By land and by sea: a few kayakers passed us on the D&R Canal this morning.
More than 25 miles of our ride today were along the D&R Canal, so it got to feel like home. Just when you start to drift off, though, lulled by the flat path and the quiet, the pretty trees and slow-moving water, all of a sudden ker-chunk, ker-chunk, splat —you hit some bigger gravel rocks or barely dodge a mud puddle. We loved the path, but it does have its rough patches and its mud-puddle dips, some more passable than others.
But I should start at the beginning, meeting Don and Pam for breakfast at PJ’s Pancakes. Years ago, before I’d even met my husband, Bob, he and Don coached the first women’s soccer team at Princeton. They were a good team: Don worked as the school’s financial aid director and loved soccer, Bob was one of the men’s lacrosse coaches and needed more income. Bob’s years at Princeton were happy ones and Don and Pam were a big reason why. They offered him a family of sorts, including their three young (then) kids. It was a treat to see them both today after so many years and hear about their kids, grandkids, and retirement (except that Don’s not really retired, setting a poor example for Bob).
Silvia joined us after breakfast to ride. We only had to suggest the idea once and she rearranged her work to take the morning off. We were glad for her local knowledge and her company. With three people biking, especially on greenways, we can take turns where two people share conversation and the third zens out. That waseasy enough to do on the canal path until we hit a slipway with big rocks or a giant puddle. Ker-plunk, splot, crunch, ker-plunk!
One of the slipways along the canal path that I opted not to try to ride. Wide tires and light panniers recommended.
Things got a little interesting as the afternoon started heating up. We were a little weary of the bumpy path and had already decided to catch a train at some point into New York instead of taking one more day to ride there. Niles, my Greenway colleague, has ridden the New York and New Jersey stretches. He planted the seed of the train idea last week when we saw him in Washington DC. I told him I was a little apprehensive about some of the route through the Meadowlands, etc., where it’s highway shoulders and rough bridges.
“Take the train,” he said.
Yeah, we thought, it’s not like we’d be missing pretty greenway stretches.
The afternoon was getting hotter and I was getting really attached to the train idea —air conditioning! Maybe ice coffee! We had just finished the canal path and turned into the Rutgers University campus when Silvia noticed her front tire was soft. We were right by an East Coast Greenway kiosk, which conveniently offered shade to fix the flat. With a new tube, her tire still seemed a bit soft — so all three of us were ready to hang it up. We rode a few more miles to cross into New Brunswick and head to the NJ Transit train station. Silvia headed south back to Princeton; we bought tickets for Penn Station in NYC.
Waiting for the train with Tanya. Note that I did indeed get iced coffee; my dreams keep coming true. Dee heroically rushed downstairs to Dunkin Donuts minutes before the train was due.
I want more practice bringing my bike on trains — it’s how I’ll get home to North Carolina from Sally and Dee’s house in Providence. The elevator at the New Brunswick station didn’t work, and we needed to get our heavy bikes up two flights. I watched a woman wheel her bike on the escalator so I knew we could do it, too. I pulled my bike beside hers and Tanya and I started talking. When I told her we were on a long trip she asked, “oh, so you take the train to the next cities?”
“No!” I told her, a bit defensively. Just this time!
The fun thing is, Tanya lives one town away from Silvia and is new to biking, she’d like to find people to ride with. Silvia leads easy, family friendly rides and loves encouraging people, especially women, to ride. Tanya took my email address and I promised to connect her with Silvia, who waved to us from the other side of the tracks.
Tanya was beaming. “I was having a tough day today,” she said, “I am so glad I could talk with you.”
So here we are in the Big Apple, with a whole extra day to play and three nights of a hotel suite on the Upper West Side, thanks to a very kind friend. We headed west from Penn Station and up the Hudson River Greenway to our hotel. The greenway was zipping as always, from the spandex-clad road bikers to the commuters on fixies and tourists on bike shares—it is one of the most heavily used sections of the East Coast Greenway. I told Dee that New York City often overwhelms me, sensory overload, but riding or running along the Hudson River always grounds me — it’s the best way I can “do” New York. (Which is also why the terrorist attack on cyclists here hit me so hard. We passed jersey barriers set at every driveway entrance along the greenway, a sad and somewhat clumsy effort by the city to prevent a similar attack.)
Today’s train shortcut certainly solidified our standing as non-EDIers (the Every Damn Inch club). We are still proud to have hit our tenth state, five to go, and we are oh so close to 2,000 miles. I celebrated tonight by buying a new t-shirt for these last three weeks; my pink shirt is a performance fabric that retains terrible smells and is ready to be burned. Perhaps we’ll hold a ceremony on the banks of the Hudson and burn the shirt in honor of all the trail angels who have been watching over us — as a woman way back in Daytona Beach wished for us. Namaste!
Check out the mileage, from a kiosk along the canal today. I know, you can smell that pink shirt from here!