ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Over 300 riders from 34 states crossed the finish line at the Corning Preserve Boat Launch Sunday morning, completing their 400-mile Cycle the Erie Canal Tour.
“You meet really interesting people over the course of six or seven days, traveling 400 miles, and their stories are unbelievable,” said Albany resident B.J. Costello.
The journey included stops in numerous cities and towns along the Erie Canalway Trail, and included a diversion off the trail so riders could visit Seneca Falls.
Some, like Costello, stayed close to home to participate, “This gives you a whole sense of history because all of the small towns along the canal welcome us, they’re energized by this, they’ve had economic recoveries because of the canal, it’s a powerful, powerful message, the canal,” he explained.
While others, traveled a long way to experience the Empire State, including a pair from Missouri.
“We’ve done a couple other rides together and he’s done a lot more rides than I have, and we asked people, what ride should we do next? And just everyone has told us, you must do the Erie Canal,” Lowell Pilliard said.
A husband and wife from Alaska, “Just to see New York, to ride New York, experience New York. New York’s a beautiful state, extremely impressed with your state,” said Anchorage resident Bob Donaldson.
And even a solo rider from Israel, “This is my birthday present for myself. Looked for something interesting, challenging, found the Erie Canal. Decided, hey, you’re 50 only one time in your lifetime and here I am,” Yaron Hedvat said.
The ride giving some out-of-state riders a unique opportunity to see New York State for the very first time.
“It was not what I expected honestly, I just really enjoyed it,” Pilliard said.
“First time I saw Niagara Falls. Oh boy, that was breathtaking, that was absolutely divine,” Helida Donaldson, Bob’s wife, explained.
The hundreds of riders raising money for Parks & Trails New York, a non-profit organization that advocates for the promotion and protection of parks, trails and open spaces across the state.
Organizers say the ride offers cyclists an interesting way to see all aspects of New York, while also taking in, firsthand, what Parks & Trails is trying to promote and protect.
“They’re on the trail but we encourage them to get off the trail at any of these small towns, go see some of the museums and the sights along the way,” said Assistant Ride Director Jonathan Duda.
Duda says the organization is hoping to host the ride at full capacity next year, after halving the cap on participants this year because of the pandemic.