If you're looking for an alternative to the standard summer vacation, there's an option that's a little more active than laying around on the beach and it will get you out of the city to do some outdoor exploring. The 14th annual Cycling the Erie Canal bicycle tour (see brochure - PDF
) will be taking place from July 8-15, taking riders 400 miles from Buffalo to Albany and offering plenty of historic substance and beautiful scenery along the way.
The tour follows the Erie Canal corridor, which is one of only 49 designated National Heritage Corridors in the United States. You'll take the off-road, traffic-free Canalway Trail for 75 percent of the trip, and the remainder will lead you down rural countryside roads with plenty of shoulder space. Along the way, canal historians and local experts will be there to fill you in on the history behind the locations and people who made the Erie Canal such an integral part of our state's history.
If 400 miles seems intimidating, rest assured that this tour is designed to be fun and manageable for riders of all levels, from the novice cyclist to the guy who spends his free time training for road races. Last year's event, which drew over 500 riders from 35 states, included participants ranging in age from six to over 80 years old. A typical day will consist of 40 to 60 miles of pedaling, the majority of it on level, compact ground, with several days in the Finger Lakes that involve some rolling hills and two long, gradual ascents in the Mohawk Valley. The ride should not prove too difficult for the average Joe, and it will definitely provide plenty of scenic distraction.
"New Yorkers were as amazed as out-of-staters at the beauty of the Erie Canal corridor as well as its cultural and historic richness," said Robin Dropkin, executive director of Parks & Trails New York, and organizer of the tour. "We're expecting our 14th annual Cycling the Erie Canal tour to be just as much fun as last year's ride. We have several hundred volunteers in place in communities along the route ready to welcome riders and show them what makes the Erie Canal and upstate New York so special."
The total cost for the tour is $670 ($310 for children 5-17 years old accompanied by an adult), which includes most of what you will need to survive the week: nightly camping accommodations with showers, bathroom facilities, and some with pools or lakes for those interested in taking a swim; eight breakfasts and six dinners; two daily refreshment stops; nightly entertainment and historical presentations; guided tours of the Canal, historic sites, museums and other attractions; a tour t-shirt and water bottle; sag wagon and mobile mechanical support; baggage transport; maps, cue sheets, and marked routes. If you're willing to spend a little extra cash, you can also obtain fresh daily towels, gourmet coffee in the mornings, tent/air mattress rentals, and evening massages.
Can't swing 8 days of riding? A shorter weekend ride alternative is available for $245, and takes place from July 7-9 that will go from Buffalo to Pittsford. There will be a shuttle available at these rides to transport cyclists and their gear back to Buffalo, NY. Riders under age 18 can get a special half-price discounted rate for these trips.
The funds raised from tour prices will be used to support Parks & Trails New York's trail programs, including the work being done on the 524-mile Canalway Trail. Once this trail project is complete, the Canalway will be the longest intra-state, multi-use trail system in the U.S.
For more information on the tour and prices, plus a rider's prep handbook, you can visit the tour website
, call 518-434-1583, or email email@example.com