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  • C Bracknell

New Jersey, New York and New England Fall Bike Trip Fall 2012

September 4 - 2012

We began this trip on Tuesday, September 4th as is our custom to leave right after Labor Day. This year we maybe should have waited a week. It started off warmer than our usual fall trips and Labor Day came early, also. We, also knew that we would be dealing with the remnants of the hurricane. Our itinerary would include about 11 trails in 7 states; four of which was the last six of the 25 Hall Fame Trails I have a goal to complete.

Our first nights stop was at the Spruce Run State Park outside Clinton, NJ, making it about an 8 and a half hour drive. We ran into some rain as we entered New Jersey, but it stopped pretty much as we pulled into the park. It was after 6 and the staff for the park closed their office at 4:30. We looked around for self-registration instructions, but found none, so we went on to the campground. There were no self registration guidance there either. The restroom/showers were open, but there was not a soul in the campground and the facility had approximately 60 sites. We selected a site to our liking and Rhonda fixed a quick supper because it was thundering all around and threatening more rain. To make sure we wouldn't get in trouble for being there, I called the after hours number and got a dispatcher who didn't know squat, but said he would pass it along to the law enforcement ranger on duty. He came by as we were finishing clean up our dishes and told us to just check with the staff the next morning.

It started to rain again so we got in the pod and read until it was time to go to sleep. The air was warm and humid, making it a little difficult to sleep. We usually camp with the pod when it is cooler ( it is not a summertime camping unit). I opened the door on my side several times and put up the insect screen, only to remove it later when another shower would come by.

The next morning we were up and fixing breakfast a little after day light. When you go to bed with the chickens, it is hard to lie in bed long once it is light. We were up at the front gate office but no one was there to pay since the office didn't open until 8:30. Rain was still in the forecast and I was planning to ride a rail trail starting nearby in the town of High Gate for 11 miles. It took us a little time to find the Columbia trail head in town, but I was on my way soon and Rhonda had the end programed into the GPS to meet me at the other end. About halfway, I heard thunder so I sped up my pace. It began to sprinkle and I rode a little faster. Just as I arrive at the van and racked the bike, the bottom fell out. We sat in the trail head lot for a little while waiting for it to let up a bit.

From the trail, we drove to Harriman, New York. We planned to stay at Harriman State Park, but went over to a widely know outlet mall (Woodbury Premium Outlets) to look around. The outlet had the appearance of an amusement park without the rides. It had avenues of stores that you could get lost in. There were also a wide variety people of other nationalities.

We headed to the campground from US 17. On the way, we stopped at the Harriman Transit station to buy tickets and check the schedule for the next day. The road into the park was rough in some sections and one road had a sign prohibiting trailers. We went anyway, because the alternative was way too far. We figured if we got stopped by a ranger, we'd just plead dumb southerner. The campground was not the greatest, but adequate. It was another warm night and my screen netting came in good.

The next morning were got away early enough to catch the 8:48 commuter train to Penn Station in New York. Our goal was to walk the High Line, which was a raised rail line that was saved and converted into a linear park that ran 19 blocks from 30th street to Gansevoort St. along 10th avenue in the meat packing district. It was built as a raised rail line in 1934 to avoid creating traffic congestion and deadly accidents. It was the last one named as a Hall of Fame trail by the Rails to Trails Conservancy. It was strictly walking. It was way too busy with walkers for any bikes.

After arriving at Penn Station, we went by the Empire State building, then up Fifth Avenue to Rockefeller Ctr. On the way to Central Park we stopped at Carnegie's Deli and had a Pastrami Ruben and strawberry cheesecake (both are suppose to be the best in New York). It was a great deal more expensive that I would have ever guessed. Rhonda reminded that we were also paying for the experience. It was a plate full of sandwich. We both ate all we could and still could not eat it all. We walked up through Central Park for several blocks. It was a little different than I expected. There were large rock outcroppings, a number of water features and very nice landscaping. Biking was not allowed in the interior, only along on the streets around the perimeter. There were plenty of bikers and plenty of places to rent a bike. We left the park at Columbus Circle and headed back down to Penn Station for a restroom stop before walking down to 30th Street to the beginning of the Highline.

The Highline was landscaped beautifully with grasses, low shrubs and wildflowers. There were benches and an occasional water fountains along the way. It was crowded even for a Thursday afternoon. It was an extremely unique trail and well worth saving from being torn down.

At the southern end, we descended back to the street level and then headed over to check in at our hotel The Jane. In planning the trip into the city, we brought along day packs to carry just enough things we would need for an overnight stay. Unfortunately, when we arrived at the hotel, there had been some glitch in making the reservation and they did not have a room for us. We did not want to start trying to find another hotel at 4 o'clock in the afternoon, particularity since we thought we had gotten the Jane ( $150 plus tax and fees. The hotel was very unique in that it had berths like a ship and the survivors of the Titanic stayed there during the inquiry.

