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January 5, 2015 18 comments

Like Water For Metaphor

Correspondence Friends Curiosities Bicycles Stories
By Bike Snob NYC
Like Water For Metaphor
It is traditional for cyclists to partake in a New Year's Day ride, which is precisely why I leave the roads to the wobbly legions making good on their resolutions and sweating out their hangovers. Instead, I skip the ride and take a walk on the beach, where I ask mighty Neptune to provide me with a sign of what to expect in the coming year.  Last year his portent came in the form of hot dogs, while this year he presented me with this disembodied fish head. Peering into those vacant eye sockets I attempted to divine some sort of message from this omen, and ultimately decided that artisanal fish head saddlebags will be the hot new trend in 2015. You read it here first. Sure, you may find yourself being pursued by seagulls, but your fish head saddlebag will look great beneath your hand-crafted leather saddle. By the following day, January 2nd, I figured it was safe to venture out on the bike.  Naturally, I take my rides just as seriously as I take my beach walks, so when selecting a route I always make sure it's both seasonally and thematically appropriate.  (Or "pretentious" if you prefer.)  In this case, the year had just come full circle, and so I decided that my ride would evoke the cyclical nature of existence by reenacting the hydrologic cycle.  In order to do this, I would follow the Old Croton Aqueduct from my home in New York City to its source some 30 miles north. You've heard of "farm-to-table," so if it helps, just think of this as "reservoir to toilet." Pleased with my decision, I selected an appropriate bike for the journey:
(Since the Cambium's not leather I skipped the fish head saddlebag in favor of synthetic.)
Completed in 1842, the Old Croton Aqueduct was an engineering marvel at the time, and it carried desperately needed clean water from Westchester County to the rapidly growing and horribly fetid City of New York.  No longer in use, it is now a state park, and an unpaved trail follows its path.  This trail is my favorite place to ride in New York for three (3) reasons: 1) It parallels the Hudson River and offers lots of scenic beauty; 2) It is free of motor vehicles; 3) While the terrain is mild enough for a road bike, it is still challenging enough to deter 99% of roadies, which means you get to enjoy riding a bicycle with drop bars while simultaneously avoiding the sorts of people who ride bicycles with drop bars--and best of all, it's 100% aerobar-free. So early that morning I met some accomplices and entered Van Cortlandt Park:
Where we took up the disused rail bed that is my customary escape route from the city:
Once you cross the city line and leave the park this rail bed becomes a paved multi-use trail, and nature's bounty is immediately in evidence:
Yes, that is indeed a turkey taking flight, and I can't imagine a better metaphor than that for embarking upon yet another year of goofy bike-blogging:
(Your blogger and this bird: both turkeys, both likely to be cooked by November.)
In fact, so apt and succinct was this metaphor that I very nearly turned around and went home, but instead we continued on and attained the aqueduct trail:
There is no more pleasant sound than the gentle crunching of gravel beneath one's tires.* *[Disclaimer: do not attempt without a bicycle industry approved gravel-specific bicycle equipped with tires rated for gravel use.  Riding on gravel without a gravel-specific bicycle can result in sub-optimal handling, diminished weenie-ism, death, and, in extreme cases, compromised Strava times.] Whereas most New York City cyclists flock to the vapid cultural wastelands west of the Hudson (yes, I'm looking at you, New Jersey and Rockland), this side of the river is rich with history, and as you travel the Old Croton Aqueduct it reveals itself languidly, like a Rapha model divesting himself of his chamois after an "epic" ride.  The trail traverses the lawns of the estates of the great turn-of-the-last-century tycoons.  It detours onto the Revolutionary Road of the eponymous Richard Yates novel, you can blow a snot rocket at the last residence of John Cheever, and you can't go two feet without some landmark or place name shoving Washington Irving in your face. Meanwhile, over on the Jersey side, Freds are chasing Strava segments in front of P. Diddy's house. Philistines.* *[Disclaimer: blogger has never read the works of Richard Yates or John Cheever.] Here, the trail skirts the Rockefeller State Park Preserve:
Where deer wander stupidly (stupid deer), and where plenty of old stone aqueduct infrastructure is in evidence:
Being an old aqueduct, the gradient of the trail is so steady as to be imperceptible for most of its length, but as you approach the reservoir there are some undulations, and the excitement grows palpable as you pass between the Earth's bosom and follow this aqueous treasure trail to its source:
Where the dam looms behind the bare trees:
It's here that the trail ends--or, technically, begins--and while the Old Croton Aqueduct itself is long defunct the reservoir is still active, and it still sends water downtown through newer bits of infrastructure.  Here's the road that runs along the top of the dam:
Where we contemplated the water that will ultimately slake the city's insatiable thirst:
It was profoundly inspiring to consider that, were I to urinate through that guardrail, my diluted pee would go right over that dramatic spillway:
Travel downstream:
And ultimately be consumed (albeit in some incalculably miniscule proportion) by every single person in New York, resulting in a deeply satisfying and highly symbolic communion with the city of my birth. Hey, I'm not saying I did it, and I'm not saying I didn't do it, but when you consider that your Dunkin' Donuts breakfast sandwich probably contained at least four or five rat turds this morning, does it really matter? I then took this equally appropriate photograph of my bicycle:
Because I am a princess, but even though I had ridden over miles and miles of pea-sized gravel, I was still comfy as can be upon my Brooks Cambium. Now that's how you do a product placement. Suck it, Hans Christian Andersen. And with that, we remounted, returned to the trail, and like the water rolled fluidly along the steady downhill grade towards New York City:
I'm not sure any of this will inspire you to ride, but I'm confident you'll now be inspired to replace your water filter.
Does that lake have any waterfowl (or turkeys) in it....I wouldn't worry so much about pee in the lake....
Dean P. May 23, 2016 at 6:07 PM

