It’s almost 90° F and we’ve welcomed the shade of a tree to eat snacks, drink some water, and do some planning. It’s called tree-shade planning. And hydration and refueling. It uses the pronoun it and it is rest. It’s not much of a glam stop. No picnic table. No bathrooms. No water fountains. We’re literally under a tree in the shade, for my friends at home. We is Kara and Damon and I. Loki went ahead at the last stop. Hold up. Wait a minute. You’re asking yourself who the fuck is Loki?! Put a mischievous pin in that because i promise we will get there via space travel in just a sec. For now – right now – right now right now – it is hot as balls and ovaries and everything in between and we are out of water so our next stop is just 8 miles ahead in… Yorktown heights. York Town New York. It’s sounds wealthy. Probably isn’t. Typical New York bullshit. Bill shit. Whatever. This statewide trail got some funding a few years back; I’m grateful for the smooth surface; I’m dissapointed in the signing and mapping. Wayfinding as the kids say. We’re all babies man. New York State — who does pays me — should pay people like Kara and Damon and i to make this system better. Or even pay specifically Kara and Damon and I. Pad my pension or something. I dunno. Pay anyone other than whoever it is that obviously doesn’t really get it. Like obv. Maybe they don’t ride a bike at all. Or they do but they’re just some middle aged man in Lycra. Shoutout to all the actual mammals out there. Humanism. Anywho, MAMIL – you know some guy with a credit card and his wife in a support car not far behind, having a Cabernet every 10 miles waiting on his dumb ass to craft some sort of document that surely doesn’t even remotely qualify as map. Empirical fail. Don’t call me Shirley. It’s a brochure for sure. Don’t get me started on the confusing and inconsistent signage. Notably when one needs it most… like let’s say, through the Bronx and on Broadway and under the elevated subway. Elevated Subway sounds like a great punk rock band name. No help in navigating my bicycle through the Bronx though. I guess even that was miles ago, kilometers behind me… so we might as well go back… way back… back in time…
…space. Let’s jump in the phone booth with George Carlin, head to around 9am this morning — when Damon rolls in early to our NoMad pad and I’m mid second poop. “NoMad”; north of Madison? Everywhere in New York is a neighborhood now. Everything is a choice. Everything is everything. More of those rum infused coffee beans in a cold brew is the cats pajamas yo. I shower up and pack up and we hit a robust-ass two story Whole Foods for supplies. Everything is robust in Manhattan, especially the rent. The rent is too damn high, as they say. And by they I mean that old black guy with the gloves that didn’t become mayor.
We are Trail bound on a busy Saturday morning – it has its moments. Empire State Trail. Er empire trail. Whatevs. It’s late morning to be exact. It feels good. Getting hottern hell already though. 15 miles in and we take our first little break somewhere past Harlem. I’m snacking on a beef bar when from behind I hear “late start huh?”. Um. Yeah, what I suspect is a curious citizen as usual. The yooszzz. “How far you going?”, “nice rig” is how they typically get to talking, then it goes on and on and on. This time it doesn’t get there, but in an instant, my mind goes there, painting the whole landscape like Bob Ross with a third eye. Before my body can turn around my minds creates the entire conversation with this typical dude about it. I’m so sure of it. Then I turn my dumb ass around. My homeskillet Anthony O’Leary aka Loki da Trixta. Worldwide OG, Brooklyn native, brand new Mexican dad, and my old university at buffalo hip hop student association comrade. As if putting myself back into Washington Square late 90s yesterday wasn’t enough, here’s my old friend I’ve done that exact thing with back then standing in front of me. 25 years alive and strong and I can’t do nothing but give the motherfucker a big old hug. Kara met him when we were all at Afropunk in BK circa 2015. Damon met him the last time I saw him living down in Mexico City circa 2018. Trail magic is upon us in a serious way as we become a four human riding unit. We catch up in union and harmony, our bodies and our minds connecting somewhere in the junction between exercise and conversation. Natural high amidst calculated operation. It’s especially sweet for me to see my old college friend. We’ve stayed connected in so many different way and here’s yet another. Loki (rappers hate when you use their government, as do tattoo artists and poets and graffiti writers, etc — basically a good majority of my friends), is pedaling 70 miles to Beacon to see his brother John, plus another old artistic juggernaut of an old pal named Sam Sellers aka Rabbi Darkside is playing a show. He offers for us to camp at his brothers house. The universe is a unique place and I’m so ecstaticly appreciative to be all up in it.
