Sunday, May 20, 2018

Exploring NYC by Bicycle - Parting Thoughts

A small selection of cream cheese varieties available at Bagel World in Park Slope, Brooklyn. Oreo cream cheese, really?

A small wheeled or folding bike as a NYC/big city commuter
A folding bicycle saves on space in apartments, has low step-over for easier on/off or wearing skirts, threads easier around vehicles (parked in the bike lane) due to quicker turning radius and narrower handlebars. Granted, 20" wheels roll sightly slower than traditional bicycles - noticeable, keeping up with my son - but not enough to discount the positive aspects. Grip shifting is very easy to use and was a perfect compliment to the inclines/ descents of the bridges. For me it was the perfect alternative to my regular commuter bike. An as an aside, I've been eyeballing this type of bike - a non-foldable 20" wheel bike (which I mention in case the link doesn't survive long-term) because this might be an alternative for a city dweller who's concerned about storage. Needless to say, I would take my Dahon on a train again!

Types of bikes used as transportation
During our 5-day stay, we noticed that of the bicycles ridden, 50% are e-bikes, mainly by delivery people, and the other 50% of human-powered vehicles are comprised of bike share and all other types of bikes. I am impressed with how common it is to see bike share in use - the blue bicycles stand out mainly because of the blinking tail light.

Habits and etiquette
It is common for all bike riders to weave around autos and trucks double-parked or/in a bike lane. It was unnerving at first, not knowing whether vehicles approaching from behind would allow riders the chance to zip into their lane and back again, but there seemed to be a certain unsung etiquette among drivers that gave us the right of way. I wonder if the sheer numbers of riders had anything to do with the drivers' manners or because we were also riding about the same speed. We also noticed a distinct lack of hand signals with cyclists and 50% or less wear helmets. And those red traffic signals? Look both ways and if clear, keep right on trucking!

NYC uses lots of paint! Sharrows and bike lanes are commonplace with bike boxes (designated space for cyclists to advance/stop ahead of automobiles at traffic lights). One-way roads typically place the bike lane on the left side of the road, allowing better visibility for drivers (we presume). It was odd to navigate at first, but made sense once we adjusted and joined the other riders. On the occasion where we rode on unmarked one-way roads, it was difficult to determine where we should be.

Keeping travel bags light
This being my first experience carrying baggage on my folder, I packed light, but tech heavy. I carried a phone, tablet, camera, and laptop. My son didn't bring a tablet, but his load was heavier, lugging his heavy laptop and DSLR camera. I carried minimal clothing, using a small duffel bag strapped to rear rack while my son used two panniers. We both carried backpacks for additional space that also doubled to carry gear on daily adventures. Either way, we only lugged full loads three times: 5 miles to Amtrak station at the beginning of our trip, then 7 miles each direction from Penn Station to our accommodation.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Exploring NYC by Bicycle - The Coney Island Loop

Ahhh, sinking toes into sand.
For something completely different we saved the last item on my agenda for the warmest day of our trip: riding to Coney Island by way of the Brooklyn-Queens bikeway section called Ocean Park Greenway. We ate breakfast at Terrace Bagels en route, then my son navigated by Google Maps all the integral turns to get us on the straight 5-mile path to the ocean. 

A mile from the ocean the breeze was noticeably cooler and we smelled the salty air. Conversely, my son wondered whether people who lived by the sea could perceive the difference when traveling to a freshwater body of water, for example, anyone visiting where we live near Lake Champlain.

I walked barefoot, sometimes plodding through the cold water until we arrived at Luna Park. The amusement rides open late May so it was relatively quiet on the boardwalk, however a few concession stands were open.

My son and I retrieved our bikes and returned for lunch and respite from the hot sun.

Thank goodness for umbrella covered tables!

Approaching the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.
We considered visiting the New York Aquarium, adjacent to the park, but reviews provided insight into current renovations and suggested waiting until all exhibits were open. In spite of Google Maps not being entirely accurate, their reviews have been very helpful on this trip. And, after our rest, because my son was lagging in the navigation department to get us off the island, I used the GPS locator (my first time!) to backtrack and get us headed in the right direction. It's all well and good to ask locals where to go but for expediency, a smartphone is at our fingertips.

Consulting the paper map ahead of time (and referring to it also periodically) we agreed to return to Park Slope via the Shore Parkway Greenway, which passes beneath the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge and should provide nice water views.

The underbelly of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.
We reached the path after two miles of riding along a busy road, but once that was past it was a pleasant, if somewhat noisy ride with the Beltway also close to the shore.

Views of  Jersey City and Manhattan.
We both enjoyed the massive tankers plying the waterway.

With a thunderstorm brewing, the temperatures reached 85F as we pedaled inland, riding busy 5th Avenue northward. We took a break for ice cream then braved the last miles to our accommodation and lay down in our, thankfully, cool apartment for while.

Thunderstorm and rain rolled over the city. Later, we ventured out for Chinese take-out and walked back beneath the most amazing sky at sunset. This was our last full day in New York City and it seemed a fitting finale.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Exploring NYC by Bicycle - Lady Liberty & Ellis Island

 Every day should start with a good chewy bagel.

