Sunday, May 29, 2011

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

It was the first really nice day we’ve had this year. I took off at 8:45 AM, having not yet decided where I was going, but I headed generally northwest. Once I got up around the black dirt, onion country of Pine Island, NY, I decided to cross over into NJ and maybe ride a few of the nicer roads there. The traffic was exceptionally light and I got the idea after crossing the state line to make it a five-state ride (NY, NJ, PA, MA & CT), using only country byways. The only problem was that I wasn’t sure of the shortest way through or around the Catskills to get from PA to Great Barrington, MA. It would have been nice to have a map at that point!

I avoided the traffic in and around Port Jervis by heading up County Road 519 and a few other back roads to and through Otisville, NY and across US 209 onto County Rd. 7. I wasn’t sure of the shortest and least congested way into PA from there, but I chose to take NY 42 south when I got there, which took me a little out of the way, but it deposited me on the NY 97 “goat trail” along the Delaware River, which was a really nice ride along the river to Shohola, PA, where I crossed over and got some gas and came right back across because NY 55 was there, which I chose for my route to skirt the southern edge of the Catskills to US 209 north of Ellenville. It’s not quite as quick as using US 52 across, but it was there, it's scenic, so I took it.

The weather was perfect and the traffic was light until I got to US 209, where it’s usually a little more congested, but my only other alternative would have been to go through the mountains, which would have taken longer. I crossed the Rhinecliff Bridge and picked up NY 199 that I planned to take all the way to Millerton, where I had thought of using NY 22 north to NY 23. It was a bad decision that costed me at least an extra half hour, which I realized a little too late. US 9 north to NY 23 would have been shorter. By the time I got almost to NY 22, I decided to turn south for home at Pulvers Corners over some of my favorite county roads because it would have taken me a little longer than I had planned. I’ll keep the 5-state ride for another day!

As it turned out, it was a really beautiful day of riding and I clocked 308 miles by the time I got in. As I parked it in the garage, I noticed that the back tire was totally bald most of the way around. It could probably have gone the extra 80 miles or so, but there’s always another day. But since then the bike has been sitting in the garage because I’ve been nursing a hernia for the past month and won’t be getting it repaired until after Memorial Day weekend. Tire changing will have to wait until I’m 86 in a few weeks and the hernia is fixed.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Weekend of 5/14 and 5/15/2011

Tom Brigham hosted the annual BS Night for old-time woods riders of New England, which now starts at 3 PM because all of the RAMS are getting on in years and can't handle the late hours anymore. It's a little less than 160 miles for me each way, and I was the first to arrive around 2:15. The event is potluck and I was asked to bring the champagne (for a toast to departed members of the RAMS) and the blackberry brandy. The forecast was for showers, but I lucked-out and got no rain at all on the way up. The only thing I was bothered by was the recent hernia that I had developed within the past few weeks that allowed some of my innards to spill out onto my lap every time I hit a big pothole. I suppose that will continue to be a problem until it gets repaired in a few weeks.

About 50 or 60 guys came and went during the next 10 or 12 hours, only about 10% of whom arrived by motorcycle. I got to talk with several old friends while I stuffed my gut with all kinds of great food from shrimp to Stromboli, coleslaw, baked ham, chili, kielbasa, beans, and you name it, and later all kinds of sweets for dessert, most of which was brought in by the guests. Tom Brigham, our gracious host, donates the baked ham, the keg of beer and many of the other items.

Many of the guests left before dark while others stayed on. I was fortunate enough to be offered a bedroom and I turned in at 9, while many of the younger guys in the group stuck it out, probably until the keg was empty. In the morning it was quite evident that the rain, which had stopped for a moment, was coming back, so the group decided to hit the road instead of going out for our usual breakfast to stuff our stomachs again. I was one of the last to leave at around 8 AM.

It poured heavy for at least 100 miles on my way home and I was practically brought to my knees! I'm just not as strong as I once was. When I stopped in Danbury for gas, I was totally drenched and totally exhausted. Visibility was practically zero for about 100 miles of the trip and it was real scary a few times because the traffic was heavy and far too fast for the conditions. A few times I didn’t know if I was in a travel lane or on an exit ramp, and some of the cars and trucks came awfully close several times. I did manage to get my leg over it again after gassing up in Danbury and I came the rest of the way home in sprinkles.

I got in around 11:15, which wasn’t bad time considering the conditions. I think my total mileage for the weekend was 318. My clothes are still drying the next morning.

Week of 5/7 to 5/13/2011

I didn’t go anyplace special during the week but I covered 1,261 miles, for an average of 180 miles per day. For the most part, I took a ride each day in a different direction and never got caught in the rain.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Week of 4/30/11 to 5/6/11

The first two days of this week were covered in the previous post.

On Tuesday, 5/3, after a quick stop at the credit union in Fishkill, I headed for Luddingtonville, where I started one of my favorite rides up into the beautiful farm country of Dutchess and Columbia counties. After getting as far north as Ancram, I rode east and stopped for lunch in Millerton before crossing over for the first of three separate excursions into CT that day. On the first, I rode around Lime Rock Park, the famous sports car track, then south from there past the huge golf course on CT 41 and through Sharon before crossing back into NYS at Amenia Union. A few miles later I crossed the state line again via Bog Hollow Road into Kent, CT; and from there I went back across the Housatonic River via the covered bridge on Bulls Bridge Rd. into Dogtail Corners, NY where I saw a huge 30-foot high white flowering tree that was perfectly shaped like a chicken’s egg and full of huge white blossoms!

