away to the hotel, right? Of course not, this is runyaking, I had to run eight miles back to West Canal Marina to complete the runyak cycle. But at that moment I was too hungry. We drove to the nearest town, Lockport, for lunch. On the way there it began raining. It wouldn’t stop.

After lunch and back to where Swiftee was, cats and dogs continued falling from the sky. Their carcasses piled up throughout the entire eight-mile run. Hope in the van, me on foot, leap-frogged the entire way. Occasionally she’d pull off the road, I’d open the hatch, and use it as an umbrella to take a break from the downpour. Nice to have a spouse that understands runyaking and doesn’t tell you, “get your ass in the van, Fool.” She surely wanted to, especially knowing I had a cold, and the last place I needed to be was out in a chilly rain.

      Coughing and sneezing, I continued until the runyak cycle was complete. When back at the hotel I stood under a hot shower for nearly thirty minutes to get my dermis, epidermis, and hypodermis all back to their normal temperatures. Two days and over forty miles of runyaking have been completed, but the Runyak to Liberty “test” is being threatened.

Day 59 - 11.5 run 13.4 yaked

Runyak for Liberty Day 60, June 29, 2013

      Waking up on the sixtieth day of the journey I still was suffering from a cold but felt I was over the hump.

The area I’d be kayaking, Lockport, had received so much rain it was dramatized in the local news. When in Lockport yesterday we waited in the van for the rain to ease up before going into a restaurant. We gave up waiting and made a run for it. Deja vu – it did the exact same thing the day before. I missed getting wet while runyaking the first day, unlike the second.

      The news reported that Lowertown Lockport was under water. Video footage showed kayaks paddling down the streets. So, when I awoke on Day 60, Hope watching the news, was worried to death. Again she wouldn’t be kayaking; she didn’t even want me going to Lockport.

Worrying is a major pastime for Hope. She gets upset when I don’t worry along with her. I never go totally Alfred E. Newman, “What, me worry?” I prepare for danger, but I’m not going to start worrying before seeing anything imminent. Sarcastically, I told her, “Well, I guess we might as well give up, pack up and go home.”

In the Lockport report it stated the “Lowertown” area flooded. We had no idea what or where Lowertown was. I’d soon learn the section of Lockport where we’d eaten lunch yesterday was in the upper part. It was bad enough there; we drove through water eight inches deep.

Today we drove to Lowertown and found everything looking quite normal. So, I ran from Nelson C. Goehle Public Marina, the 7th landing, near Lowertown to where I’d left Swifty. The most dangerous part of today’s runyak was descending the rocky embankment, unlocking Swiftee, and launching from boulders.

Without incident and in a matter of an hour Swiftee and I approached the town of Lockport. Before us was the first of many locks that we’d encounter… if the test is passed.

Paddling closer to the lock there was a sign stating, “Wait for Green Light.” Seeing a small distant red light I waited… and waited. After fifteen minutes I thought this is b.s. and began paddling toward a dock adjacent to the lock. The lockmaster must have wondered why I was floundering in the canal. He exited his post and began approaching Swiftee and me with papers in hand.

I spoke first, “I’m a virgin, break me in easy. I have no idea what I’m doing.”

He was gentle, telling me, “You can dock and portage, or you can go through the lock.” I told him I’d enjoy the experience of going through the lock.

“You want me to lock you down? I can lock you down.” He told me.                    

Awesome! I thought. Throughout my past, authorities have only offered to “lock me up.”

After opening the gate and letting me inside the lock he showed me the ropes. Literally, he showed me ropes that boaters used to stabilize their craft during the water transfer. In Swiftee’s case no ropes were needed. I could paddle in circles during the water transfer if I wanted.

      The lockmaster said I’d go through two locks, each would lower me 25 feet. Each lock is 45-ft. by 326-ft. Now, had I been in a motorized boat I would've paid locking fees, but paddle vessels are free. I learned this before leaving home and thought it fantastic. Why? Once again Swiftee and I would escape “fees.”

When being lowered in the giant swimming pool, I wondered how in the world could this be free? I’ve done the math, over 5,500,000 gallons of water (s‘cuse me for restating… over five point five million gallons!) was removed (11 million if the next vessel was traveling the same direction as Swiftee and me) at no charge! I never saw the lockmaster again but I felt I owed him lunch or something.

      A mere fifty-feet lower I continued paddling. “A mere fifty” I say because the lock put me below the Niagara Escarpment, which at The Falls, some twenty miles away, is 167 feet.