i saw (and liked) what you did there
jed May 23, 2016 at 6:07 PM
the brooks blog takes 2 weeks to write.

the regular schlock 1 day...?

wle May 23, 2016 at 6:07 PM
1942? 1842!

C'mon Snob, a simian has better proofreading skills.
Dater May 23, 2016 at 6:07 PM
Lovely ride, BrooksSnob.
Dooth May 23, 2016 at 6:07 PM
A reliable source assures me the fauna you encountered were bear.

At least that's what they're called on the Hudson's left bank.

leroy May 23, 2016 at 6:07 PM
Is the turkey flying or riding an undersized mountain bike?
JLRB May 23, 2016 at 6:07 PM
Homeopathic urine ingested by the citizens of NYC. How appropriate!
PI Cyclist May 23, 2016 at 6:07 PM
Liked the long-term review of the Cambium enough that I bought one. A rust colored C15. Looks proper on my Cross Check SS. Feels even more proper.
Herbert May 23, 2016 at 6:07 PM
Solo win.
Pablo May 23, 2016 at 6:07 PM
1 May 23, 2016 at 6:07 PM
Esteemed Commenter DaddoOne May 23, 2016 at 6:07 PM
"I was still comfy as can be upon my Brooks Cambium."

Er, I *think* it's pronounced 'CamBUM', no? Well, it ought to be.
meltyman May 23, 2016 at 6:07 PM
If you rode on Revolutionary Road, then you missed a nice section of the Aqueduct from Scarborough Road to Ossining. Also, once your diluted urine goes over the spillway, it ends up in the Hudson River, not the NYC water supply. And some of the Aqueduct is still in use - for fiberoptic cable in Tarrytown, and it's actually used for water in one part of Ossining (a small pipe runs through the Aqueduct tunnel).

While you're in Ossining, check out the community center under the arched bridge in the town center, there are two little museum exhibits inside, one on the Aqueduct, one on Sing Sing prison. It's also a good bathroom stop, so you won't need to pee off the dam next time.
Ed Ravin May 23, 2016 at 6:07 PM
And most important, if someone reading this wants to ride on the Aqueduct trail, maps and other info can be found at
http://aqueduct.org/ . Although this article makes it sound easy, the trail is hard to find in some places and has several on-street detours, so reading about it beforehand will improve the experience...
Ed Ravin May 23, 2016 at 6:07 PM
You need to read "The Sorrows of Gin" and some Sexus
Pk May 23, 2016 at 6:07 PM
Nice to have you back in the (blogging) saddle, Wildcat. Your best blog of the year.
synonymous May 23, 2016 at 6:07 PM
First comment? Whaaat?
synonymous May 23, 2016 at 6:07 PM