Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Escape from New York

In this week's trip, I leave the county of Kings (and the city of New York) to head into Long Island, ending up in Atlantic Beach, New York. The ride started out well. 70 degrees, sunnny and a path that runs along the ocean coast, what can you not like? The return trip, on the other hand, was a bit of a nightmare. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Onto the pictures!

The first leg of the trip was to head to Coney Island (again). This time, I opted to use a seperated bike path running along Ocean Pkwy. After experiencing the amount of street-riding needed for the alternative path on my last trip, it seemed like a better bet. There's more stops, but the whole trip to Coney Island could be made on a single, continuous, path.

Once the bike path ended, there was a bit of road biking before I was back off the road again at Manhattan Beach. You can't see it here, but the whole area is populated by fishing boats and, strangely, swans. There was a whole flock of the birds in the water. It's definitely the least scenic waterfront area around.

A bridge! This one is the Marine Parkway Bridge, not quite as well known (or nearly as attractive) as the Brooklyn or Manhattan Bridge, this one bridges Jamaica Bay and took me into the Rockaway Peninsula (and, technically, into Queens). Because of the very narrow pedestrian bridge, bike riding was prohibited. I did still end up biking it, but not without a little fear. I don't know if you can see it from this photo, but there's a large gap between the path and the main part of the road. What this means is that I could see the water (very far!) below me from both sides. There was absolutely no way to fall over, but that didn't stop the death grip I had on my handlebars.

The Atlantic Ocean! Now, I've biked along the Hudson River, East River, Lake Erie and the Erie Canal, but no body of water matches riding along the ocean. The whole experience was made even more peaceful by the fact it is the off-season and nobody was on the beach or the boardwalk. In fact, if you've never had a chance to go to a ghost town, go to a popular beach on the off-season. It was very weird to know that, in a few months time, this very abandoned looking place will be bustling with people..

The boardway stretched on for milles and marked the most relaxing part of the trip. I was a bit amazed, as it basically extends the whole length of the peninsula.

For those who don't live in the city, I'll explain what this is. This is what's called a 'ghost bike', it's been placed there, along with the marker you see in the picture below it, to mark the spot where someone was killed on a bike by a car. I had actually read about this person on the day before my trip and was suprised when I came upon the memorial. It was a very sad case, made worse by the fact the driver was never charged. This is not uncommon in the city and many bike/car collisions get classified as accidents and not vehicular manslaughter. Ironically, the next car to pass me was an SUV.

Looking over into Nassau County from the bridge. During this picture, I was not biking over the bridge. In addition to it being prohibited to bike over, on this bridge they backed it up with a $250 fine. As it was well supervised, it wasn't worth it to me to risk it and I walked my bike over.

The Village of Atlantic Beach, New York. This was the first time, during my trips, that I'd left the city and it really felt like it. Nothing about this town seems to reveal that one of the biggest cities in America was a couple bridges away. It felt truly and utterly suburban, with not a single house above 2 or 3 stories. I felt like a big 'city boy' too, when I presumed that a "Coffee Shop" would be the type that served a variety of a coffee & espresso drinks and pastries. Instead, the West End Coffee Shop, the end of my journey and where I got the worst chocolate milkshake in my life, was nothing more than a diner.

By this point, I was back on the peninsula and heading home. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw this cat. The area he's in was abandoned (and it didn't look like for just the summer either), but he seemed to be well fed and was friendly. Then again, I couldn't really reach him. The boardwalk was above this area and I'd have to jump the rail and fall below the boardwalk to get to him and maybe he knew that.

The scariest looking "whale" I've seen in my life. I don't know if this was made by a class of children or by some artist, but in attempting to be playful, it looks positively psychotic.

Now the trip starts going downhill. Perhaps that's the wrong word to use. You see, I was actually going against the wind and uphill most of the way home. The wind that was to my back and made the trip out a breeze made the trip back sheer torture. Instead of heading home the same way, I decided to take an alternative route over the Cross Bay Bridge, a longer bridge which goes over another small island (whose name I do not know, but this picture was taken in). Sometime during this journey home, I also lost my map. So, when the path deposited me in Howard Beach (right near JFK airport) before abruptly ending, I was quite sure where to go. Knowing a bike path ran along the bay, I did my best to get back to that. In the end, I found it. What I didn't think about though was the fact that I'd ended up pretty close to parallel to my house, farther east. So, instead of cutting through on roads and taking, literally, hours out of my trip, I took the path, which took me way further south. This was all made even more aggrevating by the conditions of the 'path', if it could be called that. You see, the path runs along the Belt Pkwy, a highway.

At times, there wasn't even a railing to seperate the path from the highway. As you see here, I am riding alongside oncoming traffic on a walkway which, though it's supposed to be wide enough for 2 lanes of bike traffic and 1 lane of pedestrian, it barely wide enough for just me. If I were to fall at this point, it would be straight into high speed traffic. Yet they call this a Greenway.

Other times, the water was at fault. See those white spots? Those are millions of shards of shells. They literally lined the path. I was lucky to have larger, hybrid tires. I can imagine your average road bike tires getting slashed to bits by these things.

My last picture of the trip. This is what it looked like when I wasn't riding along the highway or over shells. Can you see the trash strewn along the branches? I certainly could. Ah, nature! I actually ended up giving up when I reached Coney Island. All in all, I'd biked over 50 miles and for approx 6+ hours and just didn't feel like making the trip from there, one that I'd made a few times before. So, I took the subway home.

This marks one of my last trips within the city. I have a (much shorter) trip planned up to Roosavelt Island, going through parts of Brooklyn and Queens. After that, I'm kind of out of bike paths, of any sort of good length, in the city. Soon, the LIRR and Metronorth will helping me start my routes.