I turned east again on NY 55 to approach Mizzentop Ridge (also known as Quaker Hill, NY) from the CT side. The north end of Quaker Hill has a steep gravel hill leading up to it, but during this time of year it’s often washboard and rough and I didn’t care to take the jarring on my aching back so I approached it from CT 39 and turned in by the farm with the four silos clustered around the barn complex, which is my landmark for Taber Rd. that also leads to Quaker Hill Rd. and Mizzentop. The ridge is beautiful any time of year but late spring and fall are the two nicest times to see it. The many flowering trees and bushes were spectacular, as are the east and west panoramas. The estates and manor houses along Quaker Hill Rd and some of the horse farms are also quite spectacular.

From there, I came down Birch Hill Rd., where there was once a huge game park with all kinds of exotic animals. Lillian and I used to take the children there 50 years ago. I think the park has been out of business for at least 30 years.

I came back through Towners, using NY 164, which runs through the three low-clearance railroad underpasses, two of which are one-way. I met a car coming the other way at one of them and he let me go first, - maybe because I was coming at it a little faster than he was, and the guy probably freaked out!

I was starting to get a little tired by that time and it was time I should be headed for home! I clocked exactly 180 miles that day and was back in plenty of time to pick up my grandchildren at the bus, which was my special chore for the day.

On Friday, 5/5, I accomplished what I set out to do, and from that viewpoint it was a success. I’m also happy about having ridden 252 miles that day in seven hours in perfect weather and most of it with very nice scenery. The flowering crabapple trees and cherry trees all the way across NJ were spectacular. The day’s ride also brought my total mileage for the week to a little over 1100 miles – the same distance as from here to Daytona Beach, FL. The only thing that dampened my joy was the congestion on the NJ roads going to and coming back from Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area.

In the park it was practically deserted and I rode around the area and along the Delaware River for at least two hours and had lunch in Columbia, NJ, but on the trip there and back I got behind trucks and slow drivers for many miles. I used many familiar back roads through NJ. The park is actually huge and runs alongside the river for at least 40 miles. I think I’ll stick to the NY and New England roads with my riding, though, where I’ve had much better experience with the traffic.

Actually they were the same roads today that I’ve been over many times in the past and they very seldom had traffic like today. I even thought maybe it was God telling me that I shouldn’t have gone out today!! I was extra tired when I got in and maybe that contributed to my negative attitude.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Weekend 4/30 & 5/1/2011

I rushed to get some chili cooked Saturday morning that would last for at least a few days and I was able to get out of the house by 9:00 AM. The hitch was that I had taken my diuretic that morning, thinking that I’d be tied up in the house all morning, so by the time I got a little more than an hour out, heading towards Vermont, I decided I’d better not, – my bladder just isn’t big enough!!  So I turned around and came back. I put on 110 miles and got in around 11:15. Since the chili was still warm, I had that for an early lunch with a salad and took off again. I figured the diuretic had done its duty by then.

I headed off the second time in a different direction, toward Callicoon, on the Delaware River about 2/3 of the way to Binghamton. But by the time I got up around Monticello, where I had to make a decision, I changed my mind and decided to ride some of the Old 17 along Beaver Creek and then take a ride up around the Pepacton Reservoir, near Downsville, NY. The reservoir holds back much of the headwaters of the East Branch of the Delaware River in the northwestern foothills of the Catskills. It’s a beautiful area with great “bike roads.” I got as far north as Margaretville and headed southeast past Big Indian and Phoenicia, and alongside the Esopus Creek to West Shokan. I took Acorn Hill Rd past Tetta’s General Store to reach Rte. 209 north of Kerhonkson and then went over the Shawangunk Ridge through Minnewaska Park using Rtes. 44 & 55 Altogether, including the morning’s ride, I clocked 347 miles for the day in a little over 7½ hours.

Sunday afternoon I took another very beautiful ride up into Columbia County and around Ancram and Ancramdale, before heading for Bash Bish Falls in the Berkshires and on to Great Barrington. When I got into Mass. I noticed that my reserve light for gasoline was flashing. I grabbed for my wallet pocket in my jacket to check and found no wallet! I checked my jeans pocket next and I wasn’t wearing any, - I was only wearing the riding suit bottoms. I hate having to humiliate myself to get gas by leaving something for security! What do I have for security? I checked the jacket pockets and found my cell phone that I never use. The battery is probably dead. Maybe I could offer that. I checked around for change and I only had about 67 cents. I stopped a bicyclist to ask for directions to the nearest gas station. The cyclist was a little old woman who looked like 80 years old and 80 pounds soaking wet in a skin-tight, one-piece bicycle suit, with helmet. I think I scared her – a grungie-looking old biker towering over her!  But she gave me directions and I found the gas station. I parked outside and started patting all of my pockets again, including the bottoms, for any miscellaneous thing I could offer as security; and as I patted one of the pockets of the bottoms there was something that felt like a big cell phone. I pulled it out and sure enough, I had totally forgotten that I “temporarily” stuck the wallet in that pocket so I wouldn’t forget to take it! ! I’m sure glad I went to church this morning! God has a sense of humor

I had a great ride back, I went down through Canaan, CT and then crossed over into NYS near Amenia, I found Amenia Union Rd and took all of the little twisty back roads home that run down along the NY/CT state lines, some of which were the “Old 22.” When I got below Pawling I took some other back roads past Whaley Lake and Pecksville and then home through Fahnestock Park and Rte. 9.

I clocked 210 miles for Sunday afternoon for a total of 557 for the weekend. Not a bad start for the new week. I see they’re calling for rain at least three of the days, so the head start should allow me to average at least 100 per day this week.