Monday, August 28, 2023

Cycle the Hudson Valley with PTNY 2023

The storm blew in about the time we finished setting up the tent on the football field at Hudson Valley Community College in Troy NY. We headed to the cafeteria for our first-night dinner and watched the wind whip the rain into the windows. This did not feel like a good way to start a week-long ride through an area recently battered by rain and floods.

Back in January, shortly after we'd signed up for the Cycle the Erie Canal ride, we received an announcement that Parks and Trails New York was going to offer their inaugural  "Cycle the Hudson Valley" tour. We'd have completed two tours already this summer, and who wants to be the test subject on first attempt anyway. But Tricia said, "Hudson Valley? Sign us up!" So we sent in our money.  After all, the PTNY had experience with running big rides, and it was the Hudson Valley, home of so much US History and birthplace of the Hudson River School of art. This ride would also be another leg of the Empire State Trail, meaning we'll have ridden from Buffalo to New York City this summer.

When we finished our dinner the storm had passed. Not only was the rain over, but there was a wonderful double rainbow greeting us as we headed for our tent. 

There weren't as many people on this ride as there were on the Erie Canal ride, which was nice. But we still made an impressive tent city. Tricia and I took our own tent, but many riders used the  "Comfy Campers" service who set up and tear down a tent for you each day.  

Though there had been rain forecast for the first riding day, we only had beautiful blue skies on our first riding day from Troy to Kinderhook. The ride was great even with a long climb near the end of the day and a section where we had to go downhill to a roundabout only to ride back up the other side.

It was amazing how much of our ride was on extremely well maintained, smooth and delightful trails. PTNY made it even easier by marking our turns.

We passed by the home of Elsie the Cow. I know this because the farm had erected a sign along the trail letting us know. 
Stuyvesant Falls, one of the many water features on our ride I asked Tricia to stand in front of. 

We took a shuttle bus for dinner on our own in the town of Cats. OK, really it's the town of Catskill, but they had numerous cats painted by local artists decorating their streets, and a little creative cropping made for a funny photo to send to our cat loving friend.

We stopped at Left Bank Ciders for a sampler of their cider and were blown away. Theirs was nothing like the sweet Angry Orchard swill you might think of when you think apple cider. This cider, made with numerous kinds of foraged apples is clearly a work of love. Every sample was a magical taste journey. We even got a quick tour of the brewing area from our friendly wait person,along with an explanation of the cider makers philosophy.  
Day two of riding took us through Germantown, past more water and ponds. 
We had to ride down to, and climb out of, our rest stop at Claremont Historical Site. But it was worth it. I make still photos and often forget my phone and cameras can shoot video. Tricia often shoots panoramic videos that capture the vast feel of where we are better than my stills. 

Though a majority of our ride was on paved trails, there was a little crushed stone that made a nice surface. Our ride through the woods was fun, until we came upon a surprise ultra-steep hill. We survived, but I feared I'd have to put a foot down for a moment.
Suddenly, after our climb we were on the Bard College campus, admiring their Frank Gehry designed performing arts building. 
We always play "Should we get buy this house?" on rides. This one in Rhinebeck was for sale and I said "Yes." But instead we ended up just stopping for ice cream.
After a weird climb over a long bridge we ended up in Kingston, camping right on the shore of the Hudson at Hutton Brickyards, a beautiful event center.
We love our cozy little tent. I'm pretty sure it's waterproof, flood proof, burglar proof and bear proof, so what's not to love? Though getting dressed and packing in the morning can be a challenge, thanks to a friend I now have an entirely different outlook on the process. She calls it "tent yoga." I have embraced the concept and now find the efforts I previously found awkward to be a spiritual and uplifting experience. At least that's what I tell myself as I'm pulling on my cycling bibs.
The view from our tent in the morning, made even nicer because on our layover day we got to sleep in until 6:30. We biked downtown for coffee. Kingston has bike infrastructure in place, but we felt it relied too much on driver competency to be really comfortable.
We met an old CA friend and her sisters at her brother's brewery for a fun night of Trivia. 

After a layover day in Kingston we rode to Poughkeepsie. What a great name. I'd thought it was just a fake made up name , like Schenectady, or Kalamazoo. Our route took us along miles of crushed stone through green forests. Our rest stop was a at farm where we feasted on fresh berries and a quiche made with eggs from their farm.
The bridge in Rosendale was a selfie hot spot for the riders. I don't know who this is, but I love the photo.
The trip's hard working photographer David Kraus was a journalist in California in a neighboring city where I also worked in the newspaper industry.
After riding through New Paltz, a town founded in 1678 by Huguenots escaping France, we had the option to add a few miles on a trail outside the town. 

