Previously from Micro Tour 7 (part 1):
Piermont. Grand View-on-Hudson. The Tappan Zee Bridge. South Nyack and its northern siblings regular Nyack and Upper Nyack. All abutted on the east by the Hudson River. Ironically, I have no words to describe the river, and even if I tried, it wouldn’t do the view much justice. But I’ll try in a moment. First, though, the homes along the Hudson.
It’s a quaint string of a dwellings that are erect in these towns along the Hudson. Some are simple wood-brick hybrids with a homey feel. Something your Nana might live in and you visit once in a while. Other homes, as might be expected on such prime real estate, were quite unbecoming. They belong, in my humblest opinion, in those godawful McMansionvilles I often encountered throughout Maryland. Just. God. Awful. And not just in their sheer size but architecture, too. They break the rules of good design and not in any good way. I’ll leave it that, and good thing there were less of those than humble river-side homes.
A Most Perfect View (and a fall)
Mile 32 – 37
After a jaunt through some small towns, enter: beautiful, lightly graveled trail snuggled right up along the riverside. This segment is three state parks linked together (Nyack Beach State Park, Hook Mountain State Park, and Rockland Lake State Park, plus a golf course). It’s one of the most beautiful five miles I’ve ever ridden.
Starting in Nyack, the trail is what some may consider standard light gravel. It’s unpaved but it’s not crazy off-road mountain riding. Hard-pack dirt even. The S curves of the trail dips in and out of the river, giving you a panoramic view of Westchester County across the way, including Croton Point Park — the destination of a previous Micro Tour. The sun, unobstructed, reflected its rays off the rippling surface of the Hudson; the mild breeze giving you a sensation of liveliness.
While the river glittered to the east, the west spared no dullness in its beauty. It didn’t glitter, but turning leaves draped against a backdrop of rock formations were a splendor of its own.
After a while, the trail guided me inland and the ground became bumpier. The gravel was looser in parts and fallen leaves obscured the surface. I was traveling upward and the river moved further away. I came upon a clearing along the trail with a sheer rock face. It was an elegant formation and, just as I had successfully done many times before, I took my phone out to record the scene.
After a few seconds, I closed the camera app and went to put my phone back into my feed bag.
And then the fall.
It’s a strange sensation, feeling your body get pitched a certain way and ignoring your conscious attempts to re-balance. I felt the impact of the ground, the sand-papery buffing on my legs and the softness of the leaves in my face. My phone looked like a chinchilla had bathed with it.
I stayed on the ground a few second longer to get a feel for all my extremities. My left leg was resting on the bike, the foot clumsily still clipped into the pedal. My right leg? I don’t remember. It was straight, and my arms were outstretched in front of me. After disconnecting from the bike I carefully hoisted myself up — and realized an entire family had come to my aid.
I fell in front of a picnicking family.
They were very helpful and a thousand thank yous to them. The mother brushed the leaves out of my face, neck, and hair. The two young children stood awkwardly holding my bike up. One of them even kept pointing at my bleeding leg. The father pointed out my handlebars were out of whack. Did I need an ambulance? Did I break anything? Am I alone? All pertinent questions were asked and answered. I hit an obscured tree root.
A generous wet wipe to the knee and realignment of handlebars later, I cautiously continued northward. Colin was behind me helping someone with an out-of-true tire, and Joe and the rest of the front pack were somewhere ahead, supposedly 10 minutes ahead. But who knows how many miles 10 minutes means.
I couldn’t wait to get out of the park wonderland and on to more stable ground. Every loose pebble, rock, and leaf had me on edge. The trail edge suddenly felt too close to the river. I knew that the rest of the trip wasn’t going to feel quite right after that fall.
Mile 37 – 41
Once on solid ground, I felt somewhat better. I didn’t have to worry about the ground crumbling under my weight. I just had to focus on cars as I zipped through Haverstraw, another little sprawled town on the Hudson River.
Once or twice I thought about waiting for Colin to catch up. At least then I wouldn’t be alone. It was probably the adrenaline and shock from the fall that kept me riding. I made a few too many wrong turns. At one point, the break-off group that went hard-core graveling from the 9W Market caught up to me, except I was at the end of a dead-end street — the result of a missed turn — so I couldn’t catch up to them.
The group disappeared ahead of me. I was alone again.
