July 25, 2011
Cyclists taking in the scenes
About 650 riders start weeklong Finger Lakes tour in C’ville
Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
Bart Karwacki arrives from Connecticut for the Bon Ton Roulet Saturday, a weeklong bicycle tour around the Finger Lakes region starting at the J.M. McDonald Sports Complex in Cortlandville.
CORTLANDVILLE — Virginia residents Steve Reiss and Juliellen Sarver like to find a different place every year to ride their bicycles for long distances while looking at scenery and exploring communities along the way.
Reiss, an architect, said he took seven weeks to ride from Los Angeles to Boston a few years ago.
This year, the couple chose the Bon Ton Roulet, the annual bicycle ride sponsored by the Cortland YMCA and Auburn YMCA, which launched Sunday and stretches for 350 miles and seven days through the Finger Lakes.
“We wanted a cool-temperature area in July, in a pretty part of the country, for multiple days,” Reiss said Saturday, laughing because the temperatures in Central New York had approached 100 for the third day. “Every one of our vacations involves biking.”
The ride’s 15th edition brought 650 riders to the area, many of whom camped in tents next to the Cortland County Fairgrounds and Smith Elementary School. Many others stayed in hotels Saturday night.
The riders will cover 50 miles per day, camping in tents they own or have rented. Some are staying in hotels.
YMCA staff and volunteers will meet them each evening in a different town, with their luggage and tents in trucks.
They stayed at Ithaca College on Sunday night, and will be in Watkins Glen tonight, Hammondsport on Tuesday, Geneva for two nights, then Skaneateles for one night before returning to Cortland via Moravia.
Maps provide them each day with their routes, with shorter routes for those who want less of a challenge.
Along the way, they stop for shopping, taking pictures and eating lunch in local eateries. They are visiting wineries along Seneca Lake.
The YMCA staff, through the cost of the event, provides breakfast and dinner, a bike mechanic, masseuses, medics and a large truck containing 12 showers.
The riders arrived Saturday, some with families in tow who were not riding. Some drove but most flew into Syracuse, where volunteers from the Auburn Rotary Club brought them to Cortland.
The riders left between 8 and 8:30 a.m. Sunday, under overcast skies, riding in a steady procession down Homer Avenue to Madison Street, then Route 281 to Route 222 and on toward Groton and Dryden.
Few of the riders were under age 45. There were about 10 pairs riding tandem bikes, and some rode recumbent — reclining backward types.
Sarver, a city planner, and Reiss said they were staying in a motel the first night.
The riders said part of the Bon Ton Roulet’s appeal is the community aspect of meeting other bikers.
Two couples from Tucson who did not know each other ended up pitching tents next to each other under the pine trees between J.M. McDonald Sports Complex and the fairgrounds barn, where cows were being judged in a show.
Don and Shirley Harmon discovered that their neighbors, Joan and Larry Gossman, were from the same Arizona city. Both couples ride about 5,000 to 6,000 miles per year.
“I rode 1,100 miles from Tucson to Salina, Kansas, for my 50th high school reunion a few years ago,” said Larry Gossman.
The Gossmans had driven from Tucson to Cortland, stopping to visit Niagara Falls and ride along the Erie Canal near Rochester. Neither couple had ridden in the Bon Ton Roulet before.
Over in the rows of tents, Jim and Pat Harrington were unpacking on an inflated mattress and Jim was reading, while they relaxed in the midday heat. In the tent next to theirs, their friend Dave Crossland waited for his wife, Sue, to return from an airport trip to get luggage left behind during a missed flight connection.
She finally arrived, saying that storms around Chicago had caused some riders to miss flights and fly into Buffalo’s airport. She said some riders would not arrive until Sunday, joining the tour after the first day of riding.
The two couples live in Seattle, met through skiing, and ride together every year. They biked together in Croatia last fall and have ridden in Italy, France and Spain.
Jim Harrington is a retired airline pilot. Sue Crossland is a hospital pharmacist and Dave Crossland is an industrial appeals judge.
Jim Harrington said he began riding 40 years ago, and his wife started 25 years ago. The Crosslands said they took their first trip in the early 1980s and took a multiday trip in Vermont in the fall of 1990, starting their love of riding.
YMCA Executive Director Don Kline said the Bon Ton Roulet began as a way to promote fitness and the sport of bicycle riding, as well as the Finger Lakes region. Former director Al Hastings started the event with about 200 riders the first year, a figure that has steadily grown.
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