Bike New York recently organized an overnight camping trip for some of our Youth Summer Ride Club members. We asked Daniel Weiss, our outgoing summer communications intern, to find out how it went. Turns out riding was only a part of the story. The other? Sugar.
The group met up at our Bicycle Education Center in Van Cortlandt Park, and after making sure the bikes were in working order and the supplies were loaded into the SAG (Support and Gear) van, the group headed over to the Metro-North station, where they rode the train to Wassaic in Dutchess County.
After a pizza lunch, they rode 15 miles via the Harlem Rail Trail to their campsite. Alba Morales, our Volunteer Manager, was very impressed at how well the kids climbed the hills. “We threw them some tough hills and they took them down,” she told me upon returning to the office.
At the campsite, the students, who were not experienced tent riggers, had to work together to get the poles attached and properly configured. Afterwards, our staff showed the kids how to make a fire and upon lighting the wood and charcoal ablaze, the group cooked typical camping food, such as corn, hot dogs, and hamburgers. After dinner, the students got what they had been waiting for all day: s’mores! And it wasn’t just the kids who got to eat their first s’mores, but Rich Conroy, our Director of Education and supposed “camping enthusiast,”also tried them for the first time. His review: “The marshmallow makes it too sweet—it’s just puffed sugar!” (Ed. note: the opinions in this interview do not represent Bike New York as a whole.)
Alba also described how amazed the kids were by the sound of crickets and the crackling of the fire, in addition to the unobstructed view of the stars ahead. “For some of these kids from the city, the country is a completely different environment for them,” she said. (As someone who grew up in New York City, I can personally relate to the student’s amazement. Growing up here has made me immune to the continuous sound of cars and sirens outside my window, and the glowing haze from the light pollution has made me accustomed to a “yellow” nighttime sky. The first time I went camping, I’ll never forget the feeling of lying on my back and staring up, wondering why some stars were brighter than others, and how some “stars” were moving, which I later learned were satellites. The first night camping is so magical, and it came as no surprise that the students had the same reaction that I did.)
In the morning, the group again created a fire and cooked breakfast. Afterwards, the campsite was taken down, and the group remounted their bikes and set off back towards Wassaic. Dan Beyer, our Associate Bike Fleet Manager told me, “We took a different route back, so that the students could enjoy some downhills and country roads. They worked hard the day before, so we thought we would give them a leisurely cruise back.”
Passing many of the old farms and pastures of Dutchess County, the students were treated to ice cream at Fudgy’s Ice Cream in Armenia. (Although I wasn’t on the trip, I was so excited when I heard that they went to Fudgy’s. It’s the ice cream of my childhood.) According to Dan, “It was the highlight of the trip. ‘The Mix’ was great!” Rich shared Dan’s sentiment: “Best ice cream ever. They have so many flavors.”
After Fudgy’s and a quick lunch, the students and instructors boarded the Metro-North, and, once back in the city, returned the bikes to Van Cortlandt Park.
The students had a wonderful time during the overnight, and were sad for the trip to end. When I asked Rich about the pilot program, he declared the trip a success. Talking about a possible expansion of the program, he told me, “Next year, we will look into more trips, including a girls-only overnight and a multi-night camping trip.”
With that positive review by our Director of Education, it is fair to say that the youth summer camping program is here to stay—which is exciting, because at Bike New York, we take pride in providing complementary riding programs, and providing sweet, memorable opportunities like this one.