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The Shaman & The General of Herkimer Co.

In the morning I awoke. It was raining heavily upon the tent. I was dry. I had pains related to every part of my body. I held off from taking Advil. I decided to rest into the morning, as progress in the rain was out of the question.

Campsite at Lock 15 of the Lake Erie Canal, on the Mohawk River near Fort Plain, New York. / Photo: Todd Tracy / May 18, 2020.

When I did, finally emerge from the tent at about 10am, I found that I was at Lock 15 along the Lake Erie Canal.

There was an old man with a long grey beard sitting on top of a picnic table about 50 feet away. I waved at him and he waved back. He was obviously quite at home sitting there.

This was the fourth day of my journey. I was satisfied to be at an official biker’s campsite, and I felt a degree of safety from any unknown issues that might jump out and try to stop my progress.

As it turned out, the old man (Paul) was super-cool. He told me all about the campsite and how the locks were actually closed because of the pandemic. Normally there would be 10s of tents scattered about with children and families enjoying the place. He explained that no one else was there and that the police knew of my existence because they patrol every hour but that they could see that obviously I was a bicyclist and they would not bother me. He was pretty sure I could probably stay as long as I wanted. He showed me the location of the freshwater spigot and also the electrical outlet so-as-to charge-up my phone. I decided that this was the perfect place to rest until very early the next morning.

Paul told me many stories about the area along the Mohawk River and the German Flats. He described how he likes to sit on top of a nearby mountain, thinking. He gave me advice about what I would run into further up the trail. He had seen many things in his lifetime. His calmness had an impact on me and I felt at ease. He asked me many questions about my journey.


I woke up at 5am the next morning, my 5th day out. It was cold and foggy. I packed-up and set out to continue on the canal bike path.

I was feeling rested and stronger. I was approximately 250 miles from Niagara Falls, my first goal. I was invigorated. The world appeared surreal. I felt far away from the raging pandemic. My future was unknown. I was breaking away, to borrow a phrase, from everything that I knew. I had confidence in my ability to ride and make progress but every turn in the road was new to me, so my guard was up psychologically.

The obelisk dedicated to General Herkimer along the Mohawk River in Herkimer, New York. Photo: Todd Tracy/ May 19, 2020

Sunshine began to break out all over the place. The day came on. The chill evaporated with the fog. The path was smooth and I followed along the river until I came to the house of General Nicholas Herkimer. The first thing I saw was an obelisk about 50 feet tall. It was impressive, more so, being out in the middle of nowhere, as I felt that I was. There was a nicely built brick house that today serves as a museum to the man. Learning what I could quickly about the Revolutionary War general, I pressed on and soon I found the path ended and I was ejected onto a road.

I crossed a bridge into the town of Little Falls. The town or city was built into the surrounding hills and it reminded me of an Italian village in the Alps. I had breakfast at McDonald’s and then moved on, sorry to leave the beautiful Little Falls behind. It was the kind of town I could see myself living in, should I ever decide to settle down.

The house of General Nicholas Herkimer along the Mohawk River in Herkimer, New York. Photo: Todd Tracy / May 19, 2020