      I found Hope some distance beyond the locks at the 8th available canal landing, Nelson C. Goehle Public Marina. I debarked and positioned the van at the 9th available canal landing, Gasport Launch.

      Toward evening, after arriving at the Gasport Launch by kayak, I hid Swiftee in bushes, cable and locked him for the night. Today was the first good day of Erie Canal runyaking. I was still was sniffing and coughing - but it didn’t rain!

Day 60 - 11.0 run 10.6 yaked

Runyak for Liberty Day 61, June 30, 2013

After four nights in the same hotel we packed up and moved out, for when finishing today I’d be forty “canal miles” from Buffalo. A pinched nerve in Hope’s back would hinder her from paddling. Again, the second kayak remained in the van. She, kayak #2, and the van, stayed at the 10th available Erie Canal landing, Middleport Guard Gate Launch. The launch’s name reflected another gate in the canal, the third of its kind I’ve passed. 

When running through the town of Middleport I read a sign that stated, “#1 Best Place in New York to raise Children, #11 in the United States by Business Week Magazine." I was impressed.

As soon as I pushed off from Gasport Launch I was amused when passing a marina and seeing two boats having the same name, Sam I Am. One boat was stationed between them… to referee? Yeah, keep them from going at each other’s throats in the battle of “Who is the True Sam?” I just had to take a photo of Sams They Are before paddling toward Middleport.

When arriving in Middleport by kayak I saw a restaurant sign on the bank saying “Best Food on Erie Canal,” I knew immediately where I wanted to eat lunch. Two miles beyond town I landed at Middleport Guard Gate Launch and I told Hope where we should eat. With no argument from her we lunched at Peggy’s Towpath Café.

After eating, walking to the van, we came to our own conclusion… if that is the best place to eat on the Erie Canal… don’t eat anywhere on the Erie Canal. We also formed an opinion about Business Week Magazine rating, for when eating at the restaurant the middle-aged manager (Peggy, the owner?) was busy tending to a child. Halfway through our meal the child’s mother came in and the conversation between her and the manager was quite heated and loud. Both had pissy attitudes. The mother left without the child. The manager (seemingly the grandmother) began berating the mother to a customer saying, “And who do you think has custody? I do.”

When leaving the restaurant we saw the mother next door at a laundromat, puffing a cigarette. I never would have mentioned the incident here, had it not been for the “sign” coming into town. Hey, the sign may be correct but we had to laugh.

On the other hand, when Hope was waiting for me at Middleport Guard Gate Launch, knowing nothing about the sign, she told about of a Amish-Mennonite father and four children, ages about fourteen to eight. They came to the launch, and put in a canoe. All five talked quietly amongst themselves, the father giving directions, the children following them to a tee. That many in a canoe and no one raised a voice? It was hard to believe. She said after paddling they sat near the launch and quietly fished for some time before leaving.

Hope’s entire story sounded like she met the Stepford Children. Was the family from Middleport? On the second kayaking leg of the day, on the opposite side of the canal I saw three Amish-Mennonite looking children sitting on the canal banks and took a photo. “Not the same kids,” said Hope when seeing the photo.   

The afternoon runyaking leg was from Middleport Guard Gate Launch to Bates Road Launch, the 11th landing, near the town of Medina (pronounced Ma-dye-na).

Since Lockport, on the north side of the canal, is the well maintained Canalway Trail. I use it while running whenever available. Trouble is, since Lockport all landings have been on the canal’s south side. So, I have to use the nearest bridges to and from landings in order to use the path. Bates Road Launch, is the first landing on the same bank as the trail.

From Bates Road Launch Hope planned to walk up the path until seeing me paddling down the canal. The paddling speed was near that of a walk, so after finding her we stayed together until arriving back a Bates Road.

In the town of Medina, Oak Orchard Creek oddly goes beneath the canal, and there is a waterfall. Since leaving Lockport, the Canal seems slightly elevated. When running the path, canal on one side, road on the other, some roads actually look lower. Not sure if this is common. I will have to wait and see as I travel further.

We spent the night at a strange motel in Albion NY. There was nobody to check us in. It was all done over the phone. It felt clandestine, or rather like instructions to a speakeasy. After calling the number posted on the locked office door, I was asked name, address, and credit card number. After the person on the phone felt I was on the up and up she said, “Go to the side of the office.”

“Yes I’m there now.”

“Do you see a mailbox?”


“Open the mailbox, do you see a bunch of envelopes?”


“Find the one that has ‘Novak’ written on it.”

I flipped through the envelopes, each having a different surname until coming to Novak. “Yes, I see it.”

“Inside the envelope you’ll find the key to Room 7.”

