|The Bridge and Town at Chimney Point|
Ten minutes later, at 06:35, I was back at The Bridge restuarant. The food the night before had been excellent and I was looking forward to a good breakfast. I had oatmeal and eggs and toast and hash browns, with coffee of course.
I was done an hour later, at 07:35 and was on my way. My plan was to follow along the Lakeshore on a county or town road called "Lake Street", and then regain Hwy 22A somewhat to the south. I set off from the tiny hamlet at the bridge entrance, along State Highway 125.
For a space, the road ran right along the Lake and I had a great view. I stopped several times to catch a glimpse back towards the bridge. At this point, Lake Champlain is hardly wider than a river. On the far side, the Adirondack Mountain rose like a wall, covered in pine trees. The way along my side of the Lake was lined with trees, but inland were flat pastures, filled with dairy cattle. The day was partly cloudy, which meant for the most part cloudy. Patches of blue showed through. I felt, though, that this day's clouds did not hold any rain.
|Along Lake Street: Looking back on the bridge at water level||Looking north on Lake: |
(Note elevation above bridge in distance)
|Day 3: Along Lake Street|
For the most part, Lake Street was on the high ground, with the Lake perhaps fifty feet below, at the foot of a steep embankment. Every once in a while, typically when the road crossed a creek or came to a road, it would drop down to the water level, only to climb right back up again. In most cases, I was able to pick up enough speed on the downhill to coast most of the way up the far side. I passed by one large, industrial scale dairy farm after another. Most of the farmers had French sounding names, but I am sure none spoke any French, or would even have been able to pronounce their names correctly. It was a pleasant morning. The riding was easy and the scenery was breathtaking. There was virtually no traffic on the road. I could hear the birds chirping as I rode along, past farmers out ploughing their fields.
At 08:30 I was even with Crown Point and came to a cross roads and a small hamlet. Lake Street continued on.
I came to the Shoreham Town line at 08:45 and was in for an unexpected shock. The pavement ended and I found myself now riding along a gravel road. It was not just a simple change of road surface. The road degenerated into little more than some of the dirt driveways I had been passing. Where there was not loose gravle, the surface was riven with washouts and little gullies. I was almost at the point of stopping to ask someone if the road indeed went through, as shown on the map.
Almost immediately I came to another downhill, at Lapham Bay Road. This time, however, I could not coast down, picking up speed. I had to inch my way down the steep hill, holding tight to my brakes. I rode, then, some fifty feet along the water's edge, before having to gear down in both the front and the back to climb up the steep grade back to the high ground. It was a very hard climb and I could feel the pressure on my knees. I would come to two more of these drops and climbs, and decided, in each case, that it was more prudent just to get off the bike and walk it up the hill.
Just before 09:00, just past Five Mile Point, I came to the last of the climbs (walks) up from the Lakeside. I did not realise it then, but I was leaving the Lake for good. As I pushed my bike back up to the high ground, I found myself amidst freshly planted fields of corn. The road took a definite curve away from the water's edge and headed inland.
|Along Lake Street when Sheryl calls at 09:00|
Gravel road - having just walked bike
up steep hill from Lake edge
Looking south, I could see the first range of mountains across the Lake, and a curious open space behind them before the second range rose even higher. From my geography, I knew that I was looking south towards the northern end of Lake George. For many miles, Lake George runs parallel to Lake Champlain, but significantly higher. There was also this pulp and paper mill, right on the Lakeshore on the New York side. This was to be my beacon for the next couple of hours.
I had turned on my phone at 09:00 and Sheryl called me at 09:10. We had a long phone call, as this was the day she was going to drive down to meet me, and she wanted to discuss details. We were to meet in Whitehall, New York, at the very foot of Lake Champlain. We took advantage of our good connection and talked for over ten minutes.
|Looking SouthWest over Lake: |
Lake George is directly behind hills
|Looking South at Pulp Mill:|
Climbing away from Lake
I rode on. I was now entering apple orchard country and passed a farmer who was about to spray his apple trees with a fogging machine. I hurried on to get past him before he envelopped me in a killing fog.
