I was going to sit out Micro Tour 2 and give my legs time to recover. A week out from the ride date, I succumbed to Joy and Happiness, and signed up for the ride. It was literally two weeks after MT1 to Rhinebeck. What am I doing with myself?
I’ve made a huge mistake. Again.
This is always the refrain when I start out. Hopefully I won’t think this during MT3.
Meet me at the river
Micro Tour 2 was about a 40-ish mile ride from Chambers Street, on the Hudson River Greenway, to Croton Point Park. No Metro North trains on this ride. It was all leg-powered.
I thought this ride, while almost double MT1, wouldn’t be that bad. After all, I’ve ridden part of this route before when I went to Kensico Damn Plaza in Valhalla with the WE Ride group. I got this! I thought to myself. Of course, this time, instead of the hills making me hate everything in the world, it was the flatness of the trails and the constant pedaling required to keep my body moving forward. My legs were not happy and they showed it when we got to Ossining some 20 miles or so later.
This ride — going from NYC to Croton Point Park — must be a popular ride. There were almost 50 of us, and way more women than the first ride (YASS!). We were quite a scene biking up the Hudson River Greenway and through the Bronx. We were also the most despised by the roadies because damnit! You shant fuck with their Strava numbers! whatever.
Van Cortlandt Park and the South County Trail
Our first major stop was Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx. It’s a beautiful park and the day’s weather was perfect for schlepping around. Once we regrouped and took the group photo, we saddled up and made our way along the muddy Old Putnam Trail. From there, we connected with the South County Trail, a beautiful paved trail with a glorious canopy of trees. On this particular day, with the sun shining and a slight breeze, the emerald of the green leaves was intense and relaxing. Sadly, the canopy did nothing to keep my thighs and hands from getting sunburned. oops.
Lunch in Elmsford
There’s a point in which the South County Trail becomes the North County Trail, and that’s in Elmsford. A sprawling town with a local deli here, a Subway there, and other businesses along the road. This was our lunch stop.
There are downside to having a dietary restriction while on a bike ride. You either roll the dice and hope for the best, or you pack all your food and add the weight to your gear load. I’ve been bringing the bare minimum with me. It’s been a learning process. Luckily, I’ve been to Elmsford before, so I knew about the Subway and bought a sad chicken salad and stuffed my face with greens. Compared to a sandwich, it definitely was not the energy-providing meal I wanted.
After lunch, we continued onto the trail. Despite my unsatisfying lunch, the greenery was pleasant and the exhaustion of my legs pumping the pedals soon pushed the thought of hunger out of my mind.
Trail to Road
After about eight miles on the trail, we hooked a left to regroup at Briarcliff Manor Library. This is where I thought I’d really done it. Where I’ve definitely made a huge mistake and, for a brief moment, hated everything.
If I thought constant pedaling on a nearly flat surface with camping gear was a challenge, I wasn’t wholly prepared for the sudden elevation increases that had to be overcome before arriving at Croton Point Park. As soon as we left the library parking lot and began the first ascent I fell back.
“Don’t lose sight of the last person,” I kept telling myself. I lost sight of them before our first big turn towards Ossining. At that point I think I just said “fuck it. I have the cue sheet and GPS. I’m almost there,” and kept going at my own pace, which included very slow pedaling and some walking.
When I crested Route 9/Albany Post Road, I saw Joe waiting at the intersection that connected with a bike lane. I was elated. It meant we were close to the park. Joe gave me directions on getting into the park and to the campsite, and I continued on my merry way.
Sweet Flavor of Arrival
I’ve never felt more relieved to see a train yard than I did that Saturday while riding parallel with the Croton Expressway over the Croton River. The Croton-Harmon train station, I remembered, was literally next to Croton Point Park, so I knew that after some left turn ahead, I’d be able to relax even more and take my sweet time getting to the actual campsite.
It was beautiful. The delicious flavor of victorious arrival. The sun rays shined angelically, reflecting its happy rays onto the river, sifting through the leaves on trees and making the green fields homely. I wasn’t even mad that I had one more fucking hill to deal with before the campsite.
