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Interlude: All aboard, Amtrak!

You may not have been keeping track, but my last rest day was in Kalamazoo. Since then I biked for 7 days straight to get from Kalamazoo to Syracuse. At no previous point on the trip did I bike for more than 5 days in a row, and it’s really not recommended for amateur cyclists to bike for more than a week without a day off. So I was pretty spent. I also wasn’t particularly excited about the prospect of continuing to bike along the Erie Canal, considering my lack of interest in the scenery the last two days. Solution: Take Amtrak from Syracuse to Schenectady, where I could then stay with my uncle and aunt in Niskayuna.

The Amtrak train wasn’t scheduled to leave until 11:23, so I had most of the morning free. I slept in until 7 or so, and then I chatted with Barb over breakfast. (Charlie had left early to go volunteer at an organization where he works a couple of days a week.) Shelley, the woman I chatted with in Montezuma yesterday, had strongly recommended checking out the Erie Canal Museum if I had time, so I decided to head over there. On the way I passed a farmer’s market set up on the side of a park, where I bought a pint of blueberries from an Amish farmer (who I guess drove to get there, since I didn’t see a horse and buggy parked). I also got a photo of the park since the monument and fountain combination was interesting.

The Erie Canal Museum itself was well worth the visit. They teach you a lot about the history of the canal and the region. For instance, Syracuse was a village of 250 people before the canal was built, but in the course of 30 years its population increased nearly 100-fold. And the canal was used not only to transport cargo but also to transport people, since it was more comfortable to travel by boat than to take a horse all the way across Upstate New York. The museum is actually built up against where the canal used to run back before it was rerouted north of the city. In fact, part of the museum is in an old weighthouse, where boat cargo was weighed to determine the toll the boat had to pay to pass through. (The tolling program was so successful that the entire debt accrued from building the canal was paid off in 20 years, and New York made tens of millions of dollars in revenue during the following 37 years before they abolished tolling.)

While I was at the museum I got alerts that my train would be more than an hour late. It’s Amtrak, so I can’t say I was surprised.

Now that I had time to burn, I headed over to the legendary Dinosaur BBQ to get some lunch to bring with me to the train station. So many people over the years have told me I had to check out Dinosaur BBQ if I was ever in Syracuse that I was really expecting something phenomenal. Instead, it was merely good. If I’m ever back in Syracuse and happen to be in the mood for BBQ I’d go there again. I’m not sure why it has a cult following though.

Then I biked over to the train station, where the 11:23 train wound up leaving at 12:48. During the ride we passed through a thunderstorm near Utica, but I checked the forecast and I was reasonably confident I could get to Schenectady and bike to my uncle and aunt’s house before it hit there. That was indeed what happened: I got to their house at 3:45 and the storm hit an hour later.

Since the three breweries in downtown Schenectady don’t open until 4pm on Tuesdays, I hadn’t been able to check any of them out when I arrived, so my uncle and aunt nicely took me out to dinner at one of them, Mad Jack at the Van Dyck. (Mad Jack is the brewery; the Van Dyck is the restaurant and lounge.) Given the setup, I didn’t expect the beer to be much better than average, but there were a couple that pleasantly surprised me. The Dutchmen lager is a really good lager, nice and malty with a dark tan/light brown color. Named after Union College’s sports teams, it contains a mix of Munich, Vienna, and Pilsner malts, so it can’t be classified as any specific kind of lager. It also won a gold medal at a statewide beer festival a couple of years ago, and I’d say it earned it for the lager category. Not the best lager I’ve ever had, but you could convince me it’s the best lager in New York State. Also noteworthy is the Mohawk Sunset IPA, which is part of the “new wave” of IPAs which aim to be all floral with no bitterness. I’ve had a couple of other IPAs of this style on my ride, and it works for me when done properly.

Incidentally, my aunt was curious how I go about tasting beers on a flight, so I had to actually think about what I was doing and what made me have immediate reactions of “Eh, it’s ok,” or “Oh! That’s nice!” It’s funny to have to suddenly think about this at the 82nd brewery of my trip!

So that’s my rest day. I mostly just wrote this entry to talk about the canal museum and to perform my due diligence of reviewing every brewery I visit. Tomorrow the true home stretch begins, and I have to hope the thunderstorms hold off!

And once again to give an updated brewery count in lieu of a mileage count:

WA: 10 breweries + 2 wineries
MT: 10 breweries + 1 cidery
ND: 8 breweries + 1 cidery + 1 meadery
MN: 12 breweries + 1 homebrew
WI: 9 breweries + 1 winery
MI: 15 breweries
ON: 8 breweries + 1 winery + 1 homebrew cider
NY: 10 breweries + 1 winery + 1 cidery

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