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Day 30: Fairport, NY to Syracuse, NY

Another day with more beer than scenery. I checked out of my hotel at 7:30 and after hitting a gas station for some Dunkin’ Donuts and coconut water I was on the road at 7:45. That’s also a definite sign I’m getting closer to home: The nearby gas station carried both Dunkin’ Donuts and coconut water.

Route 31 parallels the Erie Canal pretty well for a number of miles, and it’s also a designated bike route with a large shoulder, so I followed it for nearly 50 miles over the course of the day to avoid the dirt tow path. At one point there was a big sign that the road was closed for construction, so I detoured onto the tow path. When I got back out to the road, it turned out I wasn’t past the construction, but the construction was also easy for pedestrians and cyclists to bypass by cutting through a parking lot. I feel like a sucker sometimes. But really, there’s not much to say about the first 32 miles today. Probably the most interesting thing I did in that stretch was stop at a Rite-Aid because I’d run out of shaving cream.

At 32 miles I arrived in the village of Clyde, which is almost exactly midway between Rochester and Syracuse. I figured it was time for a bit of a break, so I took a stroll around the village center. There’s a nice little park with a statue of George Washington and a fountain.

A couple of blocks down towards the canal is the Lincoln Mural. In February 1861, when President-elect Lincoln was taking a train from Illinois to DC, the train stopped briefly in Clyde for supplies. During the layover, Lincoln gave a short speech from the back of the train, drawing a crowd. Since this is the most interesting thing to ever happen in Clyde, they have a mural commemorating the event.

One thing of note in the mural: Today you can’t see the canal from the train tracks because there are bushes and trees in between, so it would be unrealistic to show a clear view from the train to the frozen canal. However, in the 19th century most land in the northeast was clear cut, so I can well believe there was a view from the tracks straight through to the canal. Why in the world did they think that chopping down every tree in sight was a good idea though?

A few miles after Clyde, Route 31 started to move away from the canal, which meant I had actual hills to climb. Nothing killer, but this far into the adventure I’m basically feeling every climb, no matter how small. At 43 miles, I stopped to stretch in some shade in the village of Montezuma. While I was stretching, a woman pushing a stroller walked up and we started to talk. Her name was Shelly and she was pushing her two toddler grandsons. We had a whole long conversation about the area and she gave me some suggestions for things to see in Syracuse. I also told her some stories from my own ride. Eventually I was getting hungry, so I excused myself to bike the next 8 miles to Weedsport to get lunch.

En route to Weedsport I picked up the Canalway Trail again for a couple of miles. It was still unpaved. Accordingly, I decided that from Weedsport to Syracuse I was just going to take the most direct route on road. The catch: This route took me away from both the canal and from Route 31, so things got considerably hillier for the last 20 miles. Maybe the climbs weren’t quite as bad as the climbs I had to do that day in western Wisconsin, but there were more of them. The worst was the huge descent into the village of Camillus to cross Ninemile Creek, followed by an equally huge climb back up. I was in one of my lowest gears for what felt like forever.

After that though, I was clearly in the suburbs of Syracuse. And as with any suburbs I’ve been through, that meant the roads weren’t rural enough to have a shoulder or urban enough to have a bike lane, so I was once again forced to switch between a bad sidewalk and biking in traffic. Why are so many suburbs so unfriendly to bicycles?

At length I got into Syracuse and stopped at Buried Acorn Brewing. They’re only a year old, and they specialize in barrel-aged beers. The beers are high quality but rather expensive. Still, I had the best beers of my day there. These included the Botanicalia, a sour ale flavored with botanicals, and the Sticky Lips, a barleywine. The former had a really nice level of sourness, clearly carefully aged without being overpowering, and the botanicals gave it some complex herbal notes that you don’t usually taste in beers. The latter was just a really good barleywine. If it hadn’t been so strong I would have ordered seconds.

From Buried Acorn it was less than two miles to the home of my warmshowers hosts, Charlie and Barb. Of course, they had to live on top of a hill. Syracuse is hillier than I expected.

As soon as I got to their place, before I even went inside, I asked to borrow their garden hose to wash off my bike. They were happy to oblige, and I was happy to see my bike in its original color again!

After my shower, they were nice enough to order dinner, and we chatted about the area and my trip and how long they’d been hosting cyclists through warmshowers. (Apparently they’ve been hosting for nearly a decade, though they only host a few cyclists each year because there are a lot of hosts in Syracuse.)

Later in the evening I took an Uber downtown to check out a couple more breweries. For some reason, my Uber driver got almost all the way there and then couldn’t seem to follow directions to go the last couple of blocks. Yes, I had to ding her rating for that.

My first brewery stop of the evening was Middle Ages Brewing, since they close at 8 on Mondays. They’ve been around since the mid-90s, which means they have a huge selection of beers, but it also means that a lot of those beers aren’t very impressive. Or maybe I just got unlucky with what I selected for my flight again. In any case, the ones I thought at least made the cut for very good were the Druid Fluid barleywine and the Kilt Tilter scotch ale. At least they have catchy names! Just to be clear, the barleywine here was nowhere near as good as the one at Buried Acorn, but it was also quite a bit cheaper, and if I hadn’t just had the one at Buried Acorn I would have been perfectly happy with Druid Fluid. Kilt Tilter I only tried through a lucky stroke, because the guy next to me at the bar was raving about it to his friends so I figured I should at least give it a shot. I’m glad I did!

The guy next to me also recommended that I check out Empire Brewing in Armory Square and recommended a couple of specific beers too, so I walked over there. On the way I saw some interesting artwork over a canal.

Armory Square is the main nightlife district in Syracuse, and even on a Monday night it was pretty hopping. Empire Brewing operates a full brewpub, so it was open late and I was able to get some dessert to go with my beer. That was a good thing too, because the imperial stout tasted much better paired with the chocolate lava cake than it did on its own. But the beer I found the most intriguing was one of the ones the guy at Middle Ages had recommended, the Deep Purple. This is probably going to sound revolting, but it’s a pilsner with Concord grapes added. It tastes like Friday night kiddush in beer form, but somehow that actually worked for me. Go figure! This is why you should never judge a beer without actually tasting it.

After Empire I caught an Uber back to Charlie and Barb’s place with a driver who seemed much more able to follow directions. And then I retired for the evening, though once again I was in a top floor room without a fan. At least the weather wasn’t as hot as it was in Minneapolis. [Ed. note: This morning I discovered there was a window air conditioner in the room, which I hadn’t previously noticed and which my hosts hadn’t called to my attention. Now I feel really dumb.]

Total distance: 75.0 miles
Average speed: 14.6 mph

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