The ped/bike bridge over the Hudson into Poughkeepsie is quite an attraction. Whoever managed to make it a reality gets a tip o' the hat from me. It's 1.28 miles long and is the longest, elevated (212 feet!) pedestrian bridge in the world. It's a repurposed rail bridge from the 1800s.
Our tent city at Dutchess Community College in Poughkeepsie. The dinner that night was the best of one we had. Real southern Cajun-influenced food right down to the collared greens sweet tea and cornbread.
Much of our route from Poughkeepsie to Carmel was along a rail trail trail that paralleled old tracks.

We'd had some odd experiences with people setting up tents annoyingly close to us when there was a lot of room elsewhere. We had a lot of space to work with in Carmel and chose a spot where we wouldn't feel crowded. Not only did it work but we had a troupe of fireflies provided a light show for us when the sun went down.
We took our clothes into Carmel for laundry and enjoyed some time at an Irish pub.

Why this area of the trail had these ridiculous signs at every road crossing is a mystery.  Walk bikes across every street? Why?  I think they're just teaching people to ignore traffic signs. My guess is... lawyers made them do it, and somehow it absolves the trail authority and drivers from any responsibility should they injure a trail user. Still, it's stupid.
Yet another beautiful bridge, this one at the Croton Reservoir 
We expected rain on our ride to Dobbs Ferry, but it never happened. We took a side trip to ride over the Mario M. Cuomo Bridge between Tarrytown and Nyack. The designers installed points that cantilevered out over the water for people to stop safely and enjoy the view.  This one is called "Artists Point" so we made art.
On our ride to Dobbs Ferry after the Mario M. Cuomo Bridge the GPS had us taking roads to the camp site. One rider said there was a path, not official bike path, but a path, that lead to the college. We took it. If it had been the official route we'd have been annoyed, but because it was our choice we enjoyed the adventure on the walking path that led right to Mercy College.
Once again we found a place to pitch our tent a long way from the crowd. But when we returned from our showers some bro lookin' dude had set up soooooo close to us, almost touching where I'd left my bike. I had infective words with him. We ended up moving our tent. 
Dobbs Ferry to NYC
Required tourist photo at Fort Washington Park under the George Washington Bridge on the Hudson River Greenway path. Yep, we are in New York City.
Riding in NYC is an experience. It was a beautiful weekend day and the greenway was packed with people. Though eBikes aren't allowed, there were a lot — too many — of them weaving through cyclists and pedestrians. When you add in a few illegal motorcycles with unfamiliar road markings and traffic signals it makes for too much of everything. 
We were able to catch a glimpse of the Statue of Liberty. Kind of.
This is the official end of the Empire State Trail. It's really just a kiosk looking thing. I'd expected something more grand. We even rode past it once and didn't realize what it was. We still had to get to our end of the ride bus pickup.
We'd have enjoyed riding in NYC more if we hadn't have been so psychologically exhausted. We rode across the Brooklyn Bridge in the "bike lane." It was narrow, bikes going both directions, with cement walls on each side. It was crowded with the clueless. There were more than a couple of folks on rented eBikes who had their batteries die on the trip over.  They'd grind to a halt and everyone behind them have to swing into oncoming bike traffic to get around. 
None the less, we made it. Though it really was farther than the 200 miles on the sign states. We celebrated with a really nice italian lunch.
We've now bicycled from Buffalo to Albany and from just above Albany where the trails meet all the way to NYC.

Non-cycling content:
After a long (and painfully delayed) bus ride back to our Adventure Van™ we'd left in Troy, we decided to get a room rather than drive back home that night. The next morning we wandered around the capitol of our new home state and made toursity photos waiting for the museum to open.

We visited the Albany Institute of History & Art to see an exhibit on the history of outerwear and view their collection Hudson River School art.

Often, at the end of a ride, we're over bicycles, camping and traveling. At the end of this ride Tricia said she was willing to sign up for next year's ride right now.

Sunday, August 27, 2023

Bike tool organization

I have kept my bike tools in a shoe box, a paper bag and scattered in a drawer forever. But at last I have the space and time to create a more reasonable organizational system. I always liked pegboards, but the one attached to my workbench was small and, well, crappy. I really wanted something better. My cycling friend found Wall Control and suggested it to me. They make metal slotted "pegboard" that looks cool and has hangers that don't fall out when you look at them sideways. I added an inexpensive socket holder and a magnetic wrench holder and shazam, it looks swell already. My favorite part: The paper towel holder. 

