Final Route Map, SF, CA - Montauk, NY

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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Mile 4605.2 - The End

The plan was to wait until Saturday to ride to Montauk so I could finish my tour with a small pack of friends. We would then catch the late train back to Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn, a fifteen minute ride from my place. But then there was an injury and an 'out of town' related excuse, and suddenly Emily was the only person available on Saturday to ride with me. On top of that, I was asked to marshal the Brooklyn Greenway Epic Ride on Sunday. Getting back from Montauk at 2:30 in the morning was fine unless I had to be somewhere 6 hours later. So, in the face of all that, I changed the plan and just went by myself on Thursday.

I have ridden out to Montauk once before, so I know where the greatest challenge lies. The problem isn't the 140 miles plus from Brooklyn to Montauk Point then back to the train station in town. The problem is getting through eastern Queens and the suburban parts of Long Island. The roads aren't great and at times have no shoulders. The traffic seems to always be heavy during daylight hours.

Starting out, I rode south on the route I take to Far Rockaway. Instead of crossing the Gil Hodges Bridge into the Rockaways, I continued east on the greenway. One of my favorite parts of the greenway along this part is that it goes right next to the Belt Parkway as it gets closer to JFK and I am almost always going faster than the auto traffic. They look so miserable honking at each other while inching forward at a dozen miles an hour. Meanwhile I'm enjoying a breeze off the water, few other greenway users to dodge around, and a steady speed around 20.

Then, as happens to all good things, the greenway ended. I coursed through some neighborhood streets then popped myself onto South Conduit Boulevard. The traffic met me there. People were speeding in and out of the airport's entrances, either rushing to catch a flight or rushing to get out of the airport's dead expanse of parking lots.

With JFK behind me, South Conduit starts to look more like the limited access highway it runs along, just with stop lights. The traffic was heavy both in terms of volume and vehicle weight. The smaller cars often preferred by city dwellers ceded to the SUV, minivans and medium duty trucks of a land where ample parking is written into the town charters. I see the irony in that these places that go out of their way to accommodate motorists often have the worst auto traffic. Unfortunately, as there isn't a convenient cycling option, I had to suck it up and deal with the cars and the lousy road surface. 'It's only bad through Babylon', I kept telling myself. 'It's only bad through Babylon'.

In Massapequa, I got to mile 4500 for the trip. It occurred to me that the majority of adults in this country will never and would never cycle for 4500 miles. Since 2005, I've been averaging about 4500-5000 miles a year, which certainly puts me in the experienced cyclist camp. Now I've done it in ten and a half weeks. While I don't believe this makes me a better person than anyone else, it should at least earn me an endurance merit badge. I rolled on to the next town, Amnityville, and took a break in a little, disused park off the side of the road.

A little further east down Long Island, I reached Babylon. Babylon, in some regards, is where the suburban parts of the island yield to the more rural parts. It is also almost exactly 100 miles from Babylon to Montauk Point, and for these reasons many cyclists who want to ride a century to Montauk will take the Long Island Railroad to the Babylon station to begin pedaling. The other nice thing was that I knew the road was almost entirely flat until I got to Montauk, so I would be able to keep up a good pace.

Soon, the traffic got considerably lighter and the shoulder widened out. This was very pleasing and I rode the next 37 miles without a break. I did consider taking a side trip in Blue Point to the Blue Point Brewery, but I realized that if I actually did that, I might not actually end up in Montauk by nightfall. Further east, I passed through the town of Mastic, and wondered if that Julia Roberts movie set in Mystic, CT would have been as popular had it been called Mastic Pizza.

The next town east, Moriches, is considered the gateway to the Hamptons. While the Hamptons are known for their exclusive and outrageously expensive real estate, Moriches, Center Moriches, Speonk, and a pair of towns with Quogue in the name seem to be more populated by real people. Not to suggest that billionaires aren't real people, but... actually, no, I am suggesting that they aren't real.

I reached Westhampton around 4:30 and stopped at a deli for a sandwich. I had about 50 miles still to go to get Montauk Point and a little over three hours before sunset. A couple miles later, there was a bench on the side of the road, so I sat there and watched the traffic go by as I ate half of my sandwich. The other people on bikes I saw as I sat there seemed to be on bikes because they couldn't afford cars.

I passed through the series of Hamptons and the long, quiet miles after. Near Amagansett I got to the restaurant called Lobster Roll, but known as Lunch, because of the large brightly lit Lunch sign on the roof. I stopped there on my last trip to Montauk, but by now the sun was sinking. I had the choice of breaking for a meal (which I could have used) or getting to the Point while there was still daylight left. I had some Clif Blox for my energy needs and pushed on.