We hoofed it back up 8th Avenue to Penn Station and caught the 5:32 train back over to Seacaucus, NJ and made the train going back to Harriman and points beyond. We had bought round trip tickets good for some time. We arrived at the station outside the park and drove back to the campground. We ate a quick supper, showered and went in the pod for the evening. We had walked over 90 blocks in Midtown Manhattan and had good reason to be ready to recline.

The next day we drove by West Point on our way to the Farmington Canal trail which started on the Yale campus in New Haven, Connecticut. Rhonda met me in Cheshire and we drove over to East Hampton to a very nice campground with a swimming pool and cable TV which I took advantage of. The next morning it looked as if it was going to rain. Rhonda put me out at the trail head for a 22 mile ride on the Air Line State Trail. We hooked up in Willimantic, but the trail had a detour and a bridge had not been decked near the end, so the ride was only about 19 miles. Thank goodness for another rider who help me with directions and there was no ran.

Our next destination was Waterford to visit my 92 year old uncle who retired from the navy as a submariner. We stopped along the way and had lunch at a rest stop out of the van. We visited for two hours and headed to the Burlingame State Park campground in Rhode Island. The weather forecast had predicted a pretty fierce sounding storm with gusting winds, hail, and heavy rain and s 40% risk of a tornado. We were a little anxious about camping in such conditions and kept our eyes open for motels as we neared the park. We had already made a reservation and paid, so old stingy me did want to waste the $30 if we didn't have to.

The campground was very nice in a thick forest. The sites were spacious and there was natural vegetation for privacy. The restroom/showers were old but adequate. There was some moderate wind and a few showers after supper, but not to the degree as predicted. The next morning, Sunday, we drove over to Newport, RI and on to Bristol.

We found the trail head of the East Bay Bike Path pretty quickly after arriving in town. We parked the van and camp trailer in a VFW lot and started to unload the bikes from the rack just as the bus we planned to catch to Providence came by. We would now have to wait another hour for the next bus. Rhonda suggested we go ahead and ride the bikes to Providence (about a 16 or 17 mile ride) and catch the bus back. It was lightly overcast as we rode the trail. This made for a much more enjoyable ride. After leaving the trail in Providence, we had about a 2 mile ride on the street to downtown (Kennedy Plaza). In route, we stopped around the outskirts of the campus of Brown University and ate a small lunch of tuna fish salad and crackers we had packed. Then it was on to downtown. We only had about a 20 minute wait at the bus stop.

We were concerned that there might be bikes on the bus rack and there would not be space for ours (the racks only held 2 bikes). When the bus arrive, there were two bike in the racks, but as we hoped, two passengers on the bus removed them. As we approach the bus with the bikes, a young man came up suddenly and started to load his bike. I asked him if he was in that big a hurry that he had to jump in front of someone that had been waiting for 20 minutes. He appeared to be Hispanic and I was not sure he was understanding what I was saying. In the meantime, Rhonda was vigorously loading her bike in the rack almost at the same time the passenger was unloading his. Rhonda was not about to ride the bike the 16 miles back to Bristol. The guy backed off and I was able to load mine.

Back in Bristol, we returned to the van, got some ice cream down the street and set the GPS for Brewster, Massachusetts on Cape Cod. As we were arriving in Brewster, we discovered that there was a very fine rail trail on the cape called the Cape Cod Rail Trail. It ran from Wellfleet to Dennis with a spur over to Chatham for a total of about 30 miles. This was a great opportunity to add a wonderful trail to my collection of over 100 trails. We found a nice little restaurant to stop for supper. We had some delicious grilled north Atlantic salmon and lobster bisque. The campground that LIB (Lady In a Box) GPS in other words, directed us to was very nice we set up as a light shower fell. This time we used the tarp in order to stay a little dryer and allow the use of the door screen.

Monday morning I rode the trail to Dennis where I met Rhonda for lunch. After lunch, I rode the 8 mile spur. We then headed for the Boston area to ride the 11 mile Minute Man trail from Cambridge to Bedford. The closest camping that we could determine was about 20 miles away from Bedford. We had stayed there before on our 2005 trip to Acadia National Park.

