The Hills Are Alive….With the Sounds of Maria Gasping for Air

Well, friends, I survived the weekend.  I don’t even know how to start.  But in the spirit of the Sound of Music headline let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start.

I woke up on Saturday morning at 3:20 am.  Laid in bed for ten minutes, realized my phone hadn’t been charging all night so all I had was my spare battery, and then got up, showered, put on my bike clothes and headed off into the dark and drizzle to catch the 4:50am train into the city.  When I got to the station I realized one thing that hadn’t crossed my mind:  there is no elevator at the LIRR (Long Island Rail Road) station I go to.  The escalator was my only option.  No big deal right?  Wroooong.  I rolled my bike onto the escalator expecting it to be easy peasy, not realizing that when something is heavy it’s going to be affected by gravity.  As soon as my back tire was off the ground my bike started falling backwards.  It took all my strength, lots of gasping, and my body holding the handlebars to keep Evelyn from falling back down to the ground level.  As this is happening I hear my train rumbling in arrival.  I started shouting to the ONE other person on the platform to hold the train for me, because if I missed this train the day was screwed.  I made it to the top FINALLY, boarded train and I was off!  Today was going to be great!!

Once I got into Penn Station (with 1.5 batteries for the next two days) the next issue was getting to the subway.  So this is my setup:

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Apparently I looked like a homeless person because suddenly two homeless bag women approached me and asked me if I was new and where was I from.  I explained that I was just biking and waterproofed my sleeping bag with the garbage bag.  They were really friendly and told me where I could find an elevator that would making getting to the subway platform much easier.  One of them walked with me and chit chatted the whole way.  I got on the elevator, then on the subway up to 177th street.

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Evelyn’s first time on the NYC Subway!!

Once I got to 175th street (which is apparently the 177th street stop, I didn’t know and a nice woman told me thank god.  I get out and into the subway to discover:  THE ELEVATOR IS CLOSED FOR REPAIRS.  I rolled my bike to the stairs and stared up them in horror.  How the hell was I going to get my bike up the steps?!? Finally a nice guy showed up, put his coffee down and together we dragged Evelyn up the stairs.  Once at the top he went on his way and I went on mine….to the next two flights of stairs.  There was no one to help me with these so slowly, step by step, I lifted Evelyn’s enormous ass up the stairs.  I have never been so happy to stand in the New York City rain as I was at the top of those stairs.  Biked a block west to the George Washington Bridge Bike Route 9 entrance. It was so steep I had to walk the ramp up to the actual bridge itself.  As I’m doing this people running are passing me and racing on into the misty morning.  Finally, I was on the bridge!  YAY!  My day was going to be great!  Crossed the bridge and began what was to be a very long and exhaustively interesting day.

Within twenty minutes I knew I was in trouble.  Let me remind you, I live on Long Island.  We have no real hills on the island, much less mountainous hills.  As road biker after road biker zipped past me with their serious important faces I started wondering if I was going to survive the day (not for the last time either).  Finally, just as I had began a very huffy puffy version of ”If I Could Be Her” by ZZ Ward I hear a voice behind me as how long I’ve been on the road.  I gave him a quick run down of what I was up to.  He biked with me for about ten minutes, telling me about when he would bike tour in his younger days (the guy was like in his 60’s).  Eventually he wished me lucked and was on his way.  I must say, friendly readers, if it wasn’t for that one encouraging guy I might not have kept going.

About ten miles down the road I came to a three way stop where I could go left or right.  The sign in front of me said Bike Route 9 was to the right.  All the zippy bikers were going to the left.  Hmmm…. I pulled out my map which didn’t help much.  Eventually I decided to just stick to the route in case I lost my way.  I turned right…right down a hill, which obviously led to having to turn left again.  I was looking up THE biggest hill I had ever seen.  Now, this was a residential neighborhood so as I began my little roll up the hill there’s a couple standing outside their house having a truly romantic moment and someone is taking a photo (I REALLY wish it was a video as this would have been great).  So there they are having their moment and there I go in the background literally moaning and gasping and making, I’m sure, a very attractive facial expression.  As soon as I had passed them far enough away for them to not see me, I hopped off my bike and proceeded to moan and gasp WALKING my bike up the hill.  At the top I turned right and watched the bikers again.  APPARENTLY they all knew about the hill and that if they turned left they would avoid the hill altogether.  I knew I should have followed them.

