Looking Down the Ashokan Rail Trail

Bike handlebars are in the foreground and the rest of the scene is a long trail with skinny green trees on either side.

The ladyfriend is on a three week tour of the UK by herself, and before she left I asked her to put the ol’ bike rack on the car hitch so I could spend my three weeks driving my bike around to different rail trails to experience the true and, for me, rare glory of riding a bike without even thinking about cars. I thought I’d mostly ride around the airport or on the trail near my brother’s house in Riverdale, MD, but then friends were unexpectedly in the Middle Hudson Valley. I checked the rail trail app, popped my bike on the car, reserved a glamping cabin, and headed north.

And oh, it was the very best decision. I have had a glorious summer with more vacationing than I have ever experienced in my life. But it has also been a challenging summer. My ladyfriend and I both took epic trips, but not together. We spent a week together in Florida, but it’s just different with family. (I love you, Family! But you know what I mean.) I did not spend nearly as much time alone as I’m used to spending in the summer. It has been wonderful, but yeah.

This was a quick trip for me and my bike, visiting a very, very old friend and her people who I also love so much. We went swimming in chilly swimming holes. M. grilled salmon and vegetables, and I appreciated especially their penchant for a variety of dips. Good stuff. We saw performance art, big outdoor sculptures, huge installations inside an old factory. A fabulous time.

And I got to ride my bike. I snapped this picture shortly after turning around to go the other way on the Ashokan Rail Trail. I love a rail trail. I love how flat they are. I love it when they are asphalt. I love the regular appearance of toilets and water fountains. On this Saturday the trail was packed with walkers with dogs, babies, and each other, and cyclists, some in their lycra, some in People Clothes, me in my Kate uniform of skirt, tshirt, and sneakers. I rode 19 miles that day, lots of smiles and waves, feeling free as I mindlessly spun on my pedals and took in the views. Perfect.

I headed back to Baltimore on Monday. I wanted to get in another rail trail, but rain was in the forecast, and wow did I not bring the right clothing for that. I looked at the forecast again, thought hey, so what if it rains? It’s fine.

The first 15 miles out and back on the Dutchess rail trail were glorious, and then it started to drizzle. Whatever, drizzle is fine. And then the next 12 miles were in a downpour as I learned the lesson about bringing rain gear for at least the 97th time. By the time I got back to the car I was soaking wet, my shoes squelching with every step, water dripping off my helmet. And I felt so, so good. I rode 27 miles, my longest ride in awhile. I rode over the Hudson River. I saw a chipmunk chasing a squirrel. I said so many hellos. I felt so much like myself, fully in my body, making the same weather mistakes I always make because I somehow seem to think I can dodge the rain if I ignore the chances.

I wished I could call my dad, tell him about it, hear his hearty laugh at me. He would have enjoyed this story, would have wanted to hear every single detail of the trip. I miss him.

I tossed my bike on the car and hopped in and headed home, so grateful for my bike, old friends, and Outside. I was still wet when I got there five hours later, and it was worth every second.

One thought on “Looking Down the Ashokan Rail Trail

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