Editor’s note: We love to hear from our readers about their experiences in and around Westchester! Here’s a submission we received from one Westchester dad that’s got us dusting off our bikes for the spring. Enjoy!
By Brian Geary
During the dark, cold days of winter the hope we hold for spring can seem eternal. But it’s hope that keeps us going. To that end, there is nothing like the hope of a family bike ride on a warm spring day.
An outing on the Old Croton Aqueduct (OCA) checks so many boxes for families that it is surprising the trail is not mired in pedestrian and bicycle traffic jams on pleasant Spring weekends. (No one wants this, so please share the following information judiciously.) History, scenery and the promise of a treat half-way through this bike ride will keep the pedals moving at a measured pace.
Starting in Dobbs Ferry, just opposite Sushi Mike’s, tucked behind and below a bus stop is where this bike trip begins. The trail is composed of compacted dirt bordered by grass and varies in width, but is often wide enough for two people to walk. When cycling, it is best to ride in single file. The trail does at times split into parallel paths, at which point kids and adults will undoubtedly engage in a bit of competitive sprinting.
Buried below your bicycle’s tires is one of the great engineering marvels of the 19th century and one that helped transform New York City into a world-class metropolis. Built between 1837 and 1842, the OCA delivered water from the Catskills to NYC and remained in use until the 1950s. It operated on a gravity fed-system and delivered water through a tube approximately 8 feet in diameter that dropped at a rate of 14 inches per mile. Your legs will appreciate this latter fact as you cruise along the proportionately flat trail that lies above the now abandoned tunnel. Before heading out, or on the drive there, kids can check out Wikipedia for more information and see pictures of what the OCA looked like during its construction.
While kids enjoy the excitement and the feel of their knobby tires digging into the dirt path, adults can take in the impressive views of the Hudson River as it appears from behind maple, oak and ash trees. There are also a number of charming and exceptional private homes that border the OCA. Not least among them is the aptly named Octagon House. Both children and adults will undoubtedly stop and take time to marvel at this storybook home.
The turn-around point for this ride is the village of Irvington. Luck or good planning will find you in the middle of Irvington’s weekly farmer’s market. However, if your children are not interested in an organic carrot hanging from the end of a stick, there are several nearby options to reward and placate your co-riders. But riders beware! Irvington’s Main Street is a thrill to cruise down, but a bear to pedal back up.
After the promise of a treat has been fulfilled, it is time to turn around and head back to Dobbs Ferry. During the ride back, marvel at the feat of cycling from one town to the next and plan for lunch. This is the time to lobby for a parent’s treat, sushi at the end of a chopstick.
Brian Geary lives and works in Westchester. He and his wife Elizabeth have three young daughters.