We push on amongst intermittent cover, which is nice and needed. This rail trail has been solid since Van Cortland Park in the Bronx. It’s wonderful to get out of the city in this fashion. The lack of motorized vehicles makes so much more possible. Conversation. Quiet refraction. Focused motivation. Somber consideration. None of that happens with car and trucks and trailer whizzing by me at 30-90 mile per hours. I’m in the middle of one those possible things when I hear a loud clicking in the front an decide to pull off. Little brake and axel adjustment and it’s better. Definitely ridable, not quiet. Suddenly and without and warning, we’re accosted by the guy I thought Loki was about to be. Earlier. Back then. Right now though here is that guy. He was coming the opposite way at and now he stops to talk to us. Kara baits him on and then clams up. This guy is asking us those things. He looks like a Lester so we’re calling this 60-70 year old upstate white guy Lester. Lester is kinda creepy. Not too much. Just enough. I dunno. He legit tries to hand me a card to a nearby e-bike store. I’m not even riding an e-bike much less need a fucking business card. Who has business cards? Is Lester gonna pull out the Yellow Pages next?! I tell him I’m not taking any more weight on for this ride and that I can certainly remember the name of the bike shop if I need it. Lester isn’t just being a curiously friendly guy — that would be cool and the gang. He’s doing the little presumptuous commentary that leads me to avoid these kinda folks on the trail. My crash pad is apparently a sleeping bag. No we don’t have any electric at all. Lester getting on my goddamned nerves; I don’t have anything nice to say. In the wise words of no one, if you don’t have anything ice to say, just roll out — so I just roll out, and everyone falls in line behind me, and we’re moving again. A mile or two up and the click is back and louder. Damnit. I stop and wave the group behind me on and lean the steed up against a trailside bench. Tighten the quick release real quick and look over my shoulder… Lester! Pulling up behind me. Ew. Go away boomer. Why are you trying to talk to me again?! I zoom off, kicking it into my third ring and make tracks. That touring ring is beefier than any e-bike and I don’t see Lester again. Whew.
With Lester out of our lives, other things appear on the radar. Hunger and gravity remain and we stop for a bite at the Elmsford deli. I’m not particularly hungry yet I do get my thermos filled with m some bomb ass coffee. Not rum infused but definitely Puerto Ricans making it. They’re representing because the Cubans couldn’t be here folks. We hang in the shade of the building for twenty or so and come to the conclusion that we won’t be able to take Loki up on the offer. He’s gotta cut off the rail trail about 20 miles up and we’re staying on it as it winds away and meanders in its graded and non motorized glory. He’s gonna push it to get there and Kara and Damon and I are gonna cruise along and find a flat piece of public earth to set up tents when the sun sets. Loki bids us adieu and pushes on. Bumping into him and being blessed with that time together was so fortuitous and yet almost destined to happen. High frequency trail vibe used to take a week, I’m hitting it in just 35 miles today.
My mind settles in as the miles pour on. This long stretch of rail trail really does ease my navigational subscriptions. Rolling along and our cover is thinning out; we’re now along a highway. An hour of that and we’re all caught up in time — back at that tree shade planning sesh. How’s that feel Yorktown Heights. Their grocery store is a Mecca. It made the Whole Foods feel like a two dollar whore. If that still exists. $5 is the new $1. Anyway. The deli is more than robust and get a full on refuel and rest in their AC cafe seating. Back by the restrooms too. Purrfect is what the cool cats say. Operation remote sleep in the next 20 miles is already bubbling in my mind.
We push out of the grocery store around 630pm. About two hours of daylight. Destination unknown. This brochure of a “map” doesn’t offer anything. Not a trace of camping space. A couple towns later and the sun is setting. Now it’s set. Dusk. It’s definitely gonna be dark in 15 minutes. We pull off on a trailhead and figure any spot is as good as the next. Flat earth it is. No water. No bathrooms. No picnic tables. Nada. Well. Good enough for us. I pop up the penthouse. Drink some water. Snack. The bugs are killing me. Damon has some “deep woods OFF”. I go in on it and it is a thing. A thing that doesn’t pay me. A thing full of chemicals so harmful and the bugs go running. Damon admits it’s not go for you. “I’d rather die a couple days earlier than get all bit up by mosquitoes.” On that note, it’s crashing time. Not like collision-crash, like exhaustion crash. Stars occupy my ocular overhead. Ok I’m out.
“I’d rather die a couple of days early than…” has got to be some kind of mantra. And the burning question of the day: Was Lester the Molester close to threat level weird or just a bother? Out.