Two candidates for Bethlehem supervisor swapped the campaign trail for the bike trail, as both found themselves traveling the path of the Erie Canal last week.
Democratic Supervisor John Clarkson and Republican hopeful Fred DiMaggio each participated in the Cycling the Erie Canal Bike Tour with their wives. The entire trip is 400 miles and follows the canal from Buffalo to Albany.
Clarkson said this trip was the third time he’s done the bike tour. He did the trip two other times with each of his sons. This year his youngest son, David, went along for a second tour along with Clarkson’s wife, Connie, and one of her fellow teachers from Slingerlands Elementary School.
“That first trip in 2009 was really what got me into bike trips as a vacation idea,” said Clarkson, who has always liked biking but started to take it more seriously after that trip. Last year, the Clarksons did the Bon Ton Roulet through the Finger Lakes region.
Clarkson said part of the reason his wife took the trip this year is because she will be teaching fourth grade, which includes a lesson on the Erie Canal. Not only was the trip good exercise, but it allowed her to brush up on interesting facts for her lesson. Throughout the tour, organizers plan stops at museums other historical sites.
DiMaggio said this year was the second Erie Canal bike tour for him and his wife, Shelia.
The couple worked as volunteers last year and this year, so they biked a modified version of the tour every other day. They biked a total of 190 miles, and on opposite days worked to ensure the safety of other riders and provide transportation to those who might need help.
Bikers cycled along the Canalway Trail over eight days, stopping each night in towns along the way. About 500 people participated, hailing from 48 states and four different countries.
Many camped, while other stay in motels or with friends and family. Dinner and nighttime entertainment is provided by organizers, but many use their free time to explore the locales. Clarkson said he and his son biked a side trip to Rochester.
The registration fee for the tour raises funds for Parks and Trails New York.
“It’s really a great bonding experience,” said Clarkson of the time spent with his family. He also remarked how the trip is never boring because of the beautiful scenery.
DiMaggio said the trip is a time to catch up with friends the couple made last year. They also stopped to visit at night with family that live nearby.
Clarkson and DiMaggio both found it amusing that their opponent had signed up for the trip in the same year.
“We said ‘hi’ to each other, but there wasn’t a whole lot of time for conversation given the circumstances,” said DiMaggio, also remarking on how the trip served as a vacation.
DiMaggio said others on the trip and along the way also found it funny both candidates were doing the bike tour at the same time, including the mayor of Newark and a local newspaper in Herkimer.
“It was something interesting that people got a chuckle over,” DiMaggio said.
Both groups are now home in Bethlehem. Clarkson said he plans on doing the trip again, while DiMaggio said he and his wife plan to look for another biking trip to take, possibly in another state.
“It’s just a fun outdoor vacation activity,” said Clarkson. “I also like the mission of Parks and Trails.”
To learn more about the tour, visit the Parks and Trails New York website at ptny.org.