When planning began for my “Tuesday’s on the trail” adventure I set a few goals. First – to start in early March providing time to ride into the north country prior to April 1st and the opening of fishing season. Second – to ride at least as far as Hopewell Junction by the middle of March, because I loved the idea of Hopewell (a simple point of focus, to hope well), and third – just to stick it ’til Keeseville and finish the ride before Estia kicks into high gear in early May. The Rickie Lee Jones song “Coolsville” ran through my mind over and over again. I was just switching out the first 4 letters. Rickie Lee’s lyrics are “stick it into Coolsville” my goal was to stick it in, ’til Keeseville. The song helped sometimes when I was alone riding the tougher parts of the trail, especially on 9N.
I made it to Keeseville just in time. On the last Wednesday in April Jimmy dropped me off at the Keeseville Trailhead. It was a clear morning, high clouds. The weatherman was threatening rain, my focus was on riding at least 30 miles before the storm would set in. I set out on the trail at 9:00am riding up 9N, over a river and through a cluster of hotels and houses on the outskirts of town. Confident that mountainous terrain was behind me I was focused on making good time and beating the rain, the EST website estimates the Keeseville to Rouses Point ride to be 40 miles. I knew that would be a stretch for me with rain setting in at 2pm.
After about a mile and a half the first distraction came into view, a big sign “Ausable Chasm”, it wasn’t the sign that distracted me, it was the chasm. Riding over a bridge toward the sign I had to stop and look in amazement at a waterfall bigger and more impressive than any I’d seen on the trail. Worthy of a longer look, I still stood in awe for at least 15 minutes.
The next 10 miles seemed to fly past, not much resistance, light traffic, no hills to speak of and plenty of room on the shoulder. In high gear most of the time I rolled into Plattsburgh on schedule at 10:45am. At the edge of Plattsburgh I noticed a small Hot dog stand on the east side of the road with a big sign “Texas Red Hots”. An old car hoop setup, it was already crowded. With no time to lose I kept peddling and took a right after a small bridge on the edge of town and then a left onto the last of the EST dedicated bike paths. Yet another perfect surface for locals to walk dogs and children in carriages. The trail runs at the edge of the lake for about 2 miles, then it tracks back into the central building district.
Plattsburgh is a college town among other things and this Wednesday morning in April it was refreshing to see young people all over Main Street, riding skateboards and drinking coffee at “Chapter One”, a popular coffee bar just before a bridge heading out of town. The Ticonderoga monument stands tall overlooking the river so tall, I had to stand back at a distance to shoot a photo.
After Valcour, I kept riding until 1:40pm when heavy clouds started to roll in. Jimmy and I agreed that if we were going to make it back down to the Little Ausable to fish with Sean by 3:30 I better trim the ride down a bit so I threw my bike in his truck and we drove about 6 miles up the trail to an intersection where a sign read Rouses Point – 6 miles.
Riding on to the end of the trail from that point was a joy, no hills, not many cars, the road was mine. I came into Rouses Point full of pride having accomplished a ridiculous goal that I set for myself on a slow day at Estia’s Little Kitchen 3 months earlier and just then it started to rain. I’d never been on a bike trip in my life, and in that moment the realization that adventures come in all shapes and sizes and can improve my life came clear. Thrilled that I’d managed a full Empire State Trail ride without rain until the very end. Then the drops came when it was welcome, just before a fishing expedition targeting Northern pike, a fish likely to be on the prowl during a storm.
My prize, another afternoon on the water with Sean Platt. On our way down Jimmy and I stopped at Claire & Carl’s the Texas Red Hot stand that I’d seen a few hours earlier, south of Plattsburgh, still not sure why they would feature Michigan dogs at a Texas Red Hot stand in Upstate New York but no matter, the lot was packed, 12 cars waiting for hot dogs at 3:15 on a grey and rainy Wednesday afternoon.
The Michigan dogs were on point, French fries crisp & hot, “no coke, Pepsi”.