The Falls of Fall
The Notier Notes
Our Sunday Scoop
The previous day, things couldn't have gone better for us. We'd been riding along the Northeast Backcountry Discovery Route in New York state, and had zigzagged across the Delaware River, and were now headed towards the Catskill Mountains. We were enjoying ourselves so much, I even told Tim, "I think we should do the whole thing - the whole Northeast BDR."
And he agreed. "And if anything, we should try to get to the top of Mount Washington in New Hampshire. Hopefully it won't be too cold by then," he said.
But the weather was already changing on us. Plenty of leaves had fallen off the trees, and autumn had set in with full force. We passed lovely orange pumpkin patches while the skies sometimes clouded over into a gray haze. Exposed bare branches of trees turned the world around us from green to brown.
Even that morning, as we woke up at our idyllic campsite next to a bubbling creek, there was a heavy layer of dew on the ground, and a sharp bite to the air. Winter was certainly coming.
But we were optimistic that we would be able to have at least another week of blissful BDR riding left. I even contacted my friend (hi Kim!) in Vermont to see if we could visit her. We were thrilled to be seeing more of the Northeast and to explore New England!
We packed up that morning and headed back onto the BDR road, expecting to have another fantastic day full of forest views, cascading waterfalls, and tranquil farm roads. And if we were lucky, maybe even a covered bridge.
"This is what I wanted to see!" I cried when we came up to our first covered bridge.
We got off the bike, and took a few dozen pictures of the spectacle. I ran my hands over its old beams, imagining how hard it must have been to build it. There used to be hundreds of covered bridges all across the Northeast region, but now, only ten percent of them remain, and many of them are in terrible disrepair. But this particular bridge had been refurbished by the local community. And as we walked through it, imagining we were in a horse-drawn wagon from 100 years ago, we were thankful that it had been rebuilt so that we could experience it.
Back on our modern steel horse, the gravel road continued twisting through the sloping mountains. The Catskills were like gradual waves of stone covered in forest foliage. The bright colors of the leaves from the previous day seemed to be subdued by the cloud cover today, but every once in a while, when the sun would sparkle through, the golden and fire-red leaves painted the scenery in the perfect palette of a fall kaleidoscope.
And then we came across a magical valley where "God rays" shimmered down onto the ponds and trees below. I could just envision some ancient Greek god of the heavens tossing down his sun rays to whichever tree and gulley he wished to bless that day, touching them with his beams of light. It was stunningly beautiful, and a feeling for complete awe and satisfaction for our journey filled me.
But like all beautiful things, it couldn't last forever.
As we headed on down the road, we came to a particularly rocky section. The problem was that with all the fallen leaves, it was very hard to see what was beneath them. This made Tim's job quite difficult, and he was doing great... until he got stuck in an unseen rut. He gave the throttle gas, but the bike just didn't have the momentum to make it over the embankment that we didn't know existed. And so, as if hitting a brick wall, we hit the stones in front of us, and couldn't make it over.
This sent me flying forward, and because Tim was leaning to the left to save the bike from falling (it was also leaning to the left), as I lurched forward, I headed past him and straight for the windshield. It was a scary thing watching that windshield come right at me. Even though I was wearing my helmet, the visor was cracked open, and the windshield somehow sliced its way in. My face hit the edge of it - I could feel the plastic of the windshield wobble against my teeth. It all happened for me in slow motion.
Tim couldn't hold the bike up anymore, and eventually we fell all the way over. It was a slow fall, but the real damage had already been done. My upper lip had been knocked by the windshield, me teeth ached, and I could taste blood.
I lay on the ground and felt around to make sure all my teeth were there. They were. Tim leaped up and asked if I was ok, and I told him that I was, but that the windshield had hit my lip. I crawled over to the bike's side mirror to inspect, and everything looked all right.
"The windshield hit you? How is that even possible?" Tim asked.
"I don't know. I think it was a freak thing," I said. And although I felt fine, with just a bit of a sore lip, that image of the windshield veering towards my face was stained in my memory now. And it was a terrifying moment.
We took a breather, ate a snack, and decided that we were going to take it easy for the rest of the day. Tim told me, "There's a difficult section of road up ahead marked on the BDR map, but they also have an easier detour we can take."
"Then let's do that," I insisted, not really in the mood for any more off-road surprises.
And so we continued onward. The bits of sunlight coming through the clouds became less and less frequent, and soon the clouds settled into a thick mass above us.
But as day was nearing to an end, and we were almost to the rough section of road, I realized that the rocks beneath our tires were getting bigger. The uphill climb was getting steeper, and the leaf coverage over it all was getting thicker. This was all bad news.
"I thought this was supposed to be the easy road?" I asked Tim.
"Oh no," he said when he checked his map. "I think I made a mistake and didn't put the detour on."
"Great..." I wanted to say, but as the word came out of my mouth, we hit a boulder. And after a few wobbles, we were down.
At least this time, both of us were completely unharmed. But our joyous spirits had definitely been dampened. We righted the bike, and took a better look at the map.
"It seems like we only have this little bit to do. We've already done most of it," Tim said. But as we looked up the rocky hill that we were supposed to climb, I wondered how easy this little bit was going to be.
But we pushed on (I was literally pushing Tim over some technical sections), until once again he fell.
The problem is not so much the falling, but the getting-the-bike-back-up-again part. It's just so heavy, and with all of our gear, even with the two of us, it's never too much fun to do. This was now the third time this day we'd fallen, and we were not making a lot of progress up this hill.
I pushed Tim on and let him deal with the road without my weight on the back. As he tackled the loose terrain, I heard him drop the bike again. The engine died, and there was a bit of swearing carried over the wind.
But this time, when we righted the motorcycle and Tim went to turn it on, a colorful display of flashing warning lights greeted us from the dash. And it wouldn't start.
"It's the same warnings we've been having all summer," Tim said. "Damn, I thought we fixed all this back in Utah."
We tried for fifteen minutes to get the bike started, but it simply wouldn't. And now we were stuck on a mountain in the middle of the Catskill mountains with night (and a thunderstorm) approaching fast.
This was bad.
The final few chapters of our summer adventures are coming up. So stay tuned!
And in the meantime, we have a Thanksgiving special video for everyone about another time this summer that the bike was having issues (I don't know if you've noticed a theme yet!).
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See you next week.
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