Sunday, May 2, 2010

A 50 mile bike ride through a small world

I woke up this morning bummed that I didn't register in time for the Five Borough Bike Tour but feeling like a bike ride anyway. I lounged around for a bit, got dressed and hit the road. I went down the East Side to Battery Park and then back up the West Side. I stopped at Al's bikeshop to pick something up and then went back to the West Side and continued uptown a bit. There's this point at about 90th Street where if you don't know the West Side really well (and I don't), you end up on Riverside Drive rather than in the park.

Scene: Intersection of 104th Street and Riverside Drive. One confused biker (SEL) approaches two confident riders.

SEL: Hey, are you guys going back to the West Side bike path?
GUY: Yes.
SEL: Great, can I follow you? I can never figure out how to do it.
GUY: Sure, no problem. Where are you headed?
SEL: Not really sure, just wanted to ride on the path for awhile and see where I end up. How 'bout you?
GAL: Across the GWB and into New Jersey. It's my first time, I'm just following.
SEL: Oh, the Nyack ride? There's supposed to be a great muffin shop on the way!
GUY: Yes, that's the route we're taking.
SEL: Oh cool. That's fun!
GUY: You can join if you'd like (ok, maybe he wasn't SO welcoming, but he definitely said to follow).
SEL: Cool. I'll see how far I make it.

The group continues riding up Riverside Drive.

GAL: Where are you coming from?
SEL: I was at Al's bikeshop but I came from downtown.
GAL: This is a great bike path, it's nice that it's so convenient.
SEL: Well, it's actually not ALL that convenient for me. I live on the East Side and I don't like to ride in the streets, so to get over here, I have to ride all the way down the East Side to Battery Park and then back up.
GAL: I live on the East Side, too. Where are you?
SEL: I'm in the 20's.
GAL: Oh, me, too.
SEL: Oh yeah? Cool! I'm actually on 24th and X.
GAL: Really? Me, too. Which building?
SEL: The yellow one. Above X.
GAL: That's my building.
GAL: Yes. I just moved in in December. Apt X.
SEL: That's funny. I'm in Apt. X.

So that's how I met my neighbor. Since she wasn't technically a stranger, I decided to join them on their journey to Jersey and off we went. The ride through Washington Heights was packed with riders on their way to the GWB so we rode in a big pack. We distanced ourselves from the others on the ride up the ramp of the bridge. We got to the middle of the bridge and stopped to take in the view. It was incredible. We could see all the way down the Hudson.

From the bridge, we followed 9W/Palisades Parkway North up through Fort Lee, Englewood Cliffs, Tenafly and Alpine. The road was super wide with a bike lane suitable for riding three across. My neighbor, who shall remain nameless only because I have no clue what her name is, tired out around Alpine and I wasn't about to continue alone, so we turned back. We rode all the way back downtown together but she turned off at 22nd Street and I wanted to continue back down to Battery Park and up the East Side (to avoid riding in the streets).

My total ride turned out to be about 49.2 miles and 5 hours 22 minutes. That includes heavy pedestrian and bike traffic from Battery Park up through the 70's (both on the way uptown and the way back down). There were also a few water and scenic breaks, as well as a "catch our breath" break somewhere on 9W. I hope to attempt the Nyack trip again soon, preferably during an "off-hour" when every pre-schooler and his wobbly mother aren't out for a leisurely Sunday roll. And no, Angel, I won't do it alone.

I still can't believe that I had to stop a stranger in the 104th Street intersection to meet a neighbor. What a small world.

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