A Weekend in New York

I realize now that it's been almost a week since I wrote about my big biking weekend in New York City for the Commerce Bank 5 Boro Tour New York. It was an amazing and exhilarating weekend. I made it through all 45 miles (42 to the Festival and 3 more to the Staten Island Ferry). I commuted several times to Brooklyn, where I was graciously put up by friends, Maureen and Michael. I walked through Manhattan, from Mid-town down through the East Village, The Bowery, Chelsea, through the West Village and back uptown again. Discovered beautiful hidden and off the beaten path gardens, a 19th Century Cemetery, a lot of street art, delightful cafes and loads of famous sights that I've wanted to see. And then there was the 30,000 plus people riding through the streets of New York and beyond riding from 6:30 in the morning until close to 5 pm. What an experience! I met so many friendly people, all of us out to enjoy the day and share the camaraderie of cycling.
The morning started out cold, damp and dreary, with rain poised to pour down and wash out the ride. I was prepared for the weather's worst and was surprised by the fact that it did not rain, and that it cleared up. The sun came out as I was heading past the Brooklyn Bridge to ride along the river thoroughfare towards the Veranzano Narrows Bridge. The day wasn't without its problems though; there were many delays, bicycle traffic jams and bottlenecks. The start of the ride was delayed for those of us waiting in the second or third section of the riders. We waited for well over an hour, closer to an hour and a half, at the holding area in front of Ground Zero/World Trade Center area at Trinity and Liberty Streets. Allowing 30,000 riders to start riding at 8 am is a massive undertaking. Once we were able to take off we made excellent time riding up the Avenue of the Americas until we were then held off at 53rd street before we could progress into and around Central Park. Other traffic standstills where I had to literally walk my bike for blocks on end were at bridge and highway ramp entrances and along Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. Overall I think I lost about 2 hours of time, which delayed me getting to the festival in Staten Island. I was so worried about my travel time to the Ferry, into lower Manhattan, back to Brooklyn to my friends' apartment to pick up my gear before turning around and heading back to Manhattan to catch my 7 pm train home; I completely missed the festival. I was unable to enjoy any of the fun, food and goodies at the end of the ride. I reached Maureen and Michael's apartment around 5 pm, exhausted, hungry and in near tears. Luckily, Michael is a calm and rational guy. He set out a bowl of chili and a glass of water and made sure I sat and ate before running out again. Turns out I did have enough time, about 50 minutes to spare, but during the finish of the ride, I just didn't know what the what was - timing felt so critical. There weren't enough signs indicating that there were 3 more miles to go before you reached the ferry, bike rental returns, and a few more waits before cyclists could continue along the car-free streets for safe travel. There were long lines of people waiting at the Festival stands. It was crowded and I was out of gas. I needed a cold drink, some protein and a shot of carbs to aid in my recovery. Riding the ferry gave me a bit of time to relax. Just having a half hour to sit and not move was a bit of a help. Even though I had the stamina for the entire ride, I just didn't allow myself time to relax and get enough to eat at the end of the day. Next time - I'll have to prepare and conserve for the end of the ride.
Over-all the ride was a lot of fun. I met some very nice people at the beginning of the ride - MacKenzie, her father Phil, and her relatives Mary and Scott. Unfortunately, I lost them somewhere around 55th Street, when I made a pit stop at Starbucks for a morning jolt. I thought I might catch up with them again somewhere along the ride, but with a crowd of 10's of thousands in front and behind me, it was nearly impossible to see the same folks more than once. I chatted with some other folks through Central Park - families who were sporting bike jersey's from the Philadelphia and Bucks County area. Met a few more local folks in Harlem - two guys calling themselves Frick and Frack - Rick and Frank.
During the ride I tried not to get caught up with trying to go too fast or worrying about having lost my new riding buddies. Mostly I just allowed myself to enjoy the scenery. It was cool to see so many parts of New York that I would have otherwise never visited. Riding into Harlem was a real thrill - it's so beautiful there now, not at all the abandoned land I remember from twenty years ago. Williamsburg is charming. Multi-national and generational families were standing along their apartment high rises and promenades waving and cheering to the riders. It was an interesting ride through DUMBO, to see where the old warehouses and factories are either being razed or converted into condos. Next time I probably get to this area, it will be completely developed. Lofts, stores, restaurants will be along the riverfront and it won't look like what I saw during my ride. The ride through Staten Island, was charming and bucolic. There were tree-lined streets bursting with spring pink and green. The beach-town smells of the ocean and river were blowing at my face. There is a real feeling of small-town All-American Patriotism in Staten Island. It truly was a high-point of the day.
My entire weekend was filled with the unexpected. New York offers itself like a treasure chest ready to be opened to the visitor willing investigate. There are delights hidden in plain sight. I found several quiet gardens tucked behind iron gates and 19th Century Brick and Marble walls. Every time I looked up I would see great graffiti or signage of a bygone eras that still tells a tale of a city vital in its past and still energized in the present. When I reached Philadelphia, I was able to really appreciate the buzz and zing of New York in comparison to the sleepy gentility of my quiet city. Philadelphia is the perfect place to come home to and decompress from an adventure filled-weekend.
Spring in Madison Square Park -
23rd Street - 5th Avenue and Madison Avenue, near the Flat Iron Building
New York Marble Cemetery - a hidden garden along 2nd Avenue. You walk down a short alley way, and into an open grass area, which is surrounded all around by buildings and a few high rises. The walls along the cemetery are inlaid with marble grave markers, indicating who is buried beneath in vaults.
Crumpler - a hand-made bag store -
maker of cool bike messenger bags. I liked the logo and the BIKE! Message.
Vesuvio Bakery - 160 Prince Street in the Village.
It's one of my favorite spots in New York City.
The Artist - Invader, and one of his street art mosaics. Green Street at Hudson. My friend, Michael Osman, who lives in Paris, has many photos of Invader's work that he has discovered along the boulevards and Rue Des Paris. I've been wanting to discover Invader's art for myself for a while now, and was pleased to document my first treasure!
Junior's, a Landmark Restaurant in Brooklyn. I've only been there once, but it was such a good meal and a great dinner, the restaurant is a must-see destination in Brooklyn.
Bikers on a tandem ride - one of many I spotted along the tour. This is at Battery Park, before the start of the ride, around 7:15 am.
The cheering section along the Avenue of Americas. These two guys were full of jokes and bad puns. Nothing like a couple of queens in drag on tricycles cheering on 30,000 bicyclists.

One of several spots where we had to walk, rather than ride, our bikes along a bicycle jammed street. This is entering upper Manhattan after a brief visit into the Bronx.

Rest stop with the Skyline behind us and across the river.

My riding companions - Mary, from Littleton Colorado, MacKenzie, who lives in Brooklyn, and her husband's cousin, Scott. Her father, Phil, was somewhere else and missed out on having his photo taken. In the background, is the construction sight of the World Trade Center. It was an eerie place in the morning, with mist and fog shrouding the sight. At one point during the long wait, I looked down at the ground and up at the buildings and was just awestruck at what it must have been like at this spot seven years ago. Ghostly.

Businessman statue at Trinity and Liberty Streets.

A bit incongruous with all the bicycles around it.

Making it to the end of the line - Festival at Staten Island.

One of several fun signs I spotted in and around New York


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