|Day 7: West Point to New Jersey Border|
I started out at 07:15. Just around the corner from the motel, I found a road sign that indicated I was 50 miles from New York. It seemed so close! I rode up and around the intersection with Hwy 9W, which required me to make a short, steep climb for no good reason. Then, on Hwy 9W, I had to do the long uphill and downhill of the day before, in reverse. Then I rode through the town and across the smaller bridge.
|Day 7: Starting out at 50 miles from New York|
I got to the traffic circle at 07:35 and was done with the "out of my way" portion of the ride. The "Bike Route 9" signs were clearly marked. The sun was just breaking over the hills and shining across the Bear Mountain Bridge. After a break for some photos, I continued on along Hwy 9W, steeling myself for the inevitable climb up and over Bear Mountain. Dense forest closed in on either side of the road.
|Bridge Roundabout looking west: Start of Pallisades Parkway|
|Bridge Roundabout looking east at 07:30: The Bridge|
|View south on Bear Mountain|
(Note factory in distance)
|Day 7: West Point to Nyack|
Barely five minutes along the trail, I stopped at a break in the trees to look back. There was a clear view of the Bear Mountain Bridge in the distance, and in the foreground, just down the cliff, tidewater marshes stretched out towards the river. I was excited that I had reached tidewater! I was getting ever nearer my goal.
|Bike trail around Bear Mountain|
|Looking north to Bridge from Bike Trail|
Tidewater in the marsh!
I rode on along the water's edge, towards the town of Tomkin's Cove, which I reached at 08:40. On this stretch, there was room at the base of the hill to my right for only the road, the railroad tracks, and a few small houses. The Hudson River opened out into a vast expanse and there were no longer any high hills on the far side, just the riverside rise of a hundred feet or so.
|Even with factory and at water's edge: Near Stony Point|
Past Tomkin's Cove, the road started to climb up again and left the river a bit. As I was climbing, I stopped to see deer grazing on someone's lawn. I climbed up into the town of Stony Point without even realizing it. It was 09:00 and so I stopped and called Sheryl. I was near the junction with Hwy 202. She was still back at the motel. She would go have breakfast with her friend a bit later
|Climbing up from the water|
|Early morning deer at Stony Point|
|Deer Close up|
The road came down the other side of the Stony Point ridge and into the town of West Haverstraw, and then Haverstraw itself. At 09:20 I stopped at the junction with Hwy 304. There was a roadside plaque that announced that the area had been an original land grant to a certain "De Haarte" in the early 1600's. I could clearly see the beginnings of the "Pallisades" formation as I looked on down the river along the road.
|Original De Harte land grant in Haverstraw|
|Pallisades escarpment begins at Haverstraw|
|The road climbs up|
|Day 7: Nyack to GW Bridge|
At 09:45 I passed a sign that indicated that the town of Nyack was 5 miles away. It would be a long five miles. When I reached the top of the pass, I was disappointed that I could not see anything. As had been the case many times, trees and private property blocked the view. I rode a few feet down someone's private driveway, and caught a glimpse through the trees of the river to the south, and far below. The light was not right for a photo, though.
By 09:50 I was dropping down the other side, but was coming down on the west side of the Pallisades ridge, away from the river. I could see rows of new suburban housing developments, a clear sign that I was approaching the city.
Once again, I had the thrill of racing down the hillside at full speed. I was descending into a small bowl of a valley. At the bottom was the entrance to Rockland Lake State Park, which I reached at 10:05. Already, early on Sunday morning one could see hordes of people streaming in. Lines of cars were parked along the highway, and people were descending in family groups in bathing suits and with all their beach gear.
I started to climb the long, straight hill out the other side of the valley, a climb which took me until 10:25, for it was a very long hill. By the end, with the sun beating down on me, I was sweating profusely. At the top, Hwy 9W made a left turn, onto a smaller road, while the main road continued down into the next valley. I had a vast vista of this inland valley, half filled with suburban developments, with mountains showing in the distance.
Hwy 9W ran just along the western edge of the crest of the ridge for a ways. I passed newly built townhouses along my right. Then there was a short climb, as the road went over the top and back down a bit on the eastern side of the Pallisades ridge.
