Actually, this trail of 18 miles one way has three different names—the lower part is the Dutchess Rail Trail, between Hopewell Junction in Hopewell, New York, and the edge of the Hudson River. Then comes the Walkway Over the Hudson, a 1.5 mile pedestrian/bicycle bridge over the Hudson River. (Martha said she read that this is the longest pedestrian bridge in the country.) The northern stretch is actually called the Hudson River Valley Trail. The last part goes a little over three miles and ends at a park. The Walkway Over the Hudson was fun because the scenery of the Hudson on both sides of us was great, and we could also see the small mountains in the distance and the green tree-lined hills on both sides of the river. There were several people walking the bridge, but it wasn’t a problem as long as we stayed in the bike-designated area and they stayed in the pedestrian-designated area. The other two sections were tree lined and shaded. The whole trail is paved. The three sections form the Hudson River Trail Network.
We had rented our bikes from Leisure Riding in Poughkeepsie the night before, plus we rented a bike rack for the car, and drove out to dinner for a pizza and then to our room at the Holiday Inn Express. So on Thursday morning, we drove back to the bike rental place parking lot and left the car while we started on the trail. We had done the rental the night before because we started riding at 8:30 a.m., and the rental place didn’t open until 9:30 a.m. We wanted to get this early start. We rode north to the end and then south to the end, where we had lunch at Daddy-O’s and then back to the bike shop parking lot to turn in our bikes and the bike rack. Martha had read that the trail went through several little hamlets on the lower part, so we were expecting many more street crossings and commercial development. We were pleasantly surprised to see how rural and isolated the trail actually was. Except for many memorial benches along the trail, we didn’t see any other amenities and also very few people. It reminded us somewhat of the Silver Comet trail in Atlanta. It was also shady, perfect weather again, and plenty of trees to the side and overhead. It was another enjoyable ride. Our legs and lungs must be in pretty good shape, because even after riding 36 miles, we still had plenty of energy and could have kept going.
After turning in the bikes and turning on the GPS, Martha navigated us out of Poughkeepsie and south on various roads (like I said, I never really knew where I was going, just following her directions) to enter Manhattan from the north side. I learned as soon as I started on this leg of the trip that the merge lanes end abruptly almost as soon as we merge onto another road. One time we came close to running out of lane but fortunately no one was in the lane immediately to my left as I continued to merge onto the highway. This part of the drive was about one and a half hours. The GPS led us eventually to our parking deck near Central Park, even though barriers in our road caused us to improvise the directions about six blocks beyond our turn and then do a backtrack on another road.To top it off, there was construction right before our turn into the parking deck, so we almost missed it, which would have meant we would have to do the 12 block roundtrip detour again. However, we did see it and zipped into the deck. It was valet parking only, and it cost $40 for our six hour parking. Welcome to NYC.
With the car parked, we footed our way to the Paris Theater about six blocks away to see The Wife, a new film starring Glen Close. That was a good break, and the movie was excellent. Thanks to Martha for noticing it was playing so close to where we were and just at the right time! After the movie, we walked another five or so blocks to 5th Avenue in search of Trump Tower because I wanted to see it and go inside. Martha had the address, but somehow we kept walking past it. We should have paid closer attention to all the people taking pictures with their cell phones! Anyway, we went in, saw the escalator that Trump rode down to announce his candidacy to the crowd gathered in the lobby (I heard they were each paid $50 to be in attendance, but I have no proof), and then down another escalator to the gold-plated restrooms. Took some pictures to verify my being there and to show to Ron and Johnny.
Leaving Trump Tower, we walked back about seven blocks to the bike rental where Martha had reserved bikes for us to ride around in Central Park.This ride was 6.5 miles. Not knowing how long it would take to do this because of the hills, we rode faster than we really needed to—zipping around it actually—and returned the bikes 20 minutes before they were due. Even though we could ride only on the perimeter road of Central Park, we were still in the park with no autos competing for our space (only many many other people riding and walking) and could see lots of the scenery of Central Park. I thought about the novel Kiss of the Jeweled Bird and its scenes in Central Park. We had dinner at the Tavern in the Park, which wasn’t very tasty at all and pretty expensive. It was after 9 o’clock when we were there; we decided that we should have just skipped dinner and ordered one of their fancy desserts.
So around 10:15 we started out drive to the Wyndham Hotel near LaGuardia Airport so that we could catch our flight back to Atlanta in the morning. That drive was an experience all its own. Again, with Martha navigating and me driving, we had to traverse several roads, change lanes, cross at least one big bridge, and compete with all these fast New York drivers who didn’t have patience with my going a bit under the speed limit because (I have to admit it) I was rather rattled by all the traffic and night driving. At one point, all lanes were packed, I was in the left lane, Martha said my next turn would be to the left, and there was no shoulder next to me, only this cement barrier. I stayed in the left lane going cautiously, a bit under the speed limit probably, much to the dismay of the drivers behind me who didn’t hesitate to honk to let me know I was holding them up. I wasn’t creeping along, but I definitely wasn’t going 60 miles an hour. I didn’t want to crash. (The next day, driving my Subaru back in Atlanta, I realized that part of my troubles had been that I am used to sitting much higher in the driver’s seat than I was in the Ford Focus.) However, we made it to the hotel. And there began our next stressful experience: there was no place to park at the hotel. Well, I take that back, there was a huge empty lot behind the hotel but fences prevented us from walking from back to front, so we decided we better not park there, because, surely, the hotel has parking spaces. Driving around to the front of the hotel, we saw a narrow driveway that led to some underground parking spaces. Ah, we were in luck. There was one spot left. It was a pretty tight fit, Martha having to get out of the car and guide me into it so that I wouldn’t hit the cement poles or other cars parked there. But we did it! Then walking out to the front door of the hotel we saw the sign that said “Private parking. Violators will be fined $25.” Still stressed out from the drive and parking experience, we went into the hotel to check in and ask them where to park. Their response was “No, you can’t park in the underground parking area where you are. We have valet parking for $25, or you can park in the street if you can find a spot.” It was close to midnight, we didn’t want to pay $25, so we said we’d go look for a spot. But that was NOT easy! Streets for four blocks surrounding the hotel were jammed with parked cars parked inches from each other. This was not looking good. Finally, in desperation, we drove back to the hotel after circling the area twice and said they could do valet parking. We were tired!
Small room, no hair dryer for Martha, but it did have breakfast the next morning. We made it through the night. The next adventure came when we checked out and asked for our car. Suspicious of where their “parking garage” was located, because they said they could get the car for us in five minutes, I followed the employee out the front door and down into the little driveway where we had painstakingly parked the night before, only to move it and hand it over for valet parking. This time, though, he had parked it on the side of the drive way, so that he literally drove our car ten feet to the outside sidewalk and gave us the key. Then he kept standing there and asking for the “tik.” I kept telling him that we gave the valet parking ticket to the inside desk, and he kept holding out his hand and asking for the “tik.” Finally, I put his gestures and his nationality together and realized he was asking for a tip. I gave him $3, so that we could get out of there. Never will we stay at that hotel again.
From the hotel, it was about a twenty minute drive to the Avis Car Rental to turn in the car, get their shuttle and ride to the airport for our flight home. We got to the airport a lot earlier than we needed to, but we were there.
Martha and I always enjoy our bike rides, even the unexpected. This one was no different.