Fri July 24, 2020
If I’d calculated correctly, I already had 185 lighthouses in the bag for my IBA Lighthouse Tour, five over the “Gold” certification requirement of 180 in three years. However, it is best practice in IBA circles to overshoot your goals slightly, to account for mistakes and obfuscating factors like unclear photos. So I set out one final time to boost my total count before submitting my documentation. After over a week off the bike, I was jonesing to get back out for a solid day’s ride.
My buddy Marc lives in New York and agreed to meet me for breakfast once again, since I’d be blasting out early to New York on the Mass Pike to minimize traffic. I left home at 04:40, about twenty minutes ahead of schedule, in muggy but not terribly uncomfortable air following overnight showers. The forecast was for more hot temperatures, but lower humidity, so I looked forward to a more comfortable day than our latest heatwave.
I-90 passed beneath my wheels effortlessly on cruise control, with little traffic to deal with at the early hour. I’d already documented the lighthouse in Athens on a previous ride and confirmed the lighthouse in Saugerties was currently inaccessible due to trail work. So I decided to explore the eastern side of the Hudson River as I worked south to the breakfast spot. Exiting at US 9, I jogged over to NY route 9J to ride south along the river.
9J turned out to be a decent two lane road, with a few views of the river and a few curves, but poor pavement condition. Still, it is always a pleasure to ride new roads, absorbing my surroundings and feeling glad to be out of house isolation for the day. After passing through the village of Stuyvesant, I rejoined US 9 down into the densely packed little city of Hudson NY. Then route 23B south from Hudson to and NY 9G south through Germantown.
About this time, Marc texted me to state that our intended breakfast spot, the Matchbox Cafe in Rhinebeck, was closed today. I called him up and we settled on Plan B at the Historic Village Diner in Red Hook.
Parking today was easy, right in front of the diner in one of the few spaces not taken up by their pandemic-inspired outdoor dining area. Outside seating was for take-out only, so I joined Marc inside for a nice breakfast while we caught up a bit.
Every other booth was closed off to allow social distancing, with plexiglass erected between them. I opted for the special, an omelet with bacon, spinach, tomato and feta cheese. It was packed with good stuff and satisfying.
We took NY 32 and US 9W through Ulster into Kingston’s historic waterfront district on the north bank of Rondout Creek. The city appears to be revitalizing this section of town, with well-groomed wide boulevards with medians, and lined by renovated historic buildings housing shops, restaurants, cafes, etc.
There is a maritime museum and riverboat tours, though things were fairly quiet as we cruised through this morning. I didn’t have exact coordinates to view the lighthouse, having been advised via the Internet that it is “viewable from the Kingston waterfront”.
After running up and down the creekside a couple times looking for an opening, I stopped to ask a helpful passer-by for directions. Even through my earplugs, I somehow caught the important parts and we found our way east to Kingston Point Park, where Rondout Creek flows into the Hudson.
A short hike out along a rail trail was apparently necessary to view the lighthouse, so Marc and I waved goodbye at this point. I doffed my gear and confirmed my direction by asking an elderly man out walking his dog. The way he put it, “you have to walk WAYYY down there by the water and out on the trail to see it…” I thought I would have a good mile hike ahead of me. Turned out it was maybe a quarter mile of easy paved and packed gravel walking, into a very pretty park area.
There is a large tidal marsh pool separated from the river by a disused railroad causeway (now a rail trail). A picturesque footbridge crosses over the swift-running entrance/outlet of the pool to where it joins the main river water swirling in a semi-circular cove. Another hundred yards or so and Rondout Creek Lighthouse was clearly visible out in the river, looking rather stately and majestic on this calm day.
The humidity had indeed dropped over the course of the morning. While still warm, I was pretty comfortable even in MC pants/boot, and enjoyed the short walk to stretch my legs and experience this pretty little park and lighthouse. I hiked back to the bike, cruised back through Kingston and picked up US 9W south once again to cross Rondout Creek.
After the small village of Port Ewen, I turned left on River Road to follow the shoreline a bit more closely. Pulling over next to a gravel turnout, I had a distant view of Esopus Meadows Lighthouse across a shallow mudflat of green waterplants. In fact at one time this had been a large area of meadows where livestock was grazed until the river changed and flooded it all permanently.
A bit further down the road, there was a small town park for viewing the lighthouse from a bit closer angle.
