|Day 5: Starting Out|
The previous day, with all its ups and downs, had been very trying on my knees and legs, and they ached that morning. I prayed to God, "Give me the strength today to continue."
We drove on back the way we had come, back towards the town of Catskill on Hwy 23A. Along the way, we passed the diner we had seen and stopped in there for breakfast. I had eggs, corned beef hash, toast and coffee. Sheryl had an omelette. The waitress was good enough to fill up my water bottles with clear, cold mountain water. Following breakfast, we drove back over the Rip Van Winkle Bridge to the east side of the Hudson and followed Hwy 9G back to Germantown. Sheryl deposited me back in exactly the same spot where she had picked me up. We took some photos of the experience.
|Day 6: Sheryl delivers me back to Germantown|
|Sheryl at 'The Trail' in Germantown|
|Day 6: 08:00 Setting off from point|
|Day 6: Germantown to Poughkeepsie|
I passed Sheryl again a couple of minutes later, at the centre of Germantown. She was parked and standing by the road. She waved me on, shouting, "Go, go go... You can do it!" I wondered, as I passed, what she was up to. I figured she would pass me again soon, but she did not. I turns out there was a tea house where she had stopped, and she decided to have some tea while she awaited the opening of a church bazaar we had seen the evening before.
At 08:45 I crossed the Duchess County line and by 08:50 I had reached the Hwy 78 junction at Tivoli. I stopped for a break, and the last chance to see Sheryl, for I figured she would turn at Hwy 78, as we had the day before. The fog which had been hanging on everything had cleared and the sun was shining down in an almost clear, blue sky. I figured I should put on some sun block before proceeding. Off to the west, near the Catskills, were what appeared to be a bank of clouds coming on, but they turned out to be only the morning fog, still burning off.
I rode on, and by 09:15 had come to Bard College. I gather this is a large, prestigious private college, nestled on the shores of the Hudson, and is probably another reason why the Town of Red Hook is such a popular destination.
I was even with Red Hook at 09:20, at a distance of only two miles.
At 09:35 I crossed the Rhinebeck town line and went by the bridge that crossed the Hudson to the town of Kingston, on the other side. Soon after, Hwy 9G met up again with U.S. Hwy 9 coming out of Red Hook. I continued on along Hwy 9 into Rhinebeck itself, the centre of which I reached at 09:55.
Rhinebeck was a fairly large town, with lots of people. The Fairgrounds were already roped off for the big antique fair, and lines of cars were streaming into the parking lots. Riding on the same bandwagon, several local citizens were holding huge "garage" and "collectible" sales on their front lawns. The downtown part of Rhinebeck was extensive for a small town. Eventually, though, I managed to get somewhat clear of town.
At 10:20 I was even with the town of Staatburg, at 2 miles. Shortly thereafter, I came to a State Park golf course, where the vista of the Hudson Valley with the blue mountains in the background was breathtaking. I stopped for a ten minute break, from 10:25-10:35, and took several pictures. The Hudson Gorge had now opened out into a wide valley. I was conscious that the long ups and downs of the day before had been left behind soon past Germantown. The going had been much easier.
|Panorama of Hudson Valley: SouthWest|
|Panorama of Hudson Valley: West|
|Panorama of Hudson Valley: NorthWest|
|Hwy 9 in Hyde Park, by Van der Bilt mansion|
|View west on Hudson Valley from Van der Bilt grounds|
I passed an old style stone mileage marker, clearly from the days when Hwy 9 was an old Post Road. It showed New York to be 89 miles away. I felt good about my progress.
|Old Post Road mileage marker: New York 89 miles|
Just north of Hyde Park
Past the Vanderbilt Mansion began the downtown section of Hyde Park. It was 11:15. The downtown was quite built up, with lots of businesses and small shopping centres. Indeed, from Hyde Park on, until I would turn off the main road and onto Hwy 9D, I was never really clear of town. There were always houses and businesses along the route. I imagine that for people following U.S. Hwy 9, Hyde Park marks the beginning of the New York City built up area.
I stopped at a small, roadside shopping centre where they had a bike store and inquired about a replacement part for my front panier, but they did not have it. I then passed the FDR mansion, on the way out of Hyde Park. The FDR mansion did not look as fine or extensive as the Vanderbilt, and there were far fewer tourists. It was 11:30.
