Day 1: #WLOB - A Maiden Voyage | 32.6 Miles
Rather than take the sunrise train to Yonkers, we wound up catching the Metro North train from Harlem to Poughkeepsie at 1:54pm. The night before at 9:30, Josh arrived from Philly with Heather's bike, prepared to coach us on the mechanics of shifting and to be the Devil's advocate. With such comments as, "you don't even know how to patch a tube" and "you're basically relying on luck and passersby instead of skills," he broke us down over beers and bar food. He did come through with some encouraging words eventually.
Apparently, bike shops don't open until 10am on Saturdays and our late night and last minute prep session revealed our lack of some necessities: 1 tire; 1 rack; 1 water bottle holder; 1 alen wrench set. Also, an impromptu hands-on tire changing tutorial just had to happen. Saddled up and ready to ride the train, we parted from our dedicated trainer and learned how to ride our loaded bikes on the short ride to the train station.
On the train, we awkwardly stood at a loss for where to park ourselves with our stuff. Directed to the handicapped zone, we hovered near the conductor for the duration of the ride. There, we shared stories with a suited-up cyclist named Anthony, who then offered us some homemade meringues. The conductor had been eavesdropping and inquired about our route. As a local, he revised our route, stating that what googlemaps had proposed was really roundabout.
Arriving in Poughkeepsie, we took some toilet paper from the station and rolled on out of town. Uphill at 4pm, we were off to a slow start. Ominously, Jennie's load soon tumbled off her rack, feeding our fears of unpreparedness. Trucking, we pushed through on our way into the open road.
In fact, it was the open highway 44, with cars racing past us. We learned how to share the road safely while riding and operating our gears. In Pleasant Valley, we stopped at The Bicycle Shop just before closing, where we checked our tire pressure and acquired two water bottles, one on the house. After the owner approved our route, we continued our maiden voyage.
A couple hours later, we stopped at a diner called Happy Days, recommended by the train conductor for having "no crowd ever." With groups of ladies in their 60s ogling over photos of movie studs, we ordered a fried sampler platter and hot submarine sandwiches. Satiated and hydrated, we contined on our way to Connecticut.
Racing the sunset, we pedaled quickly up hills and cruised down just as many. Thinking we were almost there, we turned onto Clark Hill Road to enter Connecticut. The climb was so steep we had to dismount at several points on account of both the incline and our exhaustion. This is where we discovered Granny Gear, the lowest gear possible. Around this time, Jennie's chain was derailed and she was pleased to be able to rechain it quickly. Losing the sun, we adorned out bikes with blinking lights as we approached Macedonia State Park.
Finally seeing some campsites, dusk carried us through to the main office by 9:15, just after closing. Presumptuous, we settled by a tree poised along a brook near a large clearing, with intentions of paying in the morning for the site. Relieved, we set up our tent and made our beds of yoga mats and sleeping bags. Just as we were ready to eat our leftover subs, park rangers rode up in their truck to inform us of our illegal campsite choice. Annoyed, we packed up everything and biked in the night to setup near a group of friendly young men. After borrowing their super-jumbo flashlight to set up, we finally finished our subs by their campfire and consumed Southern Comfort and corn on the cob that they offered us. We played cards, which for them, turned into all night drinking games.
Going to bed around midnight, we fell into deep and restful sleep. At an unknown and ungodly hour, we were awakened by yells with such absurdities as, "I'm so sick of you guys giving me a hard time for being rich," "look at me, I'm a drunk circus clown," and "get your ass in the tent right now before I put you there." We rose at 7am, disappointed at "sleeping" near a belligerent scene rather than by a peaceful brook. We were stunned leaving our tent, as Bob, their spokesperson, left us water, bagels and cheese, and a ziploc bag with a wad of bills and change. He explained on their way out that this was the money the rich guy had been flinging from his wallet throughout the night and that it was in exchange for the inconvenience - $35 and some change.