Sure, it may have cost more than I really wanted. But the results are totally cool. I even bought another horizontal version for the other side of the garage to hold yard tools. 

This it how it looks now, but there there's room for more, and it's easy to rearrange.

Maybe I'll become truly organized and, equally importantly, stay organized. It's already proven better than shuffling through a shoebox looking for the right size socket.

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Skaneateles and Otisco Lakes #BTFL11

Tricia and I took the adventure van on a short road trip overnighter to check off two more lakes for the Bike the Finger Lakes challenge, leaving only Cayuga to meet our goal .  Sure, we had to look up how to pronounce Skaneateles and Otisco, the most easterly of the Finger Lakes. And a few times we really wondered if we were lost on our way there. But we only got slightly wrong turned once.

Once again the Finger Lakes Cycling Club's guides were great. We started at a boat launch and rode along the lake with few if any cars. Our morning was slightly chilly, but the long climb kept us warm until the sun started doing its job, After a bit we were routed slightly away from the water and through classic Americana farmlands, including a hop farm. I'd love to know what beer their crop ends up being used for.

We also rode past numerous historical markers and more than one cemetary. Unlike California and it's 1800s markers, the ones here reference the Revolutionary War and events taking place before the USA was the USA.

After riding through rich people neighborhoods we stopped briefly in the almost too cute town of Skaneateles for a quick snack at the waterfront.
We had one last real climb that paid off with a long, screaming decent back to where we parked.
We drove to Cortland to spend the night, but before we retired we went out to see the Barbie movie in a very small but near empty theater.

The next morning we tackled Otisco Lake. I was surprised the route started so far from the small lake. The lake itself is only six miles long but our route had us riding 46.5 miles. Later I read that there was a shorter cutoff that included a really nasty climb on a closed road, so it appears the FLCC knows how to plan a route after all. Plus, it was beautiful, so there's that.

We had wide shoulders and low traffic the whole way, and the vehicles that did pass us left us a lot of room.
The last 6 or so miles is very flat, and we were blessed with a pretty substantial tail wind (or we were having a good day....) that helped us zoom back to our van. 

Skaneateles Lake  40.53 mi  2,690 ft climbing
Otisco Lake       47.09 mi  2,073 ft climbing

Tuesday, August 15, 2023

Seneca Lake loop #BTFL11

Tricia and I are on a mission to complete the Finger Lakes Cycling Club's "Bike the Finger Lakes 11" in which we circumnavigate all eleven Finger lakes. Seneca is one of the two larger lakes, about 30 miles long, and the loop being 83-ish miles around. With Seneca complete we have 7 of the 11 finished, with one large lake and a few smaller 40-milers left.

We're grateful for the cycling club's GPS maps on Ride With GPS. We'd have spent too much time on the highways and missed the wonderful low-traffic farmlands and other treats. We're also grateful for the perfect weather we had.

After we climbed out of Watkins Glen (No photos, it was too steep to do anything but try to stay upright) we rode along the vineyards that produce the area's grand Riesling. 
The Finger Lakes is a rural farming community that's home to many Amish and Mennonites. They use horses and buggies,  but also a lot of utility bicycles. This lad said he didn't mind me photographing him as he transported his flowers.

We've seen a lot of "Be Aware" signs on our area, but they've always been for motorcycles and buggies. This is the first to include bicycles and farm equipment. Way to go Farm Bureau!

We also saw more than a few birds of prey, and several nesting on utility poles. We didn't see any mink, weasels or groundhogs, though we have in the past. There were buzzards out as well, which always makes us wonder if they're just waiting for us to falter and become a meal for them.

Of course, we also see cattle and horses, and make the required animal sounds cyclists make when riding past.

The North end of the lake in Geneva has this large "I Love NY" installation, which is impossible for anyone with a camera, even a cell camera, to pass by and not photograph.
The last half of our ride, to our surprise, took us through the old gravel and crumbling pavement of 2,070-acre Sampson State Park. We'd thought we'd be on the highway, but instead we rode many miles through what once was the Sampson Naval Training Station during WWII and later during the Korean War, the Sampson Air Force Base. It was rougher than good pavement, but the absence of cars more than made up for it's surface quality.

We both were pretty worn out with 25 miles to go, so there aren't any more photos, just memories of fun, clouds, hills and that damn truck on 414 that came way way too close.

Executive summary: 83.38 miles, 3635 feet of climbing.