As always. Click any photo for big. Click again for bigger.
The Day Before The Ride
After disembarking the Staten Island Ferry it was a two mile walk to Basketball City to pick up the registration package. The line was a New York City block long. It seemed most of the 32 thousand riders all came on the same bus. Since there was more than three hours remaining till the close of registration it gave me time to walk around the city. Every year I make it a point to spend time in a different part of town. In the past I have done the financial district, the Bowery, East Village and central park. This day, because I needed to stay close to the registration area, I did China Town.
There are sights and aromas in Chinatown that act as Pavlov’s bell . There were other sights that take your appetite away. One restaurant had a decent amount of people inside and a constant flow of take out customers. I decided to give it a try. Traveling is an adventure and authentic Chinese food fit the bill perfectly. I tried to tell the woman at the counter what I wanted but as often happens in Chinese restaurants, I needed to point to #2 and #26 on the menu to make her understand what I wanted. Five large pan fried pork dumplings and a bowl of white noodle soup. Utensils are stored at each table along with the sauces like soy, duck etc. My choices were chop sticks and a plastic spoon for the soup. I looked around to get a good idea of how to eat with chop sticks. In a place full of westerners struggling a little is the norm. In this place I stood out very much so. After a couple of comical attempts to eat a dumpling only to have it fall back onto the plate just as I was about to take a bite, I adapted by stabbing the dumpling with one of the sticks and holding on to the second just to make things look good. The price of this meal, 5 large dumplings and a bowl of soup? $2.25.
When I got back to the registration area the line was even longer but moved very quickly. Overall it took about an hour from the end of the line to the registration desk. No one seemed to mind the line or the chaos inside the building. It’s New York and it’s the norm. After picking up my packet I was tempted to buy a pass on the tour bus of the city but decided to walk back to the ferry and take in more of the city. As I passed the NY Supreme Court building I came upon this.
A movie called “Lucky Shoot” was filming it’s final scene on the steps of the building. “Quiet Please, no movement” is what I next heard. “Cut” I struck up a conversation with a woman holding a clip board and wearing a headset and asked what the movie was about. ” It’s an anti politic thriller” she said.
“Do you want to be an extra?”
Imaging lil ole me in an anti political movie? “Sign this form, grab a sign and follow our directions”. I told her this one was on me but next time they want me in a production it’s two million. “Agreed” she countered.
The Five Boroughs Bike Tour
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A 5AM wake up, a short drive to the Staten Island Ferry and a 20 minute crossing, all before breakfast. I was assigned to the Red group with an 8:30 start time. I arrived on site at 7:15 and began the search for a coffee shop. I spotted a Dunkin Donuts a half block ahead. If your from Massachusetts, Dunkin Donuts or the “Dunk”, or “Double D” , is the go to coffee shop. Starbucks is not even a passing thought. The problem is that DD was past the start point for the Red riders. I asked the tour Marshall to cross over into the Blue group to get a coffee. He gave me a look that said it was against the rules. I offered to lock my bike on this side, grab a coffee and return. “If I look away and you cross, who’s to know” he said. He looked away, I crossed and now found myself in the 7:30 start group with a hot cup of DD. Things were looking up. I felt a bit out of place till I spotted quite a few others with the tell tale red bike and shirt ID’s. We all had to wear Bike New York helmet covers. These were so the Marshalls could easily identify those who tried to join the ride illegally. Anyone could ride the streets with us but were not allowed to ride the bridges and roadways that were made available for bikes only for this tour.
I randomly struck up conversations during the tour and met some very interesting people One group of men were from New Jersey and ask one if they were firemen. “Cops” he said. I told him it was obvious that they were public servants. He gave me a look and I said that it was a compliment not a “diss”. I could tell they were part of a brotherhood by the way they talked to each other and that it was a 50/50 choice between police and fire. “Thanks, and good eye” he said.
We began on 6th Avenue and continued through central park. One woman was taken aback at the slow pace of the ride.
“You can finish before noon” I said to her.
“At this pace?” she responded. I told here we would cross the 6th Ave bridge into Harlem and when we come back to Manhattan things open up and you can make good time if you wish. But your on a bike, what’s the hurry? I met a group from Toronto, three guys from Los Angeles. A family from New Mexico, people from Connecticut, Maryland, Iowa and a young couple from Jackson, Wyoming. Getting things started is as easy as asking, “is this your first tour?”
The spectators were a hoot. There were people cheering us on, there were musician from gospel, to rock to jazz and random guys beating on drums. There were police on every corner in every borough but occasionally someone would try to cross a street filled with thousands of bikes. Take two steps, stop, let 20 bikes pass. Repeat a few more times to get across.
The riders were young, old and everything in between on their own style of bikes. Some fast some slow. Some paying attention, some not. I make it a point to ride in the first group with the more experienced bikers. I saw three falls and no injuries. The falls were at stops where the rider failed to unclip from his pedals and did a comical style of the slow fall over muttering a few choice words of disbelief. Oh no, not me.
The bridges and highways are always a highlight. The Verrazano is the dread of many of the bikers. It’s difficult but slow and steady gets you to top and allows the rider to fly to the end of the tour. Riding on the closed to traffic Queens/Brooklyn expressway to the Verrasano is a long wind in your face challenge. The downhill part of the bridge we were met with strong cross winds that tried to push the riders across the lanes. Lots of “whoa ha’s and braking on this final push to the finish.