|Day 5: Waterford to Albany to 9J (Street)|
It was 06:15 when we sat down for breakfast, and I had a good hearty meal: Two eggs, toast, hash browns, and corned beef hash.
While eating breakfast, I studied carefully the detailed maps I had of the Albany area. Our foray of the night before along Hwy 4 into Troy had convinced me that I should stay on the west side of the river and ride down into Albany. As I studied possible routes, I noticed the bare hint of a green line that crept right up the waterfront from downtown Albany to Waterfliet. Elsewhere on the same map, green lines indicated bike paths. I was hoping, therefore, that there would be a bike path right along the shoreline. It was impossible to see where this bike path would be picked up in Waterfliet. In fact, for a ways in Waterfliet, all forward movement seemed to be blocked by a huge armoury.
I felt good about the progress I had made so far. I had nearly made Albany, which in my mind had been my third fall back destination (Whitehall having been the first and the Hudson River the second.). These were landmarks which I had thought would be respectable achievements in their own right, had I been forced to abandon early. In fact, though, my knees were bothering me less every day, and I was generally feeling more and more capable. I felt my prayers were being answered. Even Sheryl seemed to be beginning to exude confidence that I would make it all the way.
At 07:00 I bade Sheryl farewell for the day and set out to the west, along State Highway 32. She was set to return to the motel room, to study her books and to await the opening of the antique stores in town at 11:00.
A short ways through town and the road turned south, crossing the Erie Canal just a bit up from the first lock, where I had been the evening before. I continued on for another couple of miles or so through what was nearly countryside, passing a number of large, comfortable houses. There was a fair amount of traffic on the road, as it was the beginning of morning rush hour.
|Day 5: Crossing the Erie Canal into Cohoes NY: Looking west|
|Crossing the Erie Canal: looking east|
|Close up of 1st lock from above|
At 07:50 I crossed the main branch of the Mohawk River. The "river" I had seen the day before had only been a side stream. The main branch was much wider, nearly half a mile wide. Hwy 32 crossed on a long bridge, with a dam directly below, and falls and rapids below the dam.
The city build-up started in earnest on the far side of the river, as I came into the town of Cohoes. Most of the traffic was siphoned off onto I-787, a busy freeway which would parallel my route, separating me from the Hudson River. I was thankful, for Hwy 32 became a relatively quiet residential city street called Saratoga Road. The houses I passed were old, but in very good condition and the neighbourhood seemed quite respectable, as compared with what I had seen in Troy. So far, at least, I was happy I had been led by the Spirit to choose the Albany side.
At 08:00 I had crossed into Colonie, and the area was almost semi-rural. Houses sat on large, properties with lots of trees and I even passed some fields and pastures. I could see the city just across the I-789 freeway which was my constant left side companion, but the same road formed a boundary and sheltered me from it. I passed under Hwy 7, a freeway which led across the Hudson into Troy, and down which I had explored the night before.
I crossed into the town of Waterfliet (founded in 1644, not long after Montreal) at 08:10. Here I was back, once again, on a quiet, residential city street, lined with old-style wooden houses, all of which were in a prim and proper state of repair. I crossed Hwy 2, another freeway leading across the river, this time right into downtown Troy. Hwy 2 had been the furthest south we had driven the night before.
All of a sudden, the street I was riding along came to an abrupt end at a tiny cross street, and there were no signs to indicate where I was or which way I should go. I saw a fire station half a block down the road, with some firemen standing in the open door by the engine and talking. I rode over there, first to ask them the somewhat silly question of how one pronounced "W-a-t-e-r-f-l-i-e-t", the name of the town. "Water - VUL - ly" was the answer. We discussed my trip for a few minutes, where I had started from, how long I had been on the road, and where I was headed. I asked them about the bike path I had seen on the map and was pleasantly surprised that they knew all about it. They gave me easy directions: "Ride on down the street to "Broadway", a sort of frontage road paralleling the freeway. Follow that along until the end. Then turn left and take the tunnel under the highway." This was all quite unclear on my map, and I am sure I never would have found it on my own.
