Tagged: Greenport

The Tale of Two Forks

Bicycling on Long Island has a questionable reputation among New York City-area cyclists. One reason, I think, is because the terrain is a lot more challenging and varied in places like Westchester County and across the Hudson in New Jersey and the not-quite-upstate New York counties of Rockland and Orange. Also, let’s not forget that most of Long Island is in Suffolk County, an area regarded as the worst in the USA for bicycling. But Long Island is also suboptimal for long-distance cyclists because one can only ride so far on Long Island before reaching the end of either fork. Nevertheless, there are plenty of good routes available, and a common way to expand the riding options is to ride along both forks of Long Island.

Over the last two weekends, I rode along the south fork to Montauk and along the north fork to Greenport, on two separate rides. The first was the annual Ride to Montauk, which I have ridden in some form or other since 2008, except for 2011. The second was what’s becoming a standard ride from Huntington to Greenport. Since I’ve done these rides—and recounted them on this site—so many times now, I won’t cover all the details, except for a few notes that were novel and stick out after the fact.

South Fork to Montauk

For the second year in a row, I skipped the full 150-mile route and opted instead for the 108-mile route that starts in Babylon. This year, I took advantage of the check-in in Brooklyn, at Atlantic Terminal, since that would spare me having to travel to Manhattan at 3:00 in the morning. However, that does not spare me from riding past bars at 3:00 AM when people are still out from the night before.

It never fails to amuse me that as I am about to start the Montauk ride, there are people still out from the night before.

As I arrived, I met a first-time rider who was doing her first century. Almost immediately, she admitted to being nervous to ride her first century. She said she trained with the New York Cycle Club, doing the C-SIG program, and that her longest ride was 70 miles in the hilly Bergen and Rockland counties region that seemingly every NYCC ride goes to every weekend. A few other riders and I advised her that the Babylon to Montauk route is significantly easier than what she rode on those club rides. However, Long Island can present one unique challenge that doesn’t factor as much as other rides in the area: the wind.

The headwind on this year’s ride was as bad as it was in 2014. We tried pace-lining to mitigate the effects, but I couldn’t keep up with my riding partners. I had a 16 MPH average speed for most of the first 50 miles, but once we got to Dune Road, the unrelenting headwind pushed that average way down. I was pedaling at almost full strength and the fastest I could manage was a meager 11 MPH.

Once I knew I couldn’t set a personal best for this ride and that we would be taking the 5:30 PM train home, I took it easy and kept a manageable pace to enjoy the scenery.

And to savor multiple slices of pie.

I finished the ride about fifty minutes slower than last year’s effort and managed a 15.1 MPH average speed, almost two full miles-per-hour slower than last year and about the same as what I did in 2014. However, because I took it easy, I wasn’t as exhausted afterward as I was in 2014. I told my friend Andre that I had another twenty miles in me. But aside from going to the lighthouse and back, I couldn’t go any further. I had really reached the end of the road. Besides, I really wanted to eat and have a beer.

North Fork to Greenport

This past weekend, I went with a small group from Huntington to Greenport, a ride that I’ve done a number of times now. Although you’re ever only about fifteen or so miles from the Montauk route, this is a significantly different ride. There are a few rolling hills on this ride, and Belle Terre east of Port Jefferson is certainly a noteworthy climb. Another way that this ride was different from last week’s Montauk ride was the wind on the Greenport ride was “favorable.” It was mostly from the north but later in the day, the wind began pushing us east. It was a welcome respite from the Montauk ride the week before.

The easy riding conditions made it so that we weren’t too hungry. Instead of eating at the crowded and expensive deli in Miller Place, we instead used the opportunity for a brief rest. A shaded porch welcomed us, but some big-city skepticism made us resist the temptation. We continued eastward.

As we usually do on these rides, we stopped for pie. Another group of cyclists also arrived at Briermere Farms in Riverhead at the same time as us. Their aim was to eat a strawberry rhubarb while we set our sights on a blueberry crisp.

When I asked where they were riding, one rider told me they were headed to Orient to catch a ferry. Their ultimate destination was Boston over a four-day period. It so happened that one of my friends was doing that same ride and, as soon as that thought crossed my mind, he rolls up to the pie stand. Hello Harry L!

