A friend let me know in January that he was doing a fund-raising ride on May 8. I guess I could write I was invited on a century. It was for Padres Pedal the Cause and the idea is everyone does a ride on the same day everywhere.
Rob had the route all mapped out. 98 miles. Something like 25 miles of gravel, but allegedly manageable on road tires. Lots of climbing. He wasn’t looking for me to raise cash, just offered it up as company on a fun ride. As it starts and finishes in Nyack, takes in lots of roads I didn’t know on the east bank of the Hudson, including gravel, I wanted in, but knew that I’d only do it if I was vaccinated by then. In January, it seemed like getting vaccinated by the start of May was a long shot. Looking at various predictions, July seemed more likely.
After over a year of starting and finishing every single ride at the same spot, and trying many, many variations on routes I’ve created, having someone else do the leading is hard to turn down.
Vaccinations seemed to be happening much faster than anticipated. Reality was that May 8 would be three days shy of the full power of my second shot.
So, I reached out to him. I would be just three days shy of my two-week build after the second Pfizer shot. And rain was predicted. Wanted to know if he was still going. Yes, came the answer. Even if it was raining. I guess I should have expected that; Rob has a tradition of venturing out regardless of weather. Guess I do, too.
I looked at the forecast. it was changing all week. Rain predicted, temps in the mid 40s to low 50s. Friday, the forecast was predicting maybe two hours of rain max up there. I texted a neighbor, got him to lend me his car, and I was ready to rock.
Rob wanted to go early. So 4am up, 5am start, about 45 minutes before sunrise, but, I was told, we’d ‘need’ blinky lights only for the first 20 minutes. Didn’t quite work out, as I didn’t account for the extra time it takes to get on VeloToze booties.
My friend warned me his fitness wasn’t good—but he intended to ride 100 miles–and that he might send me ahead at some point. And if I felt i needed to book to get home to family or stretch the legs or stay warm, I should feel free. Even though I had the route on my bike computer, the ride turned so much with lots of northing and southing and easting and westing that I wanted to ride together until at least Peekskill, where I knew I’d be easily able to figure out my way home, even if the machines failed.
The longest ride starts with a single stroke, and we kept the pace light and conversational to ease into it, even with a category four climb starting in the second mile of the ride. If we kept things conversational and no one was laboring to breathe, we wouldn’t be going too hard. Just had to keep the calories coming.
Nyack was deserted at 5:15am. There was a deer standing in the middle of Broadway. Everywhere in Rockland County is a deer-crossing zone, despite the county selectively signing their presence.
Haverstraw was just as deserted. No deer though.
Next was the new Jones Point Path. It is awesome; as was pointed out, possibly the best bit of bike-related infrastructure in all of Rockland County. It takes out the Dunderberg Mountain climb on the way to Bear, but that sector of 9W is pretty bad for riding anyways.
The ride gets interesting about a mile past the Bear Mountain Bridge. A sharp right onto gravel and we’re climbing a wall. And descending something nearly as steep. Then hitting a number of gravel sectors, some twisty and loose and steep.
I flatted on a gravel downhill, I think on the lip of a cement bridge. Grrr. And my replacement tube had a leak. And it was starting to rain. Only 2:24 in.
But it was a drizzle and I was dressed warm enough and had a rain jacket in my pocket. Didn’t want to go there if I didn’t have to. Once a rain jacket comes on, it’s hard to take it off; you start to sweat up your clothes and then they act as an ice pack if the jacket is removed. The rain drizzled for a while, like an hour, and then became a real rain for a while, backed off to a drizzle, then rain again.
My friend has been at this a long time and knew how to find a pace he can handle. He’d take the hills at an easier effort and I’d roll ahead. After a while, I realized I should be looking to take some pics (why else carry a phone?). Which I did.
The “way back,” which starts about 65 miles in, begins with us re-climbing that first steep gravel hill outside of Manitou. It was suggested I should go ahead then. But I didn’t want to get stuck flatting on gravel alone in the rain.
So, when we hit the pavement outside of Peekskill, I went ahead. Only to get lost at the third turn, for about 100 meters. But since I had been sitting at a light for a few minutes already, my pal caught me. We rode together for a few more minutes through downtown Peekskill, then I moved on at the first hill.
While I’ve ridden back from Peekskill many times, I’ve never gone this way before. Barely on Route 9, which can be a bit of a highway, the change was welcome, particularly because most of the roads were empty, and way more climbing. And descending.
I also got to see the Croton Dam in person for the first time.
As I got closer to the Tappan Zee, the rain disappeared, the route took on some surprising hills, twists, and turns I didn’t know existed. While they stretched out the ride, the anticipation of the finish blunted the fatigue and chilled hands. Heading over the Tappan Zee, where it was drying out, I was wondering if the ride would be 98 miles as he listed.
It was. 98.0 miles and 9,976’ of climbing. Not only just short of a century, but just short of 10k vertical! Two arbitrary accomplishments denied, the second even harder to define than the first. But after 98 miles, another two should be nothing.
I have a friend in Nyack. I reckoned her house was about a mile away and there was a steep hill I could take to get there.
Yup. Missions accomplished. 100.4 miles and 10,212’ of climbing.
I want to ride it again. But I possibly want to see it for the first time more.