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Piermont, NY

Once I got back on track I found myself going through an ADORABLE little town called Piermont.  It was RIGHT along the Hudson and every single house was enormous and adorable.  Some of them were run down and creepy and gorgeous and others were perfectly painted and chic.  The view of the water was incredible!  At this point I saw my tent was getting uncomfortable so I stopped to adjust it.  While doing that my handlebars tipped over and in my attempt to keep the entire bike from falling, I twisted the whole entire handlebar around.  It took the sound of my brake cable ripping for me to even realize that something was wrong.  Part of the brake metal was twisted and all the cables were weird and….. crap.  I can, again, either go home, get it fixed somewhere, or go on using only my rear brake.  I then realized that the Piermont Bicycle Connection was RIGHT THERE.  So, they fixed it for me, better than before!  Annnnnd I was off!

Eventually I got to another hill that I also had to walk up, this one seemed never ending.  At the top, except it WASN’T THE TOP, I found a gas station.  Spoke with a man who then gave me the best news ever:  THERE WAS A BIGGER HILL IMMEDIATELY TO FOLLOW!  Great.  I walked my ass halfway up that mountain and then pulled over and collapsed in the grass of the Knights of Columbus of South Nyack.  I was only like 10-15 miles away from my goal.  Called my friend Tom who then says ”Where are you?”  “UM…Collapsed on the side of the road”  At this point it’s noon exactly.  Tom said I have three choices: (Ok, lies, he said I have two choices but I totally added in this third choice.  I’ll let you choose which one it was):  I can either walk my bike up the hill at 3 miles an hour and arrive shortly before dark OR I can bike and arrive sooner, OR I can turn around and fly the fuck down those hills back to the safety of my sweet, sweet, flat Long Island.  Eventually I sat up, (mostly because so many passing bikers were asking if I was okay), decided the mountain could suck it, and got on my bike.  I made it 10 yards before I had to stop again but I told myself I would recover and then go another 10 yards.  I did this ALL THE WAY TO TOP!!!  I got to a little coffee shop in the town of Haverstraw, NY and sat for an hour because I knew I only had 7 miles left to go.  A few more miles down the road and I passed the sign announcing I had arrived at Tompkins Cove!! The town I had been ”google map directions…ing…” to all week!  I stopped at a gas station to use the restroom and an old, crickety old man, who works there, approaches me.  He asked me where I’m from, when I started, where I’m headed…etc.  When I told him my goal is Bear Mountain he starts in on how there’s no camping there and the campground is closed.  He’s very intense about it and staring at me like I’m planning to blow up the mountain secretly.  Eventually I went on my way but he definitely had gotten into my head.  As I approach a sign announcing the bridge to Bear Mountain I’m feeling really nervous and paranoid about the camping.  I pass a little tiny church and house and decide to throw caution to the wind.  I dismount and approach the house, which is when I met Charlie, the golden retriever.  He’s barking and growling and I can’t really tell how long of a chain he’s on but I give him plenty of distance while I hoot ”helllloooooo?”  as friendlily (I know it’s not a word) and unthreateningly as possible.  When a women finally opens the door I explain to her my situation and ask if I can camp on the church property.  Not only did she tell me that it was fine, she also said she would leave the door to the bathroom open for me to use (which was great because that issue hadn’t even crossed my mind).

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It was about 3pm at that point so I decided to set up my tent and go from there.  I got my tent all set up, bed made, bags in my tent, and crawled in to freshen up and change my clothes.  After this I head back to Charlie, who by the way, once I knew his name was my new best friend.