About eleven miles later, partly on my insistence, we stopped at Lieb Cellars, a winery in Cutchogue. I had been there in January on a day trip, and I really enjoyed the dry sparkling cider. We split a bottle before heading out on our final eleven-mile stretch to Greenport.

Is there liquor in cider (“inside ‘er”)?

After a few sandwiches and a few beers, and yes, that pie, we were on our way to the train.

The pie after riding in my backpack for 22 miles from Riverhead to Greenport.

The only thing that is a big minus about these rides is the amount of time one spends on a train at the end of the rides. Each ride, from Montauk or from Greenport, takes about three hours to return to New York. Doing this on consecutive weekends can test your patience.

It might be time to ride somewhere else this coming weekend.

How Riding on the North Fork Could Totally Suck

In the days leading up to this past weekend’s ride to Greenport, Long Island, I noticed there was an uptick in anti-bicycling sentiments from officials in Southold, New York.

Growing up in California, particularly around Los Angeles, you were either within the city limits or were in an unincorporated part of the county. Since I moved “Back East,” on the other hand, it’s been maddeningly frustrating trying to learn the difference between a city, a town, a village, a hamlet, and a borough, in addition to each’s relationship to the county. Located in Suffolk County, the town of Southold includes all of the North Fork east of Riverhead. The last twenty or so miles of last Saturday’s ride to Greenport went through the town of Southold.

Southold town map

Since at least 2003, our “tour director and humble servant” Glen has organized a North Fork ride that begins and ends in Greenport. After 2013, he had to shut down the ride because the town of Southold essentially banned any for-profit rides that pass through that town. This year, he resurrected the North Fork Century by partnering with Alzheimer’s Disease Resource Center. It was a clever workaround.

But now the town has banned all “race and bike events” between June 1 and November 1. It’s unclear if a club ride, such as a group ride organized by a local cycling club or an annual event such as the Suffolk Bike Riders Association’s Bike Boat Bike ride, is included in this ban. According to the town supervisor Scott Russell, “the blanket prohibition on running and bicycling events would help to put the brakes on the escalating problem, as bicyclists ride three and four abreast, running red lights and putting the public in danger.”

This ban, of course, won’t help to lift Suffolk County from its dead-last ranking as the worst cycling community in the United States, according to Bicycling magazine’s annual survey. Suffolk County is “always one of the most dangerous places in the United States to ride a bicycle. In 2008, the county was the site of 23.8 percent of all fatalities to cyclists in New York state, despite having less than 8 percent of the state’s population.”

Suffolk County being disproportionally responsible for mayhem on the roads extends beyond the roads not being “designed for bicycling.” Suffolk County is also the drunken-driving capital of New York, and last week, there was a ghastly fatal crash where an allegedly intoxicated driver killed at least four people in Southold. Strangely, the Southold police chief suggested that a limo being hit by a local driver was inevitable, seemingly downplaying the fact that a drunken driver plowed into the vehicle and was arrested at the scene.

As I reading through these reports, the Southold police and the town board are apparently discouraging any visitors to the town. This provincialist attitude was one of the things that bothered me about living in the Santa Barbara-Goleta-Carpinteria area, a region with 220,000 people compared to the 22,000 in Southold. It creates an us-versus-them mentality that isolates the community in a bubble. The town officials of Southold are prioritizing the rights of locals to speed on local roads—perhaps even while under the influence—at the expense of out-of-town visitors who might travel east by bus, limo, or bicycle on public roads.

It really makes considering another ride to the North Fork a disheartening prospect.

Going Green: Greenpoint to Greenport in July

Over the last couple of months, a few of cycling buddies and I have been entertaining the idea of riding along the north shore of Long Island to the North Fork town of Greenport. Like Montauk, Greenport is a worthwhile cycling destination because both towns are about 100 miles from New York City and are each the terminals of the easternmost Long Island Railroad lines.

This past Saturday, four of us rode the Ride Between the Greens, a 108-mile ride from Greenpoint, Brooklyn to Greenport, Long Island. Incidentally, we also rode a few miles south of of Greenvale and through Greenlawn.

Between the Greens, July 25, 2015

The ride takes advantage of the fact that the two locations are on opposite ends of Long Island and that they are similarly named. Green also provides a nice theme when it comes to designing a t-shirt.

