When I started planning for this Hudson River Ride my intention was to stay as close to the river as possible, ride from Manhattan to Canada, spend time with friends, and order from as many creative menus as I could find. Today checked every box on the list, even though the original itinerary didn’t include a view of the Hudson.
Up early with the goal to start my ride out of the parking lot on Rt. 117, packing the truck exposed a flaw. When my right hand squeezed the bike’s back tire something didn’t feel right. On closer inspection, it became apparent that I had a flat.
Knowing this would happen at some point (I think the tire picked up a piece of glass yesterday on Rt. 9). I’ve packed an extra tube and all the gear to change a flat, but have yet to do it myself. Especially concerned that it was the rear wheel with gears and brake pads that I haven’t messed with, I quickly decided to find an expert.
A quick google search indicated that a bike shop in Congers, NY, 15 minutes away would open in an hour. A few minutes later I was on the new Mario Cuomo bridge heading for the Congers Bike Shop. Not only did they repair my flat, but the mechanic in charge was also nice enough to give me a lesson in emergency repair and he had me out the door in 15 minutes.
Plenty of room in the parking lot at the trail’s edge, in motion on the bike by 10:30 and as soon as I cleared the tunnel under 117 I hit my first snowdrift, in the shadows, it was about 2 feet deep.
Snow in the shadows was the theme for this Tuesday on the trail. On again off again, I’d ride for a stretch on a dry trail, turn a corner, and hit a 200-300 yard stretch of snow. Sometimes pedaling through it, sometimes not. Staying with the pedal hard and staying with the plan can be exhausting but it pays off.
Noteworthy points for this ride include tune-up stations at New Castle and Yorktown Heights.
Having just learned to fix a flat I realize how valuable these facilities can be for a rider with a disabled bicycle. The stations stand about 5 feet tall with a clamp at the top and compressed air emerging from the ground. The station at Yorktown Heights shares a site with a memorial to American war heroes, it’s a spot worthy of a stop regardless of your bike’s condition.
Somewhere along the trail after New Castle, there’s a long stretch contiguous to a reservoir.
I pulled over to admire a chute, water spilling over rock, flowing into the reservoir, snowmelt runoff in full swing. I turned and watched 2 swans paddling in the free water, then watched as they climbed onto the ice and waddled away from the strange man on the shore, me.
As the village of Yorktown Heights emerged, the first thing that caught my eye, on the left was the Trailside cafe. For a second I was all in, a quick stop to grab a coffee or a cookie and check out their menu but then I looked up and saw the man of the hour riding up to me, Charles Whittingham my old boss, my best man, my riding partner for the rest of the day.
Charles had parked in Mahopac and taken the trail south, he’d hit the same kind of snow I’d ridden through. Together we agreed that since Charles was familiar with the roads back to the car we decided to set out for rt. 118 and make the 10 miles ride off-trail. We’d both had enough of slip-sliding away.
It is becoming obvious to me that this thing I’m calling the Hudson River Ride is going to take new directions at every turn. It’ll surprise me with nature, challenge me with snow, expose me to twists and turns and nurture me with friendship.
The planning part is exciting, plotting out the course, inviting people to join me, determining how to shuttle vehicles or make public transportation serve the adventure, finding special dining spots, all thrilling parts of the adventure, and after 3 days on the trail it’s working out as planned with remarkable surprises.
Driving south from Mahopac we had a chance to continue the conversation that started on the Empire State Trail. Taken by the perfect day, rolling through Croton Falls and onto Purdys and a fine restaurant called Farmer & The Fish, I felt a peace that’s been missing from my life for a year, the covid year. It’s good to make time for me, to schedule it with a challenge and a reward. On this fine day, Farmer & The Fish was a fine reward, we shared oysters, fresh bread with Greek yogurt and arugula pesto, clam chowder, and a freshly harvested greenhouse salad as if I’d written the script, act 3 of my spring play for 2021 was a wrap.