I did as they directed and Broadway took me alongside and past the vast Watefliet Arsenal, which advertised that it was the oldest in the U.S. I could see row upon row of military vehicles and hardware, all parked in front of these old, Civil war style brick buildings. Past the arsenal were more houses, fronting on Broadway and then the freeway. Finally, I came to the end of Broadway, at 1st Street, and found a small two-laned tunnel leading down and under the freeway. This had been the first crossing of the highway since I had passed Hwy 2, some time back.
On the far side was the beginning of a park, occupying the hundred feet or so of waterfront land separating the freeway from the river. There was a small parking lot for cars, and the beginning of the bike path leading south to Albany. It was 08:30 when I reached the beginning of the bike path.
|Bike path along Hudson: Waterfliet to Albany|
The path was very pleasant. The flat, gravel trail led right along the water's edge, under the trees. I had many long views of the Hudson as I rode along. At that early hour, there were few others out. Mostly I passed elderly Indian and Chinese couples out for their morning walks. Looking to the far side of the river, I could see that the urban area of Troy had given way to countryside and trees. There was a huge cliff running all along the river, a bit back from the shore, and I was sure that had I been riding on the far side, I would have had to climb up and down the hills.
|Bike path along Hudson|
As I neared the city of Albany, I could begin to see the skyline. The bike path came out of the trees and crossed vast, open spaces of grass. I reached its end after half an hour, at 09:00, as it came to the Albany waterfront park. The park was separated from the city by the mass of elevated freeways.
|Approaching Albany on Bike path|
|Castle-like building on Albany waterfront|
I had been viewing the bridge at Albany as I approached. I was fairly sure that a bicycle could get across, as it was not labelled as a freeway on my map. Nevertheless, there was that niggling doubt. I was also scanning the approaches to see how I might get up on it. All this was unnecessary, as the pedestrian/bike approach to the bridge was to be found just across the street from the end of the bike path, at the point where the only tunnel from the waterfront led under the freeways and into the city proper.
|Close up of Greenway to Bridge access|
I had turned on my phone at 09:00, for the appointed time of communication with Sheryl, and she called almost right away. While I had a good signal, she back at the motel did not. It was hard to talk, but I managed to pass on the information that I had made downtown Albany and was about to cross the bridge.
Then I crossed the street and started pedalling up the long, long ramp. By 09:15 I was at the top of the bridge, looking up and down the Hudson. I looked to the north, along the riverside green space whence I had come. To the south, I could see industries and factories along the Hudson, and far off in the distance, the purple silhouettes of the Catskill Mountains. These would be on the west side of the River, while I was going down the east side.
|Looking north from bridge at Albany|
|Looking south along Hudson from Bridge at Albany|
|Close up: Note Catstill Mountains in distance|
|Day 5: Waterford to Caslteton-on-Hudson|
I crossed the boulevard and continued on through the old town residential streets along Riverside Drive. Soon I was out of town and into a big industrial park by the Port of Ransselaer. Out of nowhere, it seemed, came rumbling now big semi-trucks and heavy dump trucks. I trundled on. At a certain point, I finally came to the road which would lead me up and out of the industrial park. I had a fairly long climb up over the railroad tracks and then the road came down to meet Hwy 9J, which was just there dropping from the top of the cliff and down to water level. I was happy that my detour had worked out as hoped.
It was 09:30 when I turned south onto Hwy 9J. I was already pretty well clear of Ransselaer and the Albany urban area. It felt good to be officially on the "south of Albany" portion of the trip, the second half. The road ran along the base of a cliff which was, perhaps, a hundred feet high. Between the road and the cliff was room for one line of houses. On the other side the land was flat. There were railroad tracks, and then vast marshes, and then the river. Very soon, I was clear of the industrial park, and there was nothing between me and the river except the trees. Even the houses soon gave way, and I was all alone out in the country. There was very little traffic on the road.
|Along Rte. 9J: Marshes along the Hudson|
At 10:00 I came to the Shodoch town line. I was by then totally alone in the country. The escarpment continued on my left, the railroad tracks on my right. Quite regularly fast passenger trains would zoom past. I could seldom see the river for the trees, but the constant marshland on that side reminded me of its presence. For a space I rode alongside this long, open channel of water that did not seem to lead anywhere. Then the marsh closed in upon it once more. At one point I heard gunfire off towards the river. Someone was either hunting, or just shooting. I was happy to get past that.
