Hudson River Valley, NY: Along America's Rhine River

Hudson River Valley, NY: Along America's Rhine River
“Some folks like to get away. Take a holiday from the neighborhood. Hop a flight to Miami Beach or to Hollywood. But I’m taking a Greyhound on the Hudson River Line. I’m in a New York state of mind.” From the song “New York State of Mind” by Billy Joel

The Hudson River Valley is a place of lush natural beauty, scenic inspiration, and a depository of iconic American history.

Warwick to Woodstock

Our summer sojourn through the Hudson River Valley begins several miles north of the New Jersey border in the rural village of Warwick, NY. Jeff Arpin is riding his silver Honda ST1300 and I’m on a red 2012 Honda Gold Wing. Route 17A twists across a rumpled landscape of forest-covered foothills until it spits us out in Harriman State Park. With its 31 lakes, numerous streams, and sweeping vistas, Harriman is a picturesque palate of natural beauty. Seven Lakes Drive leads us to neighboring Bear Mountain State Park, where Perkins Memorial Drive ascends to a breathtaking panorama of the Hudson River Valley.

Our next stop is at the United States Military Academy at West Point. America’s Continental Army first occupied the strategic high ground above the narrow S curve in the river during the Revolutionary War. It was here that Benedict Arnold committed his infamous act of treason, attempting to transfer possession of the fort to the British. The United States Military Academy was established here in 1802. The visitors center and West Point Museum are open to the public, but the historic academy grounds can be entered only as part of a guided tour.

Heading north from West Point, we follow the tortuous path of Route 218 as it climbs Storm King Mountain. The narrow, two-laner was blasted out of solid granite. Many workers had to be suspended down to the intended roadway by ropes. After years of dangerous work, the highway opened in 1922. We stop at a small rock-walled turnout to soak up the Hudson’s unobstructed scenic splendor.

After crossing the Hudson on the Newburgh Beacon Bridge, we follow a series of secondary roads north and stop for a late lunch at Aurelia Restaurant in the tree-lined village of Millbrook. This charming country municipality is home to a number of New York–based celebrities, who are sometimes seen along the town’s bountifully shaded walkways.

Our afternoon path leads back to the banks of the Hudson River and three National Historic Sites fill our windshields in rapid succession. Our first stop is at the Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site. Val-Kill cottage was the celebrated First Lady’s refuge from the pressures of her very public life. The second site, just down the road on the banks of the Hudson in Hyde Park, is President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s former home.

Located a stone’s throw away is one of America’s grandest examples of the country palaces built by exorbitantly wealthy industrialists during the Gilded Age. Frederick Vanderbilt’s 54-room, seasonal residence is a Beaux Arts–style mansion with a commanding view of the Hudson River. This site is open to the public.

With miles to go before we sleep, we race north along the Hudson’s shores and then cross back over the river near Kingston. We plunge deep into the mysterious environs of the Catskill Mountains. Following the jagged shoreline of Ashokan Reservoir, I can’t help but ponder the flooded villages lying silently beneath its placid surface. We finally put our kickstands down in the iconic ’60s town of Woodstock.