Posted by: robinson2000 | August 3, 2012

Pushing it hard to DC!


1st – 2nd August

Wednesday began like any other day, shower followed by the quickest tent pack-up possible so that breakfast could be consumed as soon as. We left the campsite by 9am and headed the short 5 miles to Pete’s Famous Café for an excellent breakfast. Both of us were feeling the effects on the legs of 8 straight days on the road, and given that we had done over 140 miles in the last 2 days, we decided to give ourselves a slight break by covering just the 60 miles. This may not sound like a huge difference from 70, but mentally it feels better.

Upon leaving the diner, we headed south, running parallel with the River Hudson until we picked up the vast walkway that crosses the river. We made a couple of wrong turns trying to find the elevated walkway with one turn taking us down a particularly rough looking street with some very suspicious characters loitering about. A quick U-turn and I found a nice road that took us up to the walkway and above all the hustle and bustle from the street below. The impressive walkway spans nearly 2 miles across the raging river and took us into the hippie town of New Paltz, where we finally found a gas canister to fit our pocket rocket burners. Heading south-west out of New Paltz gave us a spectacular view of the Appalachian Mountains and we pushed along the foothills with little effort. After a couple of hours we were up to the 40 mile mark, which usually signals a food stop. My GPS told me we were some distance away from any food, so with a rumbling stomach we pedalled on to the town of Mt Hope where we found a cheap bagel cafe that had seen better days. The quiet Jewish man who ran the joint seemed happy to see us and even threw in 2 FREE bagels each to take away with us.

The last 20 miles of the day dragged as the hills gradually became steeper with fewer downhill’s to make up for the uphill slog. Our legs were aching from the exertions but thankfully by 5pm we had found Otisville, near the Pennsylvanian border, and stopped briefly to buy a drink and food for the evening. Sitting down on the bench outside the gas station, we observed a few interesting characters come and go. The one who stood out for an unwashed looking chap who rolled up with a cigarette in his jowl and decided to leave it next to his car, smoking away by the petrol pumps and the propane tanks as he went inside to buy some lottery scratch cards. Upon exiting the service station he glanced in a disgusted manner at his own half-smoked smouldering fag as if to say who left that there and then went about his business.

Finally at the 60 mile mark we pulled into Otisville Campground to find a run-down derelict looking place with a few static caravans dotted about and a group of ducks following an old man with a bucket. It had a “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” feel about the place as Chris walked up to the abandoned looking house to find an ancient gentlemen sitting on the deck. He directed us over to a pitch by a creepy looking disused caravan, next to a duck pond. At this point I noticed another man talking to the ducks and telling them their navigation system had all been messed up due to the clouds today! It got even creepier as we entered the shower area, which was beneath the house to find it crawling with bugs and more importantly, spiders. The place looked like it hadn’t been used in years as we wadded through cobwebs to find 4 shower cubicles and 6 toilet cubicles. As if all this wasn’t strange enough, the toilet cubicle doors had all been attached to a rope so that when you opened one door, they all opened at once. We half expected a corpse to roll out of one of them. Out of the 4 shower cubicles, we picked the one with the least amount of spiders and braved a quick shower before the eight legged critters over powered us.

In the evening we fired up the pocket rocket and cooked ourselves a macaroni pasta meal, with a cream cheese bagel for afters as we listened to the cacophony of insect noises and debated as to whether there was a crazy person living in the derelict caravan next door.

In the morning it was another mad dash through the spider infested shower cubicles followed by a nice cup of tea, freshly brewed by the pocket rocket. We bid farewell to our campsite and headed back into Otisville for supplies, especially liquids as the day was already fiercely hot. I had already dropped one of my bottles onto concrete back at the campsite, cracking the bottom and rendering it useless. After Otisville, we headed 15 miles south towards the Delaware Water Gap, as vast National State forest that ran alongside the Delaware River and acted as the natural state boundary between New Jersey and Pennsylvania. We entered the leafy tree lined road which took us into the forest, happy to be in the shade as it was by far the hottest day we had experienced. At the 27 mile mark, we took a break under the shade of the trees and checked the rest of the route using the GPS device. There seemed to be very little restaurants/grocery stores/diners anywhere near us apart from the Watergap Inn, about 6 miles ahead. We pushed on towards the Inn with thoughts of a huge lunch waiting for us as we’d only eaten a cream cheese bagel and a cookie ice-cream sandwich for breakfast. Our hopes were dashed as a couple who had also pulled up outside the restaurant in a 4×4 told us it was closed and then moaned that they had driven a whole hour in their air-conditioned car to get here. That’s a shame I thought, as I looked down at the GPS device, which told me there was nothing around for 23 miles and the temperature had absolutely soared!

We sat outside for a moment, entertaining thoughts of dying of thirst but thought it best to check if there was anyone round the back of the restaurant. With a stroke of luck, we bumped into an elderly chap who invited us in and let us fill our water bottles with ice and cold water. He must have taken pity on us as he went off and returned with a loaf of freshly baked bread to get us through the next few miles. Thank goodness he did as we were faced with two of the steepest and longest hills that I’ve ever tackled. The second beast was an absolute killer and seemed to extend further and further up as we crawled our laden bikes inch by inch towards the top. Chris threw in the towel about half-way up and had to push it part of the way and I managed it with a quick stop about two thirds up but my whole body was quivering and perspiring when I reached the summit. The most annoying part about the pure torture that you are inflicting on your body are the small flies that buzz about your face and land on your glasses, and in some instances you may have a gang of these things taking turns to taunt you as you grind slowly up. Even when you swot them away they return soon after as you are only travelling at 2-3 mph.

The last hill took us up and over the Delaware Water Gap and to our relief gave us an exceptionally good downhill run to the town of Blairstown, New Jersey. We’d finally found a place to eat and so tucked into a huge turkey wrap with a milkshake as we both sat in silence, not quite believing if it was real or we had succumb to thirst and kicked the bucket somewhere on the last hill. We slowly started to feel normal again, but we both looked spent, our clothes drenched in sweat and the mixture of sun lotion, dirt, and dead flies smeared over our arms. I think our social standing was somewhere between an animal and a Twix bar as we just didn’t fit in.

Ten miles further on and we reached the crossing point of the Delaware River, taking the pedestrian footbridge as we entered out eighth state, Pennsylvania. Stopping for some basic supplies for the evening we found the Shady Acres Campground, predictably up a steep hill and crashed out on the bench next to our pitch. We were both shattered from the intense heat of the day and the huge hill climbs we had faced but thankfully we made it. Only 4 more cycling days until Washington DC!

Total Miles : 638 miles

Number of States : 8

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