I had made it through the first night and I was cruising along a beautiful bike trail, a converted railway from Hopewell Junction to Poughkeepsie. Poughkeepsie is the spot where I was to meet up with the Hudson River. The people who were exercising with me on the trail that morning were upbeat in appearance and attitude. They were giving me hope that maybe America was about to open back up. There were walkers, joggers and bicyclists, and even some plain ole bench sitters. I can remember feeling great. It was to be a 16-mile roll out into a city I had never been too. The Dutchess County Rail Trail was quite straight and flat and made for easy biking. My mood was usually a direct reflection of the conditions.
Then I arrived at a spot where the trail launched over a great expanse. I knew I was to stay on the eastern side of the Hudson, so there was no more to be had of that trail for me. I had arrived in downtown Poughkeepsie. I was excited to see it. I followed the signs for the train station knowing it was next to the river. I wanted to see the river. The visual encounters are used to mark the journey in my mind and the Hudson was to be the first of those. However, downtown was a little run-down. I wasn’t getting a great hang-out vibe, like I had hoped for, and I couldn’t see the river. I decided to follow the bicycle route signs north out of the city center. I saw the entrance to Marist Collage which looked very impressive. No students. I got coffee in the neighborhood at the University Deli.
I decided to move on, north.
I peddled on and came to the town of Hyde Park, which I had never heard of before but it had the distinction of being the home of President of the United States Franklin D. Roosevelt. I was very tempted to do a bit of sightseeing but pressed on, knowing I had to keep moving if I was to get anywhere and I was assured that all the museums would be closed because of the pandemic. I still hadn’t seen the river but I knew it was to my left as I peddled along. Something about deciding to ride across America had to do with the patriotism I was feeling in my heart. I love America and Roosevelt is an important symbol in my mind that reminds me of everything that Americans sacrificed so that we could enjoy the freedoms we enjoy. The Vanderbilts move my heart less but only because I know nothing of them besides Jordache Jeans and Gloria Vanderbilt, and the fact that they are, or were, filthy rich.
Hyde Park was beautiful and just the kind of town I would love to live in. Apparently, I shared this view with the Vanderbilts as their mansion, grounds and National Monument was the next stop. I was dying to go in there to take pictures but I had to keep moving. I actually snapped a couple of pics so that I might remember how I felt but I remember that these weren’t the pictures I wanted to take. Was my trip about taking pictures or was it about bicycling? The debate raged.
Vanderbilt environs, Hyde Park, New York — photo Todd Tracy / American Bicycle Odyssey / May 16th, 2020
I was beginning to venture outside of myself. I began to think less about my situation from moment to moment and more about my environment. While bicycling, one becomes very in tune with surroundings. It is a difficult feeling to describe, but in and among these pages I will do my very best to try.
Next up was Rhinebeck New York. I had heard so much about the Aerodrome over the years. I wanted to visit. I had a few personal encounters in this town. One, while I was drying out my tent. I had pulled off at a monument for war heroes to unpack my tent and give it a little sun, so as to dry things out. I read that that was the best way to prevent mildew from growing. My rainfly was soaked from the rains the previous night and I had left my spot at 5:30 am. I nice gentleman on a bicycle peddled up to me and made some small talk. We got to talking about bikes and Westport and Fairfield University. He told me al about Rhinebeck, how it had even more restaurants than Westport. He had just moved up from New York City. We discussed the advantages of electric bikes and I reminded him that if the battery runs out you have to peddle home and the weight of the battery makes that a serious pain in the ass. I know from experience. He told me that the Aerodrome was closed because of Covid-19, so I wouldn’t be stopping there. Damn, that would have been so cool. I had even been thinking about going for a plane ride, but it was not in the cards. I moved on. That was one of the constants throughout my entire journey across the United States, I kept moving.
As I was leaving Rhinebeck I saw a bike shop. I rolled in the owner was really cool. He looked at my set up in wonder as he checked my tire pressure. Everything was good, the rear needed a tiny bit of pressure but it was hard to tell if it had lost any. I told him my goal was potentially Niagara.”Very ambitious,” was all he said. But he was a super nice guy and I would recommend buying a bike from him. Five-star shop*****.
I was on my way. So much lay before me and I was sensing that. The sunshine was starting to bite. I bought some sunblock and Milkyway bars at a gas station and then I was back on 9 north. I still hadn’t seen the river. I got the feeling my bike route 9 wasn’t actually along the river, there were other local roads leading directly to it to my left, but these roads would slow my progress.
This dilemma would grow and evolve into strange and wonderful ways. In a car, it is easy to go a few miles out of one’s way to sightsee, but on a bicycle, it takes more commitment. I wanted to see the Hudson River but the bike trip was more important. How would I deal with this? I couldn’t decide. Every few miles I came upon a road that would take to the river and each time I declined the detour, wondering in my mind the beautiful views and photos and video I was missing.