Friday, March 30, 2007

In my previous article, I mentioned a future ride that would bring me to Roosevelt Island. Well, just a few days later, here we are! Actually, despite the slight dip in temperature, the weather turned out to be perfect for a ride. The skies were sunny and clear and the wind was low. I was ready to complete my touring of New York City and head off into Queens and, once again, off the island (though a considerably smaller distance). Still, it's nice to be out and about in the city in spring!

Though probably one of the most photographed places in Brooklyn, I thought the Soldiers' and Sailors' Memorial Arch was as good a place to start as any.

If there's one thing I've learned while biking New York, it's that you really have to trust the maps that there's a bike path on a bridge. I mean really trust them. I don't know about you, but when I came upon this scene (it's the Pulaski Bridge, which connects Brooklyn and Queens, by the way), I couldn't for the life of me fathom there being a bike lane. All I saw was 4 lanes of very high speed traffic. Sure enough, though extremely well hidden (psst..its under the bridge), it's there.

And here it is! A barbed-wire entrance off of an industrial road. Friendly!

The upside is that, while crossing over the bridge, you get a pretty amazing view of the city. Not Brooklyn Bridge "amazing", but still..quite nice. It took me a few times to get this shot. I was standing on the drawbridge portion of the bridge and it shook pretty well everytime a car passed over it.

Into Queens, I go. Apparently, Helen Marshall doesn't have the same sense of humor that our Marty Markowitz has. Still, it was nice to have the transition be acknowledged.

I wasn't able to find too much information on this sign online (except other people who also took pictures of it). There were quite a few of these in Long Island City, where I was biking through. They seemed to lay out a path one could hike to tour the neighborhood. To be quite honest though, I don't know who would want to. This would mark my second time in LIC and neither time left me very impressed. The area where this sign appeared was actually pretty industrial.

The Queensboro Bridge. I had a bit of trouble finding a good place to take this shot. As you can see, there were alot of trees at the base of the bridge. Not that I have a problem with that, it just made finding a good angle hard and I did want to get a shot of it. During an earlier plan, I had intended to ride over the bridge, as well. After reading numerous accounts by other cyclists about how crappy it was, I decided against it and instead continued on.

Roosevelt Island, bringing a new definition to "peace and quiet" in the city. Living in New York, you take noise for granted. It's always there, like a constant hum. Roosevelt Island, on the other hand, which is very small and mainly travelled by foot, was incredibly serene. On a sunny day like today, it was hard not to want to spend my whole day relaxing there. The only constant sound is of the water around you. Not a bad thing at all.

The lighthouse on the tip of the island. Apparently it was built in 1872 by the same designer who did St. Patrick's cathedral. Just north of the lighthouse was the same small island I pictured in my first trip (along with the Triborough Bridge. What you might not know is that there was a little debate at home as to what that island was (as well as the bridge itself, which Genevieve was right on, it is the Triborough). Turns out, it's called Mill Rock Park, a small island that's been closed to the public since the 1960's.

A bow of the ship built into the island, looking out into Manhattan. Okay, technically, Roosevelt Island is part of the borough of Manhattan (making it 3 boroughs I hit during today's trip), but you know what I mean.

These two sculptures by Tom Otterness were just off of the edge of the island. I've seen this artist's work before, in the subway. Though the first one is kind of cute, I found the second to be more than a little creepy.

This probably marks my last "tour" within the city, not counting any official ones like the Five Boro Bike Tour", which Genevieve and I plan on doing this year, as well as "The New York Century", which these rides have been my way of gauging if I'll be prepared for. In case you don't know, a bike tour that's a "Century" is 100 miles. I'm going to be working up my endurance at Prospect Park. According to my math, I'll have to be able to do the lap 30 times in order to equal 100 miles. Don't expect pictures of that ;)


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.


Tuesday, March 13, 2007

With a day off from work and temperatures in the 60's, I decided to continue the trip I logged previously. I had plans for later in the day, so I didn't take as long of a trip as I'd like, but it was definitely a good day out.

This is where I had to turn around on my last trip. As you can see, the conditions have improved greatly.

Though bike paths in New York seem to often have to involve a little street riding, this one was irritating on another level: the bikepath was broken for a parking lot.

There were spots like this in Manhattan, but I still couldn't help but appreciate the irony of the above photograph. If you look, above the broken sign, you'll see the Greenway sign.

Coney Island at last!

Though most of the boardwalk was closed for the winter season, I still got a shot of the classic Nathan's Hot Dogs.

After about an hour of biking, a window full of candy apples was too much to resist! I also ended up getting one of the little sticks you see in the front, which were candy covered marshmallows. How were they? Honestly, not that good, certainly not as good as the snack mix I brought for myself. It was still a neat place to stop in.

The Cyclone at Coney Island.

The Coney Island boardwalk. This was perhaps the best part of the trip. It was quiet, with just the creaking of the boards, the whirr of my tires and occasional bits of conversation from construction workers to dot the soundscape.

This picture was taken in the neighborhood of Homecrest. I'd not heard of it before and for good reason, it's completely boring. Two blocks of it were a little unsettling though. You see this house here? The whole block, both sides of it, were lined with houses that looked identical to this one. The next block was lined with houses that also looked exactly the same, except with a different design.

The Sears & Roebuck building. From the look of it, I kept expecting Cary Grant to come walking out of it.

I hope this picture and the one after it truly convey the creepiness of this Midwood home. The single upstairs window was covered in the faux-stained glasswork you see here and it just looked like something out of a horror movie. This picture was actually taken on a side street, a glimpse out of the corner of my eye brought me to it.

This place is in our neighborhoood. I'd never visited it before, but in need of a little sugar fix, I stopped by on my way back. Inside, it looks exactly as you'd imagine: like it hasn't changed in over 50 years. Pretty amazing.

That's it! I got through a whole set of pictures with not one of a bridge! Next up, Northern Brooklyn and Queens.