This was my ninth consecutive Cycle The Erie Canal with Parks and Trails New York. This year the ride had a special significance. This was my first tour after my accident last Fall.
Having the Accident that I Dreaded
One September 15, 2021, I was four miles into the trail on the fourth day of a fully supported tour from Washington DC to Pittsburgh. That day was our final day on the Chesapeake and Ohio towpath trail. I hit an exposed tree root at a bad angle and my bicycle and I were thrown to the ground violently, breaking my femur. The details are documented in my blog post last year.
For years I thought about the possibility of such an accident and I dreaded the prospect. At 75 years old, recovery could be difficult or impossible. Bicycle riding is low risk, but the risk is there as with many sports. Although I consider myself a cautious rider, the accident happened nonetheless and I found myself in rigorous physical therapy to regain my ability to ride and to tour.
Getting to CTEC 2022
For weeks I did daily physical therapy for an hour and a half or more each day, encouraged by incremental improvements. By early October I transitioned from my walker to a cane. In late October I began to take hikes outdoors, working my way from a quarter mile to two miles daily. I was able to drive my car by November, went back to my twice weekly part-time job, and began to work out on the machines at the senior center in town.
In late December, I successfully made my first attempt to mount my stationary bicycle at home. I transitioned from workouts a the senior center to workouts on my stationary in January. On a mild day in February, I took my bicycle out for a very short ride in the neighborhood. When the trails became clear in March, I began my training rides. Soon I was up to my typical 25 mile training ride. By the time I began Cycle The Erie Canal I had over 1000 training miles.
Arriving in Buffalo
After signing up for the ride, I had some anxiety concerning camping and riding over fifty miles per day. My family, my son Eric who was on the tour with me, and friends were very encouraging. I needed to experience the first day of riding to overcome the angst.
Eric and I arrived at Nichols School in Buffalo early on registration day. The Taste of Buffalo event downtown was a nice way to spend the day before registration in the afternoon. In the afternoon, the camp grew to accommodate 650 riders and nearly 100 volunteers. It was great to see the resurgence of large numbers of people on the tour.
At dinner in Buffalo at Nichols School, a man approached me and said, “Ed, I never expected to see you here!”
It was John from Western Massachusetts, one of the people on the tour last Fall. He was one of the two physicians who stopped on the trail to offer aid after my accident. I was happy to see him and to have the difficulty of my recovery acknowledged. We met in camp several times during the Erie ride.
There were other people that we knew from previous CTEC tours and were happy to spend time with them again. They are Mike from Cape Cod; John from New Jersey; Gordon from New York City; Bob from Rochester; Les from the Adirondacks. It was good to see the familiar faces of the volunteers as well. These were comforting interactions with people before the ride and the people are one reason that the ride is great experience year after year.
Riding as a Personal Achievement
The first day went fine and I arrived in Medina, our first camp, early in the afternoon. Eric and I celebrated with our annual lunch at The Country Club Diner on Main Street. I set up camp following the habits formed by many similar experiences over the past ten years. I slept very well after that first day.
Every successive day I felt improved recovery from the previous day. Arriving in camp each day, I had energy remaining to set up camp, shower, and enjoy dinner. Every morning I rose without an alarm clock before 5:30, ready to break camp, eat breakfast, and hit the trail.
Looking Forward to Future Rides
By the time we ended the ride in Albany, I felt that I overcame my anxieties and my severe injury. During the early days of my rehabilitation, I cannot say that I was hopeless, but I needed affirmation that I could still enjoy riding and touring on my bicycle. Cycle The Erie Canal 2022 helped me to achieve that affirmation and the conviction that I will be able to ride for a few more years to come.