During my last trip to San Francisco in early June, I took the opportunity to do a test run of camping. The last time I went car camping was the summer of 1991. My friend, Hai, and I went hiking in Point Reyes, California. After a day of amazing views, Hai showed me all there is to know about setting up camp. Everything was fine (for one night). Oi, I have how many more days of this? Who needs a 5-star hotel when I have a 1000-star hotel?
Mmm, dehydrated spaghetti out of a pouch.
Exactly one week before my departure date, I had the privilege of riding with NYCC legend, Michael (he used to race professionally in Europe!). After making sure I was properly fitted on my bike, we headed to Tarrytown, New York. After (illegally) getting on the Henry Hudson Parkway (It's a parkway! I don't think bicycles are allowed on here. There was actually a cop at the exit that we wanted to take so we stood on the side of the parkway for a few minutes for him to leave.) for a few hundred yards, Michael purposely took me on all the hilly roads he could remember. I am happy to say I was able to handle these hills with my loaded bike pretty okay. I think Michael was impressed; I think he was equally as impressed when I asked to hit a bike shop to look for some spare 292mm spokes.
On the ride home, I ran into Ed from my SIG. Excited to see him, we pulled aside to a gas station to talk. Unfortunately when doing so, my rear pannier caught a fire hydrant and I took a spill. After catching my breath for a few moments, I sat up and all is well. Thanks to all the people who offered to call an ambulance and who even offered to give me an alcohol wipe. Just as mentioned in the Emergency First Aid presentation I went to, one of the first things I asked was, "how's my baby?" (bike, people, my bike!). My mule was just fine. My side airbags (panniers) totally protected the frame, chain, derailleur. The only thing that got a scratch was the handlebar end cap. Good thing I didn't put on my handlebar lights yet. As for me, I amazing have no scratches, just an achy butt. A good thing about this fall is I now know that just because the front of my bike clears something, doesn't necessarily mean the back does. I need a wide load sign for my bike.
On the Monday of the Fourth of July weekend, 5 days before my departure, Michael, Andrea and I scouted out the first leg of the tour, this time all the way to Cold Spring, New York. I had my panniers completely loaded, including my sleeping bag. Instead of going to Tarrytown via hills (see above), we went along the Hudson River - so gorgeous. After Tarrytown, we went through Sleepy Hollow (yes, the Headless Horseman) and a bunch of coasters (rolling up and down hills). This was deceivingly a good workout. It's a good thing we did this scouting run because we ended up on Route 9 a few times. That was a bit scary as cars were next to us at 55+ mph.
Once we got back on the right track, we started climbing the side of this mountain known as the Goat Trail. I don't know the distance (I think it was something like 3-4 miles) but we were climbing pretty much 6% grades for an hour or so (or so it seemed). For those familiar with New York, these are the mountains north of Peekskill and parallel to Bear Mountain east of the Hudson River. Once we finally hit the top, it was 1 mile of pure downhill at about 30-40 mph. It was fun. The cars behind me were respectful and gave me full use of the entire lane so I could make all the wide turns necessary. At the bottom of the mountain, we took pictures on the Bear Mountain Bridge where there was a cheering section of passersby after they talked to Michael, who was waiting for Andrea and me, and realized what we had just accomplished.
60 miles, 9 hours and 156 ounces of Gatorade later since Manhattan, we got arrived at Cold Spring! I was so happy. I was pointing out all the Welcome to Cold Spring signs. One car honked back at my enthusiasm. Going through town, I perfected my victory pose (both hands off the handlebar above my head in the V shape). It was as if I had just won the Tour de France or something. I was on an incredible high having finished an amazing and hard ride.
Here we are along the Hudson River. Michael is doing my favorite cool stance. I can no longer emulate this pose; my racks and panniers are in the way.