HFM X-Country, Prologue: Port Jervis to Ithaca, NY

Apr 19th, 2017 in Adventure

Prior to embarking on any grand adventure, it’s best to give your gear a breaking in. So, before I go cross country in May, I did a few days of cycling with my full kit through Northeast Pennsylvania and upstate New York. I had a great cause, to visit one of my Appalachian Trail friends, “Slim Rims” and reconnect with her before she departs for a Summer’s work at Denali State Park!

This trip officially started after getting dropped off in Port Jervis, NY via rail, and I made it to Ithaca over two days of cycling. My route had me follow the Delaware River until cutting into PA’s Pocono region across the Roebling Bridge. Day 1 ended in PA near Elk Mountain, where I met Stuart Latimer from the website Warmshowers, which is a reciprocal hospitality site specifically for cyclists. Since the area was rather remote, Stuart met me en route with his son on their bikes and guided me the rest of the way.

The next day I got another escort out and biked up PA Rt 11 parallel to I-81 until crossing into NY, this time along the Susquehanna River. I had a mostly flat day of riding, through Binghamton, where I lunched at a local café and witnessed the local iteration of the Tax Day protests against Trump taking place, which our churlish commander-in-chief would later whine about on Twitter. Binghamton to Ithaca started out with suburban sprawl and then trended rural (and rainy) once I turned North at Owego. I then arrived at Ithaca in style, descending along a woodsy trail into the thriving urban core.

“Slim Rims” is a cool as hell Vermonter I met on my first night in the Shenandoah. We would be stuck together by some serendipitous timing, and form a mini trail family she affectionately dubbed the Baby Bubble. I got to hike with her pretty regularly up until New York when our paths diverged. She wound up in Ithaca with her sister after the trail, saving up a bit of cash before her next steps. She’s an excellent illustrator and conceptualized some aspects of thru-hiking really well in her comics, some of which are on Instagram.

This trip and my stay in Ithaca was loaded with beautiful views that I hope my photos do some justice. PA’s rolling hills, though not entirely enjoyable to navigate, were a highlight for me. I got some good time along the Delaware, Lackawaxen and Susquehanna rivers. It bears repeating that it’s really cool to see the world by bicycle speed, I really get a chance to connect with my surroundings. I’m looking forward to expanding majorly on this as I take in entirely new biomes as I hit the Midwest and on this Summer!

Alas there’s nothing like riding through said mountainous terrain to really get an appreciation for having a cycle with a full weight attached. Navigating hills with some 20+ pounds attached to your wheels can really bring forth a struggle. I’ll be doing a hard assessment of everything in my bag as I prepare for final departure. Big items like my camera which I used to take the photos for this trip are under equally heavy scrutiny.

Some silly things that happened to me as I did this test run. Fiascos included using my spare tubes to fasten items to my racks, both tubes would have holes worn into them after drooping on to my spinning tires; I’ll just get some proper bungee cord. My bicycle lights were blocked on the rear by my bags and didn’t attach well on the front with my drop handlebar; I think I’ll get some for my helmet, along with a rearview mirror. I learned that my racks don’t serve as replacements for fenders as I kicked up plenty of road debris on myself; that quandary I may just deal with as I don’t mind being a little bit dirty.

Overall, my issues were small, and easily fixable. I’m glad I went on this trip to test everything out and am left feeling strong as I spend this last month in preparation, both physical and mental.