On the Road: Uphill both ways
September 21, 2005
Ever been on a ride that was uphill all the way, even when you finished where you started?A 31-mile loop through the rolling hills of upstate New York felt that way last week. The trip started a few miles outside the historic town of Ticonderoga on the shores of Lake George. The first two miles are all uphill, as the lake shore is well below the town center.From Ticonderoga, home to a historic fort and a pencil factory that both bear the town’s name, my ride took me up the shoreline of Lake Champlain along the narrowly shouldered Highway 9. When I say narrowly shouldered, what I really mean is there was no shoulder. Luckily, none of the giant trucks carrying logs toward the mill took me out. The Ti-to-Crown Point leg of the trip was about 10 miles. It seemed flat, but I’m fairly sure in retrospect that it went uphill. Except for the trucks barreling by, however, it could even be classified as “pleasant.”My goal was to reach Ironville, another historic New York town, where electricity was first harnessed in an industrial capacity, sometime in the early 1800s, by an enterprising blacksmith. The ride out of Crown Point started with promise, down a long hill. But things soon changed, as the road, a quiet, two-lane strip through sparsely populated forests, began what turned into a 12- or 13-mile climb.But even if it was up all the way, the road really did roll its way to Ironville – sometimes climbing steeply, other times hardly at all. The town itself had but a handful of buildings – a museum, a few homes, a barn or two – from the early 18th century. I sat in a green wicker rocking chair on the porch of the museum and rested in the fall air for 20 minutes. Exactly two cars went by. Then I got on my bike and rode on a four-mile stretch that seemed flat but was actually not flat at all. It climbed just enough to keep me in low gear. (Yes, I’m sure my legs had nothing to do with it.)Then I came out at Highway 74, a three-lane affair that is the main route from the interstate to Ticonderoga. Fortunately, it has a shoulder. But the first two and a half miles are uphill, of course, until the road finally crests the mountains overlooking Ti and begins a long, two- or three-mile descent into town. If I’d had any idea about the road, it could have been a fun ride down, dodging potholes and trucks. But I didn’t, and I exercised a bit of restraint.Then it was back to the cabin on the lake, three miles or so. Uphill all the way, as I remember.