Day Three. Morris to Spring Valley – Fifty miles ￼
After yesterday’s blow out, we patched Nancy’s tire so she could ride to the bike shopwhere she had both tires replaced. Upon leaving the store, other Nancy suddenly got a flat and had to get a new tube. We didn’t ride out of Morris until 10:00 AM.
The inebriated cyclist we met yesterday showed up at the bike shop, still under the influence, and gave us useful information about a trail collapse in Gebhard Woods. We rode residential streets to by-pass the problem and get to the next access point. ￼
The Nancies opted to stay on the Old Stage Coach Road for the ride to Seneca, but the traffic was too intense for me and Dot. We chose to follow the I&M Trail. Tranquility and shade were our reward, but we also struggled over long stretches of loose, teeth-chattering gravel.
The going was tough, so we rolled into Seneca fifteen minutes behind the others. In Seneca, a little pavilion next to the trail was perfect for our needs, and a Casey’s convenience store next door provided water, ice, air, and bathrooms. Lunch consisted of a buffet of snack foods we carried from home: PB&J in a big jar, Slim Jims, prunes, Goldfish, candy, cookies, and my granola bars. Not everyone tried to travel light. ￼ I was disappointed we were unable to find Seneca’s advertised canal museum and continued on our way.
We had planned to visit every town to get a feel for each, but time became a constraint. Someday I’ll get back to Marsailles. An attractive mural on a building next to the trail says it’s a great place to visit. We met a young cyclist weighed down with huge saddlebags. He said he had ridden from Chicago and was headed for Buffalo State Park, camping along the way. Dot lectured him about the evils of body piercing, but he took it with good humor.
On the other side of Marsailles the trail became less well-maintained. A signed stated the trail was closed due to high water. We found the ground was slippery and muddy, but passable. Further on, a large tree lay across the trail, but we hoisted our bikes over and moved on. Another seven miles brought us to the outskirts of Ottawa where we promised ourselves lunch. It was about 2:00 and I was famished. A young female jogger directed us to the best route into town and advised us on the choice of restaurants. We left the trail from a bridge overlooking a large park. A steep ramp brought us down to river level where an attractive water playground enticed Nancy S to take off her shoes and socks and join the children under the sprinklers. Ottawa’s downtown is very attractive, but we were short on time. After a good lunch at Obee’s Deli, we headed for the trail and promptly got lost by following two different GPS units. Several people offered directions, and after we finally listened, we found the trail easily.
We had been warned by several people about a completely washed out bridge near Buffalo State Park, four miles out of Ottawa. To continue on the trail, one had to cross the creek on a wooden plank. We envisioned a rickety plank over rushing water several feet below. A route on Dee Bennet Road was suggested to detour around the scary prospect of walking the plank, but we opted to stay on the trail to see what would happen. The bridge was indeed gone. To cross the creek we had to maneuver down a steep, rutted embankment. As I walked my bike down the hill, gravity and the weight of my gear took over and my bike got away from me. I got entangled with the bike and sustained a number of bruises. In comparison to the descent, walking the two planks over shallow water was nothing. ￼
Utica welcomes cyclists with shelters, places to sit, and a bike repair station, complete with an air hose and tools. A water fountain would have been wonderful. Water can be found at a spigot outside the restroom building at a nearby baseball field. Four plus miles further, I was thrilled to see a full-size 1850‘s canal barge moored to the dock in LaSalle. Re-enactors were closing up for the day and had already put their mule into the nearby stable. We visited with the costumed barge crew (two twenty-ish young men) who talked about what they do and how the barge tours work. They confirmed that we should leave the trail at that point and gave us directions through LaSalle. ￼
On maps the route through LaSalle and Peru looked easy. Boy, was I wrong. Odd turns, extremely steep hills, and fast traffic gave us a hard time. On the west side of Peru, a pizza delivery guy at Casey’s warned us to stay off the suggested Rt 6 into Spring Valley because police would stop cyclists for their own safety. He confirmed what my map showed… a short cut to by-pass Spring Valley and take us to our motel a mile or two north. The short cut was quieter, but miles of hills had us gasping for breath.
All the while I worried that the Spring Valley Inn would be closed or full or unacceptable. Communications with them had been poor and they didn’t take reservations. After a longer than expected ride through farm country, we found the motel with only fifteen minutes of daylight left. We were too exhausted to care about the quality of the inn, but it wasn’t bad. ￼ No amenities were nearby, so we ordered pizza and enjoyed the canned margaritas Dot picked up at the last Casey’s. After fifty miles and a ten hour day, we were ready to turn in early.