Lake Street came to an abrupt end at 09:30, and I had to turn onto Watchpoint Road, which led straight up the side of a steep hill, and further away from the Lake. It was hard going pushing my heavy rig up the gravelly and rutted roadway. Watchpoint Road was in even worse condition than had been Lake Street of late. Up ahead, further up the hill and behind the farmer's big house and barn, I could see the road increase its angle for an even steeper climb. I was not looking forward to it.
|Looking South down Lake Champlain near Larabee's Point|
Mercifully, when I got even with the farmer's house, I found it to be on "Smith Street". There was a cross roads. It was 09:35. I was thankful to be able to turn south onto Smith Street, which ran parallel to the hillside, and across it. It was in somewhat better condition, for a gravel road. I rode on past many more apple orchards and farmer's homes. I was already pretty high up, and could look out over the valley below. I could no longer make out the Lake in the distance, for it was now too narrow. I could only see the mountains beyond, and the ever-present smokestack of the pulp & paper mill, fading slowly to the north.
I stopped by a farmhouse to take a break at 09:45, and watched the farmers working around their tractor as I sipped my water and ate a granola bar.
|Paved Road! Hallellujah: Ft. Ticonderoga in distance|
At 09:55, five minutes further on, I finally made pavement! I was so happy to be off the gravel, and the way, pushing my 150 pounds of bike, became so much easier. I had reached State Hwy 74. Because of the lay of the land, I was forced to follow Hwy 74 west and down, down the hillside towards the Lake. I was nearly to Larabee's Point, where there is a ferry to New York, when I came to Hwy 73, which would curve back away from the Lake and lead back up the hill. Mercifully, I did not have to descend all the way to the water's edge.
I had been this way in 1986, as part of an outing from the Calico Conference in Middlebury, Vermont. We had come by yellow schoolbus to Larabee's Point, where we had boarded a boat for a cruise down and around Fort Ticonderoga. I could clearly see Fort Ticonderoga rising from the trees on the far shore.
|Ft. Ticonderoga: Closest Approach||Close up|
It was 10:00 when I started climbing back up Hwy 73. The sign indicated that the town of Orwell was 6 miles away. It was here that I would again meet up with Hwy 22A. The climb was intense, but was not beyond my ability. Very quickly I rose up to be able to look out, again, over the whole countryside. At the point where the road was to turn inland, I stopped for one last look north, whence I had come. Far off in the distance, I could see the pulp & paper mill of an hour earlier. Across I still had a clear view of Fort Ticonderoga. Then the road climbed up over a rise and I could not longer see any of the valley.
|Looking North towards Pulp Mill: On Rte 73|
(Note distaqnce and elevation above Lake)
The road continued to climb up through the Vermont countryside. There would be a steep rise, requiring my granny gear, then a bit of a downhill, but not as far down as I had just gone up, and then another steep rise, to even higher. All around were still fields and pastures, with occasional dairy cattle. I could see the purple shapes of distant, low mountains in any direction that I looked.
At a certain point, I could see Hwy 22A, on the other side of the small valley, and below the height which I had attained. Hwy 73 turned to run parallel to it for the last couple of miles. The farms gave way to occasional scattered houses. Eventually I came to the end of Hwy 73, at the road leading up to Mount Independence. I turned the other way, dropping down in a long arc to the floor of the narrow valley and climbing a quarter of the way up the other side, until I joined Hwy 22A.
|Day 3: Ticonderoga to Whitehall|
As I expected, the road south out of Orwell continued to rise. Seeing the mountains all around me, I could not see how it could do otherwise. The lay of the land made me think of the head of a mountain pass. The road rose further up out of the valley, which became narrower and narrower. Soon I passed the last farm and was surrounded by forest. Having regained the main road, there was quite a bit more traffic, with cars and trucks passing me several times per minute, rather than once every five minutes.
At 11:25 I crossed the line from Addison County into Rutland County. I could sense that I was at the top of the pass, and was actually surprised that there had been so little of a climb in total. I had expected worse. The river that had been cascading along the road beside me had given way to the stagnant marshland one typically finds at the top, where the water is not sure which way to go. Soon the road was headed down. It was a gradual downhill, but down nonetheless. The road began to twist and turn as if it were in a canyon. A creek formed beside me that was headed in the same direction as I. There were lots of stretches where I could coast. It certainly felt good after two hours of steady climbing.