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After this I went back to my tent to read a little and ended up falling asleep.  Woke up a few hours later, ate my dinner of a Clif bar and some corn (useless healthwise but tasty nevertheless).  I went outside to plug in my phone and noticed that moon was HUGE and full!!  It was the perfect end of the day!  I went to sleep and slept cozy cozy coooozzzyy until my alarm went off the next morning. …And then another 2 hours.

It took me an hour to break camp, and I took off at 9:30 am resigning myself to the fact that there was a pretty probably chance that the end of my ride was going to be in the dark.  I zoomed past the old man at the gas station, who didn’t see me, thank god.  Before I knew it I was at the coffee shop and it was only 10:30 am.  I stopped for a very quick hot coffee, which I enjoyed in the rain.  Oh, I didn’t mention that it was POURING RAIN?  Yes, well it was.

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I quickly headed off into the rain, which wasn’t really bothering me as I had come prepared for cold, wet weather anyway.  What REALLY killed me that day was that I was sore from the previous day and still had to do the same mountains.  I thought I would never make it up.  Several times I found myself begging my Grandma for help getting up ”this fucking mountain”, telling myself ”If I get to the top I get to roll to the bottom” “You will not die on this mountain” and my favorite “This is crazy, this is so crazy”.

One in particular was never ever ever ever ever ever ever EVER ending.  When I finally made it to the top and started to fly down, I literally was crying with relief and not just the wind blowing.  It was such a sense of joy and relief that it made the torturous journey up more than worth the pain.  Once again, I passed through the town of Piermont and continued up another mountain.  This was a great part, although it was also quite painful.  Every time I was stopped and another biker would pass me from behind the would have encouraging words for me.  “You’re almost there!”  “Doing great!”  “YOU CAN DO IT YOU CAN DOOOO IT!!”  My favorite was one guy who was with a group of guys who were clearly not stopping for him, so as I’m standing there panting for air, he’s biking slowly by, panting for air too, and goes ”Yeah.  I don’t like it either!”  I didn’t even have air to say anything, just laughed/moaned in reply.  The best sign I’d seen all day was the George Washington Bridge: 15 miles sign.  I eventually got to that point where I’d initially gone the wrong/right way on the three way stop and this time I followed the bikers (like a pro whut whuuuut).  As I headed down that last 7 mile road towards the bridge the rain kicked up and eventually I had to put my glasses in my pocket.  I could barely see, and my brakes were so screechy it sounded like my dad’s car. And then I was there!  George Washington Bridge!!! Yaaaay!

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It was super misty AND only 3pm!  I had made the ride in less than 6 hours!

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Once I got across the bridge the next best thing I had seen:  the elevator down to the A train was WORKING AGAIN!!  In I went, quickly got the subway back to Penn Station just in time to get a 4pm train home and the next thing I knew I was back in Massapequa. While adjusting my bike on the train I managed to strain my wrist, which initially I didn’t think was going to be an issue but today I am in a lot of pain.  Now, children, who remembers the very first issue of the weekend?  If any of you said that the train station doesn’t have an elevator you win a high five from me if you ever meet me. I rolled to the edge of the stairs and looked down them.  I tried to pick up my bike and my wrist screamed in protest.  I unloaded EVERYTHING off my bike and took it down the stairs, returning for my bike, which was then not hard to carry down.  Reloaded up and bike home where I immediately put away my bike and hopped into a warm bathtub.

I had done it.  I hadn’t given up.  I made it up my first mountain(s) and didn’t die.  This is good thing.

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BRRR!! Here Goes Nothing!

OK! I’m preparing for my first serious run. Like…all alone, starting a campfire, camping on public land not someone’s backyard dry run. ….I am terrified.

