Diabetes Awareness Campaign: Trekking Along the Erie Canal.
North Tonawanda
Little Falls
St. Johnsville
Thursday, October 4
Sandstone building.
It seems like every building in Albion was made of Medina Sandstone—public buildings, churches, even private homes. I stood in the center of town and slowly revolved 360 degrees. At least 90% of what I saw was made of the beautiful reddish stone. The result is a really pretty town.
Building in Albion.
Sandstone building.
Sandstone building.
As I was walking through town back towards the canal I saw an official Orleans County Historical Association sign explaining that the house to my right was the childhood home of Terry Anderson, the journalist who was taken hostage from the streets of Beirut, Lebanon and held captive for over six years. I remember well that incident. More importantly, I remember Anderson’s sister Peggy Say’s frequent presence on the news pleading and begging for President Regan to do something to get her brother freed. Her persistence was the impetus for the ill-conceived “arms for hostages” deal which almost brought down the Regan Administration.
Another historical sign was placed at the edge of the bridge. It related an 1859 catastrophe which occurred after 250 people and 5 horses stood on the bridge to watch a tight rope walker cross the canal. When the bridge eventually collapsed 15 people died. No mention was made of the horses!
Deck with bench.
After a couple of hours I came upon a house abutting the towpath that had a nice well-groomed lawn and shrubbery. On the canal side was an inviting deck with a bench. Since my feet were hurting and I didn’t see any “No Trespassing” sign, I took off my backpack, settled onto the bench, and removed my right shoe. My sock had bunched up under the ball of my foot.
It’s important keep one’s laces tied tightly in order to keep socks from creeping under the feet. The new laces which I had recently put into my boots kept loosening causing me to keep stopping and re-tightening my laces. This was more than just an irritation. When you have a heavy pack on your back you don’t just bend down to adjust your shoes. If you do, the center of gravity shifts and you end up going ass over teakettle. Alone on the trail, such a spill could be dangerous. When I was young, and strong I could just do a deep knee bend and hold the position while tying the lace. But when I was young and strong I was also foolish. Such a deep knee bend was potentially dangerous for the spinal column—which probably explains my sciatica today.
Sure, I could keep my back straight and go down on one knee. But to get back up without leverage from a bench or fence requires the thighs of a Russian weight lifter. So I have to either take off my pack (which obviously slows down my progress) or look for a stair step or other natural platform to support my weight while adjusting my footing. What is the story about the general (or was it a king?) whose horse threw a shoe . . . “for the want of a shoe, an empire was lost!” I cursed the damn laces. I cursed the salesman that told me they were the best bet. And, I cursed myself for buying a second pair as my only back up. But, I digress.
While sitting there massaging my tootsies, I saw a small fishing boat go by. The couple in it gave me a friendly wave. I had to stifle a pang of envy—they looked so cozy and smug!
Later I came across a section of the canal where the water spread out such that it looked like the canal might have overflowed or sprung a leak filling the neighboring swamp and creating a small pond. In the middle of the pond was the small boat and the couple were pulling some fish. Again, another wave.
Andrew Cuomo Canalway Trail.
It was early afternoon when I came to the Village of Holley. Since I was hungry, I decided to leave the towpath and go to the center of town to find a bite. A sign suggested taking the Andrew Cuomo Canalway Trail. It is a nice trail, 100 yards long which goes through a pleasant park. Cuomo, son of former governor Mario Cuomo, is the present Attorney General of the State of New York, replacing Elliot Spitzer who became governor.
In 2000 when the trail was built, Mr. Cuomo was in the Clinton Cabinet as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. The trail was made possible by a HUD grant. My Internet search led to a reference that said the size of the grant was a million dollars. That figures to about $10,000 a yard. And I thought Massachusetts politicians were bad.
The trail actually went along the bed of the original Clinton’s Ditch and a sign informed me that it is the only portion of the original Erie Canal still visible west of the city of Rochester.
Train station.
Where the trail ended was a restored train station which has been turned into a local museum. I was disappointed to find it closed because I enjoy visiting such venues—a good way to learn tidbits of history often overlooked in the literature.
A couple of county historical signs informed me with further interesting bits. Apparently Holley was the location of the first Danish immigrants to the U.S.—in October, 1825. Another sign indicated the center of “Podunk,” Holley’s large Italian neighborhood. Could that be the Cuomo connection?
The town had the look of the 60’s. At the center was a lunch spot with an old fashioned counter and a row of booths and a few tables in the window alcoves. Behind the counter was classic breakfast grill with a short order cook who slinging hash and other traditional meals. I ordered a club sandwich –bacon, lettuce, ham and cheese on whole wheat.
After lunch and a good rest, I threw on my backpack and headed out of town. Not wanting to retrace my steps, I stopped a man and asked him—which was the best route to use to intersect with the canal? As he answered my question, he asked me one of his own. Was I the fella sitting on the edge of the canal a while back? He was the guy fishing in the boat. I asked him about the pond, he said it was a “wide out’ where barges could pull off of the canal or turn around. I gave him a quick version of my story and handed him a card with my web site address. He wished me luck. When I asked what he was catching, he replied “bass.”
It was starting to get dark as I approached Brockport. Seeing all the athletes with their black shorts and jerseys reminded me that Brockport College campus of SUNY (State University of New York) was here. As I left the canal and entered the town it became more than obvious that I was in a college town. There was an abundance of pubs and pizza houses overflowing with twenty-somethin’s. It seemed like every kid in that university had a car for the traffic was incredible. Boy, have things changed since I was a in college. I had a beat up 56 Mercury. These kids had new cars—many were power machines.
I sat down at a small park with a 9-11 memorial statue opposite my bench. I was tired and the row of motels was another three miles away near the strip. I called the one where I had a reservation and asked for a recommendation for a cab company. The manager volunteered to send her husband to pick me up. Now, that’s what I call service! I was grateful.
After a quick meal of a chicken Caesar salad at Friendly’s, I returned to my room and turned on my computer to read my email. I had a pleasant surprise—an invitation to be a panelist at a diabetes forum in Albany on the first of November. This happiness was quickly dampened by an ugly discovery when I removed my boots. A large blood blister had formed on the sole of each foot.
I limped to the shower and then limped back to bed. I prayed that my feet would be alright.
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