Years ago when the Village Voice and New York Press were king, I actually did a substantial amount of bike riding. On nice summer days, I’d pedal to 42nd Street…get on the subway with the bike in tow to ride out to 82nd and Roosevelt…and then proceed to hump the two-wheeler around Jackson Heights…then out to Forest Hills…sometimes Flushing…close to La Guardia…over to Astoria…and then all the way back to 10th Street in Manhattan. Just another deadline Wednesday rounding up cash for the papers. Well…those days are way in the rear view mirror. But that doesn’t mean I can’t still cut the mustard.
So yesterday…it being so beautiful…I decided to revisit my glory days and wear some tread off the tires. I’ve already done Staten (not a huge ride) and the West Side Greenway to the GWB this summer. So I decided Randall’s Island would be appropriate. Poor idea as it turned out.
For starters, the East Side Greenway is not quite the continuous ride New Yorkers find out west. At least 4 times, I was detoured back to 1st Avenue or York before I finally reached 106th Street to climb the bridge over the East River. It’s not likely I’ll do this ride again in the near future. But if I do, I’ll simply take 1st Avenue all the way. Just too much of a hassle what with all the on’s and off’s.
There are small parts of Randall’s Island that aren’t bad. But it ain’t like hiking a trail in the Hudson Valley or the Catskills. Not for me anyway. So I circumnavigated (sounds sexual, right) Randall’s quickly (and without a lot of satisfaction) and upon seeing a long ramp up the Triboro Bridge, opted to ascend that beast and ride through Astoria rather than head south on 2nd Avenue the way I came as that’s a ride I’ve done 1000 times (literally).
Simply observed, the Triboro ride sucks. The pathway is narrow (barely enough room for 2-way traffic) and there are three fucking portages (in the form of stairways) to punctuate a shitty ride. Fortunately, at the high point of the bridge, the only barrier separating rider from the drink is a railing barely 4 feet high. And thus, the view north was a high point (pun intended) of the trip. I stopped…pulled to the side as best I could to let people pass…and contemplated the vista which again, wasn’t no Hudson Valley.
Down the ramp I went at a controlled speed as again, the roadway isn’t wide enough to let gravity give you a thrill, only to get a piece of dirt in my eye – as I needn’t tell y’all…New York is a dirty/gritty place.
At that point, I should have simply taken Crescent Street back to the 59th Street Bridge and headed home. But somehow, I was still full of energy and the pioneer spirit and as such, rode the green bike lane down to the water…which was a fairly long voyage to not much. The waterfront on the Queens side is not nearly as built up as even the Manhattan East Side Greenway which as I noted, is a detour-laden hassle.
Try as I might, it was difficult to find a route along the shore and as with the East Side of Manhattan, I found myself getting detoured over and over again, lengthening an already too-long trip. I saw more taxi garages than I did sea shore as it turned out. Only where new high rises had been erected did I discover anything resembling parks and public works projects. And when I did, they were remarkable in their resemblance to upscale Manhattan real estate initiatives. Curiously, I’d be riding along in what was clearly a blue collar Queens Archie Bunker-type neighborhood only to see some sort of kitchy store front at which point I quickly realized I was about to happen up on dudes with fancy bikes…people who looked like they lived in Manhattan…and then the inevitable park, restaurant with outdoor seating, and spanking new high rise.
I even stopped at one place and took a walk down to the shore. By the look and demographic of the crowd, you’d never know which side of the river you were on. Manhattan and its ethos have clearly expanded to Queens (and Brooklyn – but that’s coming next).
Zigging and zagging my way, I finally approached the 59th Street Bridge only to make another mistake: Continue on to the the Willy B…cross over to Delancey…and score some dumplings as a reward for all my exercise. Predictably (partially because I hugged the shore line and partially because I haven’t driven a cab for 20 years), I got somewhat lost and rode around in circles before finally finding the bridge over what I can only term a repulsively polluted body of water (I think it’s called the Newtown Creek but not really sure) and on to Greenpoint! Hello Brooklyn (oy)!
More shore-hugging led me to yet another hipster colony along the water and yet more twists, turns and detours as I continued undaunted trying to fill my eyes with beauty. Finally (and mercifully), I made it to the Williamsburg Bridge to the second high point (this one figurative) of the endless voyage: a sign that said (and I quote) “Leaving Brooklyn – oy vey.” That was something new. I guess it’s been a while since I crossed the Willy B from Brooklyn to Manhattan.
Minutes later, I was back in the crib wondering why the hell I’d just spent 3 hours of my life on such a fruitless and unsatisfying endeavor. And then to ice the cake? My legs got sunburned. Not horribly – but enough to be somewhat uncomfortable. And all that because I didn’t want to buck the crowds in the Hudson Valley. I think I need to find a place to volunteer on my one day off (Sunday). That bike ride just didn’t make it. Think of a bad session with a girl you thought would be a positive experience. That was yesterday.
P.S. Ah! The trifecta. Bad ride…sunburn which everybody was oohing and ahhing this morning…and a flat tire when I went to hop on the bike for the Worker.