Several miles later at Hither Hills State Park, there was a scenic viewpoint off the side of the road. The sun was hanging low over the horizon and there were several people stopped for the sunset. There was a middle-aged gay couple there, and one of them had climbed to the top of the wooden sign for a better view. I got a couple shots of him clambering up the wooden pole with the multi-colored sky behind him.

By the time I got to the town of Montauk, the sun had set. Again, I was presented with a choice of stopping here, grabbing dinner and some beers and waiting for the 10:30 train that would take me back to Brooklyn or continuing forth to Montauk Point. Montauk is known as The End, because it is the easternmost town on Long Island, but the actual end is the Point, six miles further east. From the previous time I came out here, I knew that there were a pair of pretty long hills between the town and the Point, the only real hills since Brooklyn. I reminded myself that the point wasn't to ride to Montauk, but to end my tour with my wheels in the Atlantic. And while yes, I had been riding alongside the ocean for a good part of the way, I wanted to get to the lighthouse at the Point. I turned on my lights and continued forward.

Because I wanted to take a picture of my wheels in the water, I knew I had to get there quickly. I kicked up my speed and actually made really good time. There were still bands of light on the horizon by the time I made it to Montauk Point State Park. I got a couple pictures of the lighthouse, then walked down the little trail to the beach. There was a large family still hanging out on the beach and a couple of guys in hip boots fishing a hundred feet out in the water. i pulled penny over the rocks to get down to the water and, as the last of the light drained from the sky, got my picture. I had made it to the end. Now I just had to go back to town.

Since I had well over an hour to get back to the train station, I sat on a bench facing the lighthouse and finished the other half of the sandwich I'd been carrying since Westhampton. From the parking lot a couple hundred yards to my right, came the sounds of Latin music and the shouting and laughing of a couple dozen people partying from the backs of their cars. If there was a sporting event taking place, they would have been tailgating, but I'm not sure what the correct verb for partying in the parking lot of a state park is.

By the time I started back to town, it was completely dark out. While my headlight illuminated enough for me to ride, I was frequently blinded by the oncoming cars' high beams. It's hard to keep an eye on the road ahead of me if I have to keep averting my gaze so as not to be blinded.

I rolled back into town and decided to find some more food. While the sandwich was helpful, I had ridden over 140 miles today and was hungry. Since I didn't have a bike lock, I needed someplace where I would be able to see my bike from inside. That ruled out the pub that I ate at last time I was in town. I passed a bar with outdoor seating and a live band, but higher prices than I was willing to pay. I then found a sandwich/fried chicken joint. Good enough. Then I went in and found that they had beer too. Ok, that was enough to make me stay.

I rode over to the train station, where the last train out was waiting on the tracks. Going down to the center of the train, I entered a car with only one other passenger on it. I put my bike in the appropriate vestibule grabbed the seat closest to it, and then pulled out the book I had brough along for the ride back. By the time the train pulled out of the station, there were a couple other passengers on my car. By the time we got through the Hamptons, there were a dozen people, including another guy with a bike. Soon I was holding court with the people in the seats around me, regaling them with stories of triumph from my trip. It was strange telling them about my tour which was now pretty much over. This was the first time I told the story entirely in the past tense.

The train pulled into Jamaica Station in eastern Queens a few minutes ahead of the connection I needed to make to the train to Atlantic Terminal. The 2:08 am train I was supposed to take, however, didn't arrive. There was an announcement that a train would arrive shortly to get to Atlantic Terminal on a different track. So, with a couple dozen other passengers, we went on long staircase and down another to get to the other track. A train pulled in and there was an announcement that this train would not be going to Brooklyn, but instead was being rerouted to Penn Station. They then announced that the train to Atlantic would arrive at 2:45 back on the original track. Now sure, I wasn't fully loaded, I took only my back panniers and even those were mostly just food, water and a book. But still I had to lug the bike back up the stairs and back down to the spot I had been standing at nearly half an hour previously. I was not the only person annoyed that the train coming to get us would arrive after the time we should have made it to Atlantic. Eventually the train did arrive and the ride back was completely uneventful.

I got out of the station and rode the last mile and a half back home. That was it, the tour was now officially over. It was nice to be able to be home and relax for a while, but already I wanted to get back out and do it again. I guess I just have to wait and see what the future holds.

Day 74: Brooklyn, NY - Montauk, NY
145.7 miles today
4605.2 miles total
Wheels spinning today 9:18:47
Total tour time 350:14:52
Top speed 33.8mph

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