The Ins and Outs of an Ordinary Life

Sunday, August 21, 2011


Yesterday I went for a ride in Dutchess County. It was a spectacular summer day and the 40 mile ride took us to the lovely town of Millbrook, where we stopped for lunch at Babette's Kitchen. Everything happened according to plan and it was just about perfect.

So today I opted for imperfection, for the unplanned and the unknown. I put on my purple Keens with orange socks. I pumped up the tires on Nirvana, my hybrid, and headed for the Old Croton Aqueduct. I rode dirt.

Construction of the Croton Aqueduct began in 1837 to bring water to NYC. From 1842-1955, the tunnel carried water from the Croton Dam to NYC's reservoirs. Eventually, as NYC's population grew, the aqueduct was inadequate and was replaced by the New Croton Aqueduct. But the 26 miles footpath atop the old aqueduct, from the Croton Dam to the NYC line has remained, and it became a state historic park in 1968.

This was only my second adventure on the aqueduct. I know where it starts, and that it is one trail, not a network of trails on which you can get lost. But here's the thing-- even though it is one trail, it is not a complete 26 mile straight run. There are places where it runs through private property, so you end up on local streets and you have to wiggle around to get back onto the aqueduct. Hence the map.... and the cue sheet from my friend Deb who rides on the aqueduct much more often and knows how to do these wiggling around parts.

The first time I tried this, I navigated about 5 or 6 miles and got lost twice, even with the map and the cue sheet! Today I made it about 7 miles before I decided to turn around because a big storm seemed imminent (I actually called DH and had him pick me up when I saw the big lightening streaks).

I really enjoyed this adventure but it was VERY HARD WORK. First the machine-- fat tires and much more weight really slow you down. I could not believe how I was huffing and puffing going up even little hills. Then the terrain-- tire sucking mud plus the dirt and rocks and you're going nowhere fast. And this wasn't even difficult terrain. Luckily it was mostly really flat (actually the aqueduct was constructed to drop 13 inches per mile). I did have to push my bike up one short but very steep hill. The trail crosses many roads and I had to dismount often, that was a little annoying. Nirvana's little computer has needed a new battery for quite a while, so I have no idea how fast I was traveling, how long I was out there, or more than a general idea of how far I got. But that suited me just fine.... I was rolling along, taking photos, and contemplating anything that came into my head as long as it wasn't important.

The aqueduct trail is surprisingly diverse. There are parts that are very wide,

other parts are single track,

and even sections that are more like a suggestion of an indentation in the grass.

There are stone structures that are the vents and weir chambers, and big signs that explain what a weir chamber is.

In one of the more urban sections, I traveled over some pavement. I even had to carry my bike down a flight of stairs.

I am determined to navigate the entire 26 miles of the aqueduct. I may have to enlist my friend Deb in this effort. She recently led a ride for the club that traveled down through the Bronx on the aqueduct and came back up on the bike path. But of course it was on a day that I couldn't make it. I may try to do it in sections (kinda like people hiking the entire Appalachian Trail). In fact, I'm already considering where to start further south for my third exploration of the Old Croton Aqueduct.

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