Frum Outdoorsman: Rare but Possible

The wanderings and adventures of an orthodox Jew

My 52 mile sunday ride through 2 states and 3 counties

Posted by Frum Hiker on June 4, 2007

How far is Whitehall? I asked the ferry boat operator as I took my helmet off and felt the brisk breeze blowing off the lake run through my crusty hair. “Oh about 25-26 miles- straight down route 22.” Oh, I said with a sigh wondering how I could mess up this bad. I had just wanted to do a simple 25 or 30 mile ride and now either way I put it I would be up over 40 miles, and that was if I turned around. I debated in my head, 25 miles plus another 12 to my car- equals somewhere around 60 total. I debated in the wind and looked north to the green mountains and the widening Lake Champlain. I noticed two cables coming from the flat topped ferry boat and realized we were being guided to the New York shore.

I felt good, real good and pumped I had just ridden 20 miles through central Vermont’s rolling farmland with some spotty marshes and swamps thrown in. I had parked on route 22a and decided I would just ride up and back when I felt like it, loops are so much better I thought to myself and when I saw a sign for a ferry boat to New York I figured that it would be cool to incorporate that in to the trip. The road to the ferry itself was gorgeous, wide open ride void of a yellow center line in many places, freshly paved and surrounded by fields of wavy grass, freshly sown plants and rusting farm machinery and old cars. I pedaled past at 18 miles per hour and screamed as I hit the hills and sped up very quickly. Some folks sitting on beach chairs in their front yard drinking beer waved to me, their house was surrounded by an immense lawn with freshly mowed patterens snaking their way around the rusting cars for sale, where the weeds were growing near the bumpers.

The sky was overcast and rather grey, threatening rain as the ferry pulled into the dock at Fort Ticonderoga. I knew the route I had to take. I have been in this area multiple times, come to think of it I could probably get almost anywhere in New York without a map of any kind. I road passed a small hut that said Amtrak on it, a few folks were waiting for the next train that would take them south into the more urban areas near Albany and New York City, they sat on their luggage and smoked cigarettes, the wind pushed the smell to my nostrils and I momentarily stopped inhaling at the nasty and pungent smell of the smoke.

My legs were pumping my bike up and over the hills on the way to Whitehall from Ticonderoga. The shoulder was really wide and although there was some scattered garbage, small stones and quite a few carcasses of those unfortunate enough to venture to their neighbors across the road- it was a relatively worry free shoulder. There were not too many dirt roads hooking into the main road so there was none of that swerving around the stones going on. Just a heart pumping ride through Champlain country. I could see glimpses of the lake every now and then and all of the sudden it disappeared probably having ended where it becomes a river and goes into the south bay. I have actually kayaked up the river and around south bay before. If not for the multiple motor boats the paddling would have been amazing. The scenery is quite nice though, with mountains and cliffs rising from the flatlands of the Champlain Valley.

I was hammering up this very long gradual hill, and I wanted to stop but I kept pushing myself when all the sudden I saw I women standing in the road. I stopped and said what’s up, she was dirty looking, almost as if she had been crawling around in the dirt. She had on off white shorts and short that was smeared with mud and dirt. She had a small cage or some sort of trap sitting next to her. As I slowed to have a chat with her, she asked me if I had seen a cat anywhere. I hadn’t, the closest living thing I saw while riding had been a few miles back and that was a turtle. A rather large turtle in fact, I had been going slow up a steep incline and had noticed it and had to look twice to make sure I was seeing correctly. Despite all the cars and trucks flying by, the road can get pretty lonely for the cyclist.

Apparently this women had just lost her cat, yet in the next few moments I learned that it had been three days ago that she decided to leave the house, and on top of this the cat had never been out of the house. Interesting I thought, I also wondered whether this women was sane- she tried to set the trap for the cat with no such luck. I rolled on and she thought I was nuts for trying to pedal up the long hill that was still going up ahead of me. I slowly pedaled and kept watch out for her cat which was probably dead.

