A Bike Ride to Montauk

Written By: Mary  Welsh

             Upon meeting someone new, “where are you from?” will inevitably come up. I have always skirted around this question with multiple vague answers depending upon my new acquaintances’ knowledge of New York geography; “New York,” “2-hours away from NYC,” “The East End of Long Island,” “the very end of the island.” Whenever I do say “Southampton,” I don’t doubt that images of celebrities, lavish parties, fast cars and massive houses play in their heads. While all the above descriptions can definitely be found, my image of “The Hamptons” concentrates on the wealth of natural wonders that surround my hometown and the beauty of the landscapes in the place I call home.

Every summer, my siblings and I bike the 27-mile journey from Southampton to Montauk. Though the ride seems endless at points—I have to constantly remind myself to conserve bottled water for the Napeague stretch—the ride encapsulates “my Hamptons.” Seeing the scenery by bike and back roads forces you to slow down and truly appreciate the natural beauty.  It is on this journey, taken at the end of the summer season, that I again learn to appreciate the Hamptons and revel in its appeal, a notion that often escapes my mind when I’m sitting in traffic, focusing on the destination and not the journey.

My typical ride to Montauk starts early. But, ever since the time we rode at night in order to catch the sunrise, we’re sure to begin during daylight hours. Though seeing the sunrise from the eastern-most point on Long Island, with the Montauk lighthouse in the foreground, was unforgettable, the journey walked a fine line between being invigorating and spooky. The lack of streetlights on Montauk Highway makes for a dazzling, star-studded spectacular on clear nights, but the pure darkness doesn’t leave much room for error when trying to navigate by bicycle. Fortunately, my nerves were at ease knowing local cops approached us with concern regarding the odd timing of our trip.

Aside from light, food is also a main aspect of the journey. The ride must always, always start and end with food. In order to stave off hunger, my siblings and I begin our journey with an egg sandwich at Ted’s East End Market in Southampton and end the trek with the most scrumptious peanut butter and chocolate chip pancakes from John’s Pancake House in Montauk. While the above will most likely offset the calories burned from the trip, I need to remember that the trip is taken for enjoyment with exercise a bonus.

From Southampton to Montauk, I mostly stick to back roads, only riding on Montauk Highway when navigating around bodies of water is necessary. We take a leisurely pace, stopping to snap photos of the bucolic views across Sagg Bridge or horses grazing somewhere deep in the heart of Bridgehampton. Alongside the houses and towns, miles of fields grow with wild flowers blooming and wild animals grazing. Wildlife abounds. There’s a spot in Sagaponack where you will see droves of guinea hens attempting to cross the road, a true sight to see. And, we always stop for a picnic lunch by Town Pond in East Hampton, avoiding the aggressive swans at all costs.

Water is a key component the trip, and I do not only include drinking water. Ponds, bays, inlets, and the great Atlantic Ocean are a part of my expedition, as I pass fishermen, kayakers, surfers and paddle boarders. The blue sliver of ocean as you traverse the final hill leading into downtown Montauk is quite a thrilling sight, the white caps rolling into town, the view extending for miles. You would think that Long Island is completely flat. But once you reach Old Montauk Highway, you realize this is far from the truth as my stomach turns with every hill along the way.

Along the journey, I cannot help but reminisce about growing up here and how lucky I am to experience life in the Hamptons. The ability to engage with the outdoors throughout my life is one that I am always thankful for. Even after the crowds go away, the beauty of the Hamptons never leaves, even in the winter!

Therefore, it’s my hope that people will understand why I am so defensive about saying where I live. Images of country living—deer crossing roads, getting stuck behind tractors, miles of cornfields—are not immediately evoked when I say I’m from the Hamptons. But the natural beauty is as much a part of the East End as celebrity sightings, and I’m grateful for this yearly bike ride to remind me of how truly unique my hometown is.