Chautauqua Lake

CHAUTAUQUA LAKE, NEW YORK

Even as I drove with my with daughter, Ashley, to Lily Dale, New York, I wasn’t sure where I would ride. Part of me wanted to ride around Chautauqua Lake. Part of me wanted to ride back to Erie, Pa. All I knew was she was visiting Lily Dale and I was going for a bike ride.

I designed and uploaded a route to my GPS that would take me down the east side of the lake, cross at Bemus Point, then head straight to Erie. The distance was around 100 km (62 miles).

Lily Dale sits on the three small Cassadaga Lakes. It was a very pleasant morning, around 70 degrees and sunny. There was a bit of a hill getting out of there – one mile at 10-11% – but once up and over it I rolled on towards Chautauqua Lake.

Stockton, New York

Reaching the main highway at the lake I went down the east side, disappointed that there weren’t better views of the water. I expected a road where I could see the lake the entire time and much of it was too far away behind forests to see the lake.

Bemus Point, New York

I reached Bemus Point, a beautiful small village with a ferry that crosses the lake. I rolled up on my bike. I was the only one there but could see the ferry at the other side of the lake. I waited. I thought I could see it was getting closer. It wasn’t.

Operates Friday, Saturday, Sunday

A couple docked their boat and came ashore. I asked if the ferry was getting closer and he said it only runs Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Say what? Secretly hopeful he would offer to take my bike and me across I said it looks like I have to ride around the lake. He agreed stating “you look like you can do it.”

Operating since 1811 – just not on Mondays

I headed off south not knowing where I was going – navigating by feel staying close to the lake. My best option wasn’t an option. Just south of Bemus Point is a bridge across the lake on I-86. A road sign stated “Erie 35.” My mileage was right. I had ridden 24 miles, and if I could cross there I would be to Erie around mile 60. But I had much farther to ride because I could not cross the middle of the lake.

At Jamestown I made the turn and discovered a statue to Jamestown’s native daughter of comedy, Lucille Ball. That made the trip worthwhile.

When I came to Busti, I stopped at a gas station. I saw a man and asked him if he was local. He said he was. I asked how far it was to the Chautauqua Institute and he told me 20 miles. The road sign for Mayville said 14 miles.

Appropriate name for a church in western NY
Panama, New York

I asked if Chautauqua was before Mayville and he said it was. I then said the sign says Mayville 14. He paused and said, “I still say it’s 20 miles.” Sigh.

Another man asked “do you want to ride to Erie?” and was surprised when I told him I did. He told me to take the road I was looking at, Rte 474, and head west. Said it goes right to Erie. Unfortunately, I believed him.

The road was lumpier than I thought

My designed route was north – I was to pick it up at  Chautauqua Institute, but this seemed better. I headed west to Panama and then to Clymer. Just outside of Clymer I saw a road sign “Erie 30.” I had ridden 40 miles since I saw the one for Erie at 35 miles. Forty miles and I was five miles closer!

Ashley was on her way back from Lily Dale and asked where I was. “Not a whole lot closer” I told her. The main road from Wattsburg to Erie is Pa. Rte 8 – a busy two-lane road with no shoulders. I didn’t want any part of that.  I told her to meet me in Wattsburg. I continued on and we met at the Wattsburg-Erie County Fairgrounds.

NY-PA border between Clymer, NY and Wattsburg PA

I went farther than if I had just designed a route to get me to Erie. I wanted to see the lake which I did. Throw in some westerly head winds and some hills that I wasn’t expecting, it was a harder ride than I expected. I only wish the ferry had been running but then I wouldn’t have found the Lucy statue, which was pretty neat.

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