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Regular readers of this site will remember that I am not new to riding along the North Fork. I went on rides in September, October, and November last year. However, each of those rides started in Suffolk County, either at Huntington or at Babylon, where I caught an LIRR train to save about forty miles of pedaling.

This ride, like my now-annual ritual of riding to Montauk, started in Greenpoint, at Transmitter Park. There, a sign signals the end of the road that ironically was the beginning of our ride.

Ride with Between the Greens

The route followed some pretty major arterial roads that were lightly trafficked early on Saturday morning. We took Greenpoint Avenue, over the Newtown Creek, to Queens Boulevard and then east to Douglaston to ride the LIE Service Road for a 14-mile stretch to Syosset. In Syosset, we stopped for our first meal of the day at—where else—a Panera Bread location.

Ride with Between the Greens

After filling up on egg sandwiches and coffee, we headed towards Cold Spring Harbor and then to Huntington, where two of last year’s North Fork rides started. As a sign that we were riding on well-worn cycling routes, we spotted markings for several other rides, including the Huntington Bicycle Club’s Gold Coast Tour, the Suffolk Bicycle Riders Association’s Bike Boat Bike ride, and, yes, faded marks from past North Fork Century rides.

Speaking of well-worn places, we stopped at Briermere Farms for a peach-raspberry pie. The pie wasn’t to our expectations, which was a little disappointing considering that peaches and raspberries used in the filling were both in-season and especially surprising given that we were famished from this ride.

Ride Between the Greens

The ride was especially tough. As happened almost on every Long Island–ride last year, we faced a stiff headwind most of the day, and as we got closer to the end, the wind intensified. Four of us started the ride, but only three of us finished: one guy bailed about 70 miles into the route. Another rider was riding her first century ride and was challenged by the sheer length of the ride. But regardless of our experience and our training, we all were physically and mentally drained on this ride.

Ten hours and almost 110 miles after starting in Greenpoint, we arrived in Greenport just after 4:30 PM. As soon as we arrived, we went to the Greenport Harbor Brewing’s taproom to fill our growler—yes, I carried a 64-ounce glass bottle for over one-hundred miles—for the train ride home. We then went to the Little Creek Oyster Farm and Market for a bucket of two-dozen oysters we shucked ourselves.

Ride Between the Greens

We caught the 6:11 train out of Greenport—the last train that runs on weekends—back to New York City. Credit goes to my Tom Bihn Daylight backpack because, despite its apparently small size, it carried a full growler of beer, a pie, and my wallet, keys, phone, snacks, and the mirrorless camera I used to snap some photos that day.

Ride Between the Greens

As we nibbled on our pie and sipped our beers, I asked, “so, when are we riding the South Fork?” The silent but stern glances I got in response suggested that it was a little too soon to consider a ride to Montauk.

One of the coolest parts of the ride was, when in Greenport, Ian Wile, the proprietor of the farm and market heard about our ride and came to personally congratulate us. He confessed that he always wanted to do a ride like this. I was tempted to quip that I always wanted to run an oyster farm and market, but honestly, I would even know where to start.

Maybe I should send him a t-shirt.

North Shore Ride to Rive^H^H^H^H Greenport

I convinced three guys to overshoot Riverhead and go to as far as Greenport.

I convinced three guys to overshoot Riverhead and go to as far as Greenport.

Yesterday was my much-anticipated North Shore Ride to Riverhead. Except we didn’t go to Riverhead. We overshot it by about 20 miles and rode all the way to Greenport. Again.

I arrived at Woodside to catch the 8:03 train to Huntington and met Harry, one of my fellow riders. As he and I spoke about the ride and the modifications I made, he said something like, “too bad we couldn’t go to Greenport.” I knew that we had a small group of four guys (including me) for this ride, and I knew one of them well. I said that if everyone was game, I was fine with going to Greenport and taking the late, 6:11 PM train back.

On the Huntington train, we met up with the other two riders, Brian and Joe. Harry and I asked them if they would mind riding an extra seven miles to go to Greenport, instead of Riverhead. Without hesitating, they both agreed.

After arriving in Huntington and exchanging Westhampton-New York train tickets for Greenport-New York tickets, we got on our bikes and, at around 9:30 AM, pedaled east toward Greenport.

