"When the spirits are low,Sir Arthur knew of what he talked. And yesterday, a crisp, cool autumn day, was a perfect time to cast the monotonous aside and go for a bike ride in the Harlem Valley, upstate New York. So Stacey and I, our neighbor Diane and her friend Chi piled into our car along with four bikes and headed north.
when the day appears dark,
when work becomes monotonous,
when hope hardly seems worth having,
just mount a bicycle
and go out for a spin down the road,
without thought on anything
but the ride you are taking."
- Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, 1896
About a hundred miles from the city (and three hours later - it seems many other people in many other cars had the same idea) we arrived in Wassaic, New York, a tiny hamlet that sits to the side of Route 22, just west of the Connecticut border. Here was the southern terminus of a bike path that has been constructed, in sections one by one, on what used to be bed of the New York and Harlem Railroad; so-called because that rail line, in its inception, once connected lower Manhattan (the city) to what was once the remote upscale suburb of Harlem. Then in the 1840s, construction began to extend that line,first to Westchester, then further north to the upstate towns of Wassaic, Amenia, Millerton and so on; towns that lined a narrow valley, later called the Harlem Valley, filled with productive dairy farms. The railroad would bring the milk from the farms to the growing metropolis to the south.
A few years later, one Noah Gridley, a local businessman, convinced his friend, Gail Borden, to bring his condensed milk factory to Wassaic. He described the area's good access to transportation and the plentiful dairy farms, perfect for his business. In those days, before refrigeration, Borden's new condensed milk in a can meant that the product could be stored for long periods of time without worry about spoilage. Borden got rich selling his milk to the Union army during the civil war. Of course Borden is a brand well known to this day.
An historic marker in Wassaic Park has illustrations from the original Borden products.
>> Note - click on any picture to see it larger. <<
Stacey, Diane and Chi - munching on sandwiches in front of the old Borden factory.
Before our bike ride we picnicked in a little park in Wassaic. Stacey packs up before we set off to ride.
We had started out for the trail very late in the day. That, plus the usual traffic, caused us to arrive around 3 o'clock. So our ride, which could have gone on for hours, was shortened to just an hour. We wanted to press on, but the temperature was dropping, the shadows lengthening and a dinner date back in Brooklyn beckoned. It was a long way to drive for such a short ride. But we all agreed that it had been worth it - the beauty of the area, the fall colors, the crisp, fresh air - made us feel that the trip was worthwhile.
Diane examines at a trail sign.
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