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Block Island

New Shoreham, Block Island, RI

Many times you travel far away and either miss or just postpone to visit remarkable places that are close to home. This was the case for me with Block Island, one of the closest island off the tip of Long Island that somehow I never had time to hop on. And the island is probably one of the most beautiful and tranquil in the entire area. New Shoreham, its only town, is considered the smallest town in the smallest state, Rhode Island, of the USA. We stopped here for breakfast because we were told that we could not a coffee in any other place on the island.

A farm on the road to the north lighthouse, Block Island

In comparison with the other better known islands off the coast of Cape Cod, Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard, Block Island is quiet, quaint and full of farms that spread on the entire rest of the island outside the little town. You may see a large field with barn or a house, all surrounded by a fence made of several rows of boulders that delimits the property.

The north lighthouse at the tip of the island, Block Island, RI

The car traffic is almost non existent in the island that make you feel that the roads may be built almost only for bikes. We bike the entire island and not even once we were passed by two cars coming from opposite directions in the same time that would squeeze us to the side of the road.The bike routes are all following the main roads passing nature protected areas that can be visited on long walks meandering through flower fields all the way to the ocean. The island is only 7 miles long by 3 miles wide in its bottom part and biking is the main way of transportation so almost everywhere there are bike racks that sometimes are so full that you have to look for a …bike parking spot.

A nature preserve in Block Island

Returning from the North lighthouse, whose deserted beach is packed only by gulls, you may pass by the new harbor, the place where is the dock for the Montauk, where you can take a break and enjoy a drink at Dead Eye’s Dick terrace by the harbor.

The new harbor of Block Island

The road/bike pass continues to the spectacular tall bluffs where a steep staircase lets you get on the beach for a nice walk where you may encounter whales’ vertebras. (they are huge). Just down the beach is the South East light house.

The southern bluffs and the beach, Block Island

Southeast lighthouse, Block Island, RI

The entire marked route bike trail, that consists actually of the totality of the paved roads of the island, is about 24 miles, way less than we biked the day before but for sure not as easy. The island is not hilly but the route is up and down and at the end of the day you feel exhausted by the effort in spite of biking only half of the Cape Cod Rail Trail.

Spring House Hotel, Block Island, RI

Tired by biking the hilly road coming back into town we stopped at the Spring House Hotel, the oldest hotel in the island that hosted presidents, writers, personalities and a recent wedding of the Kennedys. We took a break and a much desired drink on the grass in front overlooking the ocean, just 5 minutes away from the old New Shoreham harbor where the last ferry would take us to Narraganset, RI.

New Shoreham harbor, Block Island

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Posted by on September 10, 2017 in Blog, USA

 

Cape Cod Rail Trail

Cape Cod Rail Trail, MA

In 1840s when the first train ran on the tracks in Cape Cod it was a big deal for the region. Suddenly the time to reach the Cape from Boston would have been cut from 7 hours by boat or two days by stagecoach to a mere 5 hours. The rail reached Hyannis in 1853 and Provincetown 20 years latter. One year later President Grant was among the dignitaries who visited Provincetown by train in an official visit, a sort of inauguration of the rail.

The trail passes bays with private and public beaches…

The rail was about 120 miles long coming from Boston and it remained in operation till 1970. It changed ownership many times and in 1968 while struggling to keep afloat was sold to Penn Central and eventually went bankrupt in 1970 and closed its operations. At that time few people still wanted to travel to the Cape by train, most preferring cars or buses.

…and stops in towns like Orleans where there are art fairs

But the rail history is still alive in its spectacular conversion as a bike track, one of the longest and better maintained tracks I rode on. The Cape Cod Rail Trail is more than 22 miles long and connects Dennis to Wellfleet on a straight and clean paved band that meanders among spectacular locations, private and public beaches, rivers and bays in the quaint landscape of the Cape.

The multiple sclerosis march was a three days 50 miles walk of all people dressed in orange

When we rode it on Saturday the National Multi-Sclerosis Society organized a 50 miles walk during all three days of the weekend for creating awareness and fund raising for research in preventing the disease and people dressed in orange, the color of the organization, were peppering the entire bike trail.

A stop before the end of the trail on a public beach

The trail has another branch splitting from the main and going to Harwich and Chatam that we rode a while ago. We also discovered that they are working on opening up a sector right before Dennis where a pedestrian bridge over the highway is already built and operational.

The French bakery at the end of the road is waiting with a lot of goodies

At the end of the trail I could not wait to join the long line in front of the Wellfleet’s PB French Bakery for a cappuccino and a pain-au-chocolat and a much rewarding juice after a long ride. But in spite of the huge line that snakes out of it even if you come off season, the French Bakery, in typical French tradition, is closed Monday and Tuesdays. And of course the cappuccino break was just a pause because now we had to ride the entire rail trail back to Dennis, for a total of almost 50 miles. A really great ride!

