The first ADK Cycle Outing is now in the history books. Taking as its inspiration our guidebook Cycling Routes of the St. Lawrence River Valley and Northern Adirondacks, recently published as an e-book by ADK, and following the organizational model of the club’s Paddle Outing, the event took place from June 10 to 15, 2018, and was based in Potsdam and St. Lawrence County, New York. Thirty-six participants came from every part of New York as well as New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Ontario.
Cyclists were housed at Clarkson University. No meals were provided, which turned out to be an advantage as people made their own choices and could leave on trips at a wide range of start times. All lunches were “on the road,” while most suppers were at local restaurants, although Laurentian Chapter members Blair and Marg Madore and their helpers organized a welcoming picnic on the evening of the first full day. Breakfast varied from convenience store takeout to local diners to self-prepared in the dorms.
Every evening at about 5 p.m. we held a gathering to recap the day’s events and plan the next day’s activities. We led some trips ourselves, and enlisted a handful of experienced Laurentian Chapter members to lead others. Two to four separate trips went out simultaneously each day.
Monday, in perfect, sunny weather, three trips took place. Tom Ortmeyer took a group on the Red Tavern Road, a challenging forty-mile loop in the northern foothills of neighboring Franklin County. Greg Smith led a ride from our front door at Clarkson up the Raquette River to his camp at Higley Flow, an impoundment in South Colton. Jeanna Matthews and her group toured the shore of the St. Lawrence River near Massena, using roads, bike paths, and gravel trails along the dikes built for the St. Lawrence Seaway.
The need to make adjustments on the fly surfaced almost immediately. Differences in cycling speed led to group separation and a need to regroup. Some faster participants who got ahead of the group on the way to Higley astonished leader Greg by unerringly navigating a maze of cottage roads to their destination, using nothing but a handout intended to be only a general description of the route. Road conditions and tourism interests led to modifications of the route out on the road. The first minor mechanical issues like flat tires and thrown chains began to happen and were rectified promptly by the participants themselves.
On Tuesday, again under perfect weather conditions, Tom took a third of the participants on a moderate figure-eight course out of Madrid, a small village a few miles from Potsdam. By this time a fast group had coalesced; those cyclists plotted their own rides up and back over a ten-mile rollercoaster road to join Tom’s group. Meanwhile, John Barron took the remaining participants to Canada to cycle from Cornwall to Ingleside, Ontario. The course, following the St. Lawrence River on bike paths and the Long Sault Parkway, was easy to follow, which was fortunate because there was a huge range of speed within the group. Circumstances helped moderate speed differences. Some of our fastest cyclists had the most serious mechanical breakdown of the outing, a broken chain. They managed to jury-rig repairs out on the course so as to continue cycling.
Wednesday brought scattered showers and a threat of thunderstorms. Joan Trivilino’s planned trip to Hannawa Falls was cancelled because of weather and logistics. In John’s loop tour near Ogdensburg and Tom’s tour around Waddington and Cole’s Creek, cyclists took steps to try to dodge the showers spatially or hurry to finish ahead of them. Both groups were generally successful. John’s group, which had been watching the weather radar on a mobile device, reached the end and got the last bike on its car just as the heavens opened with a continuing downpour. Some participants then went into Ogdensburg to enjoy the Frederic Remington Art Museum.
Three groups of outing participants organized and led their own trips. One involved a full day of cycling from the campus. Another cycled a wildlife management area and found great turtle viewing. The third took a short ride plus plenty of sightseeing along the St. Lawrence.
Thursday was windy, rainy, and cold, not ideal for cycling. Tom and a party went to Tooley Pond Road (south of Canton) to walk the short trails to the waterfalls of the Grasse River. On a better day they’d have cycled the road, but today cars were the choice. John’s group drove to Ottawa to take in a temporary showing of a private collection of Impressionist paintings at the National Gallery of Canada. They also went for a short walk to view the Staircase Locks at the beginning of the Rideau Canal.
By Friday morning, many participants had left for home. There were still plenty left to enjoy Greg Smith’s Red Sandstone Architecture tour of Potsdam.
The outing wound up with an elegant lunch on the sun-deck of Maxfield’s, a restaurant overlooking the Raquette River in downtown Potsdam. Our fast group once again plotted a new route from campus and followed it before showering at the dorm and heading home.
Throughout the event we were impressed with our participants. Confident, independent cycling; complex repairs in the field; good cooperation (for example, individual participants maintained communication among different groups on the road using cell phones); and good attitudes led to a good time for everyone.
We learned a lot from this first Cycle Outing. Trying to send organized slow, medium, and fast groups over a course didn’t work out, partly because none of the out-of-town participants had prior knowledge of the routes so as to be confident to lead a group. Nevertheless, people were happy to cycle independently using our guidebook and handout sheets. We hope some of the participants will return next year and help with trip leadership. We plan to have more detailed “cue sheets” to enable this.
Article written by John Barron and Tom Ortmeyer. For more articles like this pick up your September-October edition of the Adirondac available now. Members can view the magazine in their Members Area on the website. Non-members can purchase the magazine in our online shop.