I crossed the Poughkeepsie line at 11:40, as the highway dipped down into a long, broad valley and then climbed back up the far side. The highway had now become a four-laned boulevard, with wide shoulders. As I rode into Poughkeepsie proper, I saw a Route 9 Bikeway sign pointing to the left at an intersection. Beyond was a "No Bicycles" sign as Hwy 9 dipped down along the river, around the town, and became a freeway.
|Approaching Poughkeepsie: Have to leave Hwy 9|
(Note high steel trestle)
I found myself riding through the residential streets of Poughkeepsie which, while not as bad as Hudson or Troy, did not look all that inviting. From several miles away, I had seen this very high railway trestle crossing the Hudson, running several hundred feet over the town. As I rode under it, I saw that it too, like many of the old iron trestles I had seen, was totally abandoned. There were no tracks or roadbed left, only the shell. I wonder what will become of all these old iron bridges.
|High Steel Trestle at Poughkeepsie|
It was near 12:00 as I passed by a small town square, certainly not "the" downtown. I saw an open air terrace attached to a place called "Caffe Italiana". One of the three tables was free. I rode over and parked my bike in front and took a spot at the table, where I took out my maps to study them. I was near the end of my detailed Jamasco map of the Capital area, and had only a regular state map to go on past Poughkeepsie. As I sat, the waitress came out and collected things from one table next to me, where they had had coffee and sandwiches. She did not speak to me.
I was patient. It was time for me to call Sheryl anyway. She was very surprised that I was already in Poughkeepsie! She was back in Rhinebeck. She had made contact with her friend from New York, who was driving up to meet her. I told her I would call again at 15:00.
By now, the waitress had been out to collect the bill from the other table. The first table had left. I had been sitting for ten minutes or more. So, I went inside where they had a sort of fountain counter and lots of bags of coffee and many old style iron-legged marble tables. I asked the waitress if there was table service outside, or if we were supposed to get our stuff inside and bring it out. No, she responded, there was table service. She would send someone out.
That someone was a young kid in a white coat who looked like he was the bus boy or dishwasher. I ordered a large coke and a menu. He went inside, and came back a few minutes later empty-handed. "We don't really serve any food", he told me. I inquired about the sandwiches I had seen at the next table, but he told me these people must have brought them from outside. What DO you have, I asked. Only iced cream sundaes, he answered.
I was in a dilemma. I was hungry and could see no other restaurants nearby, nor had I passed any on my way in. I had a great spot in the sun, with a great view. I decided I wanted to stay where I was. "What kind of Sundaes", I asked. He named off a few flavours, and I ordered one, and reminded him about my coke.
He was back a minute later, still empty-handed. "We have no flavours left", he announced. "Do you still have iced cream?" I asked. Yes. You must have chocolate, since you make Mocha coffee. Yes. "Then surely you can make a chocolate sundae?" He went away to check.
When he came back a couple of minutes later with my coke, I figured things were moving. Soon I had my chocolate sundae. I cannot figure out why they had decided they really did not want to serve me. Perhaps it was because I was all dirty and sweaty, but then I was clearly in a bicycle jersey!
Despite the trouble, I enjoyed my simple repast. I was a little nervous leaving my bike when I had to go in and pay and use the facilities, as there were quite a number of shady looking characters hanging out on the stoops and walking up and down the street. It was still there when I got back out.
I continued on my way through Poughkeepsie. The streets were a maze, but I could clearly see the railway bridge behind me and a the huge superstructure of a highway bridge ahead, so I used these for my bearings as I tried to keep heading south, somewhat along the river (although the river was at least five blocks away, and separated by a freeway).
|View on Hudson River Bridge at Poughkeepsie|
|Day 6: Poughkeepsie to West Point|
Hwy 9 was, at this point, a six-laned divided highway and was full of cars, speeding in both directions at 60 mph or better. We were running right along the river, separated only by one width of property, holding various big establishments: hospitals, schools, cemeteries, etc. At first there was a cliff to my left, but this gave way to flat land after a while, with lots of residential side streets. Some of these had traffic lights. I guess at the other streets, one could only turn right, as there would be no way to cross the traffic without a light. I was still riding along facing the oncoming traffic, and there was no sidewalk on the other side.