That sounds really sad. I promise you it wasn’t that bad. The sensation of loneliness just felt more stark because of my earlier fall. After zig-zagging my way through the town, I eventually made it to Aldi’s at around mile 41. My knee cap was encrusted with blood. It looked worse than it felt. I rinsed it off in the store bathroom as best I could, grabbed some snacks, took a swab of antibiotics and a Band-Aid from Joe, and came down from the adrenaline high.
I felt out of sorts. We still had “The Hill” to tackle. The doubting started.
The Hills and then THE Hill
Mile 41 – 47
New routes are fun because you’re pretty much left to your own imagination as to what the ride entails. For example, “the hill.” What the fuck does that even mean?
From the near-imperceptible grimaces on some folks’ faces, I imagined a short, hellish incline akin to the one near the little red lighthouse in NYC. Steep and curvy. There’s a less than 10 percent chance you can pedal the entire thing.
The Hill was hellish, but it wasn’t like the hill near the little red lighthouse. It was, in its special way, worse. Much worse.
Before arriving at The Hill, you climb a handful of other tedious hills, the inclines which increased with every crest. Each hill that I walked and pedaled, I thought this is the hill. But of course, it wasn’t. You knew when you were on The Hill.
While the other hills eventually crested and dipped down slightly, The Hill provided no such relief for two to three miles. Yes. You read that right. TWO TO THREE MILES of hellish incline that poses no trouble for a multi-ton vehicle embedded with multiple horse powers but is outright deleterious (and maybe even delirious) for a single human-powered contraption lugging a portion of their body weight in camp gear. (I don’t know how Miggy managed it with his cargo bike.)
Couple all this with a bruised knee and you have a recipe for… something. A moment of disbelief at the reality of it all? I don’t know. At one point I loudly exclaimed that I may have walked more on this trip than biked it. I was immediately scolded by a fellow human being whose spirits were uplifting mine. They were right. All told, I walked probably five miles, and those were all on hills that I couldn’t completely pedal up.
You might scoff and make fun at our inability to ride many of these hills. I remind you that, after 50 miles of riding with 15-30 pounds, you’re pretty much at your physical limits. And this has been the case in just about every Micro Tour I’ve been on. There’s always a fucking hill before the camp site. The upside is knowing that it’s mostly downhill going home.
Mile 47 – 53
Once you ascend The Hill, you come down to the first of a handful of small lakes leading up to the campsite. Lake Welch, along Kanawauke Road, engulfs the two-lane road way, providing a beautiful panoramic view of tree-lined scenery.
The stillness of the lake is inviting and energizing. It signals the closeness of your destination, though, I readily admit that I thought, “Man, why didn’t we just stop here?” At this point, I was ready to throw down my bike and sprawl any where — anything to relieve the pain in my knee.
But I continued on Kanawauke Road until I arrived to the first circle. I followed the road rightward, onto Seven Lakes Drive — so named because the road passes by seven lakes along an 18-mile stretch. I passed two of these lakes (Skannatati and Askoti) before arriving at the southern end of Lake Tiorati.
Cruising along the stretch of the lake was a calming moment. The campsite was near and I made it 50-some-odd miles with gear in colder-than-anticipated temps. This is part of what these rides are all about: pushing ourselves, experiencing new adventures, and enjoying it with amazing human beings.
The lake reflected the sky in its face. The blue, maybe a cobalt, rippled hypnotically. Such a perfect name for the characteristic: Tiorati. “Skylike” in Algonquin, or “blue-like sky” in Mahican.
One final push up a short, steep incline (literally), I made it to the rocky campsite. In a zombie-like state, I lumbered around, looking for a decent-enough spot to pitch tent. All the really good spots seemed to be taken, and I didn’t want to be too close to the fire pit. I settled for a spot in front of Mimi’s tent, which included an unfortunately slat of rock jutting out awkwardly that I didn’t notice until too late. I was tired. I didn’t care. I made it work by using the rock to sleep at an awkward angle that night. Good thing my two-person tent feels more like a three-fer.
Of all the places I’ve been on the Micro Tour, I think Lake Tiorati may be my favorite. The lake has a beauty to it that cannot be matched. And it’s mostly because of the way the sky tends to light up at dusk and gets reflected on the water’s surface. Nature is magical and sometimes, most times, we take it for granted. It was cold but we were content. We had each other. We had a fire, and Miggy was making some bomb-ass, five-cheese macaroni-style dish. And his dog made the rounds to bring some smiles to our faces.
It was a great end to the Micro Tour season, and I’m looking forward to next season.