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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Another Tour de Staten Island

We went up to Staten Island over Memorial Day weekend to visit with Liz's mom, Maggie.  I brought along my bike, just in case the weather was good and if there was time for a bike ride down to the beach and the Verrazano Bridge riding trails.  Both occurred; the weather cooperated with a sunny, warm Memorial Day and I had about 2 hours to wander along the beaches and trails.  

Maggie lives at the south end of the Island,  in Great Kills.  As I've written and photographed before, this area is very close to several beach access points.  There's a seashore park and trail within five miles of the house.  I  love to ride over to this park; the biking is great, nice and flat and there are lots of places to explore.  I also love going to the various beaches because I almost always come back from an excursion with a pocket full of sea glass. 

Granted, the beaches are filthy at some of the spots where I tend to go beach combing for sea glass.  I doubt anyone wants to swim in the water or lay about on the beaches.  I think it tends to be used for no-good: drinking, carousing and whatnot.  I also think this area of beach gets a lot of trash washed upon its shores from the harbors.  It's dirty and this weekend was one of the worst trash heaps on the beach I've noticed in the two years that I've been wandering them.   


I found a lot of typical trash, old pieces of all manner of plastics; car parts; discarded sd camera cards; beer cans, booze bottles, tooth brushes.  It's gross.  You can also find a lot of broken glass, most of which has been tumbled,  worn smooth and frosted by the tides.  I tend to find a lot of sea glass, nearly all of it is "ready", that is, frosted and the edges ground down.  I also find huge pieces, the sort of stuff that you never find along the family beaches at the Jersey Shore.  In addition, I find colours that are nearly impossible to find; dark champagne bottle greens, light blues and pale greens. Of course, I find way too many common browns, greens and clear pieces too, but sometimes these are large chunks and oftentimes they have some patterns or lettering. Last year and this past visit I came home with a plastic  sandwich bag filled with beach treasure.

It's a sad commentary on the amount of debris that washes up on these beaches.  I'm not so certain that I should be happy about my finds but I do take away a measure of pleasure.  This amount of beach glass would take me years to accumulate if I were to look for it in Ocean City,  Sea Isle, New Jersey, or along the Gulf Coast in Florida.  The haul I took home this past Memorial Day equals about half of the amount I have collected over the past ten years.  Not bad for a half an hours beach combing!


After I filled my pockets with "sea change", I biked over to the boardwalk and then rode through the Verrazano Bridge trail to the old Fort Wadsworth.  Sitting under and next to the Verrazano Bridge, this is another area where I like to explore.  Usually I spend so much time at the beach that I don't have enough time to bike around the Fort.  I took a few more photos on this trip than I have on past rides, but I still didn't get to learn more about this historic site.  Most of this has been left to turn back to nature.  Old garages, greenhouses, barracks, supply houses, are all falling apart and decaying in beautiful ways.
I'd love to learn for what these out-lying buildings were once used.  From the main octagonal fort along the river are train tracks that lead out towards a building that looks like it was a supply storage house.
All of the roof is gone and a rusted skeleton remains.  This false wall facade is growing a new thatched covering of trees, weeds and climbing vines.

The giant rusted doors have an elegant beauty.  I love the texture and the multiple layer of colours in the rust.  Fort Wadsworth dates back to 1663, and was the oldest continually manned military fort in the United States.  I'm not sure that these doors date to the 1600's, My guess is that they are from the late 1800's, but still, they are marvels of man's creation.  There is style and design evident here in something so utilitarian.  Hinges, locks, and fasteners have never looked more interesting.  This reminds me of things I'd be viewing in a museum, not out in a public park preserve.  In another 50 to 100 years, I'm sure that a lot of this will still exist but Nature will have crawled and over taken much of what we can see.


Hopefully on our next mini-vacation up to the forgotten New York Borough, I'll spend more time exploring this end of Staten Island, and perhaps, I'll even bike along the Ferry and Harbor roads.  Touring via bicycle through Staten Island is a wonderful excursion.  It's a trip well worth planning a day trip to bike along during a cool morning or late afternoon.  There is a website and self-guided tour via the Tour de Staten Island and Bike NYC association. Or you can read about another great biking and writing blogger's tour here at The Bike Writer's Blog.  Check them out, or send me a question.  I can either give you tips, or if I'm there, meet you for a bike ride!

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