First things first: ma tente (I don’t speak French, do you?).  I returned my tent from Dick’s last week and purchased the Camp Dome 2.  I set it up for the first time this morning since my sleeping bag had also arrived.  IT’S BIGGER THAN MY BED!! Along with size it’s so easy to set up that I felt like a pro (or maybe third times a charm?).  I kind of want to just let it stay popped up on my bed and sleep in at night (can you imagine what my employers would think? …Oh yeah, Maria’s in her room camping…) Annnyyyways, okay so next up is my sleeping bag, or as I have been referring to it ”my SLEEPING BAG WHICH IS SO FREAKING COMFY OMG I CAN’T STAND IT!”  I’m not even kidding.  As soon as I start trying to seriously talk about it the memory of it’s coziness overpowers all my sense of composure.  The same way I squeal excitedly singing Fleetwood Mac at the top of my lungs ruining the song whilst imaging that I am a young Latina Stevie Nicks but that is an entirely different subject.  My sleeping bag is AWWWEEEsome!  It’s really really warm, comfortable and JUST the right length for me to be cozy and cuddly.  Add to that my amazing sleeping pad and I’m so snuggly I kind of want to sleep outside like right now (even thought it’s like 30 degrees out if not colder).  

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Tent + Sleeping Bag = Home!

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EEEheeeheehee

Moving right along.  I ambushed REI this week with a mile long list of items that I knew I would need for this weekend of camping.  Cooking supplies, fire started, matches, bunjee cords (more), compass, a whole long list of things.  I packed up my bike yesterday and all that’s left is food for cooking and pajamas.  I hope.    

Now let me actually TELL you about what I’m up to this weekend.  I am going to be going up NY Bike Route 9 to Bear Mountain.

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Red line is my route! Let’s all oooh and aaaah together. That’s a long ass bike route.

Bike Route 9 starts at the George Washington Bridge in the Bronx and goes just shy of the Canada border!  Obviously, since this is just a weekend run I’ll only be going about 40 miles up the route.  For me though this is going to be quite a distance since I know the terrain will be very different from my nice, flat little Long Island biking!  

In terms of the camping part, I will be camping somewhere inside Bear Mountain State Park.  I’m a little worried because try as I might I cannot find in writing a definite explanation of the camping policy for this.  I have to be certain distance from the road, not visible, take back with me what I bring (duh) no fires?  I can’t find it anywhere and as Saturday morning approaches I am getting more and more concerned.   Advice?  Information?  Links?  Really…anything would be great!  Anyhoo, I’ll be making dinner and starting a little fire (rule allowing) and it’s going to be soooo cold and guess what? ….I CAN’T WAIT!  

What are YOU doing this weekend?  

Dry Run 2

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Heading West on 27A, Long Island, NY

So this weekend I did another dry run.  Before I get into that let me update you on all the things that have happened in the past week or so.

First of all, my panniers arrived!  They are HUGE and BEAUUUTTIFUULL [from Ortlieb at REI]!! I can’t wait to pack them onto my bike!  Although that brings me to the issue of racks.  Last week I went through the ordeal of finding a rack that wasn’t too expensive just to take on my weekend run.  I made the mistake of starting with Wal-Mart.  I didn’t even know they carried bike racks!  I started off buying a 16 dollar rear bike rack that could hold 15 pounds.  I got home and discovered that it didn’t come with enough screws and that the holes were too big anyways for the screws [if they had been provided!]  So I went back and exchanged it for a 20 dollar bike rack that ended up not fitting my bike seat.  It was the kind that just goes right on your bike post but mine was too big.  By the end of the day I was racked out and exhausted.

Friday I finally dragged my ass to REI which, really, is what I should have done to begin with.  I bought a 40 dollar rack and it was perfect.  Not only that but with the REI membership if there are any issues with the rack I can return it so it more than pays for itself.

While I was there I looked at sleeping bags and tents.  The sleeping bag that I’m leaning towards is so beautiful I can barely stand it!  It’s called the North Face Snow Leopard for Women.  According to the reviews it’s damn cozy and the only real issue is that it’s a little bulky but I’ve decided that if I have a real big issue I can buy a compacting sack for it.