The next morning, we drove to Bedford and both caught the bus with our bikes to the Cambridge trail head at Alwife Station. We arrive back in Bedford and ate lunch at the van in the parking lot. Then it was on to New Hampshire for two trails; the Cheshire and the Rockingham. The Cheshire trail began right at the Yale campus in New Haven. The Rockingham Recreation trail was about 18 miles long. It took some time to find the trail head at the New Hampshire border and when we did, the trail did not look very well maintained. We went to the next town of Fitzwilliam where I talked to the police chief, who said it was rideable and it was about 18 miles to Keen. After getting started about 3:30, I soon found out it was rideable for snowmobilers. It was a rough and rocky 16 miles. I'm glad his estimate ended up being two miles shorter. I think it was the worst 16 miles I have ever ridden; even worst than that section of the OA&E trail in Oregon, mainly because it was longer.

We camped at the Greenfield State Park west of Manchester. It was only us and two other campers. They had a self-registration system, but no envelopes to put the money in or form to complete. There was good restroom and showers and the sites were spacious. We even had a rare campfire from fallen debris I collected in the surrounding woods. Rhonda had stopped at a Hannaford grocery store in Keen while I was riding and bought fixings for a most delicious stir fry.

The Rockingham trail started just outside Manchester and was 26 miles long. It was only a little better than the Cheshire and the best part was the last half beyond Raymond. I had some lunch on the trail, but Rhonda made me a sandwich and lemonade when I arrived at the van. She was talking to another bike riding couple when I arrived at the trail head. While I was riding the three and a half hours, Rhonda did laundry in a small town near the end of the trail.

That night we are in a campground, out of Bath, Maine between I-95 and the coast. The campground offers fresh cooked lobster which you pick out of a tank. Of course corn on the cob and a baked potato was also available. As we were fixing supper a couple came by and remark how nice the little pod was. We got to talking and found out that they were from outside Athens, Ohio. We told them we had ridden the Hocking Adena trail and they responded that it was the local trail they rode often. There is suppose a mariners museum and some other interesting things to see around town and in the next town. Our next destination is Ellsworth, Maine, where I will be riding the 85 mile Down East Sunrise Trail along the coast to Calias.

Just out of Bucksport, Maine, we crossed the Penobscott River on an ultra modern bridge. They were building it when we were on the way to Acadia National Park in 2006. Out on the northeast side of Ellsworth we stopped at what looked like a very popular eating spot, which had a building with a dinning room and another building with window service and an outside eating area. They had the usual burgers and fries, but also seafood lunch and dinner items. We got shrimp roll and fish chowder. The lobster roll was $13.95.

After eating, we went down the road and found the trail head for the Down East Sunrise Trail and then returned to town to get an oil change. Rhonda dropped me off around 4 o'clock and I rode 10 miles to Frankln. I had heard mixed reports regarding the surface of the trail. I rode it with my hybrid and determine it might be a little more comfortable with larger tires and a front shock. The trail was mainly used by four wheelers and in winter, snow mobilers. I was comparable to riding on a one lane dirt road.

We camped along the shore of one of the inlets from the ocean. The campsite was ok, but the restroom/shower would rate a c-. There were a few others there also. The good part it was only 8 miles from the trail.

Friday morning we got gas back in Franklin at $3.99 a gallon and I was back on the trail for a 32 mile day. Rhonda met me in Cherryfield for lunch out of the van after 17 miles Afterward, I took a 30 minute nap, before finishing out the day with 15 more miles. Columbia Falls was our rendezvous point and Sunset Point was our campground. It was very well kept and less expensive that the one the night before. There was even a picnic shelter at every site and the shower house was a A-frame. The sky and the weather forecast was calling for shower the next morning.

I began riding around 8:30 and logged 27 miles by lunch time. In Machias, we bought a big slice of Helen's famous wild blueberry pie. We at half it at lunch along with some humus, tabbouleh, carrots, ham salad and triscuits. It started sprinkling shortly after we finished eating so it made for a good chance to rest before starting out on the last 17 miles to Calis.

Back to the blueberry pie. As we travel we try to sample food that is special to the area and particular items or types that we've read about on seen on Food Network or such programs. Examples of these are Bison burger in Montana, Muffalatas in New Orleans, Barbeque in Kansas City, Memphis, Texas, Florida, pasties in Michigan, pastrami and cheesecake in NY, and lobster and wild blueberry pie in Maine.

Rhonda was waiting Ayers Junction as I reached the end of the 85 mile trail. Again, I just minutes ahead of a sizeable thunderstorm. Overall, the trail was not very interesting; long stretches of Maine woods and a number of marshes and just a few little towns. It was mainly a multi use trail and mostly for four wheelers and snowmobilers. I wanted to do it for the challenge and hope it might be named a Hall of Fame trail in the future.

We headed back across eastern Maine toward Bangor; stopping in Clinton for the night at a Parks Pond, a nice little campground on a small lake. It was busy with a number of family weekend campers.