I reached the next town, Castleton-on-Hudson, at 10:20, and was at the town centre by 10:25. On the map it seemed like a large centre, but it was actually a very small town. At the town centre were only a small gas station and a convenience store. From the shoreline park, I could look back up the Hudson and just barely see the Albany skyline and the bridge I had crossed, far in the distance. Two fast Amtrak passenger trains passed by as I was looking out. I rode on, out of town and back into the country.
|Looking north to Albany from Castleton-on-Hudson|
At this point, the distance between the cliff and the river became negligible, sometimes barely with width of the road and the railroad tracks. The relatively flat section of the highway had come to an end. There were long climbs up to the top of the escarpment. I would ride along the edge of the clearly defined Hudson Gorge for a while. Then the road would plunge back down to water level, only to repeat the process a bit further on.
At 10:40 I stopped and took a break under two high bridges that spanned the gorge: I-90, heading off towards Boston, and an old, railway trestle. At this point, I was down at the bottom of the gorge, near the river, and these two massive spans loomed far up over my head. I had some fig newtons and water as I rubbed my knees.
|Under I-90 Bridge: South of Castleton-on-Hudson|
|View of 9J below High Railroad Trestle|
|Day 5: Caslteton-on-Hudson|
At Shaddoch Landing, I had climbed up to the edge of the gorge, which was closing in more and more on the river. The ups and downs became more and more frequent.
At 11:10 I crossed the town of Stuyvesant line. Not too far past occurred a terrible incident, for which I feel very badly, even though the outcome had not been my intention. It had been some time since I had been able to get a glimpse of the river, for all the trees. I saw a small opening, across from a farmhouse, and so I parked my bike and took my camera to get a better view. I climbed over the railing and started making my way through the tall grass, which had become matted down. Suddenly a startled animal bolted from in front of me and ran towards the road. Just as it started to cross the road, a fast moving jeep came by and I heard a "thud" as it clipped the animal. I could not see the animal, but it had made the bushes and tall grass just a yard away from me and was thrashing violently. I could see red blood spurting up from the grass. This horrible thrashing continued for 30 seconds of so, until there was silence. When I climbed out, I saw that the animal had been a cat, now lying dead in the grass by the roadside, with half its head gone. I felt terrible, and so responsible. All this simply because I had wanted a photo. And yet there could have been no way to foresee or avoid it. The incident shook me up, for one does not often see death so close up and so graphically. (May God have mercy on the soul of this poor dead cat.)
|Through the undergrowth to the Hudson|
|Looking down on the Hudson from the edge of the gorge|
|View north to the Hudson from higher elevation|
The road continued up and down along the gorge until 11:40, when I began a long, serious climb. I was down to my granny gear and easiest gear in back and was inching my way up the long hill. The hill brought me into the town of Stuyvesant proper.
Just through town, at 11:55, the road proceeded to drop right back down to the water's edge, in a long, fast descent back into the Hudson Gorge.
|View west to Catskills around Stuyvesant|
At 12:00 I was even with the town of Kinderhook and turned on my phone. Sheryl called as arranged. She was just leaving Waterford, where she had been antiquing for the last hour. She was set to drive through Troy on U.S. Hwy 4, and then had to follow some fancy turns around Ransselaer in order to reach Hwy 9J.
|Route 9 Bikeway|
At 12:30 began another long, long climb out of the gorge. By now, I was also getting low on water. When I had unloaded half my gear to Sheryl, I had given up the two litre-sized water bottles I normally carried in my front panier (which I did not have anymore, anyway). I was left with only my two regular-sized bicycle water bottles, in their special holders. I realized, then, why I had learned to carry two extra litres of water, and began to lament their absence.
Atop the cliff, the road turned away from the river and struck out over the flat expanse of farmland. At 12:45, I came to the junction with U.S. Hwy 9 and Hwy 9J ended. Luckily, just before the intersection, I had passed a suburban house with two young girls sitting out on the grass selling lemonade while their mom held a garage sale in the driveway. I stopped and had a tall lemonade and a cupcake for a dollar. I then convinced the girls to fill up my bike water bottles inside. I felt refreshed again.
