Yet again the Sunday forecast was for rain during parts of the day. Like other potentially rainy Sundays recently, Mary Ann planned to do the route on Saturday instead (I would love to hear how that ride went, if people did go). Since there were others that were unable to ride a different day, at least 5 of us kept to the original schedule. Dany and Rene left on bikes from downtown around 7am, and I left from the west hill at 7:15am. Shortly before 9am we converged at the marina in Watkins Glen with Stuart and Chris who arrived by car. Another couple from Durango, CO stopped by on their way to Maine, but decided not to join in after hearing some forecast predictions. With light rain on us, we left at 8:58am, not looking to wait any longer to get warmed up leaving Watkins Glen.
Last year, Stuart took us on an unadvertised route which apparently follows along the infamous Five Lakes and a Steak route, and we took a very similar route this year as well. After weaving around Lamoka Lake and seeing Waneta Lake, we continued to Hammondsport going fairly slow on a usually thrilling decent. The rain had stopped after maybe less than an hour, but the roads were still wet so we took turns and descents cautiously. We grabbed quick snacks and the convenience store, and went to down to the lake where things were more pleasant. Leaving Hammondsport there are three options: the FLCC route on W Lake Rd (closest to Keuka Lake), last years route on Cty Rt 76 climbing up the hill, and the route we took this year going up and up some more past Bully Hill Vineyards. It’s apparently a 23% incline, which follows one of the Highlander routes, but has one of the best views of the Finger Lakes. Just past the vineyard is the viewpoint where even on this cloudy day we could clearly see both branches and the bluff of Keuka Lake.
We stayed a bit above the lake until Branchport, with a long descent into town and a quick stop for Chris to refuel on chocolate milk (supposedly a better drink than fancy endurance drinks according to a recent article). As we passed through Keuka Lake State Park, we came across several (Mennonite?) young men wearing very similar clothes: jeans, tucked in shirts, and white suspenders. We passed a much larger group with similar bikes and clothes playing baseball in a field in the rain. They must all use bikes, because next to the field was a pile of about 50 bikes. It’s great to know fun can be had even in the rain, as opposed to most American teenagers that would likely be playing video games today instead.
It was around this point last year shortly before Penn Yan that I started to have a hard time keeping up. With less than 80 miles into the ride, my legs were getting tired and I was running out of energy but somehow managed to stay with the group for the rest of the day. This year I felt much better, except for a tired neck despite trying to stay off the aerobars. Stuart suggested some neck exercises and a lighter helmet, if I want to keep pushing my limits with how far I’m riding. With the group’s final stop of the day in Penn Yan, we refueled at an intersection with food options on each corner. After the Cayuga ride with little services, it was a good change to have many potential places to stop on this ride. Just as we were ready to roll again, the rain started up.
On the way to Watkins Glen, Rene’s knee was causing trouble, and he decided not to ride back to Ithaca, and instead get a ride from Chris. We stayed on Rt 14 to take the easiest route home instead of trying the side roads we aimed for last year but missed due to confusion at the intersections. As soon as we were back at the marina, the sun came out (of course). Three headed back by car, and Dany and I headed for the Catherine Valley Trail. The trail is flat, but the hill it lead us to was not much better than Rt 7 as it ends at the same elevation with about the same distance to climb that in. We turned onto a chipseal road that I don’t remember, but eventually got to the smooth pavement around Cayuta Lake. We turned onto Rt 79 and Dany headed downtown while I headed more north to get home on the west hill, and see the 6th lake: Cayuga.