City rolls out the red carpet

Published Jul 14, 2017 at 12:00pm

Fort Stanwix National Monument hosted nearly 700 bicycling enthusiasts Thursday.

They were part of the Parks and Trails New York’s 19th annual Cycle the Erie Canal Tour.

Rome Chamber of Commerce President Bill Guglielmo said the city welcomed 690 bicyclists and support staff. Most stayed overnight at the fort and others slept indoors at the Rome Elks Club.

Oneida County Tourism rented buses to take bicyclists around the city last evening, and the Rome Police Department provided security. The bicyclists were fed breakfast at the Rome Family YMCA before resuming their ride.

“I had people coming up to me at the YMCA and thanking me, and the city of Rome, for our hospitality,” Guglielmo said.

Riders on the tour will travel 400 miles along the canal. They started in Buffalo last Sunday and will end the ride in Albany this Sunday. They average between 40 and 60 miles a day, and each evening they camp together at a new location.

After biking from 50 miles Syracuse to Rome the group turned the Fort Stanwix grounds into a temporary tent city overnight. After breakfast this morning the group headed out for the next stage of the ride — a 62-mile ride to Canajoharie.

The event has re-united longtime friends Ann Gates and Mary Jane Montgomery. They grew up in Pulaski. Gates now lives in Oswego, and Montgomery has moved to North Carolina. Montgomery said the ride is a great excuse for them to reconnect, and also enjoy Upstate New York.

“I love riding along the Erie Canal. It’s beautiful,” Montgomery said.

“We could only be separated for so long. We’re sisters,” Gates said.

The ride is designed to allow each bicyclist to go at their own pace.“Some people start early, at 5 a.m., and others a little later,” Montgomery said. “The average pace is 14 miles-per-hour, and they make allowances.”

Age is not an issues for the bicyclists. Gates is 63 and Montgomery is 59. “You can bicycle for a long time,” Gates said.

“I think the average age for the ride is 49 years old,” Montgomery said. “We have one girl with us who is eight-years-old.”

Gates usually rides her bike for fun, while Montgomery bikes between 30 and 40 miles with a group three times a week. The Erie Canal ride also provides plenty of chances to exercise along with many opportunities chances to make friends with fellow riders.

“We’d love to make new friends, but right now we’re too dirty and sweaty,” Gates said.

Tents and other supplies are taken along each meeting place in trucks. This allows riders to focus on the ride and not worry about their gear. Montgomery popped open a can of Blue Light as she headed towards the barbecue stand in the parking lot across from the fort. When asked if three in the afternoon was too early for that, she shook her head.

“Not at all. I’m just carb-loading for tomorrow,” she said.