The going on U.S. Hwy 9 was a bit better, although the traffic was heavier than had been the occasional car on Hwy 9J. There was a wide shoulder for me to ride on. New York has several officially marked "Bike Routes", and I was on "Bike Route 9", which had actually started in Plattsburgh and had followed Hwy 9 down through the Adirondacks. I would be sticking with Bike Route 9 all the way into New York City.
I rode through Columbiaville and then, at 12:55, began yet another long, fast descent from the crest, culminating in a bridge over Stockport Creek. From 13:00 to 13:10, then, I was engaged in the long, granny-gear drudgery of climbing back up to the crest once again.
|Day 5: Hudson (Street)|
I rode past a Wal-Mart at 13:20 and realised it would be a good place to buy some gloves. Riding that morning without the extra padding of my gloves, lost the day before, my hands were already smarting. So I turned into the vast parking lot. Of course, there was no official place to lock one's bike, so I ended up having to chain it to the barrier at the shopping cart return area. I had to remove all my backs, placing them into a cart. Half an hour went by, from 13:20 to 13:50, by the time I had locked and unloaded, gone inside, gotten my gloves and paid for them, and then returned and re-loaded and unlocked my bike.
I rode on down along the boulevard just a few blocks when I saw a decent looking family restaurant. It was 14:00 and I had not yet eaten lunch. I was able to park my bike by the window of the restaurant so that I could keep an eye on it and went inside. The waitress was kind of miffed when I eschewed all the clean tables, in order to sit at the one dirty one. Yet this was the one near my bike. I had a cup of clam chowder, a tuna sandwich with fries, and an iced cream, all washed down with a bottomless root beer.
Refreshed, I set out again at 14:30 and by 14:35 had entered the town of Hudson. Hudson and Greenport are really just one big city. All the businesses and malls appear to be in Greenport. Once across the town line, they all disappeared.
I had to find Hwy 9G in Hudson. This led me to have to turn right at the main corner and drop down through the tiny city streets towards the river. Hudson turned out to be a very depressed area, on par with Troy. All the old, wooden houses were decrepit and the paint was peeling. The most unsavoury characters were looking out from front balconies. I rode by an old, falling down junk yard, which sported huge signs put up by those concerned citizens who wanted it preserved as a heritage site. Finally, as I had dropped most of the way down the hill, I came to the cross street which was labelled as Route 9G. I turned left and soon was heading out of town and back into the country. It was 14:50, and I was glad to be clear of Hudson.
|South of Hudson: Deep descent to tributary crossing|
Hwy 9G wound along the flatland for a short way, until it crossed a river feeding the Hudson, then it began climbing up and around a steep hill.
From 15:00 to 15:15 I struggled up the hill. Along the way, as I took a break, I called Sheryl for my appointed 15:00 check in. It turned out she was in a store in Greenport, in the malls I had just left, not even an hour earlier. I told her I would call again at 16:00, and that that would probably be all the riding I would do for that day. The incessant hills were wearing me out.
|View west to the Catskills from high ground|
Once atop the hill, Hwy 9G met up briefly with Hwy 23, heading towards the Rip Van Winkle Bridge over the Hudson, towards the Catskills. It was 15:20. Looking across the river, the Catskill Mountains now loomed very close.
|View west to the Catskills: Approaching Rip Van Winkle Bridge|
|Rip Van Winkle Bridge Close up|
The interchange was rather tricky. Hwy 22 came up over the rise as a four-laned, divided highway. I was able to ride down the hill on the shoulder, but then had to cross over to the left lane, for a left-handed exit, just before the bridge approach. I rode on the shoulder until I was even with the beginning of the left turn lane. Then I had to stop and bide my time until I had a sufficient break to get my bike across two lanes of speeding traffic. Once in the left turn lane, I stood my ground, even though cars were coming up behind me. I had to wait for a similar break to get across the oncoming traffic. The cars behind me waited patiently, or at least no one blew their horn at me.