At 11:40 I crossed Route 144 and the sign indicated I was 8 miles from Fair Haven, where I would pick up U.S. Hwy 4 and head west back into New York.
|Approaching Fair Haven - Vt on Rte 22A:|
The Hidden Valley
By 12:00 I had descended into this small, picturesque valley, just as I reached the West Haven town line. The road crossed valley and turned to run along the base of this tall hill, which formed the valley's southern flank. I turned on my phone, as arranged, but the signal was very weak. Sheryl called and we tried to talk for ten minutes, but we could hardly hear each other. Not only was the signal weak, but the sound of large trucks passing would drown out the conversation for 30 seconds at a time. Sheryl was on the point of leaving, and was trying to give me her route numbers: I-87, 74, 22, to Whitehall. I tried to get into the conversation, to arrange another call once I got into town, but communication was so fractured that I could not. Finally, I lost the call altogether. These long calls were draining the battery of my phone quite a bit. I knew I had very little phone time left.
|The Hidden Valley, and the Big Climb|
I rode on. Five minutes later, at 12:15, the road began to climb out of the tiny valley and up over the big hill which had defined its flank. I could see that I was approaching a serious hill when the highway developped an uphill passing lane. I have learned that these are always bad news! From 12:15 to 12:25 I slogged up the steep incline in my granny gear. Then the grade became more gradual, though I was still going up.
At 12:35 I came to the Fair Haven town line, and was clearly at the top of the pass. I stopped to admire a waterfall, and to devour some water, for sweat was pouring off my brow. I figured that the additional elevation would help my phone communication, but to no avail. The indicator read "no service".
At 12:45 I came to the freeway at Fair Haven. U.S. Hwy 4 is a freeway from Rutland to the Vermont State line. The main part of town is about a mile further on, but around the freeway were the new shopping centres and other signs of modern suburbia. Just past the underpass, I rode into a convenient MacDonald's Restuarant and parked my bike where I could easily see it.
I tried the phone again. Although my battery indicator was flashing warnings, I at least had a mediocre signal. I managed to reach Sheryl, who had not left yet. We went over her route again, and I promised to phone her at 15:00.
I had myself a large Root Beer and a Quarter Pounder. I did not feel like having any fries. I spent some time massaging the muscles around my knees, for they ached quite a bit. All the hill climbing had taxed them considerably. Thankfully, I was only about 9 miles from Whitehall, my final destination for the day. I took my time at MacDonald's, eating slowly, checking out my maps, and writing in my journal.
|Down to Whitehall|
It was 13:35, 50 minutes later, that I set out again. I continued on along what had been Hwy 22A. Past the shopping centre, it became a wide residential street, lined with sidewalks, trees, and houses. All the traffic had left to go onto the freeway. I rode on for a mile or so until I came to the old Hwy 4, now demoted to State Highway status. Turning west onto Hwy 4, I rode on through the small downtown and out into the small industrial park on the far side. Just past town, the old highway rejoined the new, which lost its freeway status right at the border.
I saw a Vermont Tourist Information centre, so I rode in, hoping that they would also have New York Information. (As sometimes, these centres share the same building.) I desperately wanted a more detailed map of the area I was going into. Alas, they did not have anything but a large scale New York map.
At 14:00, I crossed back into New York, crossing the small river which forms the border. I was just in time to see an Amtrak passenger train cross the railway trestle beside us, on tracks leading towards Whitehall. Traffic on U.S. Hwy 4 was quite busy, and it took the drivers some time to realize they were no longer on the freeway. Once across and into New York, though, the road again had wide, paved shoulders, and so I was well clear of the traffic.
Crossing the river, the road turned to the left and I could clearly see ahead the long climb which awaited me, angling up the side of a steep ridge.
It was 14:15 when I had reached the top. The countryside opened up, and there were some roadside businesses. I was already on the lookout for a motel, and so when I passed one at the hilltop it tugged at me. I decided to wait, though, until I had checked out all of Whitehall.
And a good thing, too, for just past the cluster of activity at the hilltop, the road began a long, long descent. Down, down, down I went, often able to pick up quite a fast speed, with all my weight. At places where I was running downhill, I would leave the shoulder and stake out my space well within the traffic line. I imagine I was hitting speeds of 30 km/h, and did not feel safe on the shoulder. Everytime I thought I had finished the descent, there would come another long, steep hill. I reflected that at 09:00 I had been down at Lake level, and now I was returning there. I had earned all of this downhill coasting by my hours of climbing all through the late morning.
|WhiteHall - NY: Arrival|
I crossed the Champlain Canal, and stopped to take some photos. I could already see that my hope to have a canal-side path was dashed. There was no path along the canal, as far as I could see. Part of my plan for choosing this route was that, along the canal, the countryside would have to be relatively flat. I only hoped that the highway did not deviate too seriously from the canal route.
|Champlain Canal: From the Hwy 4 Bridge bridge|
|South||North, towards town|
I followed the main street on into town, looking for a Chamber of Commerce or Tourist Information, where I could ask about motels. It was neigh on 15:00, and I felt I should secure lodging before phoning Sheryl. I stopped into one place, but the two ladies were not very helpful. They only knew of one motel, Budget Motel, south of the town on Hwy 4. At the old waterfront, I saw a big sign for an Inn for only $39 a night. I could not find it though, from the directions, so finally I went back to the store which sported the sign and got detailed help. The lady phoned ahead and made sure they had place.