At camp, I (gently) threw my bike onto the ground and felt the tenseness in my body. The stillness was a welcome relief, even for a moment. My thighs burned and were sun burnt. As were my hands. What a great way to start the tanning season! I looked around the campsite for a good pitch. It was supposed to rain Sunday and I didn’t want to get trapped in a puddle spot (of course, I don’t think this really mattered, since our camp site was literally at the bottom of a sloped roadway that went further into the park).
Before completely settling in, a group of us made a grocery store run to the nearby Shop Rite. It was a mad decision on my part. Even without the weight of the camping gear, I was beat. I went anyway because I needed sustenance — more than just the ProMeal bars and trail mix I had on me. I bought ridiculous amounts of single-serve Justin’s hazelnut almond butter spread, a loaf of Schär bread (gluten free!), Bob’s Red Mill single-serve oatmeal, and this strange, ready-to-eat, single-serve cup of quinoa and basil pesto (I don’t recommend).
The best part about this grocery run was Colin buying number balloons — 7, 1, 8 — to take back to Joe. It was a sight to behold: floating silver balloons down the road as we biked back towards the park. Well, first there was a quick stop at the Green Growler down the road. I kept riding. By this point I just wanted to get off my damn bike.
Rivers and hidden beaches
After settling in, again, a small group of us decided to go on an adventure. We walked towards the point of the park that juts into the Hudson River. You can see the Tappan Zee Bridge from here. A family was fishing and collecting smoothed-over glass. We took some group pictures then climbed back up to the trail to make our way towards a hidden beach.
It was a small beach, overlooking the Croton Bay (it’s weird to think there’s a bay in a river). We sat on a downed tree, made introductions, did some bird watching, yoga, skipped rock. Except for the rustling of the cattails and the small waves lurching onto the sand and against the plant roots, it was quiet. Tranquil even.
We probably would’ve stayed there awhile longer but I think hunger overcame us. And the gnats.
Dinner and a talent show
There was a lot of food. Veggie-kabobs, sausages, potatoes, and snacks on snacks. I was relaxed and enjoyed the small group I was with. We were talking about cops and bikes, getting ticketed, getting doored, and other crazy tales about riding in the city. There is no love-hate relationship quite like the one felt by a cyclist in the city.
After a few hours I let the exhaustion overtake me. I silently crawled into my tent and drifted off to sleep, but not before I heard calls for a talent show and one of us did the Russian dance. I blacked out soon after all that commotion.
Sundays on these trips aren’t all that exciting. It’s a mix of feeling relaxed about having gotten out of the city, and sadness for having to pack up and return for another week of drudgery. It also began raining, hard, over night. And it was cold.
I took my time packing up. I was in no hurry to leave. It was already raining, and I was going to take the train back knowing the trail in the Bronx would be flooded out. As I was eating my soggy bread slices with almond butter Chombo asked which I thought was worse, “the rain today or the rain during the previous ride?”
I thought about it and replied “this rain definitely sucks.”
The difference, in my mind:
The first trip to Ferncliff Forest, the rains didn’t start until after we were already on the road. And while it was miserable riding in the cold wind and rain, starting off dry has its benefits. This second trip to Croton Point Park, though, it was raining and had rained quite a bit over night. We woke up to varying degrees of flooding under tents, and we had to pack wet gear that then had to be dried off somehow in our NYC apartments. Packing up wet gear is never fun.
I think Chombo agreed. I can’t remember. All I remember is the rain pelting us and my exposed calves getting gooseflesh from the wet cold.
After everyone had left, Tyler, Chombo and I did a final check of the campsites. Everything looked good. We saddled up and biked to the train station just outside the park and rode back to the city in dry comfort. It felt like cheating but honestly, that I rode 40-some odd miles the previous day in beautiful weather was good enough for me. My body was beat. It was cold. I welcomed the comforting embrace that a train car could provide. It beat having to bike in the rain, again. We also got home hours earlier than we would have if we had biked back.
When I got home I had some hot coffee. Pitched my gear everywhere in the apartment to dry off and slept like a baby.