Schenectady County

Erie Canal cyclists hit homestretch

Biking across upstate New York has been great for Sal Page, who felt like a 12-year-old during the 4

Biking across upstate New York has been great for Sal Page, who felt like a 12-year-old during the 400-mile trek, he said. But he’s also ready to finish the final miles of his journey today.

“I’m tired. I’m 68 years old. … I’m ready to rest,” said the Erie County resident, as he walked shirtless in a pair of a khaki shorts through the small village of hundreds of tents established in Scotia’s Collins Park on Saturday afternoon. That would be the last overnight stay in the week’s 14th annual Cycling the Erie Canal. The trip will end today in Albany.

Page retired a few years ago and the trip has inspired him to look into similar opportunities. He said there are more luxurious versions across the Atlantic Ocean that attract a lot of paying customers, which he thinks the Erie Canalway trail could evolve into. “That’s how I see this in the future,” he said.

Page said the trip is already a tourist event, citing riders from 36 states and four countries participating.

The dream of the cross-state bike route serving as a tourism attraction was shared by U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, who greeted riders in Amsterdam near the site of its planned pedestrian bridge across the Mohawk River. He said it could be a huge boon to communities along the trail, especially as the state works to connect more portions of it, to make the longest intrastate trail in the country.

Tonko said the upgrades to the trail will also serve to revitalize some of the downtrodden communities along it, which could be transformed into destinations where people want to live.

He and city of Amsterdam Mayor Ann Thane were also on hand to promote developing the pedestrian bridge, which would connect portions of the Erie Canalway trail and be an attraction in its own right.

Meeting the officials in Amsterdam was Canal Corp. Director Brian Stratton, one of many cabinet level officials in the administration of Gov. Andrew Cuomo riding the trail to highlight its ongoing transformation and the efforts of the involved state agencies.

But for the hundreds of riders not serving the state, the ride was all about the camaraderie and experiencing something new. Page said the trip had included a stop at a museum around Syracuse that highlighted the canal’s history, had been entertained by the violin playing of two young riders when they were off their bikes and just enjoyed bonding with other riders.

Part of the attraction of the ride are the creature comforts that are made available to riders before and after their daily grind, which averaged about 50 miles a day. There was a trailer for showers, big trucks driving to each nightly campground with luggage and tents and about a dozen other support vehicles offering medical attention and food.

Even younger riders can participate with the help of a more experienced rider, usually a parent, as a handful of pairs made the journey on tandem bikes.

Riders are expected to begin arriving Quackenbush Square in Albany shortly after noon today.

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