Day 61: The day of many small train wrecks 

Day 61, 8/13, Amsterdam, NY to Hudson, NY: 78.3 miles, 2,532 ft elevation gain, 12.1 mph average speed.
Trip Totals: 3,919.2 miles (75.4 mile daily average), 142,401 ft elevation gain, 12.5 overall average speed.

Note: We finished our trip on August 15th (as planned – yay!), but jumping back into real life has left little time or motivation to work on these last few blog posts. I’m really sorry we’ve taken so long to finish documenting the trip since we got back home, but I promise that we’re working on these last few posts.

We started out a little late today, as we tend to do when we stay in hotels, but it was okay because we only had 65 miles to ride. It’s funny just how much your perspective changes after riding every day for nine weeks. Sixty-five miles was what we were hoping to average at the beginning of our trip, and now it feels like an off day. The day started with a few miles riding on a highway with a massive shoulder before we hopped on a bike trail for 12 or so miles. We ended our time on the Erie Canal trail yesterday, but this beautiful paved trail led us all the way into Schenectady.

  
Soon after we got on the trail, we realized that we both really had to pee. No problem, right? We were on a bike trail; we could just use the woods. But it turns out that we weren’t the only ones who were interested in enjoying a beautiful multipurpose trail. Which leads me to a fun fact: one of Ted’s greatest talents is writing impromptu song lyrics. On this trip, I’ll occasionally hear him singing about something we just did, something he wants to do, or something that’s frustrating him. Today’s song was about having to pee, but having too many people around to do so discreetly. But what made today’s song even better than normal was that it was in Bemba, the language we learned in Peace Corps! And now, without further ado, here is Ndefwaya Ukusunda (I want to pee):

Abantu bali kuli konse lelo.

Abantu bali kuli konse lelo.

Abantu bali kuli konse lelo.

Chena chabipa.

Ndefwaya ukusunda.

Teti ndolela.

Napapata.

Translation:

There are people everywhere today.

There are people everywhere today.

There are people everywhere today.

That’s really too bad.

I want to pee.

I can’t wait.

I’m begging you.

The song is meant to be sung on repeat to the tune of another song he wrote in North Dakota, but the tune sounds familiar to me so I sort of think it’s an actual song that neither of us can remember. The English translation makes Ted’s song seem pretty lame, but he pulled a few fancy grammar rules and uncommon vocabulary words out of the corners of his brain for the Bemba version. We sang that song all day and at one point we sang it in a round, perfectly, I might add. The things that entertain you when you spend two months on a bike.

We reached Schenectady fairly quickly on that pleasant trail, then entered city streets. Schenectady had some nice architecture downtown, but it was not well maintained. It’s been killing me to see all of these lovely old buildings go to waste across America. We’ve seen so many vacant and / or dilapidated buildings with beautiful architectural features that would sell for millions in NYC. When we were in Escanaba, MI, I saw my dream apartment above a shop with large arched windows and the loveliest brick work. It was vacant, and I can’t even imagine how low the rent was. Location, location, location, I suppose!

We were aiming to make it to Albany for breakfast, roughly 30 miles from Amsterdam. We entered the Albany suburbs pretty much immediately after leaving Schenectady, and the riding got rough. Schenectady was only 15 miles into the day, so we were riding through suburban sprawl for a painfully long time. The route went through suburban strip mall, four-lane road, no shoulder land (with a couple brief respites of portions of the road that had inexplicable bike lanes connecting nothing to nothing) and it was the tail end of rush hour. We continued to ask ourselves how on earth roads with these conditions could constitute a bike route, and spent our time watching the traffic in our rear-view mirrors, ready to bail if necessary. It was necessary to bail twice, or at least I thought it was necessary to bail, being the overly cautious half of our team.

The 15 miles of unpleasant riding ended at a cute street with restaurants and shops near downtown Albany. I was not willing to go further before I ate something, so we were lucky that a place Ted found on Yelp last night was on that street. We parked our bikes and got a table on the patio of Cafe Madison. We ate an excellent breakfast and got mostly good service, except for when Ted went to the restroom and a waiter came outside to watch me suspiciously, not leaving until a waitress came out and asked if I was “with the man with the…uh…running suit on.” The waiter went inside when I answered in the affirmative. I think he thought I was homeless thanks to my winning combination of tattered clothes, dark skin, and general filthiness. Another nice brunch spot’s snooty image tarnished by our filth.

   
 We rode through the beautiful, historic part of Albany and stopped at the state capital, and we appreciated that it didn’t follow what seems to be the state capital trend of mimicking the national capital building. We then headed to the bridge that would bring us across the Hudson and onto NY state bike route 9. We had high hopes that this bike route would be better since we’d ridden route 9 before near NYC and the section we’d ridden had much safer riding conditions.

