A friend asked “Why would you even do that? What are you trying to prove?” I really wasn’t trying to prove anything. I was bored and it was a beautiful day. And I wanted to do something new. Or maybe it was all those books I’ve been reading about Arctic expeditions or some wack job taking six months to row across the Northern Pacific. Hard to say.
And so yesterday morning, I hopped on my too heavy Fuji cruiser (which I bought for $100 from a Central Park bike renter after my Cannondale was stolen) and rode crosstown to the Hudson Greenway…over the George Washington Bridge…and all the way up to Nyack on 9W. I’d heard that there’s a nice bike excursion in New Jersey and I thought I’d give it a try.
Decision #1 (after deciding to actually embark on the journey) involved choosing beauty versus ease. I chose beauty and paid the price when the Hudson River Drive ascended 340 vertical feet back to 9W, the actual route to Nyack. Wow! Kind of like riding up two or three bridges in New York. Compounding the problem was signage that threatened a citation if I didn’t walk the bike on “upper Dyckman.” But the problem was upper Dyckman isn’t labeled as such. And so, every time I heard a car approaching, I jumped off the bike to avoid a summons. Not a good way to climb a hill. Still the River Road (its other name) really is scenic, quiet and worth the effort.
Once on 9W, I experienced what I would call industrial suburban sprawl. Which is to say, there were several huge office complexes housed in giant buildings which were apparently headquarters for big corporations. While there was a fair amount of traffic, the road was two lanes each way with a wide shoulder for bicyclists. I wouldn’t call it dangerous having ridden city streets forever. But it wasn’t bucolic either – which is what I was looking for.
Not a problem. Within just a few miles, 9W turns into a somewhat less-trafficked two laner surrounded by woods – complete with the chirping of birds and cicadas. As far as elevation goes, the road has a few mild ups and downs – but not really enough to wear me out.
9W is a bicycle designated road and right away, I got the feeling I was out of my league. While there weren’t a lot of bicyclists on a Wednesday, what I did see were pros wardrobed in fancy and smooth racing attire and riding 10 pound thousand dollar bikes. As far as the riders going north with me on 9W, I passed not one – while everybody passed me! Clearly, 9W is for hard core riders – not schmucks like Dollar Bill.
Whatever…I invoke the story of the tortoise and the hare. And with just a stop here and there for water and a little rest, I arrived at the promised land (Piermont, NY ) just over three hours later. Not content to use that as my end point, I continued to pedal up to the Tappan Zee Bridge before turning around.
Pretty heady stuff up there. Beautiful views of the Hudson and million dollar homes abound. Too bad ya can’t swim in the river (thanks to General Electric dumping millions of tons of PCB’s all those years ago) or eat what you catch if you like to fish. Still, I checked on the town’s real estate market and modest homes and even bull shit condos positioned on the river still go for almost a million bucks.
After dining on a brilliant tuna sandwich I’d made the previous day down at the Catholic Worker (I have become the go-to tuna king as I mentioned earlier), it was time to retrace my steps. Two small problems there: First, it was 1 PM and getting hot. And second, all those hills I’d sped down at 40 mph I was going to have to climb up!
Oy! Up and up and up I pedaled that piece of crap rental bike I own swearing to myself that if ever I did this trip again, it would be on a thousand dollar bike! But bitch as I may, it was one foot in front of the other and later than sooner, I was back on the bridge, this time passing on the River Road and riding directly on 9W to the bridge. I see why some people like the River Road despite the huge climb out. 9W in Fort Lee felt like New York City on a bike. Nothing quite like threading a needle through traffic to bring you back down to Earth.
Oddly, what might have been the worst part of the trip was the return ride down the Hudson River Greenway where yesterday’s cloud cover brought with it a stiff headwind. Riding from 179th to 70th Streets, most of which is right on the river with nothing to block the wind, was a fucking bear. Along the way, I stopped to chat with of all people, a volunteer I knew from the Meatloaf Kitchen. Small world. Go figure.
Otherwise, once over the bridge, I pretty much headed straight home with one stop at a CVS which is selling 2 liters of Canada Dry ginger ale for a buck. After hiking I have a tradition of drinking a 20 ounce of ginger ale once down from the mountain. And this seemed like a similar occasion.
So now the obvious question: How did a 67 year-old’s body react to all that exertion? Actually, pretty well. I was saddle sore naturally. My knees were a little stiff. And I had a mild sunburn. But guess what. I had enough left in the tank to have a few beers and go boom boom in the room room last night! So there, father time. I ain’t dead yet. Apparently, not by a long shot if yesterday is any indication.