Last weekend, I competed a 100-mile cycling trip along the Erie Canal in Western New York. My husband and I, and three other couples, began in Tonawanda near Buffalo and headed east, ending a bit past Rochester. The off-road Canalway Trail follows alongside the canal, and there are quaint villages and impressive locks, bridges, and other canal structures to see along the way.
I made a small accordion-fold journal (4.5″ x 4″) that tucked into my bike bag so that I could record highlights of the journey. The long, horizontal format of the journal lends itself well to capturing a sense of the linear trail. Unfortunately, that format is not so good for showing here, so I separated the pages to give you a better view. (Click to view larger.)
Tips and Techniques– Truth be told, I find it very difficult to make time for sketching with a lot of miles to cover. I tend to make a few notes as I go, and sketch at the end of each day, using photos to fill in the gaps. The end result is a bit of a jumble, but it’s fun to look back later and see some of the small things that photos can’t capture. If you are traveling, try not to worry about making perfectly beautiful pages or filling a big sketchbook. A few small sketches and notes might be just enough to bring back your most memorable experiences.
It’s tough to keep up a sketchbook when traveling by bicycle! But here’s the result of my recent 400 mile, 8-day cycling trip along the Erie Canal in New York State. (You can click on the image to enlarge it a bit.) Because I needed to cover 50 to 60 miles a day, I found it impossible to sketch until the riding was done. No matter how tired, I made a point of extending the schematic map eastward each evening, filling in some of the day’s adventures in words or pictures.
Packing light was essential! I brought a black Micron 02 pen, a small watercolor kit, water brush, and 5”x8” Moleskin watercolor sketchbook packed in a ziplock bag. The birds and bicycles page (below)– a record of all the birds I’ve seen while cycling– was completed back at home.
I’ve been cycling a lot lately and wanted to map some of my routes and record mileage for various rides. I love making maps—but this one made me realize how many decisions go into making them and how many possibilities there are for variation. Deciding what to include and what to leave out; what color scheme to use; how to design elements like a legend, compass rose, and border; what kind of lines for roads; and how to mark special places is part of the fun.
I toyed with painting each segment of this map in bright colors, but decided to put the color into the cycling routes themselves, since that’s what I wanted to emphasize. I chose my handlebars for the compass rose—though I considered alternative designs with bike wheels. The crow is there in part for interest and in part because there is a steep escarpment (that I don’t ride up) where the crow is flying that attracts soaring hawks, crows, and vultures. This map is too small to add scenery details, though I’m inspired to try a larger map that includes some of the countryside vistas that make these rides so nice.