The French Bakery in Wellfleet, Cape Cod, MA

 
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Posted by on September 9, 2017 in Blog, USA

 

Walking into the sunset

Rock Harbor Beach at low tide, Cape Cod, MA

Each and every time I arrive in Cape Cod I have to go at least once to Rock Harbor Beach especially if the sunset is timed with a low tide. You can walk into the sunset towards the far away bay and somehow it looks for people who watch you from the shore that you may walk on water. This time the sun just decided to hide its glowing orange ball behind a heavy cloud but the show it put out was quite different. Because here each sunset is an original nature spectacle in its own way.

Rock Harbor Beach at low tide, Cape Cod, MA

 
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Posted by on September 8, 2017 in Blog, USA

 

Finally Mexico built a wall…

“Muro” by Bosco Sodi in Washington Square, NYC

The Mexican artist, Bosco Sodi, finally decided to build the wall. But not around the border but in Washington Square in New York City and he built it with bricks made in Oaxaca. “I wanted to create a wall made by Mexicans with Mexican earth” said Sodi. When I walked into the event around 3pm I found a long line of people waiting to take one brick at the time with them at home and demolish the wall in the presence of a papier-mache Little Donald.

Little Donald holding captive the American eagle

 
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Posted by on September 7, 2017 in Blog, USA

 

Biking in Harlem Valley

The church of St John in the Wilderness was established in 1876

Harlem Valley Rail Trail is potentially one of the longest bike trail in upstate New York. I say potentially because it is mapped for about 46 miles between Chatham and Wassaic, some portions being finished but most of that being in an exploratory state waiting for the funds to be be disbursed. The bike path is a rail trail being developed on the old rails of the Chatham-Dover Plains train tracks.

Farm on the Harlem Valley Rail Trail, NY

The paved trail starts in Hillsdale and goes for about 2 miles ending in Route 22. From there you have to follow the road for about several miles and turn left to Old Farm Road that brings you to the second portion of the paved trail, a section of about 5 miles that goes through farms and corn fields. Close to its starting point, you can turn off to an area of Taconic State Park that preserves inside one of the old iron-works decommissioned in 1904 for which the area used to be known. The old iron mine is now a local pool and the church of St John in the Wilderness was established for the people working in Irondale.

Iron ore furnace in Taconic State Park, NY

After that the bike path continuous on Route 22 for about 10 miles and reaches Millerton, a charming village from where the trail is fully and continuously paved going for about 10 miles to Amenia and ending at the Wassaic Metro North station. The easy access to the trail coming from the South is through I-684 continuing on Route 22N.

The last portion of the Harlem River Rail Trail starts in Millerton, NY and it runs for about 10 asphalted miles till Wassaic, NY

 
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Posted by on September 4, 2017 in Blog, USA

 

EMPAC of Troy

The entrance in the EMPAC building is at its 7th floor, Troy, NY

EMPAC stands for Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center and is located at the heart of a famous Hudson Valley university, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. The institute is the oldest technological research university in America being founded in 1824 and is considered the first school of science and civil engineering with a continuous existence, established in any English-speaking country. For their student and faculty as well for many aspirants who want to be admitted there, it is known as RPI.

EMPAC building seen from bellow, Troy, NY

About 17 years ago the school decided to build a unique space of remarkable architecture and flexible spaces for performances retrofitted with the highest technology available at the time in media and communication. The space was planned to be offered to artists in residence to create whatever their mind would imagine. This is the way EMPAC came about, with a concert hall, a theater, two remarkable studios one being completely floated, and several labs, all venues having a remarkable noise abatement treatment that keep the noise at an incredible low level. The place was built with a generous donation offered by an alumni of the Institute who was the creator of the first PC graphic processor and became later on one of the founders of the famous NVIDIA company, Curtis Priem, whom the building is dedicated to.

Downtown Troy, NY

 
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Posted by on September 2, 2017 in Blog, USA

 

The other Burma Road

Kismet, Fire Island, NY

The road that connects the last parking field from the Robert Moses State Park to Kismet, the first hamlet in Fire Island, was always being known as Burma Road. It’s a sand and stones road that you walk under the heat that you feel that it melts you under the scorching summer sun. I never knew if the road had an exact name but we always used the nickname of Burma Road, a reference to the famous road built by the Allies during the WW2 to help the nationalist Chinese forces in their fight of the Mao’s communists.

Burma Road, Fire Island

It happens that I have been on parts of the real Burma Road, both in Burma and in China but while there, in my mind I always thought about my own Burma Road, the Fire Island road to Kismet that most of the time I biked through sand and small pebbles, sometimes easier after rain but many times pretty difficult, the bike stalling in soft deeper sand. I either never noticed the road sign or it was just added recently but I was thrilled when I saw in the last weeks two locations where the road is labeled as Burma Road.

The deer waited on the side for us to stop and dashed to cross Burma Road

 
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Posted by on August 30, 2017 in Blog, USA