an autumn bicycle ride along the palisades

an autumn ride along the palisades

As the leaves begin to turn, think about an autumn bicycle ride along the Palisades. The route is called Henry Hudson Road, but it’s known to local cyclists as River Road, along the cliffs of the Palisades in New Jersey. The always-spectacular views of the George Washington Bridge and of Manhattan and points north (above) are framed at this time of year in foliage at the peak of fall glory. In particular, I love the riotous rush of reds, yellows and oranges that accompanies some of the fast (and fun!) descents along the rolling roadway. I often travel this route with friends, but on a recent Saturday I strapped my 35-millimeter camera across my back and set out alone, free to stop frequently to snap pictures. My 4o-mile round trip from the Meatpacking District in Manhattan stretched a bit took longer than usual, but the photo payoff was worth it.

Under cloudless blue skies, with temperatures in the low 40s, I followed a familiar northerly route up Manhattan’s West Side, from the Hudson River Greenway to Riverside Drive, and up through Washington Heights to the George Washington Bridge. Although the winds across the bridge had blown strong over the past couple of weekends, the first hint of winter was apparent on Saturday in a windchill that caused many riders to pull bandanas or neck gators over their faces.

On the New Jersey side of the George Washington Bridge, a short downhill ride south along Hudson Terrace drops cyclists onto Henry Hudson Road, which is open to cars, as well. In general, though, traffic is so light and the narrow, boulder-lined road is so sheltered from wind by trees, that the scrape of a dried leaf skittering across the pavement or the trickle of a roadside waterfall (left) qualifies as noise.

Using a bicycle for daily transportation around town during the week offers myriad pleasures and benefits, but also requires intense focus. Riding “long” on weekends on my ridiculously light marvel of a road bike is a different kind of an adventure that I anticipate all week. Its pleasures, in helping to decompress from city stress and enabling my mind to wander peacefully, are limitless. Beyond its psychic benefits, this ride is a pretty good workout, too, culminating in a climb to a terminus at Route 9W in Alpine, the road that I follow south to return to the GW Bridge.

On the way back home in Manhattan, I usually pick up lunch for my husband and myself. For the last couple of weekends, that’s meant a stop at the Gorilla Cheese NYC truck on the Upper West Side for grilled pulled pork and gouda sandwiches. Then, I switch into bicycle messenger mode to get the sandwiches home while they’re hot.

Here, the photo tour of sights from the saddle:

A typical view of the shaded roadway winding north along Henry Hudson Road.

The George Washington Bridge span as seen from the New Jersey side of the Hudson River.

I usually stop at the Palisades Interstate Parkway Commission headquarters for clean restrooms, a tap to fill my water bottles and an opportunity to chat with other cyclists.

The roadside was carpeted with dried autumn leaves as I pulled over to make a phone call.

Looking over the side of the George Washington Bridge to Fort Washington Park in Manhattan.

I met Veronica, who was visiting from Santiago, Chile during a pause on the Manhattan side of the bridge. When I admired her cool, retro-style bicycle helmet, she me told that she had purchased it on a trip to Vietnam, where it’s a popular choice among riders of motor scooters.

Fall finery unfolds in the view south from the George Washington Bridge toward the tip of Manhattan.

After years of riding the GW, I still struggle with the hairpin turn on the bridge approach.

A Saturday ride ends happily here with hot, made-to-order grilled cheese sandwiches.

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