 Our current place of choice: Bagel World.

Take a snapshot of your child, especially when he least expects to be photographed.
I'd purchased tickets online for ferry visits to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island so all we  had to do was bike there. Contrary to what I'd described yesterday about the East side trail near the Battery being in tough condition, it was still the fastest way to get there. Zigzag around construction, pedestrians, and hawker stands, then lift your legs a couple times through puddles (wee!), and voila, we'd arrived at Statue Cruises location. The only unnerving part was locking our bikes - again we were the only attendees arriving on bikes - guided by an employee to an out of the way rack. I tightly wrapped all three locks and hoped for the best!

One World Trade Center has an ethereal quality to it, I presume, which seems fitting, but that
could only be because the building is high and shrouded in the fog.
Again, my backpack full of spare tools and pump set off "alarms" at security and I dumped the contents, explaining how we traveled. They eventually let us through and we boarded with the crowds.

Part of Manhattan's skyline.

 Some of my best photos of Lady Liberty were captured aboard the boat.

 And as the boat circled the island...

 ...I got a feel for how her presence is a symbol of protecting the city.

Our Google Maps timeline for the day. 
My son and I breezed through Ellis Island exhibits - our heart wasn't in more indoor museums, especially of the reading placards on photographs, or listening to audio phones placed in rooms. After the amazing multi-media presentations at the 9/11 Memorial, Ellis Island felt like a letdown.

My son was in a funk when disembarking at Battery Park (and yes, the bikes were fine) so we took a break at Starbucks. I secretly hoped he gained some energy, but it was not to be, and truthfully we couldn't come up with another intriguing place to visit so we headed back to Brooklyn.

I tacked on a couple miles at the end of the day, replacing a lightweight fleece that I'd left behind at Starbucks, plus gathering a few groceries for dinner while my son was happy to veg out with music and online socializing. Funny how that is: the younger ones need to recharge while the elders like to make the most of a vacation.

Exploring NYC by Bicycle - Bagels, Visit to 9/11 Memorial & Museum

One of two memorial pools at the 911 World Trade Center complex placed on the former site of each tower.
Setting off from Brooklyn mid-morning we discovered a better bagel shop, Bagel World, and aim to visit more than once! It's been our mission to find the chewiest bagels in Brooklyn with the idea that on our way to Penn Station on Wednesday, we'd stop and pick up a dozen bagels for our family.

On the agenda for Mother's Day: heading into Manhattan to visit the 9/11 World Trade Center Memorial and Museum. Amidst showers, and a brief break at Starbucks, we are the only ones who lock our bikes at the racks.

The new 104 story One World Trade Center.

One of the towers fell across the front of one fire truck.
The entire museum is a look at the chronological events of that day while also being a memorial to those affected and a tribute to aid workers (300+ firefighters and police died) and bystanders who pitched in to help in any way possible. It's an amazing experience - do visit if you ever get the chance.

As an aside, Ghosts of Vesuvius, which other than a fascinating read about volcanoes, the author compares and explains the effects of the Twin Towers falling (air currents, heat, and spread of debris) is similar to what happens with volcanoes.

Brooklyn skyline.
 Afterwards we looped around the Battery (terrible section of bike path)...
My son and his new GoPro perched on his helmet.

 ...and swung through China Town to...

I read online that the city is considering building an upper deck to accommodate/separate bicycle traffic.
...return on the Brooklyn Bridge back to Park Slope. Since my son filmed both crossings of the East River on Sunday (time clock comparison), it's no surprise that dodging pedestrians takes longer than a straight shot over the Manhattan bridge - 16 minutes versus 6 minutes.

My son treated me to a wonderful Italian meal (and the best tiramisu I've had) at Mariella. Viva Mother's Day!

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Exploring NYC by Bicycle - Rest and Recovery?

Gas lamps adorned one block of  12th Street, Brooklyn.
After a long and busy day in Manhattan, Saturday was a day of recovery from the bicycle. After the rain showers passed by we set out walking in Brooklyn.

It was interesting to see gas lamps along one block, a throwback to an earlier age, which fit the wrought iron railings and fences.

We strolled through Prospect Park, enjoyed the bird life, and generally stretched our legs. Spring is further along than in Vermont, so we enjoyed blooming dogwoods, rhododendrons, azaleas, and lilacs.

After a wonderful burger in a local eatery, we then explored Greenwood Cemetery. Greenwood is known as the resting spot for famous NYC residents. Instead of researching where those graves resided, we enjoyed the grounds as a park. There were lovely trees, elaborate mausoleums - some built into hillsides - and interesting old gravestones.

In the evening my son and I took the subway to Grand Central Station in Manhattan. He wanted to see the famous train station, and not knowing whether we'd ride that far north again, it was the perfect opportunity to get out again. We also explored the Dining Concourse and had milkshakes at a friendly local ice cream shop.

An Apple Store is on one end of the main atrium, located up a flight of stairs. It was all rather odd, the "store" is open-air overlooking the crowds below.

If the showers aren't too bad on Sunday, we have a cycling route picked out because we're itching to travel on two wheels once more. What a liberating way to get around New York City!