Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Views From The Bike Path: Manhattanhenge & City Island

(photo credit: john spain) 

There are some moments I experience through biking that are so unique and special that I'm amazed I could ever stand to coop myself up in a train car and possibly risk missing them. This weekend was chockful of them–starting with chill rides through Central Park and Brooklyn Saturday and Sunday and a challenging and fun ride up to City Island on Memorial Day. 

I kicked off the long weekend right. Leaving a friend's birthday party in Brooklyn Saturday, I biked across a nearly deserted boardwalk overlooking Manhattan from the East river. I don't often use the word 'deserted' when describing places in NYC, so this was a pretty big deal. I had just taken out my camera to snap some photos of the city looking all stunning and shiny as usual when a loud BANG startled me. Fireworks. Out of nowhere, a couple of older guys started setting off some sparklers and set the sky ablaze for an impromptu pre-Memorial Day spectacular. I wasn't quick enough to take any decent pictures, but it was sort of magical. Well, about as magical as you can get with two dudes lighting up a grocery bag full of ghetto fireworks, anyway.

Empire State patriotism. 

City lovin. 
The magic continued on Monday during a 50-ish mile ride up to City Island and back. I am lucky to have a group of friends who love biking as much as me (and probably are a little responsible for getting me hooked in the first place) and are willing to go on crazy biking adventures once in a while. This was my longest ride yet with them and I loved every huffy, puffy, drenched-in-sweat, good-lord-it's-friggin-hot moment. 

Between the five of us, we started from Sunset Park,  Greenpoint, Astoria (whaddup Queens) and Harlem and took some wild and crazy route through the Bronx. I tried mapping it out on MapMyRide yesterday but I really have no clue how we got there...we pretty much just winged it and used our smart phones (cheater, cheater pumpkin eater) to get us out of any hairy spots. The ride was pretty rough, even on bike lanes, as we dealt with way too many potholes to count and plenty of debris (hence the flat tire I had to fix tonight). When we finally hit the greenway bike path near the Bronx Zoo, it was quite a relief. 

Made it!
Rough terrain aside, none of the hiccups really mattered. I felt so free and had so much fun being a kid again, like I was cruising my 'hood with a rat pack of sticky-fingered friends till the streetlights came on and our moms called us home. No moms around this time, but you get the idea. City Island itself was, as I imagined, basically a one-stop shop experience. It's teeny and narrow so we pretty much just went there for the sights, seafood and because this movie is seriously amazing. Running right into the start of the island's annual  Memorial Day parade (bagpipers and boy scouts and bikers, oh my!) was just a lucky bonus.

After gorging ourselves on some well-deserved and perfectly mediocre seafood, we headed back to Manhattan. As we zig-zagged through the Bronx, I couldn't help but stop to snap some photos of the incredible sunset blazing from the Western end of every avenue we passed. It wasn't until I read about the phenomenon called Manhattanhenge last night that I realized what was so special about seeing the sun sinking perfectly through the city streets. (For my fellow head scratchers, read up more on it here.)

Mist effect courtesy of a happily placed and properly busted fire hydrant.

What made the trip through the South Bronx even more fun were the ubiquitous fire hydrants offering kids, grown-ups and even a few sweat- and dirt-caked bikers the chance to goof cool off. I biked through the spray once and had to go back for more. 
weeeeee.... (photo credit: john spain)
Made it to the West side greenway just in time for sunset. 
More Manhattanhenge.

Hauling myself over the Queensboro bridge 11 hours after setting out that morning was no picnic, but it was worth every ache. As for my next biking adventure destination, I'm thinking it'll be the Far Rockaways in waaaayyyy-out-there Queens. I love the city but there's nothing better than biking on roads not clogged with traffic and smog for a change. 


  1. Awesome adventure...Great accompanying photos too!