I got about 5 hours of sleep. I was so excited going to bed that I had trouble falling asleep, then when I woke shortly after sunrise I was up. This didn't equate to an early start, I lay in bed for a while trying to sleep a bit more. Finally I got up, showered, and loaded up Penny for the last time on the trip.
Down the road a piece, I came into Goshen. I found a Burger King and stopped in for breakfast. The manager took my order and we soon were talking about cycling in the area. I had mentioned that I wanted to pick up the Heritage Trail in Monroe, about 10 miles forward. He informed me that the trail actually went about a mile away. He told me how to find it.
The Heritage Trail was great. In contrast to the poorly kept Lackawanna Trail from yesterday morning, the Heritage Trail was well paved, even and used. The Sunday morning joggers, walkers and cyclists provided ample obstacles to swerve around. It was shaded and had very few traffic crossings. I got into Monroe to the point where my map had shown the trail to start. In an inexplicable twist, however, the trail went from smoothly paved to rocks and grass, best left for joggers. There was no way for me to follow this 'trail' with any speed, so I figured out a route around.
I started to take the hill down out of town when suddenly I felt my back tire go wobbly. I slowed myself to a half and saw that the tire was completely flat. I had crossed 9 states without a flat and now I had two in just over 48 hours. Thankfully at the bottom of the was a car service center. I pulled Penny in and asked if I could use their air. The tube was shot, so while I busied myself with replacing the tube, I found myself surrounded by the idle workers. They were all impressed that someone would cross the country on a bike, especially with all the weight I had on. One of them said 'You must be on a very strict diet'. This made me laugh.
I got the tire back on and inflated then repacked everything on the bike. I wound back around to US 6 and then started climbing the biggest hill left between my current location and home. The highway, as it climbs into the Harriman State Park, had lots of vehicle traffic, but at least no trucks. Regardless, I had a great wide shoulder to enjoy. After the long climb, I had to traverse a pair of highway traffic circles. I took a right turn at the second one and was entered Bear Mountain State Park. A few minutes after entering the park, I got to mile 4400 on the trip.
The road climbed and sunk a couple times, then took a long right curve. From the top of the curve I could see, not far in front of me, the Hudson River. The road then dropped and I took it to the southern entrance of the park. I stopped here for a very short break. This entrance of the park was the turnaround point for my longer training runs from Brooklyn. I was roughly 60 miles from home and could get there without having to consult a map.
Just south of the park, the marked bike route splits. One can either continue on 9W or follow an unpaved trail above the river. I've done both and this time opted for the unpaved trail. The forested path was lined with wild raspberries. I picked a number, never more than one or two from a single plant, and, for the most part, they were perfect, an ideal balance of tart and sweet. I said wow aloud to no one several times. In fact, I did not see another person all along this patch.
I exited back out onto the paved route and followed it along the river. I went through Stony Point and Haverstraw before winding around into Upper Nyack. Dropping down into Nyack, about 20 miles south of Bear Mountain, I stopped at The Runcible Spoon. The cafe is a common resting point for cyclists and the turn around point for the shorter of my training runs. Even though none of the other patron realized it, this was a momentous occasion for me. I got a muffin and sat outside eating it at a table in the shade of the building. I called Emily to tell her that I was there and she let me know that she was crossing the GWB and would meet up with me somewhere in between.
Leaving Nyack, a woman on a bike caught up behind me and asked why I was carrying all the weight. I told her and she let me know that her son was considering a cross country bike journey of his own. That's fantastic and I'd be happy to answer any questions he may have. There's a point where the marked bike route climbs up a sharp hill, but there is a flatter backway around to avoid it. I took the hill and she took the backway, but it was really nice talking to her.
This hill was now the tallest left for me to climb. The first time I had ever ridden to Nyack, I could not get all the way up. Sure that was on my mountain bike, but it was also unloaded. This time, the hill offered me little trouble. It was almost welcoming me back. On this route on any weekend day, there are dozens if not hundreds of cyclists. I talked briefly to a couple of them as they passed me, though didn't really talk to the people whom I passed.
I crossed into New Jersey again. There is about 12 miles between the NY/NJ border here and the GWB. A couple miles along, I saw a familiar face coming towards me. It was Emily. 4430 miles since I left her in San Francisco (not including the weekend wedding in Boston), there she was again, on her bike. We rode together from there on, which was nice. I told her all about the bear I had seen yesterday (still can't believe I saw a bear).
We rode down to Strictly Bicycles in Fort Lee. This is another good break point for cyclists and is less than a mile from the GWB. As we came in a couple guys on featherlight track bikes came over to admire Penny. One of them tried to pick her up and found that he couldn't. He asked how I got her up hills, several of the ones I had crossed already that day were giving them problems. As they left, a young couple on bikes had pulled in and Emily started telling them about my trip.
Finally, after enough of a break was taken, it was time to move on. At mile 4440.7, I crossed the invisible line in the center of the Hudson River on the George Washington Bridge. Sure, I had been in New York since last night, but now I coming into Manhattan. One bridge was left between me and home.
We took the Hudson River Path downtown. We had another small food break at a riverside cafe around 80th St. Continuing down, we jutted into the city at 10th St, taking it to 2nd Ave where it turns into Christie St and onto the Manhattan Bridge. In the 20 minutes between the Hudson Parkway and the Manhattan Bridge, I used my bell more and found myself yelling a more drivers than I had in the 72 days leading up until now. Thanks for welcoming me back home, New York.
Back on the Manhattan Bridge, I crossed the East River. We snaked around through Brooklyn Heights into Park Slope. I wanted to take the new Prospect Park West bike lane that had been proposed to the community board nearly a year and a half ago and had just been painted a few weeks ago. Already there was a furor from car drivers. They complained about everything from this lane makes it more dangerous for everyone (it does not) to complaining about losing a dozen parking spots along the mile length of the lane. Perhaps it is not the cyclists that make it difficult for you to find parking, but the other people who, for whatever reason, choose to drive a car in this city. Perhaps some of your ichor should be saved for your fellow motorists.
Anyway, the PPW lanes are great. I can finally legally and safely travel northbound. This is huge.
Then, 6 blocks from the circle where the bike lane ends at Bartol Pritchard Cicrle, I turned right onto my block. Then, in the moment I had been pedaling toward for over two months, I was home. There was no ticker tape parade, no cheering crowd applauding my accomplishment or camera crews recording the moment. And there was still the ride out to Montauk to finish my planned coast to coast, so I wasn't quite done with the trip yet. But I was home and the sense of relief was enormous.
And, while I never did get eaten by that mountain lion that so many people along the way had warned me about, I did have one very angry cat waiting for me inside. I can't entirely blame him, I did abandon him for the last ten and a half weeks, but he could been a little happier at my return.
Day 73, New Hampton, NY - Brooklyn, NY
87.7 miles in 7:11:58 for a total of 4459.5 in 340:56:05 and a high speed of 43.7 mph