OK, I’ll be the first to admit it. The signage has gotten better, notably through New Paltz. And the online map is marginally better than the aforementioned paper brochure. I feel like I can still help though, cause marginally doesn’t mean much. Who ya gonna call?NYS DOT? Environmental Conservation? Empire Trail department? Whoever. Give me a job getting this right for you. For us. Excelsior! Ok ok I’ll treat us like the crack head we are and give us the first one for free. A freebie to get us hooked… Water!! We need it. We want! We have to have it!! There hasn’t been a public fountain or source of water since The Bronx. 100 miles ago from right now. Right now I’m in Poughkeepsie marveling at the water fountains. Ice cold. I fill my bottle and immediately dump it on my head and neck and entire torso. We need more water on this trail. I’ve gone across west Texas with more frequent H2O sources. Hydration is key in any state, especially the state of dehydration. Don’t let one bend your risk too much. Holy hell it’s hotter than hell in July. I guzzle an entire liter of water, not spilling a single drop. I’m scanning for shade, my brain is melting at the moment. Marvelously. Before I break down, let’s make sure we got the whole story… I gotta ask everyone to please be kind and rewind…
To when it’s still dark out and I realize I’m alive. It’s not as existential as it sounds. Or is it? What does it all mean? It means I really don’t sleep more than an hour. Ass crack of dawn and I’m out of my tent. My ass crack probably stinks. All before the sun comes up. A little remote sleeping will do all this. Some call it ghost camping. Stealth camping. I stand by my story, Sampson Simpson: this shit is remote sleeping.
We pack up without coffee. Without pooping. Without water. 7 miles up the rail trail, I realize the road we were looking to take to the deli for breakfast is an overpass, not a trailhead. After just one night out there we are desperate for water, toilets and coffee. So desperate that we’re creating our own trail head by climbing up out a 45° incline constructed out of loose 2-10” rocks — with our fully loaded bikes. The adventure begins. Dragging 100lbs is not something I love. We get up to the overpass and head into the nearby town, eager for some sort of something. What do we get? Holy hills! We are no longer graded. Two leg breaking miles later and we are at Sauro’s Deli, not far from the border to Connecticut. Hey papi, tres cafes por favor. Puerto Ricans are the new Italians who were the new Jews. At least in the deli circuit. Not In Hollywood nor human rights. Hmmm.
Basically, deli life is the life for me. The coffee is dank. The breakfast is good. Kara would call it a sammich. Spurio would call it an egg and cheesy. Out front, a car from 1925 is waiting for a photoshoot. I get one shot before the owners come out. Two ladies in the front, the guy in the back. Out for a cruise. It is Sunday. And this ain’t Saudi. Not yet, I guess. The 4 miles of hills to get back to a proper trailhead is torture. Brutal. Ridonkulous. I appreciate this rail trail.
For real fur real this rail trail is a vibe. It’s wonderful here. This is all brand new I suspect. I know the state dumped tons of dollars into connecting some of it and such. This long stretch off 100 miles or so is smooth and silk, the wooden rails and bridges all look like they haven’t even seen a winter yet. During a quiet solo moment, I’m alerted from behind by a spandexes out brown man. “Great trial isn’t it”. Now this is the way you slide into conversation with me. I appreciate your style sir. “Yeah it really is”” I reply. Next up he asks where I’m from. That’s like the Ruth Bader Ginsburg of lead in questions for me. I’ll take the opportunity to talk WNY any day. This guy ain’t no Lester. He’s got the technique down and I have a hunch he might have some intel to impart. We chat at length and Spandex Brown goes in depth with me about the trail, he contends what makes it beat is it’s limited access points — creating long uninterrupted stretches. I agree that is a dope feature, we learned it by climbing out earlier this morning. The trail is only a year old, which means basically no one beside train conductors and workers even had this view until recently. Other related intel includes some sort of race happening that we should keep our eyes open on. Plus a nice park to hammock in Poughkeepsie. And the aforementioned taqueria. He pronounces taqueria so well that what I thought was an Arab brown might now be a Mexican brown. I cant call it. Let’s call him curiously ethic. The future of the earth. We traded names and I can’t tell if he says Ali or Harry or Addy. Oh well, you’ll forever be Spandex Brown in my eyes. I thank him for the info and wish him well as he cruises off on his carbon fiber something something.
We’ve hit the point where kara and Damon and I talk together about what i call “taking all the luxuries”. Maybe it’s just me talking. The lucxuries comes to me. To us. We must abide, dude. Some of those luxuries can be distilled further into what I call “clutch maneuvers”. Kinda like a rug that really pulls the room together, yet not really. Basically. Shit you better get once in a while on a ride just to keep yourself sane and happy. Examples of these maneuvers are lean backs and ice cubes. It’s kinda like being in Asia in that weird way. Could be a tree to sit against and rest. Or a plastic patio chair. And, of course, Ice cubes. O’Shea Jacksons. Both of them. On the rocks barkeep.
Poughkeepsie provides space for hammocks, and the suggested taqueria for guac and tacos and mid afternoon mezcal cocktails. At the bar. I’m the AC. Damon is ready to get lit. It’s cool. literally. We have one cocktail and push out like the adults on bicycles we are, despite the Sunday situation. We have eons of time in terms of sunset and more trail ahead. I kick it into third ring steez and zoom across the Hudson on airmobile free bridge and up toward New Paltz, getting some solo time. I love people bridges. I think about st Charles bridge in Prague. Or the purple people jam in Cincinnati. Those two cities makes great bookends in my view. For a bit, I text hands free, reaching out to my fellow student at the NYS Fire Academy from 11 years back, Bones. Aaron Bonetseel aka Bones is a firefighter in Kingston and it’s looking like he’s gonna swing down 15 miles to meet me and catch up. I haven’t seen him since we climbing off the side of buildings more than a decade ago and this makes me happy. I pedal harder, cruising at 17 mph.
Damon catches up a few miles later, exclaiming, “the mezcal got me feeling some kinda way bruh”. Indeed my friend. We’re now in Paltz, where — like i said way back when — the signage is muah. We navigate easily. There’s even a campground 10 miles north. We make it to the campground. Strange that this is the “official” campground on the Empire Trail Map. The first one at that. That is an official fully, man. Campground host has a nice selection of stickers, one in particular: “I’m extremely far-right”. I smell fermented fascism. I do what I can and I enjoy a life changing shower. Bones and his daughter stop by. It’s such a blessing to catch up with him. He’s healthy and still working in Kingston. We reminisce on the Academy. I got him hooked on chocolate covered espresso beans; it’s how we stayed awake for 3 months with little sleep. I really forgot about that. I definitely miss some of those times. We talk fire department nuances and politics. We talk larger politics. Seems like the best thing for America right now would be for both Donald Trump and Joe Biden to croak of old age on the exact same day — soon. We could have joint funerals. Yay!! Everyone laughs. I’m being funny. I’m being serious. Serio. National unity is so far away yet so close. Bones bounces and I pop up the penthouse. Eager to finally get some zeees.