Towns along the east side of the Hudson River were percolating inside of my imagination.
The world faded into late afternoon without my realizing it. I came upon a town called Hudson. I remember hearing of the place because it is called Hudson on the Hudson. It was funky and cool. I saw young hipster people gathering out in a yard, having what looked like a pot party, which was taboo or illegal, not the pot, but the being together while the pandemic raged. The architecture was predominantly Victorian, the regular turn of the century vibe, classy but well-lived-in. I wanted to stay and hang out but I had started thinking that I needed to look for a place to set up my tent. I was tired, this second day, not quite as wiped-out as the first day, as there were no real hills to speak of. I was beginning to see the logic, afforded to me by google maps of going north so that I might eventually go west. North-bound along the Hudson was relatively flat. It doesn’t seem like a big deal, but with all the gear, being out of shape, and 52-years-old added up to one thing — hills sucked. I knew there were mountains in my future but I was not quite ready for them.
Google directed me up the Hudson towards Albany, where I would turn to the left along the Erie Canal. Supposedly there was a tow-path along the canal that went all the way to Niagara Falls. I hadn’t been able to research much before I left. There was some common bicycle touring knowledge that I had been familiarizing myself with over the last few years, but as for actual specifics, I had not a clue of what I was getting myself into.
I knew there were a few different popular pathways across the United States for bicyclists. The most popular and easiest of which starts in Virginia. That one was out of the question. Another highly-regarded path is called the Northern Tier. That rang true for me. It hugs the Canadian border, in fact, it crosses back and forth many times. Unfortunately, the Canadian border was closed because of the pandemic. Using my own logic (scary) I figured that the Northern Tier might be less buggy than venturing through the south in summer. I was pondering my own Northern route. I had odd visions of conquering “Going To The Sun Highway” in Montana, grizzly bears and all.
Any time that I tried to drill down into the details of my proposed path, I would become overwhelmed by minutia. It seemed that there was no road that went across the country, for a bicycle anyway. The navigation was a chore, you couldn’t just peddle along. Anyone who has biked any distance at knows, you don’t want to get lost or go down the wrong road. Ten miles in the wrong direction is actually 20 miles, which could mean hours of peddling uphill just to get back on track. Mistakes on a bicycle are amplified in this way.
I really wanted to hang out in Hudson, however, I had to move on, north, up route 9. I was looking for camping spots at every turn. I was moving into farm-country, which I figured would make finding a spot easier. I just wasn’t sure. There were many signs that said, “private, keep out or no trespassing.” The sunlight coming from over the mountains and over the river from the left was amazing, I still hadn’t actually seen the river, this was the theme for that day, that I couldn’t see the river. I peddled on and felt stronger.
I came upon a road that promised to lead to the elusive Hudson. Maybe there would be a camping spot down this way? I wondered, hoping. I really wanted to sort-out the camping thing for the night. Once it became dark it would be a major pain. There was a major feeder river that passed under the road. This area by a bridge looked promising but I could see fresh tire tracks leading down to the spot. That meant that locals might go down there to drink beer or what have you. I needed to be isolated so that I could rest easy, the more hidden I was, the more I could relax.
Next up down this road was a state forest that would have been promising had it been less dense. These bushes to my left were so dense I don’t think I could even get in there. I t was a good area in that no one would stumble upon me, but the bugs and ticks would be too crazy in there. Then I saw it!
A sign. River access and nature preserve. It was called Newton Hook. Wow, maybe I would be able to see the river after all.
I peddle down the dirt path. I was hoping to camp down there somewhere. And then there it was!
The Hudson River, wow it was big. There was a scary snake sunbathing. This was a park-like setting where fishing was encouraged. There were no signs that said no camping. There was this really cool looking Ice House, that was in disrepair but it held a tremendous amount of history. There were plaques describing the use of the facility in the 1800s.
There were paths all along the river. I took my bike along the paths until I found an isolated spot and set up the tent. There was no way anyone would stumbling upon me during the night. Huge barges were going by. There was a tremendous amount of activity on the river. The scale and size of the barges were visually stunning. I was in the tent as the sun was going down. I took the last slug of my water bottle. I was still thirsty. No water. But I didn’t want to get out of the tent because of the pain in the ass getting in there. Everything would have been perfect had I not been thirsty. This would turn out to be a major lesson. All night long I rested peacefully, desperate for more water. I thought about the snake. The barges and the river. I knew in the morning I could take off and get water first thing.
In the morning, I spent a good amount of time packing up. Everything had to be perfect. I didn’t want to cause any damage to my bike on the dirt road that had brought me down to the river. I was feeling successful but the water was becoming even more of an issue. Man, was I thirsty! I actually was thinking about juice — apple juice, orange juice, any kind of juice would do. Juice was the most exotic luxury I could think of at that moment. I became keenly aware of how important hydration was to my state of mind.
It was about 6 am as I set off north up “9g”, I believe it’s called. I was sure there would be a gas station very near. This road was along the river. It led straight to Albany the state capital. There were little towns along the way. Each town had its own distinct character. One was called Castleton but many of the homes there were ironically or sadly in complete disrepair. There were no gas stations along the way. I had beautiful views of the river but I couldn’t enjoy them because of my thirst. This was becoming a serious issue now. I came upon a general store and the sign said open, much to my relief. However, it was closed until 10 am, it was a Sunday, I am remembering now. The third day was a Sunday. It was only 8 am at this point. I peddled past great historic sites such as Hudson’s landing, and many original homes along the river. I remember thinking that I must be really close to Albany by this point but my navigation had expired with my phone’s battery power the night before, so I could take pictures or even guess where the closest gas station might be.
Finally, I reach an industrial zone, and then Albany. There was a Walgreens and I bought a huge orange juice and guzzled it down while my phone was charging just outside the front door. It was about 10:30 in the morning. There was a Subway sandwich shop right across the street and I got a huge sandwich. I was feeling better, however slightly disturbed by the fact of how thirsty I let myself get.
Right away I could see the major themes developing. Water, a place for the tent, charging of phone, all-out hunger, and becoming desperate on the road very quickly when any one of these things were to run out.
I made it to a very cool bridge and snapped a few pics of Albany. I had never been there before. Another theme of my trip was Facebook. I uploaded the pics of Downtown Albany to Facebook without mention of how I almost freaked out over the lack of water, and how I felt totally desperate. On Facebook, it would look like I was as confident as any adventurer could be. But I was having major doubts about my ability to even make it a few more days.