Thus I came to Upper Nyack at 10:25. There was little more to Upper Nyack than a couple of gas stations and a convenience store. All else was trees.
Over the past hour or so, I had become conscious of the many, many cyclists that were riding along that day. I guess because it was Sunday, and a nice day. Nearly all of these cyclists were passing me by quite quickly, for they did not have any gear.
At Upper Nyack there was a Route 9 Bikeway sign pointing to the left, down a side street. The street seemed to go almost straight down. I was in a quandary, for I saw that Hwy 9W continued ahead more or less flat. I was very concerned about losing all the altitude I had worked so hard to gain, and for no reason.
|North view on Hudson from heights around Nyack|
A cyclist was stopped at the gas station, so I rode over and double-checked with him that the bikeway was down the hill. Yes, it was, he answered. I expressed my concern of dropping down to the bottom of the hill, only to climb up again. He said it was much nicer down the hill than following Hwy 9W, and that I would have lots of climbs regardless, no matter how I went.
So, I left Hwy 9W and descended the hill. Down, down, down the steep hill I dropped. Houses began to appear around me. There were no other signs or indications of bike route. Some ways down, I found a fairly substantial street heading south, across the hill, so I turned right and followed this. I noticed many other cyclists were doing the same, so this gave me confidence. As I rode along this residential street, though, more and more of the other cyclists were turning left down various streets to continue down the hill. I did not know whether to go forward or to turn left to follow them. They obviously knew where they were going, but I did not. I stopped to consult my map, but it gave me no enlightenment. I decided finally to keep going as I was, to get across Nyack. I figured that past the town, all would come together again. (Again I discovered later that I could have descended right to the water level, and followed a bike path along the river, and under the Tappan Zee Bridge. It would not have saved me from the final climb, though. At least on my route, I was already halfway up the hill.)
I stopped at a certain point to get a drink from a local convenience store. Soon thereafter the street I was following ended abruptly. I had to nose my way southward, looking for another through street. Each time, I had to descend the hill a bit, for Nyack is built right up the side of this very steep hill. Some of my attempts led to dead ends, and I was beginning to feel very lost in Nyack.
It was 10:50 when I finally came upon some sort of gravel bikeway. The bikeway was shaded and ran along a ridge, above people's back yards, and a road could be seen through the houses below. Above, as well, was soon a road, as highway 9W descended from higher up on the ridge and was soon running just parallel to the trail.
|Bike trail in Nyack|
I was sure, by then, that I had missed the correct turn. The bikeway was nearly deserted. I passed only a couple of people walking. Clearly the hordes of cyclists had gone some other way. There was nothing to do, though, but continue along as best I could.
Soon I came to the crossing over the New York State Thruway (I-87). Looking west, it could be seen descending the ridge. Looking eastward, it continued down and went across the Hudson on the Tappan Zee Bridge, far below. Just next to the bike path bridge (which must have been some sort of old railway bridge, for it was a robust concrete structure in its own right), Highway 9W dissolved into a complicated pattern of ramps and bridges, as it interfaced with the Thruway. I stopped for a short break.
|Crossing NY Thruway at Nyack: Looking west|
|Crossing NY Thruway at Nyack: Looking east|
Not too far past the Thruway crossing, the bike path ended and I was able to rejoin Highway 9W. It had gotten fairly quiet, with only a couple of cars coming by every minute. The road ran more or less flat across the face of the cliff. There were lots of houses on both sides, but they were mostly hidden by shrubbery and trees. I saw only driveways leading to the right and sharply up the hill, and driveways to the left dropping out of sight. The trees cut me off from any but the rarest glimpses of the river.
|Tappan Zee Bridge from heights south of Nyack|
At 11:10 I left Nyack and crossed into the town of Piermont. Not too long after, the road climbed up over the ridge once again, to descend down the opposite side. I began to notice more and more fellow cyclists, so whatever route they had taken must have met up with mine again.
|Rte 9W riding along the crest|
The highway dropped down a fair way, into the little hamlet of Sparkill. Here there was a detour, which forced an even greater drop, and subsequent climb, than if I had been able to stay with the main road. For while Highway 9W bypassed the town along the ridge, I was forced down into the city streets, down to the creek crossing, and then had to go back up. It took me from 11:20 to 11:30 to find my way through Sparkill.