On Sunday, we continue our trek across Maine, into the White Mountains of New Hampshire where we stopped at Crawford Notch State Park for the night. Monday morning we made our way to the Burlington, Vermont trying to stay off the Interstate as much as possible. We checked out at a few tourist spots along the way. Rhonda called her cousin who lives outside Burlington and made a rendezvous for lunch.

After lunch we headed out looking for the northern trail head of the Island Line trail. Using the GPS and the written instructions from the, it took us more time than it should. For one thing, Rhonda was using Burlington and should have been using Winooski to find the park where it started. Once at the park, I spotted a couple about our ages with bikes and approached them to asked where exactly the trail started. In our conversation with them, Roy, the male rider asked if we had ridden another trail in the area and we advised him we rode the Missiquoi Trail when we were up for the ATC conference in 2009. When he realized we were from Virginia and ATC members, he asked if we knew Bill Halebus who live in Marion, Va. I told him that I have know him for a number of years and worked with him recently on the conference steering committee for the conference at Emory and Henry college last year. Roy had work with him at GE there in Burlington and they had been sailing companions out on Lake Champlain. He also knew Jed, Rhonda's cousin's husband.

As we travel, we often find people that have live or have relatives living in the Raleigh-Durham area. Several nights ago, at a campground Rhonda was talking to a lady who had live on Cape Cod and was now living in western Maine. When Rhonda mentioned that when we returned home, we have a couple of weeks before we are traveling to Greenville, SC for a nephew's wedding. The lady told her that her daughter was living in McCormick county and when asked where, she said Plum Branch. We had come through Plum Branch back in March on the way back from Florida. My dad was born in the town of McCormick and there were three old non-operating businesses with the family name on them from more than 75 years ago in Plum Branch.

The bikers, Roy and Shirley, had ridden the trail from downtown Burlington and was willing to be my trail guides. In a little over an hour, I met up with Rhonda in Oakleigh Park southern end of the trail and we were off heading south down highway 7 to find a campground. We stopped at Philo State Park. It wasn't a very big park and the eight camping sites were perched almost the very top of a small peak. It was listed as Vermont's first park. After setting up, we walked up a trail to a viewpoint looking west over the Lake Champlain valley with the Adirondacks in the distance.

The forecast for Tuesday was rain, so we were up early as usual and had breakfast of link sausages, pancakes with bananas and hot chocolate. As we looked at the route to head into New York, we decided to take the ferry across Lake Champlain for the experience. It was about a 40 minute ride and about half way across it started to rain. We stopped for lunch in Ticonderoga. Fort Ticonderoga played a significant role during the French and Indian war and during the Revolutionary War because of its strategic location between Lake Champlain and Lake George. It rained all day as we drove through the lower part of the Adirondacks. My last trail ride was to be the 26 mile Catskill Scenic trail, but even if the rain stopped during the night, the trail could have been in poor condition.

Early Wednesday morning, we made our way east about twenty five miles to the trail to check on the condition after all the rain. We had stayed in a motel in Oneonta, NY off I-87 north of Binghamton, because some rain got in the roof vent and our bedding got wet as we were driving in all the rain. The roof vent worked its was open and we did not realize it. Windy conditions was being predicted during the evening and even with the rain fly (nylon tarp), it is difficult to be comfortable cooking and eating. Before we went out for supper at Denny's, we dried the sheets, pillow cases and coverlet in the dryer in the motel.

When we reach the trail head in Bloomville, I got the bike off the rack and got my gear together. I told Rhonda I would ride down the trail a ways and if I was not back in fifteen minutes, to go on to the next town. Surprisingly, it was in pretty good shape. After about 12 miles I met Rhonda in Stamford where I changed into my biking shorts and shirt. I had been wearing a cotton tee shirt with my so called breathable rain jacket and it made me sweat. I put on the rain jacket because it was cool when I got out to begin riding and even though it was partly sunny, there were a few dark clouds around. It was not yet 11:30, but I was getting hungry. We had only ate some of the continental breakfast items at the motel, which didn't qualify as a hardy breakfast. Rhonda made sandwiches and after eating one, I refilled my water bottle and was on my way again.

I completed the 26 mile trail in Roxbury after riding some rougher surface in the last third of the trail. Some of it was just grass, some a little rocky, about 100 yards mushy and about 50 yards with the old rails still in place. Overall, the trail was very nice with the Catskill mountains to the east, the five little towns, beautiful farms all around and the West Branch of the Delaware River was often in sight. I rode 262 miles on this trip and now have ridden 108 trails in 42 states and have ridden 23 of the 25 Hall of Fame Trails.

I loaded the bike and we drove several hours south to at Locust Lake State Park just south of Hazelton, Pa. We had stayed at this park, which is about five miles off the interstate, on two occasions before. It is located a day's drive from our house. We arrived back at home around 6 o'clock Thursday.

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