07/31/2013 09:39 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Riding for Tree Research

Today's events on the STIHL Tour des Trees included a dedication of a tree with special meaning -- an American chestnut at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY-ESF). Professor William A. Powell, director of the council on biotechnology in forestry, spoke at length about his team's work to reintroduce the American chestnut to forests across the country. The event was eye-opening for a lot of us. In just one hundred years, the entire fate of a species of tree has changed, and Powell and his team of researchers are working hard to change that.

What was so interesting about this event to me was that National Grid is so committed to sustainability, to the tune of a quarter million dollars to the school for the energy-efficiency measures implemented across the campus, not to mention their support of the TREE Fund. In fact, everyone I've met here on the STIHL Tour des Trees is personally passionate about the environment, and specifically tree research. The ability of these passionate individuals to do their research and inform the public is only possible because of the philanthropy of large corporations.


As far as the ride goes, the police escort through Syracuse was a highlight -- we took over the streets of Syracuse, sirens blaring and stoplights blocked. It was really cool to have that opportunity on a bike, and here's why: most of the time, bikes don't own the road, but today in Syracuse, we did.

Most of the people we passed this week as we cycled from Niagara Falls to Syracuse may have had no idea what we are riding for, but it didn't matter. There was waving, and clapping, and some cheering. It was very welcoming. And to those we have more contact with, we are able to help bring greater awareness to two things: cycling and trees.

The ride started with a full peloton of riders leaving the city of Syracuse, pace lines beginning to establish from the beginning. The riding was fast and fun. Overcome with fatigue, I fell back and rode the rest of the day with Jim Urbanowsky, one of the cyclists from Team Canada. Sarcastic from the get, Jim kept me on my toes and pushed me along. These moments on the Tour teach me about why they call this the "tree family." We shared the road, our stories, and about how nice it is to have a week where the only worry is how bad our backside is going to feel the next day. I've met a new friend each day on this Tour.


A late lunch of quinoa salad and beets, watermelon with cucumbers, and chicken, catered by Wandering Fork on Lake Ontario -- 75 miles into the day -- was like an oasis in the desert. Refueled, we charged the last 15 miles at a cruising pace. The hills of New York, while offering great down hilling, had taken their toll on our legs, and we lazily strolled into Watertown, N.Y.