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Day 34: Syracuse, NY to Herkimer, NY

Well, it happened. I don’t know how it happened, considering I didn’t train at all this time and just did the trip on a whim, but it happened.

I intentionally slept in until 9 this morning, both to make sure I was well rested and to maximize the number of breweries I could hit. Got out the door a little before 10 and biked about half a mile to an artisan bakery. I know breakfast sandwiches at gas stations contain more protein, but I’ll take artisan pastries over them any day of the week. And another sign that fall is coming: the bakery had local cider on the menu.

While I was at the bakery, I suddenly got the feeling I was missing something. Sure enough, I had left my Camelbak in my hotel room. For those of you keeping track, this is the third time I’ve accidentally left my Camelbak somewhere, but the first time that I left it somewhere other than a brewery. Fortunately, my hotel was on the glide path between the bakery and my next stop at Syracuse University, so I scooped it up and continued on to the university.

As opposed to how my ride last summer took me straight through the campuses of the Universities of Washington, Montana, Wisconsin, and Michigan, given SU’s location relative to downtown, my hosts’ house, and the train station I hadn’t made it there before, so this was my first time ever on the campus. It’s got a lot of very nice buildings though. And enough students seem to be back in town that there are signs mandating mask-wearing everywhere on campus. Now, I’m generally opposed to wearing a mask while biking. I figure, if I’m on my bike what are you doing within 6 feet of me for more than a second or two? But I was on private property so I respected their policy and biked across campus with a mask on. It was uncomfortable trying to breathe while exercising, to say the least.

Anyway, once I left campus it was almost 11. After passing through the EM Mills Rose Garden, I got to Stout Beard Brewing Company right as they were opening.

As their name implies, they specialize in darker beers. However, my favorites were actually two of their lighter beers, the Basic Becky pumpkin ale and the doMango mango wheat ale. The Basic Becky was the complete opposite end of the spectrum from the harvest ale at Frog Alley yesterday– it was on the dry side, which really brought out the pumpkin flavor. And the mango beer was just done very well. I told the bartender it reminded me of a mango ale I had at Zerodegrees Brewing in Cardiff a couple of years ago. (Yes, I just compared a craft beer from Upstate New York to a craft beer from Wales.) But really, most of their stuff is quite good, and I’d happily get their schwartzbier and their chocolate peanut butter porter again as well.

The nice thing about my route from Syracuse to Herkimer is that there was a brewery every 10-20 miles, so my rest breaks worked themselves in naturally. For the first 20 miles out of Syracuse I was mostly on the bike path in Old Erie Canal State Historic Park. If you remember from my last visit, the Erie Canal used to go through downtown Syracuse but was eventually rerouted. However, they have a bike path along the old canal. Unfortunately, the path alternates between paved and unpaved, so I got a nice coating of stone dust on basically everything, including my water bottle. Not fun. At least the scenery was nice though.

At length I reached the village of Canastota and got to Erie Canal Brewing at 1:15, 15 minutes after they opened.

I love ordering colorful flights. My favorites on this one were the k├Âlsch and the Irish red ale from their sister brewery Seneca St. Brewery.

After Canastota I decided I had enough of riding on stone dust, so I took a paved bike path for a mile or so and then continued on roads. Problem with going on roads is they’re decidedly hillier than the bike paths. Also around this time the wind shifted direction, so while it had been at my back earlier it was now in my face. But slogging along, I continued toward 7 Hamlets Brewing in Westmoreland. Only thing is, Google sent me on a dirt road for the last two miles to get there. This was fine (if bumpy) for a mile and a half. Then there was a sharp downhill to a road crossing, followed by an equally sharp uphill. I had to walk my bike there, and even so it was a challenge keeping my footing. But the worst was to come. After the uphill, the ground became extremely muddy. Remembering my wipeout in Wisconsin, I got off and walked my bike. However, both my bike and my feet sank into the mud (ankle-deep!) quite a few times. So by the time I got to the brewery my bike and my feet were absolutely filthy. Fortunately, the brewery is in an old barn, so I correctly guessed they’d have a hose, which they very nicely let me use to clean everything off. Hopefully I didn’t mess up my bearings with the power spray!

Ironically, even though 7 Hamlets was my favorite brewery of the day, I completely forgot to take a photo because I was a bit discombobulated from the muddy mess. Sorry! But if you go, the Bartlett Belgian ale and the Eureka Rye IPA are both great. Have I mentioned I like rye beers?

While I was at the brewery though, the bartender warned me that there were going to be riots in Utica, which was my next stop. Now, I was really hoping to not get into Black Lives Matter on this blog, but this is 2020 and some current events just can’t be avoided. First off, I noticed that the brewery was flying a Thin Blue Line flag, so I took the bartender’s words with a few grains of salt. Then I started Googling what was actually going on. You can find a news account here, but the short of it is that last Friday a white police officer illegally kicked a black man in the head several times while arresting him, and this was recorded on his body cam. The officer has been placed on unpaid leave, but the decision on whether to terminate him and/or charge him with a crime is still pending. So today there was a BLM-style protest in Utica (there being no actual BLM chapter in Utica) at 3pm. Word got out though on right-wing media that the protest was going to be violent. However, the next brewery I wanted to visit was right in downtown Utica. Since I’d be arriving in Utica around 5:30, I figured if the protest was indeed peaceful, it should be mostly dispersed by then, so I’d continue into town and at the first sign of trouble I’d take a detour. Fortunately the protest was indeed peaceful. All I saw at that hour was 10-20 people standing by a major intersection and holding signs. All in all, I’m really glad Utica was able to hold a peaceful protest, and screw the right-wing media for spreading false rumors.

So for all that, I made it to downtown Utica without incident, and I even smiled and waved at the protestors as I passed them. In the middle of downtown I arrived at Bagg’s Square Brewing, which is such a new brewery that I just got an email yesterday from the New York State Brewers Association yesterday telling me to check out this new brewery in Utica.

A couple I was sitting near at 7 Hamlets had plugged the Brown Ale, which was indeed my favorite of the beers I tried there. Also noteworthy was the Belgian Golden Strong Ale, which while not as good as the Belgian ale at 7 Hamlets was still solid.

Bagg’s Square also has a full kitchen with German food, so I ordered a couple of schnitzel sliders with a side of spaetzle. Even though it was all really good, and not that much food, I couldn’t finish it. I seem to be back to having the same problem that I had my first couple of weeks on the road last year, where I just don’t have enough of an appetite to eat the calories I need.

By the time I left Bagg’s Square, I had about 40 minutes of daylight remaining and 15 miles left to cover. So I resigned myself to biking the 10 miles to my next brewery by daylight and then biking the final 5 miles in the dark. And it worked out pretty well. The sun set at 7:15 and I pulled up to Heelpath Brewing in Frankfort at 7:20.

The brewery is located at a nice marina on the Mohawk River.

When I arrived, I started chatting with a few people who were sitting outside, and when I told them I had biked from Syracuse, one of them was so impressed he insisted on buying me a beer. Well, it was just as well I didn’t pay for the beer, because it was my least favorite brewery of the day. The Robust Brown was fine, though inexplicably cloudy, and the Rye Porter I would not drink again and couldn’t finish. (If you’re wondering how I had two beers on someone else’s dime, I ordered half pours.)

And that does it for the day. I biked the remaining 5 miles to Herkimer in the dark, but fortunately my lights are in good working order and the road had a wide shoulder most of the way. Now I just need my stamina to hold up to get me to Schenectady tomorrow, preferably before the rain moves in!

Total distance: 70.7 miles
Average speed: 14.1 mph

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