It was a clear June morning as we rolled our bikes out of the Bicycle Man shop in Alfred Station and turned downhill, toward Grandma and Grandpa’s cottage on Keuka Lake, one of New York’s Finger Lakes.
Abby’s 52 miles through the Finger Lakes Region of Western NY
Our older daughter, Abby had been looking forward to this fifty two-mile ride since early spring when a friend bet her a hat she couldn’t do it before her 9th birthday. I was excited; it would be the first trip of this length towing the trailer with my comfy RANS recumbent bike. Linda, my wife was looking forward to having an uninterrupted day together. Rachel, our younger daughter was looking forward to riding in the trailer, but even more to seeing Grandma and Grandpa at their Keuka Lake cottage. She wouldn’t have to wait that long, my mom would be meeting us in Bath for lunch and would take Rachel (and the trailer!) the rest of the way in the car.
We picked the NY “Bike 17” rout because it offered safe cycling and scenery with out too many challenging hills. It would take us to within a mile or two of Keuka lake at Hammondsport, where we would stop at the village park for a refreshing dip in beautiful Lake Keuka, the Y shaped finger lake. From Hammondsport we would turn north and finish the ride with the lake on the right and the wineries on the left. Linda breezed along on her bike, Abby following on her own bike. Abby’s was a Dutch three-speed from the ‘60’s she and I had carefully rebuilt into a lighter 6 speed. I was on my recumbent bike towing Rachel in the trailer.
Taking the lightly traveled back roads parallel to State Rte 21 made it easy with this group. When we did occasionally have to ride on Rte 21 we were glad for the wide paved shoulders. A mile north of Almond we turned left on Kanakadea Road (Steuben Co #66) and left most of the traffic behind. We had several nice views of the Kanakadea Lake. I particularly enjoyed the view from the sitting-up position on my RANS recumbent bike. Here we encountered our first little hills and Abby did fine. We kept our speed down on the big decent for Abby and out of respect for the RR tracks at the bottom.
We waited for the light to cross Rte 36 and rode the one-mile on Seneca street. We stayed alert and close together because it was the heaviest traffic of the day. At Elsenheimers Chevrolet we turned left (east) on Big Creek Road, County 66.) With ten miles and most of the traffic behind us we could ride two abreast and enjoy conversation more.
A few miles along Big Creek the road began to climb. As it climbed, the day warmed and we did too! By the time we had gone another 5 miles we were ready for a break. We stopped at a wide spot in the road and had a rest and a snack. Rachel was glad to get out of the trailer and stretch her legs. After a break we were fresh and started off again.
Another few miles brought us to the hill into Howard, by far the biggest climb of the day with about 350 vertical feet in a mile and a half. Abby downshifted and climbed right up it while Linda and I followed. Rachel declared from the trailer “I’m tired.” By this time the day had warmed up and the climb was making us hot. We squirted water from our water bottles on each other. It was cold but felt wonderful!
In the hamlet of Howard we stopped for another stop at the cemetery. We rested, snacked and looked for old and unique head stones. Back on the bikes we headed for the biggest downhill of the day. We kept our speed down for Abby’s sake; she doesn’t like to go much over 20mph. For the next several miles we easily rolled down a pleasant valley enjoying the lack of traffic to the intersection with Rte 415. From there we had more traffic but excellent shoulders into Bath NY. The bumps at a railroad crossing woke Rachel up. She cheerily greeted us as one bike passed the other “Hi Mom!”
In Bath we met my mom at McDonald’s and had lunch. We were hot and the air conditioning felt great, at first. After ten or fifteen minutes we were cold! Rachel was glad to be out of the trailer. She and Abby had a ball playing in the playground while we gobbled down our burgers. After lunch my mom took Rachel (and the trailer!) in the car to our destination, the cottage now twenty-one miles away.
Refreshed from the break we rode through Bath. There were a few traffic lights, and traffic can be a bit heavy on weekends but it is only ~2 miles so we just went single file with Abby between us. Soon we were turning north on Rte 54 and leaving town. In another few miles we began to see vineyards reminding us we were now in wine country. We took another small detour from Rte 54 on Fish Hatchery Rd. It is a great ride under the trees winding down a gentle slope for three or four miles. It is also a great way to avoid traffic and hills.
Back on Rte 54 we rode north past the Glen Curtis Museum a few miles outside Hammondsport. Curtis owned a bicycle shop and built airplanes in Hammondsport in the early 1900’s. The collection of antique airplanes and bikes is worth a visit. In Hammondsport we rode down to the end of Lake Keuka and dangled our feet in the water. Ahh!
From Hammondsport we rode up Rte 54a on the west side of the lake. Though the road has poor shoulders in places the traffic wasn’t bad. With a view of the lake, cottages and boats on our right we wound up the side of the lake with just enough small hills to keep it interesting. Once we past the Yacht Club we knew we were getting close and started looking for landmarks. I saw a cottage I recognized and announced to Abby that we were only a mile from the cottage. She came to life and took off. Linda and I let her go, content to keep her in sight. Grandma and Grandpa were surprised to see Abby arrive first! Abby had completed her fifty-two mile ride and won her hat!
NY bike route information:
- NY “Bike 17” route information
- NYS bike safety information
- Genesee Valley Greenway Trail
- Bicycle Man shop
- Glen Curtis Museum