Long Trip to Corner Country

This morning I took a long ride out into the country for the express purpose of finding out how far I could go before my battery gave out. And the answer is: it depends on which way the wind is blowing. I headed towards Ovid, which is 26 miles from my hometown of Ithaca. My strategy was to bring two batteries, and to head back when the first battery ran out. I found I could easily maintain 20 mph. I got to Perry City Road (9 miles) in half an hour. I made it to Trumansburg (12 miles) in 45 minutes. And Interlaken passed under my wheels in an hour. I made it to Ovid in an hour and a half. This very much exceeded my expectations and I was in high spirits until I happened to glance at a flag and saw that I had had a significant tailwind. Getting back home was a struggle. The first battery gave out after 30 miles. The second battery started to go after heading into the wind for only 15 miles. I managed to make the last few scraps of electricity last another 10 miles. The theoretical power limit of my battery is 360 watt-hours. When I finally made it home the battery had given me 385 watt-hours.

The landscape beyond Ithaca is pretty bleak. Those of us who grew up in big cities tend to equate poverty with the inner-city and wealth with the country. This however is poor country. The small towns encircling Ithaca look like they were once thriving little spots. What happened to them? Here I must (predictably I’m afraid) blame the automobile. What were things like here before cars? Here’s a possible clue: the roads in this area form a very precise grid with each cell one mile to a side. Towns sprang up at the crossroads: Hayt Corners, Marsh Corner, Applegate Corner, Whipple Corner, Bostwick Corner, Trumbull Corners and even Cat Elbow Corner. Why did they choose a mile? My theory is that this was a convenient distance for people to walk. Once people could drive, however, they skipped over these small towns to go experience the big-time entertainment in Ithaca. Maybe when the automobile infrastructure topples we’ll see these small towns in corner country come back to life.

(A friend has since told me that the spacing of the roads has to do with the size of the Revolutionary War Bounty Land Grants given to veterans here.)