Bear Bicycle Touring Co.

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Catskills 4- Are we really in America?

22 January 2017
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Waking up in a nice warm bed was a treat after camping for the last 4 nights. Alex and I enjoyed the comfort so much that we told ourselves that we would again find a hotel to stay at and promise ourselves that the next day we would camp; we already had a campsite in our minds for the next day called Little Pond that was said to be one of the more isolated parts of the Catskills.

Alex on the road

Alex and I got on our bikes and switched the panniers so I had the majority of the weight trying to protect Alex’s bike since it still had a broken spike. The night before we came to the conclusion to risk it and ride 20 km over a mountain to a bike shop that was open on a Wednesday. The issue with taking this route was that it was 20km in the opposite direction than we needed to go and if Alex broke another spoke we would be stranded. Our original plan already had us going 150 km today with a bit more climbing than was realistic especially in the heat wave. Adding 40 km to this plan would be insane and forced us to rethink our overall plan. After some deliberation we decided it was best to extend our cycle tour one more day allowing us to get Alex’s bike repaired and still enjoy our trip without straining ourselves.

The bike issue brought me back to the memories of Vietnam where we had a different bike complication causing me to take the load of our luggage up the mountains bordering Vietnam to Laos. That was the day that we also ran out of food, water and the right currency and ended up pushing our bikes through patches of mud uphill in the dark. I sucked it up this time knowing it wouldn’t be nearly as bad at Vietnam and if I could do it then this would be a breeze in comparison. The temperatures were in the high 90’s still and after 20km and fixing Alex’s bike he would take back his fair share of the panniers.

When we got to the bike shop we were relived to see that it was one open and two was next door to a cafe. Alex got on quite well with the mechanic and assisted him in the process of putting in a new spoke on the wheel. After an hour was taken up with the repair we popped next door to the cafe for some omelets before heading out of Windham in search of our destination town of Pine Hills.

Open Road

The ride for the rest of the day involved several climbs and descents and the roads were mainly deserted; which we prefer. There was no choices to stop for food on our route until we reached our destination town, but we were carrying some food with us in preparation and was warned by the bike shop owner in Woodstock it would be like this. The feeling of isolation as we climbed for periods of time followed by sweeping descents brought us back to our feelings in Asia of being engulfed in a different world with the only thought revolving around how to reach your next destination. That is the best part of cycle touring is being taken out of everyday reality to a place back to the basics of life; how to find food and water and where will I sleep each night.

As the heat of the day was coming towards an end we reached our destination for the night. We had looked at accommodation the night before when we were staying in Tannersville at the Snowed Inn and saw we had two choices Colonial Inn and Pine Hill Arms Hotel. We rode past both and opted for the less run down of the two hotels the Pine Hill Arms and took up residents for the night. We learned that tonight in the restaurant was a three course pasta special and instantly anticipated dinner.

Dinner was still a couple hours away so after taking a shower we walked the 3/4 mile to the only food shop in town, the gas station we passed on the way to town. The gas station was also the local deli, postoffice, liquid store and hardware store; did we mention we were in the middle of no where? We were concerned for tomorrow’s riding to Little Pond Campground as we were not going to be passing through any towns and would have to carry all our food with us. We inquired at the gas station deli and they insured us they would be able to make us sandwiches and snacks to fuel our ride and ending up having quite an in-depth conversations about our cycle tour and also our previous trip to Asia. We were shocked to see how interested the deli lady was with us and the level of conversation. We were afraid with being in such small towns that we wouldn’t connect to the locals nor they take any interest in what we were trying to accomplish.

Creek in the Catskills

On our walk back we relish in how much of a good time we were having and how it only felt like the beginning of a trip. Having just done a 3.5 month tour only going for a week seemed too short to us. We weren’t ready to be heading back and rejoining with the normal way of life so quickly. We longed for the days where we could extend our trip and not having to worry about things like jobs and responsibility.

We went to dinner a touch early to sit at the bar and enjoy a beer first; beer is always required on cycle tours. We brought down our deck of cards (can’t go on any trip now without bring a deck) and played rummy as we enjoyed the surroundings. The bar and restaurants started to gather a crowd and were surprised how many of the locals of the town and near by towns came here for dinner. We slugged our beers and opted to be seated for dinner before all the tables would be taken. Our three course pasta meal hit the spot and again we noted how much better we enjoyed cycle touring when you could treat yourself to some nights with bed and dinner out.

The next day we woke again feel the restfulness of sleeping on a bed. We went through the process of packaging up all of our belonging into our three panniers and rolled out. We stopped at the gas station for some breakfast and food supplies before hitting another day of isolated riding in the mountains. The heat wave still hadn’t broke, but we have gotten use to the feeling of being overheated and sweaty. Again, we were overjoyed to have another full day on the bikes with our only concern being reaching somewhere to sleep and staying hydrated.

The Little pond campground was at the top of a climb and as we were climbing the sky got darker and darker. The temperature slowly dropped and just after putting our tent up the sky opened up with rain and buckets fell. My original idea was after showering to go kayaking on the pond, but due to the weather our plans changed. Instead we played cards until the rain subsided and then made our fire to cook our dinner. Making a fire with no fire starter after the rain is challenging, the ease we had several nights back made us think we would have no issues. Alex had to blow on our tiny flame for over 45 minutes before the fire was strong enough to survive on its own and we could finally cook our dinner.

Our site we chose was right next to the pond and was very attractive. The campsite was relatively sparse and after two nights in a hotel it was nice to be back in nature with our new camp gear.![enter image description here