So we bet wrong on the weather.
Rain – thunderstorms – were in the forecast for this afternoon. And we had a 12:45 pm reservation at one of the Culinary Institute restaurants in Hyde Park. If we could get seated early, we thought, maybe we could beat the storm.
We got the earlier seating, but we could hear thunder as we ordered dessert. We looked at each other. Guess we could take our time and then hang out in the parking garage if needed.
The thunder ended, but not the rain. And we still had to ride 10 miles to our hotel. Thankfully we had the Dutchess Rail Trail for half of it, and we’d planned the rest to stay off busy roads. This is why we packed rain jackets, right? And it was a warm rain. Now we just need our shoes to dry out overnight…
When we did get to the hotel (a bike-friendly Best Western less than 2 miles from the Dutchess Rail Trail), how fun was it to find a group of cyclists biking the Empire State Trail in the other direction in a fully supported ride? A sold-out tour too … seriously, this trail will be great for local businesses.
But brilliant planning to make this our tourist day, huh? We wanted to visit some national park sites — FDR’s home is in Hyde Park, plus Eleanor’s place at Val-Kill, away from the domineering mother-in-law, and then a Vanderbilt mansion a few miles up the road. Now that’s a house. We would have been the offbeat friends given our choice of transportation..
COVID means the parks aren’t open as usual, but we still biked by them all and even caught an outdoor ranger talk at FDR’s place before we headed to the Culinary Institute. (Here’s our route from New Paltz to Vanderbilt and then from Vanderbilt via FDR and the Culinary Institute to the hotel — in all, about 30 miles.)
But before all that …. we had to cross the Hudson River again. And that meant the awesome Walkway Over The Hudson. We’ve biked across it before, but it was either gray or at the start of a big bike ride with so many cyclists that you couldn’t really pull over for a photo op.
The Empire State Trail project also means there is more trail now. We were away from traffic before we went over the New York Thruway, and that trail was wide, perhaps the widest we’ve had so far.
The number of cyclists and walkers picked up the closer we got to Highland and then the Walkway itself. We also had our first bike conversation of the day, with a local woman who rides the trail once a week and says locals love it. Yay they don’t see this trail as a waste of money! It gets so busy, she added, that she doesn’t like biking across the bridge anymore.
On the bridge we chatted briefly with two women biking toward us loaded down with panniers. They had started in Cleveland, they told us, had biked to Portland, Maine, following Adventure Cycling’s Northen Tier route and then headed south. They were only going as far as New Paltz today, but the eventual goal was North Carolina. When we stopped on the side of the trail, a 70-something cyclist asked about our ride …
If that wasn’t enough bike talk, we ran into a couple at the Culinary Institute who had ridden their share of trails — the GAP and C&O trails between Pittsburgh and D.C., the Katy Trail across Missouri and more and were curious about the surface of this trail. Not that they’ll be biking anytime soon; they’re living on a boat and doing the Great Loop.
I’ve since learned that Poughkeepsie is planning a trail to connect to the Empire State Trail that it is calling the Urban Trail and will go north to a new housing/commercial development under construction (h/t Craig Della Penna and his regular email about the developing Mass Central Rail Trail and beyond). Perhaps this will become a safe and more direct way to reach the Culinary Institute?
Finally, some photos from our lunch. The sautéed mushroom gnocchi appetizer in the upper left corner was a hit, but the beautifully plated crispy tofu didn’t turn me into a tofu fan. This s’mores chocolate cream cake with banana foam and ice cream, though, was spectacular. Order it if it’s on the menu.
Read on to learn about our fourth — and longest — day on the Empire State Trail.