Day 72 began less bright than it could have. I woke to a steady rain outside. My response, the correct one, I believe, was to roll over and sleep for another hour and a half. By the time I got out of bed, the rain had stopped. My head, though, was feeling the aftereffects of all the free booze from the night before. I still appreciate their generosity, but right now I was wishing I had gone up to my room a few drinks earlier.
The roads still showed evidence of the earlier shower. I passed under the turnpike and started looking for the entrance of the Lackawanna River Trail. It seemed like it should have been easy, but it ended up taking the maps on both my gps and phone and several minutes of poking around an industrial backlot before I found it. The only sign indicating this was the trail was a piece of paper that had been leeched of most of it's ink by the sun and the rain. There was a gate to prevent motor traffic and passing that, I found why. Almost immediately, there was an old wooden railroad truss bridge that spanned fewer than 30 feet over a sharp chasm. The bridge had clearly been out of functioning use for decades, large swaths were missing. I carefully pulled my heavy bike over the good sections and started down the crushed stone trail. I was disappointed, though, to find that the 'trail' at this point was really more of a suggestion. Part of it would have as easily been considered a stream. The earlier rain created huge puddles and left the trail soft. If I had my mountain bike and was looking for somewhere to ride to get good and muddy, I was in the right place. I grumbled as several times I had to dismount to get Penny through the mud. Then there was a portion where the path widened out to what looked like a muddy gravel parking lot. The gravel there, though, was so fine and soft that my wheels sank 3" into it. I couldn't ride through, so again, I had to dismount. Between the condition of the trail and the lingering hangover, I was now in a pretty bad mood.
I crossed a road and discovered that the spur of the trail I was on was still being constructed. The section I now began on was better groomed. Eventually, they plan to extend the Lackawanna trail 40 miles along the old railbed that follows the Lackawanna River. For now though, it is only a mile and a half of some of the worst trail I've found anywhere in the country. Again, with a different bike and for a different purpose, I may have enjoyed it, but on my fully loaded touring bike, looking mostly for relief from the traffic, I was disappointed.
I left the trail after it's second intersection and crossed the Lackawanna River. Cruising up and down hills, I passed through downtown Scranton and several residential neighborhoods. I stopped at a crowded Dunkin Donuts for coffee and a doughnut. This was the first doughnut I've had since a trip to the Doughnut Factory on Manhattan's Lower East Side the week before I left. The coffee was lousy and the doughnut wasn't a substantial enough to quell my hunger or bad mood.
Leaving Scranton, I went through the tiny suburb of Throop. I crossed US 6, a limited access interstate for this stretch, and started climbing. On one hand, there was little vehicle traffic to contend with on the road I was on. On the other hand, there were a couple consecutive long, slow climbs. At one point, I was passed by another cyclist who couldn't believe I had crossed the country, mostly because I was climbing the hill at 6 mph. It's the hangover and bad breakfast choice, really I'm faster than that.
Finally I hit the backside of that hill and sped down in the low 40's. This actually did as much to improve my mood as anything else. It's hard to stay grumpy while flying.
I hit roads where there was more traffic, but the shoulder was nice and wide. I stopped to take a lunch break at a little ice cream joint in Mt. Cobb. After I ate my real food, I meant to go back for ice cream but by then the line had gotten too long. Up the road I passed a saturday swap meet and a hardware store celebrating customer days with a huge picnic complete with an inflatable bouncy house for the kids. Right around there, I hit mile 4300 for the trip. I'm getting very close now.
I had crossed a couple minor rivers and gone along the shores of a couple lakes. Then I came to the resorty Lake Wallenpaupack. Passing it's northern end, there was a large embankment between the lake and the roadway. Several benches were set along the top of the embankment, and several families and elderly couples walked along the path. I didn't stop there, but did take a break at a point a few miles later, where a bank of grass lead up so steeply from the side of the road that I was able to lean Penny standing up against it.
The hills started to mellow out a bit, which was fine with me. Also by now the Pennsylvania Bike Route Y had connected with my route. Pennsylvania has marked bike routes crisscrossing the state. While these are not separate trails, which would be nice, it at least meant the shoulder wasn't going to suddenly narrow on me and I saw a couple more cyclists. I entered the Delaware National Forest and took took a break at the Shohola Falls Waterfowl Management Area. I didn't go into the park far enough to find the falls, but I did take a long food break and called my friend Courtney. From here I was about 12 miles away from crossing the Delaware River. While talking to Courtney, a huge thick fuzzy brown caterpillar inched along in front of me. Courtney advised me not to pick it up.
