Day Four: Kingston, New York (62 miles)
The bike shop wouldn’t open this morning until 10am, so I didn’t have to get up early and had looked forward to the opportunity to sleep in. I must have been really exhausted because I even overslept a little. I had breakfast and headed over to Action Bikes & Outdoor Outfitters. The mechanic there, Shawn, did a great and fast job replacing the spoke and checking out the bike in general. So, I left the shop with a functioning bike and a new find: something called “Hammer Gel” a rapid energy fuel that comes in a mylar pack shaped like a hammer. Seeing that they had banana puree as an ingredient, and reflecting on my experience with bananas based on Laura’s advice, I asked Shawn about them and he said they were fantastic. So I bought a few.
I tried one as I was leaving the shop and the Hammer Gel was pretty good. I definitely felt the impact on my energy level as I rode. I also kept thinking of the words of Théoden King of Rohan: “The horn of Helm Hammerhand will sound in the Deep one last time!” (Just in case in the reading of this blog you were tempted to think I was cool, I include that reference to remind you of my geekiness.) Speaking of the Riders of Rohan, the hotel from which I am currently writing this is full of people participating in some equestrian event, they’re walking around wearing riding pants. The only thing they have in common with the Rohirrim is that they’re all blonde. But I digress.
Matamoras is a nice small city and sits across the Delaware river from Port Jervis, New York. Port Jervis is apparently named after a General Jervis who was instrumental in construction of the Delaware and Hudson Canal, portions of which were visible (in highly overgrown form) along my ride today. The place itself had an earlier, Indian name. Crossing over the Delaware was a beautiful sight and the first of many scenic views that I would encounter today. Now, I know that I am biased, but I had forgotten just how beautiful New York State is. Last summer, I took a long road trip to San Francisco via the desert southwest and was astonished to realize just how little of this country is the lush forested land that I was used to in New York and along the east coast. So much of my ride today was along forested roads or in green valleys surrounded by forested mountains.
In terms of terrain, today was to be the easiest ride, A gentle uphill for the first twenty miles (and with the banana Hammer Gel, I was handling the hills pretty well, even going up them in high gear), and then mostly downhill for the remaining 40 miles. However, there was a really strong headwind today that pretty much negated anything less than a steep hill. That was kind of annoying. I pleaded with the wind to change its course. Alas, my entreaties went unheeded. And for some reason, I kept getting hit by bugs–big ones, though a ladybug alighted on me for a while, so that was nice.
The route I was taking, US 209, wound itself through a mostly valley path among the mountains of the Catskills. The entire route was marked with those historic marker signs put up by the state. So, apparently the region I was traveling through was primarily known for Indian attacks, as most of the signs seemed to be for forts where settlers could be safe from Indian attacks. One of the historical markers was for the house of an Abraham Beviel who possessed a “small cannon that the Indians feared” and thus his house was, you guessed it, a shelter in the event of Indian attacks. I also noticed that there were a lot of churches along the route, one or two Methodist churches, but a lot of Reformed churches. I suppose that makes sense, since the area was settled by the Dutch. I wonder if these Dutch were the same people getting attacked by the Indians, or if that was the English who came along later.
I was on Route 209 almost the entire way, but I knew that 209 would eventually turn into a 4-lane highway on which it would be dangerous to ride (the same thing had happened to me in Pennsylvania with Route 100, but then I had had no advance notice).
And so, late in the day, as I neared Hurley, New York, I turned onto “Old Route 209” which was exactly what I needed at that point in the day: a tree-lined country lane with old homes and a downward slope.
I was pretty pleased with this route, and my foresight in avoiding a road hazard. As I crossed the bridge over Route 209, I expected to look down and vindicate my judgment when I saw the highway, but when I saw the highway, right next to it was a level, beautifully maintained bike path. So, I saw a path connector and got onto the path headed north toward Kingston. The path had nicely maintained berms (with signs: “This berm adopted by…”) and birdhouses spaced every so often. It was a beautiful path and I was happy to ride it. For a mile. Because the path ended right at the Esopus River and went no further. And so I turned around and headed back to “Old Route 29”, my knowledge that I had been right all along cold comfort as I tacked on a couple of unnecessary miles.
I passed through the historic town of Hurley just outside of Kingston. Hurley had a number of old colonial buildings, including the temporary state capitol (the actual capitol had been burned in Kingston by the British, when Kingston was the state capital) and a home in which a reception was once held for General Washington.
Not long after, I found the Holiday Inn, got a room, and availed myself of the pool and jacuzzi in the “Holidome Indoor Recreation Center”. I still can’t really believe that I am one day away from finishing this trek that I thought I was crazy to even set out on (many of you shared that opinion). Because I am actually ahead of my 70 miles per day schedule, tomorrow will only require 50 miles. (It’s still odd for me to think of a distance of 50 miles as only.)
I am excited that by this time tomorrow I will have finished my 354 mile trek and gone through some of the most beautiful countryside on the way. Can’t wait.
(For the map of this route, click http://www.mapmyride.com/route/us/pa/matamoras/695128045612761269)