The problem with riding more then planned was that I had this constant nagging on my mind, basically telling me that 60 miles was a bit more then I had planned for, water and food wise. I hadn’t eaten anything all day substantial. I had a bowl of kashi in the morning and a had snacked on a protein bar during the ride. I wasn’t hungry yet, but I knew I would feel the pangs in a bit, I looked at my distance covered and it was 43 miles with a 14mph average. Not bad for someone with a stomach and who just started road biking one week ago.

I was running out of water and trying to conserve as I saw the sign that told me I was coming back to civilization. Speed Zone Ahead was written across a white sign and I braced for the snap back to the reality of gas stations, car dealerships and fast food restaurants that litter the sides of any room no matter how rural. First I saw an antique store and then the gas stations surrounding the intersection of routes 4 and 22. I needed route 4 towards Rutland and hopped into the gas station at the corner for some water. I bought a gallon and poured it down my throat very fervently, I then poured the rest into my camel back. I sat down on a picnic table overlooking the intersections and watched as trucks with boat trails and cars with kayaks on their roofs past me by. I did some stretching and mounted my ride for the last few remaining miles.

When you ride at 15-20 miles per hour instead of 55-65 mph you begin to notice little things that you would never notice in a car. Like the more remote road the less likely you are going to be able to read the signs due to their multiple gunshot wounds. In normal areas of rural America, all signs have a few holes, but in back country America- the signs are barely hanging on by a thread. You also begin to notice the sociological makeup of different sorts of garbage. In cities there is all sorts of diversity, but in rural areas it is mainly made up of 3 things. Old tires, beer cans mainly from the companies of Bud and PBR, and all sorts of leftover auto part containers. Oil cans and pieces of bumpers and air filters can all be seen on the side of the road. There are no crushed Starbucks cups here, just real American garbage.

I pondered all of this as I kept a look out for garbage going past my wheels at the slow speeds of 15 mph, swerving is something that mountain bikers are not used to, as a road biker you just can’t plow through things and jump over things. As I crossed a rail road track I realized this as my rear light bounced off its casing and broke into pieces from the bump of the track. I then rode on looking forward to the soft leather seats of my car and pounding some food when I finally got back, it was almost 5 hours since I left my car.

Suddenly I hit a small rock and I felt the air from my rear tire exhale. I had a flat and I was just 8 miles or so from my car, it was my first road bike flat, I had heard the pressure of normal pumps would never get me up to needed and I wouldn’t be able to ride as well as normal. I flipped the bike around and sat in the drainage ditch and fumbled around for my tools to change the tube. Just then a pickup truck with a trailer pulled up and asked if I needed a ride. I noticed his plates said Ontario, the Lord was looking out for me. As much as I wanted to make the ride an even 60 miles I was aching and needed to get some food. I threw my bike in his trailer and hopped in.

It was perfect; I didn’t even have to try and attempt to hitch which on the east coast is not the brightest or easiest idea. I have done it before, usually when I hiked out of trail and was 50 miles from my car; it was never easy to get a ride. I distinctly remember this time in New Hampshire when my buddy Yosef and I hiked out of the white mountains and realized we were 40 miles or so from the car. We had been in the woods 5 days and hiked many miles with full packs. We stood at the on ramp of some trail head and after what seemed like days a girl from Quebec picked us up, then dropped us off 25 miles later. Then we waited a long time until we had a bright idea. We had noticed that quite a few orthodox Jews had passed us, probably taking pictures like real tourists of the folks hitchhiking with all their worldly possessions on their backs, we did look like two scrubby hippies. The next car we saw with Jews in it, we showed them our tzitzis and immediately they pulled over. Of course they thought we were nuts and Jewish geography proved that we all knew friends of friends.

The man who picked me up was visiting friends in Monticello, Whitehall and Lake Placid and he was from Ottawa. Real nice guy, he showed me his hotel in this coupon book and right away I was prepared to fend off sexual advances from him, of course they never came and I got out at my car and thanked him for the ride.

I sat down on the tailgate of my car and pounded honey roasted almonds, soy nuts and warm water that had sitting in the humid sticking car all day. I heard thunder in the distance and looked south at the rolling farmland that disappeared into the low lying hills of the Adirondacks and Green Mountains.

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