Once I regained the main road past Sparkill, it began another long, serious climb. In fact, this climb was longer than any I had faced. Gone were the houses now. There was deep forest on both sides. There was a turn off for the town of Pallisades, which I knew was the last town in New York. Then the climb continued.
For twenty minutes I slogged up the twisty, turny road, spinning as slowly as I could, with my granny gear in front and my easiest in back. I must have been going only slightly faster than one would walk. All of the hot shot weekend cyclist were now passing me by like I was standing still.
|At the New Jersey border on 9W|
|Day 7: NJ Border & Pallisades|
I decided not to go to the lookout, for I did not know how far down it was, and was loathe to have to climb back up again. I did see, however, a very interesting small park road leading through Pallisades Park, with an entrance not too far ahead. I decided to take that road, for I could remember from an evening drive down from West Point back in 1998 that one did not have any sort of river view from Highway 9W as it went along the Pallisades.
At 12:00 I set out again. The state line had not meant an end to the climbing. It was 12:20 before I reached the crest. There Highway 9W met the Pallisades Parkway. There was an underpass, after which the Parkway paralleled the road just to the east.
After the interchange, Highway 9W became flat. It was a very boring stretch of highway, but there were a lot of cyclists. The road was very straight. To the right, west, were low, scrubby trees, and occasional pastures. There were no houses, businesses, or other buildings. To the left, east, was the Parkway. While the Parkway was shaded with tall trees, our road had no shade at all. Beyond the Parkway could be seen much denser forest.
I rode on along this way for ten minutes, watching intently for the entrance to the small park road I had seen on the map. I reach the underpass, back to the other side of the Parkway, at 12:30. I was not totally sure what I was going to find, so I proceeded cautiously. On the far side were park buildings, a parking lot for the park, and a modest grassy clearing under the woods. A small, one-laned road descended sharply down the hill. It was labelled Henry Hudson Drive. The gate was open, but I could tell from all the signs that it often was not. I noticed that I was the only cyclist who had come under to this side. I wondered for a while what I was getting myself into, for the descent was steep and I knew I would not want to have to come back up that way.
|Descent onto Henry Hudson Drive in Pallisades Park|
Still, being under the trees, with a chance at actually seeing the river, was preferable to seven miles of open, shadeless and featureless highway. I plunged downward. Down, down, down the tiny road led, cutting across the face of the cliff. Straight rocky cliffs cut away above me, and dropped out of sight below me. It was forced to use my breaks to slow down, the angle of descent was so great. Soon, though, I was down at the water level. I still could not be sure what lay ahead, but I was already glad I had come this way.
|View down on River|
Note city across
There was only the occasional car. The road was one-laned and one-way. Cars were not allowed to stop, but that interdiction had no effect on me. I made frequent stops. I stopped whenever I had a chance to view the river through the trees. At one point, where the road was just above the river, I parked my bike and climbed down. I found myself on a small beach. A sign warned hikers along the "beach route" that at high tide they would have to climb up to the road at this point.
|Beach along the Hudson, looking north|
|Hudson shore, looking south|
Not too far down the road, at 13:10, I stopped to enjoy a waterfall cascading down the cliff side. Another cyclist stopped, Alan Rowe, from New York. We got to talking and he was impressed by my trip. He was a weekend cyclist who often came over to ride along Henry Hudson Drive, which he thought was one of the finest rides.
|Stop at waterfall|
|Cyclist at Falls in Pallisades Park|
There were sections of Henry Hudson Drive which required moderate climbing. Indeed, one of the "rules" for cyclists posted at the entrance was that they must have at least a ten-speed bike. After my climbs earlier in the day, though, I was laughing at these hills. None of the climbs ever came near the crest of the Pallisades, which continued to loom far overhead.
At 13:25 I noticed through the trees that I was now even with the top of Manhattan Island. I could see across the bridge over the East River, linking Manhattan with the Upper Bronx.
|View on River, opposite top of Manhattan Island|
|Day 7: Pallisades to GW Bridge|
I first bought a soft drink, a bottle of water, and a candy bar. As I quaffed the soft drink, I had second thoughts about food, and decided to order a corn dog (which here we would call a "Pogo").