|Complicated interchange at 9G turn off|
Hwy 9G then took off south along the escarpment, midway up the side. The hill climbed on up to my left and dropped down to my right, to fields and cow-filled green pastures below. Off in the distance, maybe half a mile away, the line of trees signalled the Hudson River, and I could see the superstructure of the bridge rising from the trees.
|View west from Hwy 9G|
The next forty minutes saw many more long climbs and steep descents, and I was getting more and more tired. As I was riding along, I saw photocopied sheets stapled to the telephone poles announcing a place called "The Trail" in upcoming Germantown. It looked like the signs were posted for cyclists, as no car would have been able to read the fine print while speeding by. I hoped that "The Trail" would be some sort of Inn.
|High above the river on 9G near Germantown|
|Crossing triburary, Hudson in distance|
|Day 5: Driving around|
Sheryl arrived at 16:30. We unpacked my bike and loaded it onto the bike rack and then headed down the road towards Red Hook. We had to follow Hwy 9G down another few miles, to cut over on County Road 78 at Tivoli. This brought us to U.S. Hwy 9 a few miles north of Red Hook.
Red Hook did have several motels and B&B's, for it was obviously some kind of tourist centre. There were lots of touristy businesses and the main street was lined with trendy stores. Traffic was heavy and people were everywhere. And all the motels were full. Some kind of big antique fair was happening the next day in Rhinebeck (the next town) and everyone had gathered for that.
It was Friday night, and we were not too far anymore from the big city. I had visions of all the motels being full. I was tired. So I began to panic for a short while. Where would we find lodging? The only other nearby town listed in our AAA Guide for New York was the town of Catskill, across the bridge. I called a motel listed there and as soon as I heard they had space I grabbed it. I had to secure it with a credit card.
Catskill was in the opposite direction from Germantown. We had to backtrack, heading north on U.S. Hwy 9 to meet Hwy 23, and then west on hwy 23. Of course, on Hwy 23 we passed a couple of small motels which had place - but I had already reserved the other room in Catskill. We crossed over the Rip Van Winkle Bridge and continued along on Hwy 23, which had by then become a full-fledged freeway. Although listed in Catskill, this motel was far out of town, nestled well into the Catskill mountains. We continued a few minutes Northwest on Hwy 23, until I realised my directions were wrong and I had to backtrack back into Catskill and get off on Hwy 9W. There, again, were copious motels with vacancies. We had to take Hwy 9W through the town of Catskill, to find Hwy 23A, and this we had to follow west to the intersection with Hwy 32. As we drove along, we passed a diner, and decided that would be a good place for breakfast. The Red Ranch Motel was at the junction of Hwys 32 and 23A.
|Lodging: Day 5|
We got there at 19:00, after almost an hour's drive from Red Hook. We were in a sort of mountain resort motel, and it was quite full. Our room was on the 2nd floor and so I had to carry the bike up the stairs.
There was nothing around except the Italian restaurant next door. It looked like the woods extended on for miles and miles around. We walked over to the restaurant, across the parking lot. It was beginning to rain. The place was in essence a pizzeria, but it had a rather pretentious dining room. Surprisingly, it was packed, and we had to wait 20 minutes or so for a table. They had "live" music, which consisted of an old Italian guy supposedly playing the accordion, but he was surrounded with so much electronic equipment it was hard to distinguish what he himself was actually playing. Looking at him, one could imagine "Uncle Luigi" who had retired from a life long career as a Mafia hit man, so they had found him some innocent job. Everyone was Italian. The kids serving the tables could easily have been the children of Mafiosi, farmed out to summer employment as part of their upbringing.
We both had pasta and salad. When I had asked for the list of dressings, the young girl had listed off several, and so I chose Blue Cheese. At the end, when the bill came and the waitress was long gone (for she vanished as soon as she had dropped off the bill), I noticed a dollar extra charge for the Blue Cheese dressing. When I tried to bring this up at the cash, indicating that the waitress had never mentioned an extra charge, the Italian cook started shouting and screaming at me. It was always these "cheap shit" tourists who did not realise Blue Cheese was expensive! I simply deducted the dollar from the tip. We decided this would not be a good place for breakfast.
It was 21:00 when we got back to the room. Sheryl rubbed her healing oil on my knees and I went to sleep almost immediately. She may have stayed up to read, I cannot recall.