The old part of Whitehall is nestled into a narrow valley, only about four blocks wide. A tall mountain, rising as a cliff, forms the eastern flank of the valley. From atop this mountain, an old mansion called the "Skeene Mansion" looks out. The canal ends right at the cliff's edge, leaving room behind for only one, small road. The rest of downtown, a couple of blocks wide, forms the waterfront on the western side of the canal. Starting up the western side of the hill, one comes to the railroad tracks, and then to Hwy 22, the new, commercial main street. Hwy 22 comes down the western side of the Lake and joins U.S. Hwy 4, which forms the southern boundary of the old town. Urbanization then continues south, out along Hwy 4, and along the ridge.
|Map of Whitehall|
The directions I had gotten led me over the last brige across the canal, and out along the mountain road past the final locks. Just around the corner was a combination fancy restuarant, marina, and inn, all owned by the same fellow. He showed me the room, which looked mediocre at best. It was a very old place. Cielings were low and floors and walls uneven. The rooms were at the top of a long flight of stairs, which troubled me on account of the bike. The only saving grace was a good view northward, up the long, narrow arm of Lake Champlain. I was about to take the room, when I casually re-confirmed the price. If it was $39 for one, I expected a small supplement for two. Imagine my surprise when he said it would be twice $39, for $78! I thanked him and left.
|Lodging: Day 3|
It was 15:30 when I reached Sheryl. I could not get a signal on my cell phone, so I had to use the pay phone, a private pay phone with exhorbitant rates. Communication was bad on her end, but I was able to pass her the name of the motel. She was en route, and had just passed Exit 34 on the Northway. (I did not yet know where Exit 34 was, but when I found a map, I saw that it was the exit for Keeseville, just past Plattsburgh. I estimated her arrival in about two hours.
I unloaded a lot of the camping gear from my bike, into the room, and then set out to explore Whitehall. I rode back up Hwy 4 to the junction, stopping on the way to buy a drink and to peek at a map so I could discover where Exit 34 was. I rode down to the locks of the canal and took some pictures, and watched some boats go through. I rode down the Lakeside a bit, to get a photo looking back. I was lucky to catch a photo of a train coming round the bend and into the tunnel that ran under a good part of the old town. Again, it was a CP train, which made me feel somewhat patriotic. I checked out this interesting looking restuarant, and spoke with the waitress about coming back later.
|Boaters on the Champlain Canal|
|Champlain Canal: First Locks: Looking south|
|Lake Champlain: Looking north from Lock 12|
|Champlain Canal: Lock 12 view from further north on Lake|
|The Skene Mansion above Whitehall|
|Skeene Mansion Story|
|A CP train rumbles along the Delaware-Hudson line|
My explorations were done by 17:00 and I was back at the motel. changed into street clothers spread out my wet tent to dry in sun sat a chair facing waiting for Sheryl. She arrived 17:45.>
After our initial greeting and getting things settled, we set off for supper. We returned to the restuarant I had chosen: The Division Street Cafe. It was not as interesting as it had looked in the afternoon, and the friendly waitress I had spoken with was now busy with another party. The food was good, but the plates were of the nouvelle cuisine type: Minimal food. I had roast pork and Sheryl had the clam bake.
We decided to have dessert later. Sheryl figured that a town like that had to have an iced cream stand. We took a short walk along the waterfront. Many of the buildings in Whitehall were very old and interesting. Then we got back into the car, and I took Sheryl for a drive, to show her where all the antique stores were that I had passed. I drove on up towards Fair Haven as far as the top of the hill before turning around. It was a thrill to re-live my descent of a few hours earlier.
We were not successful at finding the iced cream stand, and so settled for a couple of Blizzards at the MacDonald's next to the motel. It was 09:00 by that time, and getting dark.
Sheryl rubbed her healing oil on my aching knees and then we retired.