I had planned on an early an early departure from home, breakfast in New Hope, PA followed by lunch in Port Jervis, NY with an afternoon ride that would take me through Pauling, NY to visit Edward R. Murrow Memorial Park, to camp in Connecticut somewhere near Sharon. It turns out that that was somewhat ambitious and unrealistic.
I did manage to leave home around 8, or 8:30 with the storm still south and west of me it was a chilly, but overcast morning. I got myself to New Hope, PA and found an awesome little taqueria just across the bridge in Lambertville, NJ. Tacos Cancun served up some really delicious carne asada tacos that served as breakfast/brunch, and I was on my way. Up to this point, all was going according to plan, aside from being a day late, and maybe half an hour behind schedule in my departure, I figured I could make up the time without issue.
The Trans Eastern Trail GPS track (affectionately known as the TET by ADV Riders) that I had worked with over the last few days snakes its way from Georgia to Northern Maine with a couple of spurs that reach into West Virginia and hit the NJ shore. The plan was to jump on just outside of Lambertville, NJ and ride it north all the way to central Vermont with one camping stop somewhere near Sharon, CT.
After a quick double check and tightening of the gear, I headed out of Lambertville and latched on to the GPS track that I had loaded into my iPhone.
Now would be a good time to explain some of the difficulty I had surrounding using GPS tracks. I discovered that not all GPS units (Garmin, TomTom, Magellan, etc.) are created equal. Some like tracks, some like routes, some will only deal with waypoints, and in each case there is the problem of loading that information into the unit pre-trip so that the desired route will display on the screen. I had managed to borrow a Gamin Nuvi unit and after days of wrestling with it, discovered that it stubbornly wouldn’t accept tracks or routes, and would only accept waypoints, but wouldn’t let you connect the dots to create a route to follow. This was a big reason for the delay in my departure by a day. Ultimately, I decided to scrap the Nuvi and just use my iPhone.
Using an iPhone for GPS navigation is great IF you have an unlimited power supply (like a cigarette lighter in a car) AND you have cell phone data coverage in your location. Anyone with a cell phone can tell you that the GPS and in particular, the data demands for constantly loading new map information eats up battery life. This scenario doesn’t play out well for someone on a motorcycle traveling backwoods roads in rural areas. Lucky for me I found a solution that eliminated the need for cell phone coverage: You Need A Map. It’s a huge application, but it’s free and did everything I wanted it to.
To conserve battery life, I turned off 3G and data on the phone, and closed all applications except for You Need A Map. I had tested the battery demands of my planned trip the week before, and found that I could get over three hours of life with this configuration. I also had a back-up battery with me, but I also figured I’d be in Port Jervis, NY for lunch and could charge my phone in the cafe while I was eating.
The track took me along some nice roads for a few miles, then indicated that I ought to make a right turn. I did so, and found that I was immediately confronted with a one lane bridge with a gravel road on the other side. “Well, here we go.” I thought to myself.
The next few hours were a mix of gravel, dirt, and country roads that wound through sections of New Jersey that I had no idea even existed. Up until that point, New Jersey had always conjured up images of strip malls, malls, turnpikes and the beach with few remnants of the small towns swallowed up by the suburban sprawl that seems to have engulfed the area. I would like to apologize to New Jersey for my ignorance. There are definitely some remote and I would even go so far as to say “wilderness” areas of New Jersey that I had previously been completely unaware of.
The gravel and dirt were something new for me as a rider. Dealing with the occasional patch of gravel in a road construction zone is one thing, riding on a gravel road for miles through twists and turns is another. It was really good practice, and I recommend that every rider get off of the asphalt for a few miles and work on their skills. It definitely helped my on-road skills and overall confidence.
By the afternoon I felt like I was getting close to Port Jervis, but when I consulted the map, I realized that it was still quite a ways off. I had already used up the battery once on the phone, and had resorted to the back up battery to keep navigating. Once into the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area (DWGNRA) I was faced with double-track “roads” that wound through the woods with rocks and the occasional mud puddle alternating with thickets of brush encroaching on the “road”. It was apparent that much of the track I was taking through this area wasn’t regularly traveled. Eventually I came to Layton, NJ, a small town mostly surrounded by the DWGNRA. By this time it was late afternoon and it was obvious that I was well behind the schedule that I had planned for myself, so I stopped at a the local deli/market to check on where I was in relation to Port Jervis. The place had obviously been the town’s general store at one point in its history and there was a nice couple from New York having a couple of Giros at the counter when I walked in. My stomach suggested that we stop for dinner and my brain rationalized that it would be wise to recharge the batteries on the phone.
The Giro was just what my stomach needed. Pondering my situation I concluded that rather than push myself as far as I could go tonight, struggle to find a campsite, possibly in the rain that was threatening to arrive any hour now, I might be best served by a good night’s sleep in a bed. I headed into Milford, PA (just this side of the border from Port Jervis, NY) and grabbed a room.
A shower, and access to internet allowed me to rethink my trip schedule. Obviously, the plan I had put forward wasn’t going to work if I wanted to stay on schedule. I contacted my friend Jen in Windsor, VT to let her know I was running behind schedule, and set myself to figuring out a scenic route via asphalt that would get me from here to there the next day. My biggest worry was the rain. A major pocket of rain was moving up from the southwest, and I wanted to stay ahead of it. According to weather reports it was likely to hit Poughkeepsie, NY around 1pm so I wanted to be well past there by then.
I worked out a route that took me from Milford, PA through the Palisades; across the Bear Mountain bridge; north along the Hudson River to Beacon, NY; north and east to the corner of Connecticut; north through Pittsfield and North Adams into Vermont.
(Note: At home after the trip I realized that I read my own tracks wrong, and the first leg was supposed to be TWO days not one… Measure twice, ride once. At least I’ve planned it all out for next year.)