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The North Face Snow Leopard Sleeping Bag – Women’s

So with that decision taken care of it’s time to move on to talk about my tent.

I bought the KOPPEN tent that I mentioned in a previous post and I was both impressed and disappointed.  It was fairly easy to set up and very cute to look at and then I realized I couldn’t sit up.  I understand that for a teeny tiny tent I should have expected that but …I wasn’t ready for it.  Other than that it was cozy cozy cozy, the wind blew all night long and it didn’t bother me.  In the morning when I woke up though there was condensation on the inside of the rain fly and it was sliding in through my mesh windows.  In warmer conditions this wouldn’t really be a problem but I’m imagining being in a colder climate and having even more condensation.  That’s an issue I would really rather not have so I called Dick’s today and they said I could return it.  [Thankfully I saved my receipt in a safe place haha]

I had looked at a tent at REI that was perfect for me the only problem was that it weighed like 7 pounds so I immediately vetoed it …but now I’m eating my words and going back to REI for it.  Again, I decided that the extra few pounds [also I must have really misheard the REI guy because it only weighs 4 pounds] would be worth the little better quality than the one I have now.

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REI Camp Dome 2 Tent

Next on my list of things to think about is a mattress pad and start accumulating actual supplies.

Moving on:  my butt hurts.  ALOT.  This weekend was the first extended trip I had done since I first got Evelyn.  If you’re just joined us, Evelyn is my beautiful, adorable hybrid bike.  I will be the first to say that she doesn’t have a seat that’s made for touring.  That’s just one more thing on my list of things to buy, but other than that she was glorious!  I forced myself to figure out the gears because on my shitty bike that I had before I never really messed with the gears, standing up going up hills and dying of exhaustion at the top!  This time I was determined to learn all my gears and which ones I liked best.  One thing I thought a lot to myself going up hills was that if I was going any slower despite all my energy output, that I would begin rolling back down the hill haha!

I loooovveee my bike shoes!  Having the clipless shoes was fabulous.  I liked feeling like I was attached to my bike (I mean…I was) and guess what guys?  I DIDN’T FALL ONCE!  After that first weekend where I forced myself to get back on and learn to ride with them I have mastered the clipless shoes (for now, knock on wood).  The one thing that I did notice was that my toes were a little cold sometimes.  I vaguely remember hearing about shoe covers though so I guess I’ll have to look into that.  I also have to remind myself to wiggle my toes once an hour because my pinky toes are always falling asleep (in EVERY pair of shoes I own this happens, so I know it’s not just the bike shoes).

One of the mistakes I did make this weekend was not drinking enough water on my way home.  I usually drink like 5 bottles of water per 40 miles and yesterday I only drank like 2 and a container of coconut water.  I have to remind myself that just because I’m a little cold doesn’t mean I’m not thirsty.  When I got home I took a hot bath and when I got out of the tub I literally collapsed on the floor, I was so lightheaded.  I drank water and carb-ed up and felt better after that.

WIND. OMG. WIND.  I had to bike north from the beach for about 6 miles straight into the wind.  I literally thought I was going to die and blow off the big bridge that I had to cross to get from Fire Island back to the main highway.  It was BRU-TAL and freezing cold and I had my warm biking coat on!!  The entire time I was hoping that it wouldn’t be this bad all the way home otherwise it would take me HOURS to get home.  Thankfully once I turned west I was going with the wind and it wasn’t so cold.

The other thing I have become extremely grateful for is BIKE LANES!  Most of the time there is no designated bike lane but there’s always a fairly large shoulder.  Sometimes however there is like NO shoulder and no sidewalk, which is when it’s a little bit scary.  I am always thankful when I see signs like this:

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I think that’s all I can think of to update y’all on for right now!  Until next time!  Happy biking!

Fire Island, Mastic Beach, NY

Fire Island, Mastic Beach, NY