Gypsy Run has never been “easy.” Several hundred miles of twisty Catskill roads, the threat of autumn rain and the lack of cellular service throughout Sullivan County make rolling into the campsite quite an accomplishment.
The Gypsy Run was started nine years ago, by a small group of friends on a Catskill run from New Jersey. Through its history, there’ve been hundreds of bikers who have joined, and this year was bigger, better and rainier than ever.
Walter Gemeinhardt, the brains, and beauty of the event, has created a weekend getaway for those motor heads who want to get as far away from their everyday lives as possible. This may mean escaping the sidewalks of Brooklyn, or riding from as far as Canada to come down for the event.
This was my third year on the run, and here are my thoughts on Gypsy Run 9:
The weekend started on Thursday when Mikey and Kat Arnold rolled into our driveway after 8 hours of hydroplaning through a storm from Cleveland to New Jersey. We rolled their bikes into the garage and pushed the two of them into the house to get warm and dry.
Rule #1 on the Gypsy Run: Always expect it to rain. It’s not “cool” to come without a rain jacket; you’ll definitely be regretting it later.
We left the next morning for Oradell, where everyone meets at Cool Beans, owned by Chris Marino. It was a typical Gypsy Run morning, where everyone was catching up after a few months of the northeast humidity, and checking out the bike lineup out front. Walter made a few announcements, and we put our kickstands up. After suffering to let several hundred bikers conquer their streets, blow through their stop lights and hold up miles of traffic, the people of Oradell were very happy that we were gone.
For those of you who may not know, this year was the penultimate Gypsy Run. In reading this, I hope you learn why you don’t want to miss next year and be part of the final, most epic, Gypsy Run 10.
The route took us up through Northern New Jersey and crossed over into New York, near Black Dirt Country. We stopped for gas in Pine Island and got back on the road heading north. This road is where Gypsy Run builds its reputation. The roads get narrower, the turns get tighter, and the population of rogue, suicidal animals increases.
Rule #2: Don’t speed up to catch up. You might throw yourself 80 ft. off a turn and have to move your shovelhead with the neighboring farmer’s forklift. We made it up to camp to find that our crew had staked out at one of the lean-tos on the river and had already
a) started drinking
b) gone swimming in their underwear
c) bought a pizza
d) all of the above.
That night we gave hugs all around the pavilion, while some people downed hallucinogenic drugs, and others drank the beer that PBR had donated. There were lots of new faces, and lots of returning gypsies who’ve made it back, year after year, to the Narrowsburg Campground.
Rule #3: Prepare to be either soaking or freezing all day on Saturday. In my history of Gypsy Run, we’ve been lost and gripping our engines for any ounce of heat, or huddled around our campfire trying to dry out our drenched leather jackets (Note: This is what happens when you don’t bring rain gear).
This year was no different. Saturday morning, a lot of people left the campground in fear that the rain was going to flood their tents and they’d all drown. The remaining survivors either pitched up at the pavilion, drinking all day, or went out for a ride before the storm rolled in. Jay and I were with one of the crews who went out to ride and, as always, had a blast. We roamed around the Catskill creeks, hitting single lane roads with potholes that could swallow us up, and being thankful for our backup fuel cans.
Ultimately, we found ourselves in the small town of Jeffersonville. We had made it just in time for the town tractor parade, reminding some of the city bikers how far they were from home. The police held us up so that the tractors could exit at a swift 3 mph. We then proceeded right in line behind the rest of the parade, giving the townspeople their own moto show. I’m sure there are about 50 people with cell phone photos of random Gypsy Run bikes. We grabbed gas and decided to go back to camp in order to dodge the rain.
Here’s where the story becomes my own. Some of you may know what’s coming next, some of you may have seen the (happy) tears in my eyes when I came back to camp, and some of you have known about this since Jay was on EDR back in May.
We were pulling back into Narrowsburg and Jay signaled for me to continue on, past the entrance to the campsite. This small Catskill town has a surprisingly adorable main street with a diner, coffee shop, and nice restaurant. It’s basically perfect. We parked our bikes and walked down the street to go sit on the benches and let our bodies relax after a few hundred miles on the road. It was one of the first times we’d had cell service since we left New Jersey, and so I noodled on my phone trying to send Lisa some photos to post.
Jay was standing about 15 feet away from me, and glaring at me. So, I walked up to him and gave him one of those hugs that means, it’s been a long day and I missed you. But this hug felt different: I felt his heart pounding through my own chest and knew that something was weird.
He started to tell me that “something happened” when he was in Mexico on EDR, and that he’s “been keeping a secret for a while” and “hasn’t known how to tell me.” I don’t know about how any other girl would take it, but my head started to go to a really bad place. My heart was in my stomach, and I was running through our 5 years together thinking - why would he tell me he cheated on me here?!
The rollercoaster of emotions began when he suddenly got down on one knee and said that the “thing that had happened” on EDR, was that he decided he wanted to marry me. I’ll omit all the sappy details, the crying, the homemade box for the ring, the moleskin with all the secrets he’d been keeping over the past few months, the phone calls home, etc. But where I will pick up, is when we rolled back into camp, seeing everyone huddling under the pavilion: wet, drunk and carrying on like a normal Gypsy Run Saturday.
The only way I can describe how I felt is that it was as if I was floating. We were seeing friends who we’d been with two hours before, but now I was a whole new woman! I was engaged!! My eyes were swollen from happy tears and I kept my hood up as we plowed through the crowd, bee-lining it towards Walter. If anyone has met Walter, they know he gives great hugs, and so I threw my crying face into his arms.
The rest of the night was filled with ax throwing, scooter races, matching engagement tattoos and bike awards. I think everyone was impressed by the only dude who got all three axes on the target. And then they burned the target to the ground.
Sunday morning rolled in and everyone dried out their sunken tents from the night before. We headed out on a cool and sunny day, hitting up a solid breakfast, some waterfalls, and an engagement shoot on the way home.
All in all, I may not get engaged AGAIN on next year’s Gypsy Run, but I can promise an epic time, with really great people and a place to let all inhibitions fly.
*The final Gypsy Run is scheduled for September 9 - 11, 2016. Be sure to follow their Instagram account for updates.