Written by Max Kraft:
Sunday morning broke wet and cool in Lansing. I checked the weather before I left the house, but knew that I’d get wet even before I saw the forecast for a 60% chance of rain. It was bad to the North and South, but scattered in the middle and set to clear by 1, so it looked like a great day to ride, and what a great day it was! It looked to me like there were at least 25 – 30+ people, though, and many new faces.
The first group headed out at 9:15am, and it started to rain before we left Watkins Glen. But we decided not to put on rain jackets since we would just create internal rain (read: sweat) on the long uphill climb required to get anywhere far from the start. — There were 11 of us at this point. It was a long climb out of the Glen, so the cool weather and light rain were not unwelcome. Not too long after the climb, though, the rain really picked up, so a bunch of us stopped to put on our rain jackets, regrouping a little further along the road.
Just to make clear what I can, our group did end up being comprised of the what people have referred to as the “fast group.” However, there was nothing rushed or race like about group today. Rather, the ride was relaxed and steady, marked by numerous stops and overall one of the most enjoyable group rides that I have gone on in this area! Stewart did a great job making sure we knew where we could stop for rest-rooms and food, led us along a beautiful road through a state park and hugging the lake instead of continuing on the route from the cue sheet online.
We arrived at a beautiful rest stop at the South end of Keuka Lake, where there were some nice bathrooms in an old station next to the water. After a leisurely stop, it was a long climb back out of the valley and up onto the ridge. This is where the endless beauty of the finger lakes area never ceases to inspire me. For the rest of the day we rode past verdant vineyards loaded with grapes with continual lake views, not to mention trees loaded with apples and peaches, pastures with horses, alpacas and cows and immaculate Amish and Mennonite farms, along with horses and buggies. Add to that a tail wind and really good company, making the ride even more enjoyable!
Eventually we descended with great speed into the town of Branchport, located on the left tip of the Y chromosome that is Keuka Lake. There, we stopped at a diner-type place were we ordered food and took a break.
Here, Stewart deserves credit for the best off-route modification yet. He led us through Keuka State Park and onto a road that hugged the lake shore, which felt like summer camp, what with the summer houses, close trees, low speed limit and general lack of traffic. It also led us to the most wonderful of apple trees! After going along nice and flat for a long while, there was a long, deceptively steep climb. After cranking to the top, though, and as we waited to re-group, I found an apple tree on the side of the road. After jumping theatrically to get a few, I decided to climb it. The apples were perfect, and in a scrubby woods near the road with no homes, so after throwing down a bunch to everyone, I filled my trunk pack with 10 apples to take home, which inspired people to ask what I planned to do with them, to which I responded enthusiastically, apple pie!!!
I realize now that I am in the makings of writing a book, so lets just say the rest of the day went well, and despite two more flats (one for Stewart, another for Vanessa) we all made it back to Watkins Glen. Another noteworthy, in Penn Yan we passed the world’s largest pancake griddle, hanging on the side of an old mill. At 28 feet in diameter, it was used in 1987 to make the world’s largest pancake!
All said and done, we covered ~101 miles with an average speed of 15-16 mph, arriving back in Watkins Glen around 5:30pm and having spent around 6.5 hours in the saddle, so there was plenty of time spent stopped, eating food, enjoying the views, catching up and picking apples! Andy and Dany rode back to Ithaca, ending up with nearly 150 miles for the day.