Tagged: New Paltz

Getting the Gunks Out

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Last year, I observed Bastille Day by riding to Philadelphia for a weekend with Sarah. We were met by two of my oldest and dearest friends, who travelled from Washington, DC, to meet us. I was never into doing “couple’s weekends,” but this one was easily one of the best weekends of my life. At the time, I regarded the weekend—consisting of a bike ride, perfect weather, a Bastille Day party, and some great exploring—as perfect.

Then it all fell apart. Sarah and I split shortly thereafter. To their credit, my DC friends still reach out occasionally to ask how I’m doing, but I am still reluctant to connect with them: it feels like I was expelled from the couples club, and I am too embarrassed to come around without a current membership.

For this year’s Bastille Day celebrations, I wanted to do something similarly epic to last year’s trip, but it seemed foolish to again ride to Philadelphia. My friend Brian, who I do a lot of long rides with, had a birthday this week, and we planned a three-day trip to New Paltz to ride around in the Shawangunk Range:

  1. Riding 80 miles to New Paltz
  2. Riding 70 miles around the Gunks
  3. Riding 30 miles to Beacon

Because you might someday want to do something like this, here are some details about the ride.

Bastille Day Ride to Beacon

For Bastille Day this year, I wanted to ride my bike somewhere I had never been, and as luck would have it, there was a club ride from Poughkeepsie to New Paltz to Beacon that was listed for Sunday, it was a “B” ride with a 17-mph pace, and it wasn’t full. So I signed up for it.

Bastille Day 2014

The ride began and ended outside of New York City so it required two trips on the Metro North train. Since the ride from New York to our starting point in Poughkeepsie was about an hour and a half, our ride leader recommended we eat two breakfasts, and I happily stopped by my local 24-hour grocery and bought two breakfast items before making my way to Grand Central to catch the 7:44.

The ride was splendid. The roads were gorgeous with plenty of tree shade, rolling hills, and very few cars and traffic lights. There was some hard pack through the woods on the Hudson Valley Rail Trail, which was great because it was a pretty hot day, and riding through the shade made things a lot more comfortable. There were some interesting contrasts on this ride. On the one hand, you would see icons of the country: houses on large parcels of land, covered bridges, and lots of farms. On the other hand, I saw a few less savory elements, such as some folks that would looked like they were cooking meth. There were some abandoned and shuttered houses that could be used to cook meth. Or maybe the countryside and meth go together more than I had thought.

Covering Bridges

My third breakfast of the day was at our lunch stop in New Paltz at Mudd Pile Cafe, in the Water Street Market. It wasn’t quite noon so lunch wasn’t yet being served. The highlight of the stop was that we came during the second annual Hudson Valley Chalk Festival. Although we didn’t look around much here, I was captivated by a guy performing a series of Johnny Cash covers.

Covering Johnny Cash

Once on the road, we proceeded through Ulster and Orange Counties, and then over the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge, named for Hamilton Fish. In Beacon, we were planning on going to the River Terrace as our ride leader rides for beer, but to our chagrin, we found that it was closed. It was as if they had closed down for good and were under construction. As that door closed, four of us found ourselves at The Hop on Main Street. This place was new, and was clearly a better option to the place that got three stars on Yelp.


A small of group of friends came to The Hop, mingled with my cycling mates, and the Bastille Day celebrations were afoot in Beacon.