It was 13:00 when I started along this bike path, and I continued along it for twenty minutes, until 13:20. I stopped at a gas station/convenience store and bought myself a bottle of water, to replenish my supply, for it was very hot and I was sweating a lot. I also bought some more maps. I bought a detailed map of the "Hudson Valley" area and a street map of New York City. The Hudson Valley map was not too good, and it turned out to be fairly inaccurate. I found things to be not where they said they were. They were probably close enough that someone in a car would not notice.
At 13:20, several miles south of Poughkeepsie proper, the bike path came to an inglorious end. Thankfully, it was at an intersection with a light. Perhaps I was near Knapps Corners. I had to cross the highway and proceed along now with the traffic.
It was the ride from Hell! Hwy 9 was still a six-laned boulevard. There was no shoulder, just a curb right along the edge of the outside lane. As I plodded along at six to seven miles per hour, the cars behind me were wont to go sixty. One by one they had to wait behind me until they could get a clear space in the next lane. Then they would speed by.
I was riding through "Mall Land". Huge shopping malls, with vast parking lots, lined both sides of the highway. There were, thankfully, lots of traffic lights, which tended to slow some of the traffic down. It was very hot, though, with the sun beating down on the concrete and with no shade whatsoever.
one hour south
I came to the centre of Wappinger's Falls at 13:45. The road dipped down into a small ravine to cross over the Wappinger River. There actually were some falls at Wappinger's Falls, as the water cascaded over the rocks downstream from the bridge. Close by the river, the modern residences had given way to older structures, perched out on the cliff side, with strange twisty-turny balconies and walkways, such as in the movie, "Popeye". I took a short break.
I climbed up then out of the ravine and turned more to the right, to follow the river. The old houses gave way to new ones again, and then even these began to thin out and I was back into the country, with trees and pastures. The traffic seemed a bit thinner than before.
At 14:15 I took a short break alongside the road, eating some Fig Newtons and tanking up on water. After five minutes, I rolled on.
Half an hour later, at 14:50, as I continued down the same road, I heard these cars behind me honking their horn. Unvoiced expletives came to mind as I rode on, ignoring them. Finally, they passed me. It was Sheryl, in our white Honda, followed by her friend, in her black SUV. They pulled off the road up ahead. I stopped and Sheryl gave me a hug. I greeted Sheryl's friend with a hug, as well, although not too tightly, as she looked askance at how dirty and sweaty I was.
They had met, each approaching from opposite directions, in the "Mall Land" I had passed earlier, homing in to each other using their cell phones to communicate. The plan now was to get some lunch! I told them I would not mind stopping for lunch. They decided they would go ahead, and would find a place along the main road for lunch. I would ride on and keep my eyes open for the vehicles. So they headed off, down the road, and I followed.
|I-84 Bridge at Newburgh|
At 15:00, I came to the town of Beacon Hill. My first encounter was the overpass crossing I-84 as it came over this huge bridge spanning the Hudson, from Newburgh on the far side. Then Hwy 9D became a wide, city boulevard as it swung around and dropped down towards the river in a long descent. Beyond Beacon Hill, further south on the east side, was the tall hill with radio towers on top that probably gave the town its name. Across the river were more big hills, as the Hudson River left the valley and entered the second gorge, leading to West Point. As the road dropped down, there was a vast city park descending the rest of the way to the river. A Latin music festival was underway that day, and the sounds of the Spanish rhythms could be heard coming up through the trees.
|Interesting church at Beacon Hill|
At the bottom of the hill, Hwy 9 turned to the left and climbed back up along tiny downtown streets. I looked in vain for Sheryl and her friend, but saw nothing, not even a restaurant. Over the rise, and it was like being back out in the country again. The street dipped down into a small valley, just in front of the big hill. There was a small intersection, and then the road climbed up to the very edge of the hill and abruptly turned to the right, running along the hillside, and maybe twenty feet above the valley. The houses of Beacon stopped and I was back out into the country.
|'Beacon Hill' itself|
|Day 6: Around Beacon Hill|
Thinking of a place to stay for the night, I thought of Highland Falls, just outside of West Point. I remembered from our visit there in 1998 that the town had lots of motels and restaurants. I thought it was much closer than it actually was, for I did not take into account that I was back, once again, into the hilly section of the road. I suggested to Sheryl that they go on ahead to Highland Falls and secure lodging. They headed off.
