Each morning, as I make my tea (depending on how I’m feeling or what I have in stock — it’s either passion fruit or green), I face the first big decision of the day.
Do I take the bike to the office or do I take the car? The general determination is the weather — is it going to rain (or snow), how cold (or soon, how hot) will it be, and what’s the wind speed?
If it’s a Tuesday, I have to time the ride precisely. If I don’t get on the bike by 6:40 a.m., I’ll have to do my first client call at home and then wait.
It’s not particularly conducive to do a client conference call on the bike, especially if I have to run an agenda or write notes.
This particular morning, I timed it very close to the bone — 6:44 a.m. I packed my backpack — laptop, tablet, chargers, my lunch for the day (unwrapped burrito bowl with pesto chicken I made a couple of days prior), and tea travel mug — and put my helmet and headphones on (don’t worry, I keep the volume low so I can hear my surroundings, traffic, etc.).
Even with the late start, I still had a quick pit stop to drop off an unused iPhone to my mom’s house a block away (and even brought their New York Post and Times Union’s to their porch because I’m a nice guy).
The ride down is generally 15–20 minutes, given the number of lights. My route is always Madison Avenue to Quail Street, Quail to Western, and Western to State before hitting Lark then Spring to Dove. It’s always quiet — especially near the College of St. Rose section of Madison Avenue due to no student activity (or any activity for that matter).
I arrive to Dove Street and bring my bike in, beginning the first of many calls for the day.
Why am I giving you the play-by-play of my morning? Because before this pandemic began to change every aspect of our lives, I didn’t own a bike of my own.
I decided to buy one early in March, because I figured with the reduced traffic here in Albany and the weather starting to appear to be warmer (save for a couple of early April snow showers), it was as good a time as any to do it.
I talked up the biking to a few (to keep me honest), including to a friend who so happens to be a former boss and state legislator. She quipped, “Geez Joe, you’ve become quite the outdoorsman while the bars and restaurants are shutdown.”
I don’t think just biking qualifies for the distinguished title of “outdoorsman,” but you get the idea: this biking was a point of amusement for some.
Before the shutdown, I traveled a good amount for work and to see friends — including South Florida early in March. Even for the work-related trips, I always explore each locale I venture to and in the event these places have bike trails and bike rentals, consider me sold. In Miami, I used Citibike. In Fort Lauderdale, B-Cycle. In San Francisco, Ford Bike. And in Los Angeles, Perry’s.
In areas where bike riding isn’t available, a hike will do — whether over hilly or urban terrains. Exploring the mount near Point Dume Beach (the beach from the original Planet of the Apes) in Malibu, the streets of Florence, or the coastline in Galveston, it’s always just good to get out, walk around, or bike around.
Even here, I had a membership for CDPHP Cycle. As convenient as the bikes are, you’re working that bike on all cylinders — especially on very slight inclines.
There’s something different that transpires in you when you have the opportunity to walk or bike an area that you don’t get from the car.
And what I have discovered, in the few weeks of this shutdown, is that the Capital Region has treasures that rival the locales I’ve mentioned.
Among the first trails I did was closer to home — the Albany County Helderberg-Hudson Rail Trail.
I’ll admit: I was never a fan of this “rail trail” or any other former railroad track changed to pedestrian or biking use. My personal reason was simple (and if you know me, a personal reason is enough for me not be a fan of a variety of things): I always thought, in the event we wanted to connect our communities with light rail, why would we remove existing (albeit dilapidated) tracks? Shouldn’t we conserve these opportunities, just in case?
I was wrong.
There was a certain majestic industrial feeling going along the trail for the first time — discovering pockets of natural beauty with hints of our region’s hardy past interspersed in-between.
Toward the lower end of the trail, right before the South Pearl Street end, are some incredible rapids (underneath the bridges that carry Route 9W and Interstate 87).
After this trail, I wondered: what else is out there that I haven’t seen or haven’t ridden since I was a kid.
One incredible gem that doesn’t get enough attention is the Tivoli Preserve. This preserve, originally established in 1975 by longtime Mayor Erastus Corning II and the Common Council, has been beautifully restored and revitalized. The waterway section is something to see in person to appreciate its full grandeur.
A little further north up in Lake George, the Warren County Bikeway is a 9.4 mi. trail that brings you from the shores of the lake to Downtown Glens Falls. The trail brings you through the shoreline hills of Lake George, up toward Queensbury, before arriving right near the Crandall Library.
Union College presented some surprises, as I encountered an enclave named Jackson’s Garden — named after the 19th century Union College professor — where I found a rocky stream.
However, right across the Mohawk in Glenville, what appears to be the Scotia-Glenville Trail needs some serious investment. As this connects the Village of Scotia with the Town of Glenville, it presented an off-roading “adventure” with some parts where you didn’t know if you were on the trail or perhaps in a place you shouldn’t be.
These are just a handful among many jewels here — the Hudson-Mohawk rail trail and the Corning Preserve are no slouches in this department and provide for continual joy.
But, what I loved more than just exploring here is the time spent thinking about the million things going through in my mind while the wind flows past my face. Even if it’s a 10 minute ride or a two-hour jaunt, it attunes you to thinking differently — perhaps it’s a project I’m working on or a personal dilemma.
And no doubt it’s been good to build up the endurance — each week, increasing the mileage and frequency. This is specially good for someone like myself who has asthma.
This also opened my eyes to what we need for Complete Streets in our communities. Both Schenectady County and in the City of Watervliet, much is needed to support bike and pedestrian infrastructure.
As I wrapped up the day, I packed my laptop and belongings back into my backpack and prepared the bike for the journey back uptown. The route is a bit divergent — Spring Street up to Henry Johnson Boulevard, through Washington Park, and a straight shot down Western Avenue. The wind is calm this evening before hitting my street.
Do I miss California and the other places I used to travel to? I sure do. But I’ve grown to appreciate the splendor and wonder of our incredible region — where you can find intricate waterways, rock formations, urban-surrounded wildernesses, and so much more.
And I wouldn’t have learned to love it as much without my bike. Even as we un-pause our lives, our economy, and start the “new normal”, I’m committed to keeping this new routine.
Because sometimes, the best way to get there is on two pedals.
This post originally appeared on Medium.