On a chilly October morning, six ambitious rowers set off on a rather unconventional and strenuous Fall Break adventure: biking to Niagara Falls.
The Erie Canal Heritage trail l is a 500-mile trail that runs East to West from Albany to Buffalo. It was created as a means of goods transportation before cars were readily available in New York.
The portion of the trail that these six students biked was 85 miles from UR to Niagara Falls, one way. Round-trip, it reached a total of about 160 miles.
“We planned to leave right after crew practice, having assumed it would be a normal work-out. It wasn’t until we got to practice that we realized we would be doing a 28,000m row—not an ideal ‘warm-up’ for the trip we had in mind,” junior Greg Marshall said.
All six students biked the entire 85 miles up to Niagara Falls in a single day. “It was an adventure that never ended,” junior Vada Coe said.
Marshall suggested that the trip could be broken down into three “stages”: “Beginner’s Enthusiasm,” “Middle-Mile Slump,” and “Final Desperation.”
Spirits were high for the first stage. The students stopped for a few minutes at each town they passed through on the trail to stretch and grab some much-needed food.
“I remember us stopping in Brockport about 17 miles in, thinking that it wasn’t so bad, and that we should be there in the next few hours,” Marshall said. “But the ‘next few hours’ ended up being about eight.”
The Middle-Mile Slump was surprisingly difficult.
“There was a constant little voice in my head telling me to stop and that I was ridiculous for putting myself through this,” sophomore Abe Bonilla said. “I kept going, because I knew that the feeling of accomplishment would be so much greater than the relief I’d feel in giving up.”
“At first we started by counting down the miles we’d traveled at each break,” junior Mattison Flakus said. “But by about half-way through, when people asked ‘How far have we gone?’ the only way to answer was ‘Too far to turn around.’”
The last phase, “Final Desperation,” was undoubtedly the hardest for the students.
“We almost died two different times,” sophomore Abe Bonilla said, referring to the wipeouts three members of their group experienced once the sun had set and the trail became more difficult to see.
“You may be bleeding, but we’re 10 miles from Canada,” junior Rebecca Fuchs said, after the second wipeout.
Coe said darkness came with about 15 miles to go.
“People started falling,” he said, “and it took forever to get into Niagara.”
Once they reached their destination, the students split up into separate Airbnbs and saved the tourist attractions for the morning.
“The next morning we got up and went on the Maid of the Mist to see the falls,” Flakus said. “Only two of us ended up making the bike trip back that day; the other four took a bus from Buffalo.”
When asked whether they would ever make the trip again, responses were mixed.
“I absolutely would,” Marshall said. “It was just a super, awesome, difficult adventure.”
Sophomore Petar Dinev agreed, saying he’d made the trip once before and he’d “gladly do it again.”
Others matched their enthusiasm for the trip, but emphasized the importance of mapping out travel time correctly.
“I would make sure to leave earlier in the day, if I ever went again. It’s important to avoid biking in the dark,” Fuchs said.
They also emphasized the importance of fitness.
“Don’t do it if you’re not ready,” Bonilla said. “Be prepared, be fit, and train before you go.”
“Or just wing it,” Marshall added.