Near the northeastern corner of Columbia County in the Hudson Valley of New York is County Highway 30. It hugs Queechy Lake, which is nestled gently against the Berkshire Mountains. Columbia County Highway 30 is only 1.4 miles long and flat, not remarkable by cycling standards. But in my case, it was the end of my two-year cycling quest.
During 2015-16, I rode solo on Columbia County's highways. Every inch of every one. I estimate that I biked more than 1,000 miles, including 200-plus miles of county highways plus state and local roads to get to them.
It started on half-mile long Columbia County Route 12 that goes by Abby Rockefeller's, Churchtown Dairy, and ended a year later on County Route 30.
I am not sure why I decided to do this. Maybe because I helped build some of these roads in college as a summer laborer (my role consisted solely of throwing shovels-full of hot asphalt where someone told me). After I started riding, I admit it became something of a white whale ("You don't understand. I need to go riding today because I still need County Route 25!")
I developed a plan on a county map and then crossed off highways as I "collected" them. I took photos of every five-sided blue and yellow county road sign. I stopped at about every convenience store in the county for Builder Bars, Gatorade, and biology breaks. I drew paper maps for areas where my GPS failed.
Most importantly, I enjoyed some of the best bicycling in the world right here at home. Columbia County sits on the Hudson River in southeastern New York about 100 miles north of Manhattan. Its western border is the river with the Catskill Mountains in view beyond. Its eastern border is Massachusetts and the Berkshire Mountains. The county is as sparsely populated with people -- about 60,000 in 648 square miles -- as it is overflowing with dairies, orchards, wineries and a wide assortment of other farms.
The county highways are extremely well maintained (more on that later), relatively lightly traveled, and diverse in their grades. All-in-all, the roads could be described as "rolling" with a few tough climbs closer to the Berkshires.
There is a great website that suggests routes in the county; that is not my mission. I am chronicling my rides on county rides and rating them by their beauty, grade, and road condition.
I will rate each road on a scale of 1 to 5 for pavement quality using “COws,” a corruption of “cows” and “ows.” Same for scenery using “Churches,” in honor of landscape artist Frederic Church, and road grade in Ventouxs” for the great Mt. Ventoux of Tour de France fame. I will try to group roads by theme or geography.
Columbia County Route 12
County Route 12 in Livingston is a half-mile of agricultural glory. It was the first highway I collected because it is less than a mile from our home. As mentioned, Route 12 features the Churchtown Dairy, or the “Dairy Dome” in Sheffer lingo. It also has an underground brick and stone cheese cave (I want one). Route 12 is a “connector” road, bringing you to County Route 27, which itself is a gateway to many beautiful rides.
COws: 1 cow (being resurfaced in 2018).
Columbia County Route 30
County Route 30 in Canaan, was last on my list because, honestly, I forgot it in my planning. It connects state routes 295 and 22 and has some nice views of the Taconic range.