Trip 3755497 map full

Sunday was by far the warmest day of the weekend, with highs around 55° and, for the first time this year, the wind was coming from the west not the east or northeast. That’s right, I finally rode on Long Island without the wind in my face for the entire day.

A fellow club member, who I referred to as a club elder because I’ve seen his name on rides for years, emailed me earlier in the week to suggest taking a few back roads to avoid NY-25A and NY-25. I adopted about half of his suggestions, which added about 400 feet of climbing, and the modified route was absolutely worth the extra effort. The roads had rolling hills, which I personally love to ride, and were for the most part bucolic, tree-lined roads that wound around Long Island Sound. I didn’t take many photos because we were hustling up and down those rollers at a pleasant but accelerated pace.

Somewhere in Stony Brook, Long Island.

Ducks on a Pond.

Because of the tail wind and the rolling hills, we progressed along our route at a very quick pace. For most of the ride, we averaged around 14 MPH and, as usually happens on a Long Island ride, we increased that average as continued further east. Because I was leading the ride, I purposefully kept a slower-than-usual pace, but I still finished with a 15 MPH pace.

We stopped for lunch at a market in Miller Place and, because I promised everyone pie, we stopped at Briermere Farms in Riverhead for a blueberry crisp pie that we all split.

Blueberry Crisp pie from Briermere Farms

Four guys. One Pie.

We left Riverhead at around 2:30 and continued for the final twenty miles along Sound Avenue and then on to Main Road in Mattituck. It’s hard to believe that even with a quick bathroom break at a winery in Peconic, we still rode the last 20 miles in about 75 minutes. We arrived by 3:45.

Because we arrived so early, we had over two hours to spend in Greenport. We had our customary burger-and-beer post-ride meal. The other three guys watched football. And then we went to the Greenport Harbor Brewery for a couple of pints and bought a growler for the train ride home. I even had time to greet a friend.

Greenport Harbor Brewing's Porter

Speaking of Ducks… Black Duck Porter from Greenport Harbor Brewing.

One of the things I like about the New York Cycle Club is its structure. But it’s great when you gather a group that’s up for some spontaneous (and extra) riding. It makes for an unforgettable day.

Playing Hookey on Halloween from Playing Hookey on Halloween

Remember how I planned to ride from the Bronx to Beacon on Halloween Friday?

Route 2570192 map full

Those plans changed on Thursday after I received an email from the NYCC club president. I had proposed a North Fork ride from Huntington to Orient Point, similar to the ride I did in September instead of the NYC Century, but he said that taking the train from Greenport to Ronkonkoma might pose a challenge for a club ride. Indeed, that train from Greenport is a very small one, with only three cars, I think, and last time, we had to cram our bikes into a small area. If more than six riders were to come on my proposed club ride, we would be left scrambling for space and some of us might even be stranded.

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He proposed that I lead a fifty-mile loop from Ronkonkoma, which would rely on a train with more regular service and with more capacity for bicycles. He sent me a few cue sheets, and I reviewed them during a break on Thursday. He also suggested, in the interest of adding more miles, finishing in Babylon, which also has more train service. Since I was pressed for time on Thursday, I misread his suggestion and that I should ride from Babylon to Greenport. In my head, that seemed like an equivalent ride to Huntington to Greenport so I agreed to lead that one.

Trip 3716687 map full

So, instead of riding to Beacon, I decided to scout the ride from Babylon to Greenport. In passing, I asked if the club president wanted to join. He did, and the next morning, we connected on a Babylon-bound train in Jamaica for a Halloween ride towards Ronkonkoma and Riverhead.

This week was peak foliage on Long Island, and the leaves were in their autumnal greatness.

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And there were haunted houses ready for Halloween.

Halloween Ride to Greenport

And a decommissioned but well-preserved gas station in Yaphank.

Halloween Ride to Greenport

After I posed for this photo, someone drove right up to the pumps, expecting to fuel up, until he realized that it was out of service and drove on in search of gasoline elsewhere.

In Yaphank, our two-man riding group split up. He headed back to Ronkonkoma and I continued east towards Riverhead and then to Greenport.

Fall Foliage Cycling Selfie

There were more leaves in their full glory.

Halloween Ride to Greenport

Further east, there were even more signs of Halloween, such as this corn maze in Cutchogue.