As I ate, I enjoyed the view down the river. I had my first clear view of the George Washington Bridge, over which I would soon be riding. Directly across were the buildings of Upper Manhattan, still nestled in the trees. Out on the water were dozens and dozens of boats. And all along the shoreline on my side were people sunbathing and enjoying the water.
I called Sheryl and told her where I was. She had just started driving south from West Point. I told her I was having lunch and was within sight of the bridge. She had thought that she might pick me up right at the New York side o the bridge, to avoid my having to go through Harlem. I told her, though, that I now had good directions and figured I could proceed. We made arrangements to meet at Battery Park, at the southernmost tip of Manhattan, at 16:30. I had measured the distance on the map and estimated it would take me that long.
|At River's edge: Directly opposing top of Manhattan|
|View south on George Washington Bridge|
|Lunch at the water's edge in New Jersey|
|View northeast to top of Manhattan|
|Close up on Bridges linking Manhattan and Bronx|
|View south to George Washington Bridge|
First view of NYC skyline
At 14:10 I set out again. Soon, looking south along the river, I had my first view of the New York City skyline. At 14:30 I was directly under the massive structure of the George Washington Bridge. It was very impressive, with huge steel columns rising from two piers in the river. I could feel the power of the bridge as I listened to the sound of the traffic crossing its two levels. And amidst all that power, was a small creek cascading down the cliff side and passing under the road right at my feet.
|Approaching the Bridge|
|Directly under the George Washington Bridge|
|Small creek under Bridge|
Right after the bridge, the Pallisades Park comes to an abrupt end. The road curves away from the river and starts climbing up the cliff. Almost immediately, to the left (south) are people's back yards, separated by a fence. The big climb was not on the park road, but on Main Street, onto which the road emptied soon after turning inland. It was a shock being dumped from country and park roads directly into the thick of the city. Suddenly, across the road, were massive twenty story apartment buildings. Main Street in Ft. Lee, New Jersey was thick with traffic, inching bumper to bumper up the steep hill. Lots of cars were parked along the park side of the street, with people gathering their things for a walk into the park. I saw lots of people removing bikes from bike racks, to take the ride that I had just come from.
Up, up, up the steep street I climbed, until I reached the spaghetti bowl which is the bridge entrance. A freeway comes from the west and goes underfoot to enter the lower deck of the bridge. All sorts of city streets collect together to feed the upper deck. Sidewalks and pedestrian walkways wander to and fro. And amidst all this was construction.
I basically just had to follow the cyclists, though. An almost steady stream of them were heading onto and off of the bridge. The construction came in handy, for I was able to slip off the main track and use one of their portable facilities, which surprisingly was not locked. I felt uneasy leaving my bike outside, even for 30 seconds, but what could I do? Certainly, I did not want to have to stop on the other side!
|At the Bridge approach|
|Onto the Bikeway/Pedestrian Walkway|
It was 14:40 when I reached the New Jersey end of the bridge. It had taken me ten minutes to climb up to the heights and find the entrance. Across the massive steel structure stretched pedestrian walkway, of about ten feet width. As I rode across, I made many stops to enjoy the breathtaking view and to take photos. I had a clear view, now, of the distant skyline. I looked down under the bridge at the road I had been on only a few minutes before. Looking north, I could see the rocky cliffs of the Pallisades. Southward, on the New Jersey side was only industry. The Manhattan shore was lined with a long, green park, stretching off as far as I could see. As I got closer, I could also see the massive tangle of twisted highways along the shore.
|View down to Henry Hudson Drive|
where I was 10 minutes earlier
|View south along Jersey shore: Abrupt end of Pallisades Park|
|View south to Manhattan skyline|
|View southeast, to nearer Manhattan shore|
|View north on Jersey shore: View of Pallisades|
|Pallisades brightened up|
|View west along bridge walkway|
|Manhattan shore: Washington Heights|
|Looking down on Riverside Park|
|Looking down on Riverside Parkway|
(Riverside Drive in distance)
At 15:00 I reached the New York side of the Bridge. Technically, I was in New York City and had reached my destination. It felt good, but there was no time to stop and reflect. Things happened very quickly.
|The End of the walkway, at Washington Heights|
|Day 7: GW Bridge to W 72nd Street|
All around me were tall, brownstone apartment buildings, ten or fifteen stories high. Some sort of parade was driving down the street, with people blowing their horns and leaning out the windows with Dominican flags. I concentrated on keeping out of their way, and on moving along as quickly and as unobtrusively as I could. I was comforted by the fact that I could see several other cyclists riding along as well, though none of them had paniers full of gear.
