Erie Canal Bicycle Tour Day Eight

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Today would be an Oriskany and Herkimer day. I rode through the town of Oriskany, named for the Revolutionary War Battle of Oriskany, fought on August 6, 1777. This battle was fought far from New England and the Atlantic coast where I thought most of the action took place. I rode into the town of Herkimer, named after General Nicholas Herkimer who commanded the Patriots at the Battle of Oriskany. He lost his life as the result of the battle.

At Herkimer, I needed to decide whether or not to travel north to the Herkimer Diamond mine and a campground that was eight or nine miles off of the trail. That is a significant detour to see a diamond mine and I wanted to try to confirm the value of the extra miles to be ridden.

There is a gift shop at a port on the Erie Canal. I went in and talked with the person behind the counter. I asked her about Herkimer diamonds and she pointed out a display case where they have them for sale. I saw one Herkimer diamond with a price of $300. I said, “That’s not much for a diamond that size.” She said, “No, honey. It’s quartz. Herkimer diamonds are quartz.” I laughed until I cried.

Outside there were two guys who were walking their three dogs. They looked like brothers in their seventies.  I told them my diamond story and we all laughed. Their story was about another adventure. They were moving a sailboat to Buffalo. They started their journey in Haverstraw, north of New York City. They had engine trouble twice. The first time they had barely left port. The second time they were out of earshot of anybody. Trusting the fates, they drifted in the current of the Hudson River until they drifted into a safe harbor. They got the engine fixed and here they are.

As I left the town of Herkimer, I passed the Fort Herkimer church built in 1767.

At about 3:30 in the afternoon I rode into the Little Falls Rotary Park, so called because the local Rotary was responsible for restoring the site and making it a delightful place to visit and camp. Dave the Harbor Master showed me around the building. It is a large building that houses a room where teaching and rental kayaks are stored; a room that is used as a classroom; showers and bathrooms; refrigerator, washer and dryer; a nice den with a television. There is a spacious porch where I stretched out and relaxed before starting my evening chores.

Dave had just finished launching his own personal pontoon boat. He offered to take me on the Erie to see Lock 17 and other sights from the water, which I quickly accepted. I saw Lock 17 from the high side of the highest lift lock on the Erie at thirty five feet. Men were scaling the rock cliffs on Moss Island. We passed a power generation dam on the north side, a good example of the many uses of the modern Erie Canal. In addition to power generation and travel, the canal is a source of irrigation water for farms and orchards near the canal. Dave pointed out the church that his parents helped to build. We saw several Blue Heron in the shallows west of the lock.

I thanked Dave and went to my chores. Before he left for the day, he handed off to another Harbor Master, Tom. Tom gave me the key to the building. He said, “If it storms tonight, feel free to come inside and sleep on the couch.” Everything these people did made this a great experience, the best of the trip.

I finished my chores and showered. Dinner was just across the bridge, not even a half mile away. I had the best dinner of the trip. It was unique, tasty, and perfectly filling. The restaurant was busy; it was obviously a local favorite. It was in an old train station which also made it look charming from the outside.

I went back to camp and slept very well, thinking about how nice this place was.

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