After snapping a couple pics, it was cool to watch this large freighter cruising down river in the distant channel of the river beyond the lighthouse. Obviously, the navigation aid had been necessary to keep such large vessels situated correctly in their travels on the Hudson.
Looping back to 9W, I continued south, stopping once for a fuel receipt to document my presence in the area today. In Newburgh, I routed close to the river in order to avoid the busier sections of the city, which worked out well for the most part.
There are some very nice views of the river from Newburgh, with the upcoming Hudson Highlands rising dramatically to frame the waterway. I pulled into the parking lot of an industrial complex just to snap a couple shots over their docks.
In Cornwall-on-Hudson, I turned left on Shore Road and jogged over to NY 218 for the run through Storm King State Park. This would be my first ride through the park, though I’d heard much about it. After some rough pavement on the town portion of 218, I hit very nice pavement right at the park border and it was apparent the entire park road had been re-surfaced in the recent past. Bonus!
The road immediately rises up through the trees and emerges on the side of a cliff with a paved pullout and commanding views of the river both north and south. Storm King Cliff is an NER Best of NorthEast scenic view, and it doesn’t disappoint. I had the little area to myself and enjoyed the vistas tremendously. Very few cars went by while I was there.
Finally, I hopped back on the bike and was treated to a very lively (if short) curvy stretch of cliffside. The pavement was excellent, and I had the road to myself for the two miles or so until it straightens out near the West Point Military Academy entrance. I decided to turn around and enjoy it a couple more times since it was so short. Unfortunately,there were a couple slow cars ahead of me going north, but I got to repeat my unimpeded southbound run with a bit more confidence.
Back on 9W, I continued south through the West Point properties and Fort Montgomery, past Bear Mountain and down into Stony Point, onto the peninsula for which it is named. Stony Point Battlefield State Historic Site occupies the entire lofty point of land jutting out into the Hudson and the entrance road crosses a short one-lane bridge with an impressive arched gateway. It was the site of one of the last northern battles in the Revolutionary War.
The entire peninsula is a wooded and grassy hill with many stone outcroppings. The parking lot is at river level, from which you must walk a quarter mile up a steep paved driveway to reach the site’s museum and interpretive footpath. The scenic paved path takes you up even higher to the outermost bluff, where the squat Stony Point Lighthouse has a commanding view of the river far below.
Returning down the hill to the ST after this nice scenic, if sweaty, walk, I rode back out to 9W and south through the busy towns of Stony Point proper, and West Haverstraw. Down through Nyack, I picked up I-287 to cross the Cuomo Bridge and dump me out on I-95 east. Several miles later, I exited into Stamford CT and picked my way through residential roads down the peninsula that forms the east side of the harbor.
From a small residents beach access at the end of a lane, I finagled a clear shot of Stamford Harbor Lighthouse.
A few more miles up I-95, I exited in Darien to wind my way down into the wealthy seaside village of Rowayton, in Norwalk. The community seemed to consist of over 90% private roads, so it was necessary to thread the needle on 10mph limit lanes to reach Bell Island Beach, for a view of Green’s Ledge Lighthouse, which seems to be undergoing some renovations.
Having Google-scouted my next stop in advance, I found my way further into Rowayton’s maze of narrow one-way lanes lined with immaculate stone walls and trimmed hedgerows. At the furthest tip of the peninsula, on a quiet turnaround, I left my bike running while I strolled past many threatening and self-important signs up a narrow right-of-way to a small residents-only park on the shoreline.
From here I had a very nice view over to Sheffield Island Lighthouse.
Easing my way out of Rowayton, I circled around Norwalk Harbor, down a wide boulevard lined with industrial properties to Calf Pasture Beach. Again leaving the bike running with flashers on, I strolled over to the boardwalk and snapped a couple photos of Peck Ledge Lighthouse, my final lighthouse for this three-year tour.
A quick run up I-95 and I-295 in Rhode Island finished off a refreshing day of riding. The lower humidity levels had felt great, I’d seen some new-to-me areas, and it had been one of those days you are just thankful to be motoring along in the wind.
I am constantly and pleasantly surprised at the great riding and interesting places I come across in New York state (aside from the Adirondacks). Perhaps just the moniker for me associates with New York City and all the hustle and bustle that entails? Maybe baked-in acrimony from being raised in an area of Boston sports fans? ‘Irregahhdless’, I find that New York state’s vast rural areas and historic towns have much to offer for exploration on two wheels. I look forward to a lot more riding in the Empire State.