Halloween Ride to Greenport

For whatever reason, every ride I did on Long Island this year was with a headwind. This one was no different, and I had the wind in my face for the entire seventy miles. A few miles after Riverhead, I was getting cold and tired. I had planned to scout a hillier route along the Long Island Sound, but the headwind made reconsider. Instead, I followed NY-25 the whole way from Riverhead.

Halloween Ride to Greenport

When I saw the carousel in Greenport, one that I had last seen with my mom in August, my exhausting journey on two wheels was finished.

North Fork Ride to Orient Because I Skipped the NYC Century

Trip 3416915 map full

As part of my ongoing mental therapy-by-bicycle, I called a friend and fellow cycle club member to join me on a ride from Huntington, Long Island to Orient Point and then back to Greenport to catch the 6:11 PM train back to New York City. Having ridden to Montauk more than a few times in the past, I always wanted to reach Orient Point on the North Fork, and yesterday was as a good a day as any to do that with yet another eighty degree day with low-humidity.

We started in Huntington because there was a direct train from Penn Station, it would put us close to New York State Bike Route 25A, and it would make for a ninety-mile ride. Once we got out of the train station, we quickly found ourselves on suburban roads with some signs of the farms we would see throughout the ride.

Chickens in Huntington

Long Island has a reputation for being very flat, but we found that there were a good number of hills between Smithtown and Riverhead. We even encountered one of the most storied climbs on Long Island, East Broadway, which leads from Port Jefferson to Belle Terre. It was a challenging hill, but I managed to climb it through the “sit-and-spin” method and I didn’t need to get out of the saddle. I reached the top before Brian did, and that allowed me to snap a photo of him reaching the summit.

Climb from Port Jefferson to Belle Terre

He looks as tired as I feel.

By about 65 miles in, Brian wanted to rest for a minute so we stopped at Hallock’s Cider Mill, a roadside farm stand in Laurel, where they had some very delicious preserves.

Strawberry Rhubarb Preserves

And a pretty awesome blueberry crumb pie that rivals that other pie place on the North Fork.

Blueberry Crumb Pie

Towards the end of our ride, we found that the one of the best views along Bike Route 25 was at East Marion Orient Park, a place so magical that people can apparently walk on water.

East Marion Orient Park

Even with all our rest stops and all the photos we snapped, we reached Orient Point just before 4:00 PM.

The End

I was a little disappointed with the view, but that’s probably because I didn’t scout the route beyond reaching the Orient Point ferry to New London, Connecticut.

Orient Point Ferry

We turned back from Orient to Greenport to get our customary beer and burger in town there and to catch the 6:11 PM train. When I was last in Greenport last month, I tried to go to the Greenport Harbor Brewery for a taste, but it was closing so I didn’t get any beer. This time, we had enough time for a flight.

We Biked 90 Miles… Beer Me

We finished the day at First and South, a pretty good place at the corner of First and South in Greenport with food and prices that rivaled what I found at Birdsdall Inn in Peekskill.

A 100-Mile Loop Around the City Would Be Too Hard

The ride came together over the last couple of days because I had other bike riding plans for this day. Sunday was also the same day as the NYC Century, a ride I first did in 2003, as my first century. This year, I had volunteered on Saturday to get a free entry to the ride.

NYC Century 2014 Route Map

As I kept thinking about the ride and the route, which is largely the same as it’s been for the last decade, I felt that it would be too emotionally difficult to ride it. It would have reminded me of the first time Sarah and I rode that ride together in 2007. At one point, she fell off her bike around mile 20 and wore a bandage on her knee for the rest of the day. It was her first long-distance ride, and I remember she was bonking with six miles left on the 55-mile route. At Astoria Park, I offered her some encouraging words: “Sarah, we have only six miles to go. That’s the distance between your work and my apartment. You can do that, right?” She then agreed that she could and gave me a big hug. I remember seeing a woman passing by who witnessed this tender moment between us. Her reaction to this moment made me realize we had something special. Sarah ultimately held on to finish the ride, and I was really proud of her. I was also inspired that my support helped her on that day. It was the first time my words picked up someone like that, and I wanted to feel that feeling forever.

By midday Saturday, however, I decided I couldn’t very well ride that route. It would be too emotionally difficult to get through that ride, thinking about how happy we were on that first of many other rides we did together.

For now, it appears, that I need to make some new memories.