500 Kindnesses Ride Day #18: Rolling Down the Hudson

In 2012, Daegan and I embarked on our longest ever bicycle tour: 500 Kindnesses. This project was treated like a charity bicycle ride in that we asked for “sponsors” to support us. But instead of sending money to a charity we asked them to perform a random act of kindness for someone. In the end, over 1,000 pledges were received. Our ride would take us from Toronto, northeast to Ottawa and Montreal then south through my home state of Vermont, eventually ending up in New York City. The trip was made on a tandem bicycle as Daegan was still young (only 13) and less confident cycling on busy streets like we might encounter in the major cities we’d pass through. Or perhaps, if I’m honest, I can say that I was far more nervous than he was and having him riding the same bike made me feel more comfortable.

Over the next several weeks I’ll be posting original entries from the trip.

July 22, 2012 – Approximate distance: 110 KM

We had quite a bit of inertia when it came time to leave again. Socializing with friends, cuddling little dogs, and relaxing was really lovely. But we still had two day’s ride left to go and New York City wasn’t getting any closer. So after a huge and delicious breakfast we made loaded our bike again and headed south.

The ride along the Hudson was beautiful. The heat was mostly gone from the air and we made good time on our way down to Newburgh. Once we got there we made the first of three more Hudson crossings we’d make over the next couple of days.

This took us in to the lovely city of Beacon. There we met a boy of about 10 on his bike who was fascinated by our trip. Where had we come from? How far was it? By the end of the conversation he was saying how he’d like to ride his bike to North Carolina to visit his dad. The rest of his family could take the car but he would ride his bike. And oddly enough, though I was riding a bike with a boy not much older than that I found myself thinking that perhaps this boy was having something of a pipe dream. It wasn’t until later I realized how absurd that was. Of course he could do it. Maybe not at 10, but he was already riding a bike. All he needed was to continue to think it was possible and one day to actually leave. After all, it wasn’t like we had done anything more than that.

We passed through the city and on our way through one of the outskirts we came across a lovely sight:
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We admired them for a while along with an older woman who came out of her house to tell us how they come every day and how she worries about them with all the traffic nearby.

We made our way to the edge of town where we found something I miss from living in the outskirts of New York City – an Italian deli. I couldn’t help myself and allowed myself a little bit of cheese in a delicious Italian sub. It was the perfect lunch. Sadly, sandwiches like these are few and far between in Toronto, it seems.

Thoroughly refueled we headed south along the river as the temperature gradually started to rise and crossed the river yet again near Bear Mountain. When we got across we were faced with a choice: Get back on Route 202, the road that had been so horrible in Connecticut – and now on a very steep uphill, or take Google Maps’ advice and take a dirt trail down near the river which may or may not be as impassible as the other ones. Realizing that the worst that would happen if we took the Google Maps risk again would be that we’d have another story to tell we decided to avoid the giant hill and ride along the river.

The good news was that we didn’t have to take the hill. The bad news was that there were challenges. First off, the temperature was rising and the humidity was as well. The path was pretty good for the most part with a few sandy stretches that we had to walk through. Eventually, though, we got to a huge downed tree that took some wires down with it. At first I thought we might have to head back but a closer look revealed that they were fiber optic cables and posed no threat. So we found a way to get the bike through the downed tree and onto the other side. Eventually we emerged back on to the main road. There was no way to avoid it. We were now on Route 202/9W. On the positive side, this was now NY Bicycle Route 9, the same route we’d been on some time before just after crossing the US/Canada border. The riding wasn’t bad but the heat was getting pretty oppressive. We opted to stop at a convenience store that had a few tables and air conditioning and we relaxed there for a while. We continued onward, eventually finding ourselves in Stony Point where we found ourselves hot, exhausted, and low on water in our bottles. Fortunately, there was a public library there. And so we made our way inside where we asked for a bit of water. Unfortunately the tapwater in the library wasn’t potable and the librarians were drinking bottled water. Still, they generously offered to fill our bottles for us. As we figured we could find more water further ahead we only filled a couple. As we filled the bottles, one of the librarians asked us where we’d come from. When we told her we’d left Ontario a few weeks back she told us that she, too, was from Ontario. We talked a bit about our project and in the end I left a card with our URL on it for her. A few days later we saw a pledge that appeared to have been sent from a town near the library.

We sat in the library for close to an hour reveling in the air conditioning. It was delightful. But as we still had about 20 km to go we got back on the bike and headed out.

The last few kilometres were a bit hilly but bearable and before long we found ourselves in Valley Cottage. There we were welcomed by a couple and their two kids like we were family. It was an honour and a joy to be able to share a dinner and breakfast with them and to be able to talk about our families. Like Daegan, their children were also homeschooled and so we had a great deal to talk about. But the evening eventually had to come to an end as we had to get ourselves ready. After all, it was the night before we would arrive in New York City. Definitely a bittersweet place to be.

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