As we rounded the base of the big hill, the road climbed up to give a good vista back towards Beacon and the bridge. I pulled off into the parking lot of a fancy country restaurant to see if I could get a picture, but the maitre d' ran out and shooed me off. I did not get another chance, as the trees closed in and then the road dropped right down to the river level at Little Stony Point. I did stop there to get some photos. It was 16:00.
|Across the Hudson, from Hudson Highlands State Park|
At Little Stony Point, the Hudson River is firmly within the gorge. Bear Mountain and other hills rise cliff-like from the far side. Along the river's far edge is a railway line running freight trains. On my side were similar hills, dropping down like cliffs to the water's edge. A fast passenger rail line runs along the shore, and in some places the flat space is wide enough for the road as well. Little Stony Point was one of those places. Pleasure craft and barges could be seen up and down the Hudson, which is about half a mile wide, with brown water.
|View of hill on Hudson west shore: Just north of West Point|
|Little Stony Point: Fast passenger rails along Hudson|
|Little Stony Point: Amtrak train passes|
|Looking south on Hudson to West Point in distance|
|Tunnel on Hwy 9D, near West Point|
|Close up on West Point|
At 16:30 Sheryl called. Since our last meeting, I had left the phone on. She had gotten a room, room 202, at the U.S. Academy Motel in Highland Falls, just 3 miles north of the Bear Mountain Bridge. She and her friend would await me there. I was just at the bridge over Indian Brook at that point, high up on the cliffs above the Hudson. I cannot say "overlooking" for it was rare to get a glimpse of the river through all the trees. High up on the hill in front of me was this fancy white house.
|House on the hill along 9D near Cold Spring|
|Day 6: Through the Gorge|
At 16:50 I could see that I was even with the big Highland Falls Inn, the hotel at the southern gate of West Point. On my side, I could have been a million miles from any city. The whole area was forest. The few time that it opened out, there were tranquil green pastures, with tall hills behind.
At 17:00 I took another break. I was beginning to feel real fatigue. I was hitting the wall! I felt like the Bear Mountain Bridge would never come.
|The road goes ever up and down|
|Even with West Point's main buildings|
|Mansion on the hill, near Garrison|
|View north on the Hudson, near Bridge|
It came, though, finally, at 17:15. I was so happy to arrive at the bridge and it lifted my spirits and gave me a last burst of energy. I decided to walk across the bridge on the pedestrian walkway, so that I would be able to get some good photos. And good photos I did get, for the view up the gorge was spectacular! Looking south, one could see Bear Mountain, looming over the river, as it turned to go around this obstacle. Beyond, one saw the hint of the river opening out as it left the gorge. It took me until 17:30 to walk all the way across the vast steel span, for once the decision was made to walk, it was not possible to ride. The walkway was too narrow.
|Bear Mountain Bridge at Last!|
|Bear Mountain Bridge: View north on the Hudson|
|Bear Mountain Bridge: View south on the Hudson|
|Crossing the Bear Mountain Bridge|
At the far side, the road from the bridge comes into a big traffic circle, with the end of the Pallisades Parkway heading out to the west and Hwy 9W leading north and south. I had been by this way many times during our 1998 stay. Seeing the familiar Pallisades Parkway gave me a real feeling of being close to New York.
I had a ways to go yet, though. Turning north, I had to ride down the hill and over another, smaller bridge, and then back up the hill again. Sheryl called me again, as I was stopped at the bridge. Where was I? Did I want her to come and get me? No, I replied.
|Northwest from Bridge: Hwy 9W to Highland Falls|
Freight train along Hudson's West Bank
|Looking back on bridge from Hwy 9W|
The town buildings began, and then petered out again as I got to a newer stretch of road. It climbed up a long, long straight hill. I was so tired, I forget to change by gear in back. So even though I was in my granny gear in front, I was pushing much harder than I should have been. I reached the top, only to ride right back down the other side. As I rounded the corner, I saw yet another huge climb. Mercifully, though, the turn off for Highland Falls came just before.
|Lodging: Day 6|
I took the bike into the room and showered and changed, making myself presentable for dinner. Then the three of us drove on into town and had dinner at Shade's, right near the Academy gates. I had black bean soup, followed by a chicken enchilada. Sheryl had a chicken Caesar salad. After dinner, we took a little walk around and got some iced cream at a small shop. Both Sheryl and I had a flavour they called "Mint Ting-a-ling". It was a sort of Mint Chip.
We all came back to the motel and I crashed at 21:00. Sheryl went off with friend to help get her settled for the night.