I originally planned this ride as a bit of a recon for a birthday ride I was planning to hold. My roommate and one of my oldest friends, and talented photographer, Tyler Scaife. This would be Tyler’s first long ride on his newly completed Fairdale Weekender he built for himself. Little did I know I’d crack Tyler a bit on this trip.
My birthday was September 21st, and I still haven’t hosted the official ride yet. The recon held my sense of adventure over for a few weeks as I recovered from a loathsome birthday weekend and forming a bunch of muscles I never knew I could destroy so hard, a side effect of riding a couple hundred miles in one weekend on platform pedals.
This ride consists of about 4,000 feet of climbing over 70 miles, and an excursion through some parts of New Jersey and upstate New York that I’ve never seen before. These longer rides usually turn into a quest for a certain type of Americana that you can’t find anywhere else but on back roads. Americana that you drive straight past in a car without a second thought. By bike you’re forced to see these places, these buildings, homes, businesses, and landmarks with your own eyes, at your own speed. You learn to love the roads, loath the climbs, and yell out loud on the curvy descents. You also practice being a good guy, and wait at the bottom of descents for your friends who are still climbing. See you in a few minutes Tyler!!
The plan was a trip up state setting up camp before dusk, a drive-in movie by bike with my trusty AM/FM radio, then riding back to camp for the night and exploring the state park in the morning and riding back in the afternoon.
Looking at the elevation map while planning the ride, I totally forgot that our campsite was at the top of a mountain, and that the drive-in was at the bottom. We set up a bit of camp, left some stuff at the camp site, and headed towards the drive-in, descending down the small mountain the camp site is atop for a few miles. I stopped to make some friends on our way down…
We get to the drive in as dusk is approaching, buy our tickets, and set up a place to lay down right in front of the screen. We watched Minions because I wanted to see it.
Around 11pm, we pack up after the movie, and climb back up the mountain to the camp. Guess we forgot that it’s the sticks, and there’s no street lights, and that it was going to be pitch black out. Climbing in pitch black with one small headlight it one of the most peaceful things I’ve done in as long as I can remember. Just me and the crickets. You could tell when cars were coming, minutes before they’d get there from their headlights lighting the power lines above the road. The stars and universe above seemed to stretch out forever. I could see constellations and the milky way and everything you miss under the city lights. Tyler walked up most of this climb as he was completely shot from our trip out here, and I’d stop and turn my headlight off to save battery life, and wait for him. Pitch black except for the universe above me. Tyler’s headlight died, and he’s walking his bike up the climb with his iPhone in hand, flashlight on. We eventually make it back to the trail that leads to the camp site.
We set up the rest of camp, built a fire, listen to some jazz on the radio, and sit together exhausted as I cooked dinner. Tofurky sausages and whole wheat pasta. Best thing I’d eaten all day. And hey, Tofurky, if you’re reading this, we’d like to talk about a sponsorship program! It hits about midnight, and it’s time to turn in.
Woke up as the sun crested the tree line to shine right in my face as I drooled on my hammock. It pulls me quickly out of a shallow dream. Rustling around for a little while, and wrapping my whole body with the only real blanket of sorts I brought, a heavy sheet. Falling back asleep. In and out of sleep for a little while.
“Tyler, sun’s up, let’s get cracking!” I turn on the AM/FM radio, right back to 88.3, the local jazz station, and try and wake up. Wishing I had brought coffee and a means to make it this time.
[kad_youtube url=”https://youtu.be/M3fJvPDVJM4″ ]
We pack up, and leave the camp site, and I look up some breakfast of sorts, as we have to descend into a small town with a grocery store. We explore the state park for a while, talk to the park rangers, and find the Appalachian Trail. We eventually head out and descend into town. Breakfast is an energy drink, some Kind Bars, and some banana’s.
We push through New York’s border back into Jersey, and onward through Jersey. Tyler is so broken from the day before, and he’s having a hard time. He walks up some of the more brutal climbs, and we assess the situation. Might as well take the train back at this rate, his knees are a bit swollen and he’s hurting.
I look up the closest train in the closest town, and we chug along and get there. The schedule says there’s a train in 45 minutes. There’s a bar/restaurant around the corner in this small town, and it’s well after noon at this point. We deserved a beer.
We get to the train platform a few minutes before the train arrives, and there’s only a couple people waiting with us.
The train comes, we get our stuff together, grab the bikes, and “NO BIKES!!”
“It’s a holiday, no bikes on the train during holidays!”
Shit. It’s Labor Day.
We take 30, eat some of the food we have with us, buck up, and ride away. $30 in train tickets to Grand Central, down the drain. And that one Corona hit me kind of hard to be honest. But we gotta get home.
This is the hardest, most rewarding, quiet part of any ride. Where you know you have a lot on your plate, so you put your head down and just get it done. We didn’t talk for a good hour, we just rode.
We finally get close to the George Washington bridge, that would bring us to harlem. This area of Jersey is steep and spiteful. While waiting for Tyler on some of the rough climbs of our trip back, I did a bit of internet research and found the original house from one of my favorite Nickelodeon shows growing up, Pete and Pete. It’s surprisingly close to New York City.
Same address, totally remodeled house, and not the same block I remember from the show, but satisfying enough to track down an address and actually find it.
We climb our way into Fort Lee, New Jersey and make our way over to the George Washington bridge. We cross back over the bridge, and THERES NEW YORK CITY!! We can see it!!
We get over, get to Broadway, and go straight to the closest Chipotle to stuff our faces and bring our bikes inside like jerks.
We part ways on Broadway and 168th St. “Broadway is mostly downhill from here, right?” Tyler asks.
“Yeah, it’s mostly downhill for a little while.”
Tyler is staying in the East Village, house sitting. I see a look of determination on his face as he says goodbye and rides the rest of the way home. Hell yeah Tyler. We were basically home, right?
I met up with my girlfriend, took a power nap, and we went to the Brooklyn water front to watch the sunset on one of the most epic weekends I’d had in a while. With one of the best friends I could ever ask for and the most supportive woman who let me be a zombie the rest of the evening with her as I was mentally fried from the last couple of days, I felt so gracious for everything. And yeah, this ride is gonna work. Can’t wait to get it done for real, now that I know how it’ll feel.
The official ride is still going to happen. If you would like to be a part of it, feel free to drop me a line,