Sunday, July 31, 2005

the bike ride to nowhere

On Saturday, James and I went for a long ride in New Jersey. I had suggested we find the Hudson River waterfront path on the Jersey side and ride down to Liberty State Park. He countered with a cue sheet for a ride out to Woodcliff Lake and Tice's Farm. Since I didn't have a cue sheet for my ride, I agreed to his idea.

We met at Central Park at 10 AM and set off for the GW Bridge. Since he let me lead, I got us there on the Manhattan Waterfront Greenway instead of Riverside Drive (which was one the cue sheet). No problem, though: we climbed the steep hill just past the bridge, turned around, climbed another few hills, and crossed the bridge. On the Jersey side, we set off in the wrong direction on Hudson Terrace, and quickly turned ourselves around. Then we cruised down the hill and missed the turn for Edgewater, so we had to backtrack up the hill again. After the Edgewater turn, we were in Palisades Park, which had some great wooded paths but plenty of steep climbs and speedy descents. We rode for about an hour, stopping periodically to consult the sheet and figure out where the hell we were. Ultimately we decided to give up on the cue sheet and just see where the path took us. Another rider said that the path ended about a mile and a half up the next hill, in Nyack. So we climbed another steep hill to get back to 9W, the highway that leads back to the GW Bridge. As we started back for the bridge, we finally saw the turn that put us back on the cue sheet to Tice's Farm. Since it was just after noon, we changed our minds and went back to our original plan.

The ride out was mostly on two-lane roads, with more rolling hills than I'm used to. We passed through several suburban neighborhoods, including the picturesque town of Westwood, where James once bought a bike frame. The hills and the heat were beginning to take their toll, and we couldn't wait to get to the farm and take a good long rest break. Finally, after two hours of riding, we were on the road that led to Tice's Farm. But where was the farm? We saw corporate offices for Hilton, KPMG, and BMW, a shopping center, and a grocery store, but no farm. We didn't think we'd find an actual farm -- on the way we'd passed several roadside produce stands labeled "[So-and-so's] Farm", so we figured that's what Tice's Farm would be -- but there was no sign of anything rustic out there. Eventually, we gave up and assumed that Farmer Tice sold out to the Gap, Pier 1, and Victoria's Secret so they could build Tice's Corner, the shopping center. (I forgot to mention that the cue sheet was a few years old, and the shopping center looked as though it was only a few years old.) We stopped for lunch at the only restaurant in the plaza, a Panera Bread sandwich shop. It was certainly an anticlimactic destination for the ride, but at least the food was good and the restaurant was air-conditioned.

At that point it was the middle of the afternoon, and we still had the return trip ahead of us. Since the grocery store didn't have any cold drinks, we found a mom & pop store where we bought more water and Gatorade. This was literally a "Mom & Pop" store: it was a small shack-like structure in a residential neighborhood, Mom was sleeping behind the counter, and Pop was watching the Yankees game. They could hardly be bothered to take our money. Thankfully, whoever wrote the cue sheet had mercy on his or her fellow cyclists, planning a return route that zig-zagged through suburban neighborhoods and avoided many steep climbs. There were a few short hills a few miles before the bridge, but nothing worse than what we'd already seen that day. Besides, at that point we were just happy to be on our way home. Since we'd only planned to ride about 40 miles, having to ride 60 miles (70+ in James' case, as he still had to ride back to Brooklyn) took more out of us than we'd expected. I had planned to be home by midafternoon, but instead I rolled in at 5:30. Still, it was a fun ride, and my legs don't feel sore at all today. Either I'm really going to hurt tomorrow, or I'm in better shape than I thought. The Tuesday morning Central Park laps, with all the hills, must be helping. Next time, we'll pick a route to a destination that's likely to still be there, like a park or a landmark. Maybe we'll ride out to Giants Stadium and dig up Jimmy Hoffa.

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