   
      We walked up the large, steep ramp to the bridge (we only walked because there was a sign instructing us to walk, but I was secretly happy to avoid climbing the ramp), then saw that the bridge was closed to traffic. There were about 40 cops scattered in a few clusters on the bridge, so we assumed there must have been some sort of crash. We got on our bikes and started riding, though, because no one was blocking the bike lane, so we assumed it was okay.

It was not okay. A cop on the other side of the bridge saw us and screamed over to the cops on our side, who ran toward us, yelling at us to stop immediately. They were initially mad at us for coming on the bridge (thinking we broke through a police barrier like a couple of dummies, I suppose?), but when we told them that the bike lane wasn’t blocked, they calmed down a bit. The cops told us that the bridge was closed because a man was sitting on the bridge ledge, considering jumping. The man was getting agitated every time someone came close or passed by, so they had to scream at us to let him know that they were taking it seriously and wouldn’t let people pass.

Needless to say, I’m glad they saw us in time to stop us from startling him into jumping. The cops told us that they couldn’t predict how long the bridge would be closed, of course, so they suggested that we turn around and “ride up the road a bit” to the next bridge that we could cross. “Up the road a bit” in driver speak equals “over an hour detour” in touring cyclist speak. So much for that short day (which isn’t meant to sound insensitive; it’s just a fact).

We headed down the ramp, contemplating waiting out the situation, but decided to add 14 miles to our day. We later learned that the cops managed to talk the man down, but not until almost 5p, so it was definitely wise not to wait.

When we got to the bottom of the bridge, we had to cross the street in a crosswalk at the bottom of a freeway off-ramp to get to a bike path. We were distracted for a second after the walk signal lit up and a Penske truck blew through the light at about 40mph as we were about to enter the intersection. Had we gone when the light turned, we would have gotten t-boned. This is the third time since April that we’ve hesitated at a light and had someone blow through right in front of our faces (twice on this trip, once at 4th and Union in Brooklyn). Please, if you are riding a bike, make sure to expect people to be idiots. Even though people are paying attention most of the time, it only takes one mistake to kill a cyclist.

After making it across the street alive, we jumped on a beautiful bike trail. We rode the trail six or so miles north, crossed a bridge, then rode on non-bike friendly streets south. South and up. And then south and level, and then south and down, right back to where we would have ended up without the detour. Except for the fact that right before we made it back to the official route, we were detoured yet again, this time because a semi-truck ran off the road and into an electrical pole. We momentarily panicked when the fireman standing in front of our path told us we had to go a different way (mostly because we had just lost a lot of elevation and did NOT want to climb it again), but it turned out that this detour didn’t add more than a couple of tenths of a mile to our trip, and no big hills.

   
    After getting onto NYS Bike Route 9, we had roughly 10 miles of lovely highway riding, and were cautiously optimistic that our hopes about Route 9 would come true. It was a mostly level, nearly deserted two-lane highway with a six-foot shoulder. This was, in our minds, what a “bike route” should be. Then those 10 miles ended (right around the enjoyably-named town of “Castleton-on-Hudson) and the road turned into a shoulderless, winding, and hilly, but thankfully still low-traffic two-lane highway. This road went on for a while, and in the interest of honesty, I want to say that if it had been a different day, or if we didn’t have that big detour, or if there were a shoulder, we might have really enjoyed this part of the ride. We had occasional glimpses of the Hudson (which was milky brown, by the way; no more sparkling turquoise water for us!), lots of big beautiful shady trees, and some beautiful old farmhouses. But we were frustrated and unhappy, and we still had longer than we wanted to go.

   
      Anyway, we had planned on getting to Hudson early and exploring the town, but by the time we finally made it, we were absolutely exhausted. So we grabbed a Subway sandwich and cold drinks and headed to our Warm Showers host for the night.

Our Warm Showers host texted us directions to his place that included a gate code to a nature conservancy, a “left past the junk van and Lincoln,” and a “right at the junk Jeep Cherokee,” before reaching a large field with a vintage Airstream, where he lives. Our host has quite a property. Aside from the Airstream, our host has a box truck that appeared to have been converted into a water reservoir, a chicken coop, an old grain silo with a vintage recliner sitting on top, and a desk perched up on a fallen-down barn overlooking a beautiful field. It was a strange place, but it had all of the necessary things and was very private and peaceful. 

   
       

Our host told us that he wouldn’t be home for a couple hours, if at all, so we made ourselves at home. We took showers in the outdoor shower, ate our sandwiches, and set up our tent in a mowed section of the field, choosing not to use the rainfly in order to stargaze. No outhouse, but otherwise, it was a great campsite! Our host never came home, which made Ted nervous, but I sort of enjoyed being able to go to bed early and stargaze from the tent.  

  

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s