Friday, March 26, 2010

Cycle Gross in New Jersey

Photos: Jen Benepe (c)

If you thought you've been to the best cycle-cross course before, you should try Henry Hudson Drive in New Jersey.

It will knock your spokes out, puncture your tires, and make you wish you'd never pedaled a bike there before. And I am not sure it's even legal to be there.

The major storm that hit New Jersey two weekends ago from March 12 through 13 with up to 80-mile-per-hour winds, tore trees by the root out of the ground, knocked down power lines, and plunged parts of New Jersey into four days without power and water.

But perhaps the Henry Hudson Drive was the most damaged area of New Jersey per square meter. No where have I seen so much destruction, cracked and destroyed trees as if they had been split in a hundred pieces from the air all along the four-mile stretch from Englewood Cliffs to the bottom of the hill at Alpine, NJ.

I took a ride up Henry Hudson Drive on Thursday morning: all the trees that were downed from Fort Lee to Englewood Cliffs have been cleared. But go up the hill and past the gates--and you enter a world of no return.

The first quarter mile was covered in downed trees, twisted vines, and detritus. After the old cemetery, I was dismayed to see the old picnic grounds, normally a haven of towering pine trees, now covered with cracked, split, and ripped trees festooning the road side.

Then came the endless downed trees, vines, bushes, and rocks blocking the roadway. There were over 30 felled trees and more than 1,000 other pieces of detritus including vast masses of vines, fallen rocks, branches and other blockages over the 4-mile distance, over most of which I had to stop and carry my bike. At about mile two, I wanted to quit and turn around but going back through the mess I just came through was worse of a thought than making it to the end.

I would not recommend trying this, but if you have a lot of time to waste and feel that you have the skill to make your way through hundreds of downed branches, entire trees, endless fallen rocks and branches, or even if you just want to witness the utter destruction of the storm, you could try it.

But it's not recommended for the faint of heart, or for those who really just want a bike ride--this was torture.

The rest of the road at the far Marina--was clear. The Palisades Park priorities or budget are clearly not up to clearing a road that is used mostly for cyclists and hikers.


Douglas said...

Nicely written

Anonymous said...

This kind of detritus gets strewn all over the roads and trails in the hills around the San Francisco Bay Area after hard storms or high winds. We get landslides, too, which can be fun, because you can get through on a bike, but not in a car! That leaves the whole road on the other side exclusively to bikes! Yay! The down side is you have to wade through mud sometimes. Not for the squeamish.


Martin said...

Wow. Major. Those are some significant boulders in the road. Nice pictures, Jen. I love that road and I've never seen it such condition. That was a major wind storm.

Let's go for a ride once it warms up a bit.

Regina said...

wow...I wonder if there has been any progress on clearing this since your post.

Anonymous said...

I rode this with my brother & a friend yesterday morning & the conditions were the same. We almost gave up after about 1/4 mile of climbing over & crawling under trees. Then a man walking his dog from the other direction told us conditions there were better so we continued. We also mountain bike so we actually had a good time navigating the obstacles. I have to say I was wary the entire time of more falling rocks & trees. I wasn't happy with getting mud on my bike & shoes, however.

Anonymous said...

I did the ride through the park on Sunday - May 9th. everything was cleared and its a beautiful ride. i entered in fort lee and exited the park by the police station (exit 2)