It was a gorgeous morning when we left New Paltz. We quickly turned off the main road out of town and found ourselves riding through quiet, prosperous looking countryside. We rode up the valley of the Shawangunk Kill, paralleling the ridge of the Shawangunk Mountains.

It should have been a physically easy day, but what started in the early morning as a gentle breeze in our faces increased steadily throughout the day until we were fighting against a 15 – 20 mph head wind.

Lunchtime found us in Middletown, NY with about 30 miles under our wheels. After lunch we climbed up and over the ridge of the Shawangunks and down into the valley of the Neversink River. With such a cool name I had high hopes for this part of the route, but it turned out to be a bit less rural, much less prosperous, and just not as pretty to look at or as comfortable to ride as the previous part of today’s journey.

The headwinds continued and they were stiff enough that even though we were mostly heading gently downhill, we had to work for every foot of forward progress.

We reached Port Jervis, located where New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania all come together, at around 3:00 PM. Our original plan was to stop here to buy groceries for dinner, then continue on and hope to find a spot in a campground further on. But just about this time the sky was turning darker and the wind was picking up, and it certainly felt like some summer thunderstorms were on the way, so we checked into the Erie Hotel & Restaurant, which is a renovated railroad hotel next to the old train station in Port Jervis. Sure enough, an hour or so later the skies opened up, and then again, and yet again. Three storms so far tonight and it looks like more to come. Well, let it rain tonight. I just hope the headwinds are gone tomorrow and we can float down through the Delaware Water Gap effortlessly!

We made 59 miles today, putting us 322 miles from home.

So, with all this whining about hills and headwinds and frustrations about miles covered, do you find yourself wondering why we do this? Does it sound like we aren’t having fun? I promise you that we are. I’ve always had a hard time articulating exactly what is so satisfying about traveling this way. Partly it is that so many people are open and friendly to you when they see you arrive on a bicycle. Partly it’s the satisfaction of tackling a physical challenge successfully. Partly it is feeling the weather and the terrain in your body. There is no question that we were traveling up one valley and down another today. You may not be able to see the difference in the road, but we experienced it with our whole bodies and I can feel it yet in every fiber of my leg muscles. And those headwinds have left their mark in the tightness of the muscles in my neck. And these are not bad things. It is very pleasant to be physically tired at the end of the day, yet mentally and emotionally refreshed. A hot shower and lying down on a fresh, soft bed is heavenly. That’s all the pampering we need.

Okay, I’m probably rambling here and you all are starting to think I’m crazy, so I’ll stop.

As soon as we leave here tomorrow we will cross into New Jersey and head into the Delaware Water Gap. We will alternate back and forth between the New Jersey and the Pennsylvania sides of the river.

Allen Freeman