I started up again and soon found myself in Milford. It was about 6:30 and I should have stopped here for dinner. I had a choice here too, I could get onto US 6, at this point a regular four lane highway and cross into Port Jervis, NY or go a bit south and cross at state highway 209 into a rural western New Jersey. It was a couple more miles that way, but seemed the much easier route to take. I headed south.
At mile 4346.6, I stopped in the middle of the bridge to take some shots of the picturesque Delaware Water Gap. I got off the bridge and set foot in New Jersey. Never before in my life have I been so happy to be in New Jersey. For all the hundreds of different bodies of water I have crossed making my way through the country, I now had only the Hudson and East Rivers left between me and home. It was also now certain that whatever happened, I would be spending tomorrow night in my open bed for the first time since mid-April. I was giddy. My mood was the total opposite from the one I had started the day with.
Scooting up along the eastern side of the river, I stopped at a little roadside farmstand. While I was deciding between the strawberries or blueberries, a car pulled up behind me and a pair of middle aged Jersey ladies stepped out. They spoke with accents that indicated whole lives spent in New Jersey. We started talking about the quality of the food there (it all looked great) and then asked about my bike. I stood there for awhile eating the most wonderful blueberries and recounting my tale. I could barely contain my joy at having crossed the Delaware and the fact that I would be home in roughly 24 hours. I mentioned that I needed to find a place to eat, and they said that there wasn't much ahead. Well, I'll find something.
I continued northward towards Port Jervis and the New York state line. Less than a mile past the farmstand, something happened that I had been hoping for the whole way across the country, but by now had resigned myself to the fact that it probably wasn't going to. I came to a patch of road where houses were space a couple hundred yards from each other. In the yard of one of these houses, I saw a bear! A big brown bear! There was no mistaking it for a large dog, especially once it raised its head. I rolled past so the house was between me and the bear, but I had to stop and get a picture. Slowly and very quietly, I turned around and poked out from the corner of the house. The bear was a little more than 100 feet away from me, munching away at something in the garden. I do wish I had a better camera for this, but I did get a few pictures of it. At one point it looked up at me, decided I was neither food nor a threat and went back to whatever it was munching on. I saw a bear!
A few miles further up the road and I crossed into New York. This makes the only day on the trip that I've been in three different states. I was in Jersey for about 8 miles and know that coming back from Nyack to Brooklyn the next day, I'd cross another 10 miles or so of New Jersey.
Though I was now outside Port Jervis, I decided rather than spend the time to go into town to find food, I would make do with whatever I found on the road. I was now following US 6 and felt certain that I would find something. I pretty quickly came across a family restaurant, but decided to pass it up in favor of something possibly more exciting down the road. The road rewarded my choice with 10 unbroken miles of countryside. I crossed under Interstate 84 and shortly thereafter found myself in the diffuse village of Greenville. I say diffuse because the sparse buildings I saw were spread out along a couple miles of the highway. Among them, though, I found a bar and grill. Perfect.
By now I was completely ravenous and ordered accordingly. I did want to take something with me, knowing I'd be hungry again in a couple hours. I got the appetizer sampler, a large caeser salad and an eggplant parmesan sandwich. When I was done there was a little more than half of the sandwich left. The sun was now setting and I needed to get further down the road to find a place to sleep.
I knew I was coming up to Interstate 84 again and assumed I would find some motels around there. By now, not only was it dark, but a mist had risen from the ground. I didn't get the picture of the Minisink High School that I otherwise would have in daylight. Apparently I was now in the Minisink Valley, a name that amuses me greatly. I don't even know what I would call the Minisink High School team. The Faucets?
I came into New Hampton and found a motel. I went into the office to see what they charged for a night, and was given a quote about $30 higher than I expected. There was a another, nationally branded motel a bit up the road. They wanted $100 for the night. I looked on my phone and found every other motel within 12 miles of me. The cheapest quote I got was $80. I turned back and went to the first place I had stopped in. It was quite a bit more than I wanted to spend, but it was too late to try to find someplace to camp.
I had trouble falling asleep because I was so excited. I knew that every hour I stayed up was putting me that much further from home, but I still couldn't fall asleep until well after 2:00.
Day 72, Old Forge, PA - New Hampton, NY
86.9 miles in 7:30:29 for 4371.6 in 333:45:07 and a top speed of 43.7mph