“Ahh yes, thank you.” I took the key back to Hope, looking over my shoulder and thinking, “Am I on Candid Camera?” I did spot cameras. The owners of Dollinger’s Motels have three motels in the area. I’m thinking all three are monitored by cameras from one location.

Day 61 – 10.5 run 10.6 yaked

Runyak for Liberty Day 62, July 1, 2013  

      With no landings between Bates Road Launch and where I wanted to end today, Albion Boat Launch, the 12th available landing, I was determined to do it all in one runyaking leg. It would mean 8.5 miles running and the same paddling.

Across the road and a hundred yards away from the Albion Boat Launch was the Albion Correctional Facility. As two mornings before Hope was worried to death. No way was she going to hang around the launch until I finished. Somebody from the prison surely was going to break out and get her. I thought that meant she’d finally be paddling. No, the pinched nerve was still bothering her. She stayed at the motel. This was the 5th and last day, meaning we’d hauled her kayak to New York for no reason.

On the run to Swiftee, stationed back at Bates Road Launch, I needed to go to the bathroom, and guess what… miles from nowhere, next to the road, in an onion field, what should appear but a port-a-john. Talk about Johnny-on-the-spot. Seriously, I wouldn’t have made it another fifty yards.

Soon after, I was able to cross over the channel and run the Canalway Trail. Nearer to Swiftee, I looked below the canal and trail and saw a road that disappeared under the canal. I was surprised, yet as mentioned, I’d seen creeks that went under, and roads lower than the canal. Maybe I’d be seeing more roads going under the canal? Nope, I found out later that this is the only road that goes under the Erie Canal, and is mentioned in Ripley’s Believe It of Not.  

When reaching Swiftee I’d totaled 51 miles of running in five days. The four previous days while running I watched the Garmin Forerunner closely making sure I didn’t run faster than the benchmark twelve-minute/mile pace. Today knowing I’d passed the test, I didn’t observe the pace closely. I definitely will be returning again sometime this summer and advancing another 50 mile toward NYC.

Map for Days 58-62

I launched Swiftee - all that remained was the 8.5-mile paddle, which I thought would be a piece of cake. Nope. Westerly winds created waves on the 40-ft wide canal, which came directly at me. Paddling closer to the bank near the Canalway Trail, I found the waves more manageable.           

While paddling beside the trail, I passed an elderly man whom I’d passed earlier when running. He had on a backpack, carried a walking stick, and was wearing a Canalway Trail shirt. When paddling by I asked him, “You walking the trail all the way.”

“No, this is my job,” he said.

“Oh, I see!” I said, but really I didn’t. I kept paddling thinking he had to be some sort of trail custodian for this section of trail.

For the past five days I’ve tried to take photos of every bridge I paddled beneath. In the fifty some miles there has been over forty. Since the locks of Lockport several have been lift bridges, as was the one in the wee town of Knowlesville I went under today. Although they are low, Swiftee and I have no problem going under, except for one in Gasport. As my paddle whacked the bridge, a couple was watching. I complained, “Why didn’t they raise it for me?”

The man answered, “I was thinking the same thing.”

That happened the day after the flood, so I wonder if the canal was higher and that was the reason I hit that bridge and no others. Since then I’ve learned the Erie Canal Song and understand the chorus: “Low Bridge, Everybody down! Low Bridge, we’re coming to a town.”

I also try taking photos of every boat that passes. Today, as a small one with a man and woman aboard passed, the man asked, “Can I take your picture?” So we posed for each other. So far all motorized boats have been courteous to Swiftee, slowing to a no-wake speed.

One mile from finishing today I rounded a bend and saw a sign on the bank stating “Northernmost Point on the Erie Canal.” In the past five days I’ve never paid attention to how far north I’d been traveling. Come to find out, at the bend I was less than eight miles south of Lake Ontario.

Past the bend I began to feel sprinkles of rain. I paddled harder knowing it was suppose to rain the rest of the day. In a rush, I landed but left Swiftee.

I got back to the “Speakeasy” Motel just in time to get a shower before checkout time. Still raining when returning for Swiftee, umbrellas were used as we loaded and headed west for Michigan.

I must say, although being sick and having a ton of rain, I truly enjoyed the past five days. I’m looking forward to each of the 370 miles of canal. After three years of battling the Great Lakes, paddling Erie Canal is a piece of cake. Having the Canalway Trail beside me much of the way is sweet icing on the cake. 

Day 62 – 8.5 miles run 8.6 miles yaked. 

Five day total 51 run 51.1 yaked    

Map of 1500 runyaked


April 2018



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