I watched as the numbered streets passed by. From 178th Street, I knew I had to descend all the way to 1st Street, and then beyond. Soon I came to 163rd Street, and turned right to descend the one block hill to Riverside Drive.
Riverside Drive was much more open, with lots of room for cars to pass me by. The riverside park extended all along my right side, and tall apartment buildings lined the left side. As I rode through the 150's, 140's and 130's, glances up the streets I was passing showed a very depressed neighbourhood, with lots of broken windows, junk in the streets, and old cars. All these streets ended at Riverside Drive. A vast park extended along my right side. Huge crowds of youths were collected at every major street corner, hanging out and listening to loud music. I kept my eyes forward and rode a quickly as possible. I could sense that the riverside park next to me was probably very nice, but knew I would never be able to stop and enjoy it.
|Central Park looking north|
(See GW Bridge in upper left corner)
Mostly the way was downhill, and I was able to pick up a really good speed. This made me more comfortable. Occasionally I would have to gear down for a climb, and then I felt much less comfortable. Major intersections would come every ten blocks or so, with big streets leading out into the park, and to interchanges with the West Side Expressway.
As I got down into the 120's and 110's, I began to feel a bit better. The streets leading into town began looking better. Apartment buildings began to have doormen. I felt able to slow down a bit.
|Day 7: W 72nd Street to Battery Park|
By the time I passed by the Convention Center, I began to notice how empty the boulevard had become, and was starting to feel nervous again. I knew it would end soon, so I figured I would move inland yet again, to a street with a bit more traffic and people. I rode up 34th Street, one block in to 9th Street, and continued south. On 9th Street I passed by the back of Penn Station.
9th Street soon dissolved into Greenwich Village. It became a narrow street, with parked cars and low houses on both side, and the sidewalks were jammed with people. I got a little turned around in the Village. I was not sure where I was or how I should go, I just kept aiming southwards. Somehow I found myself on Bleeker Street, and rode by the area of Greenwich that I was familiar with. It felt strange going through the Village on a bicycle.
Bleeker brought me to Houston, which I crossed. I continued on to Canal Street, a large, busy boulevard, with people selling wares from makeshift stalls all along. I took Canal east to Broadway, or at least what I thought was Broadway. It turned out to be West Broadway, and after only a few blocks it became one way in the opposite direction. I was forced to wander east yet again.
Finally, though, I did reach the true Broadway. This led me the rest of the way south, past the high rises of lower Manhattan. I passed Wall Street and the Anglican Cathedral, where I had walked and hatched the idea of biking to New York back in March of '99.
|Arrival: Battery Park: Day 7: 16:30|
Soon I arrived at Battery Park. It was 16:30. There were crowds everywhere, so thick that I had to dismount. There was no hope of finding Sheryl without directions, so I called her on the cell phone, and she told me she was at Pier Five. I walked along past the crowds getting on and off the Statue of Liberty ferries, past the vendors trying to sell all manner of junk to these crowds, past the buskers and their audiences. Finally, I found Sheryl and her friend.
|With souvenir NYC t-shirt, a gift from Sheryl|
The bicycle portion of the trip was ended. I had made Montreal to New York in seven day, covering a distance of at least 400 miles (by my round-about route). I felt good about myself. At the beginning, I really had my doubts about whether I was going to be able to make it. I was afraid that I had, perhaps, bitten off more than I could chew. I could never have succeeded without the Lord's help, though. This I knew. I thank Jesus for every kilometre.
We had a congratulatory dinner that night at Schooner's Restaurant in Freeport, Long Island, where I had flounder. The next day I slept in until nearly Noon! We began, then, the next phase of our trip, where Sheryl spent several days visiting with her friends before we headed back. We returned on I-87, with the bike attached on the rack in back. It took only eight hours to get home.
|At Battery Park, looking north|