Five Boro Tour Warm Up

Way back in February I signed up for the Five Boro Ride in New York City. This annual event involves riding 40 miles through all five boroughs of the Big Apple on a lovely spring day with over 30,000 or so of your cycling friends.

On Friday, Paul, Amy, and I drove to a B&B on Staten Island on a cool gray day. We should have known the gods had it in for us when we saw that the Bay Bridge was closed because of an accident. This added about 30 minutes to our drive. The entire ride featured a truly  annoying buzzing sound coming from the bikes hanging off the rear of my car.  We found out two days later that it was caused by a dangling blinky light. Our annoying drive to the B&B ended up eating most of the day.

Our first impression of Staten Island was not favorable. It is incredibly run down, particularly given the fact that it is a 30-minute ferry ride from the biggest financial district in the western hemisphere. Fortunately, our B&B was down a quiet side street. The B&B owner is a pleasant Polish woman who showed us the ins and out of her home filled with antiques, reading material, and snacks. (Yay, snacks!)  She explained how she escaped from behind the Iron Curtain and eventually found her way to America.

At her suggestion we headed out to Bruno’s for some dinner. It was a little Italian restaurant with a bakery. Suffice it to say, the bakery case was a pastry orgasm and the dinner was so good I wanted to cry. Bloated we headed out in the car determined to find a posh neighborhood on the island. Sure enough, Todt Hill filled the bill nicely. Enormous, new mansions on large, impeccably landscaped lots with exterior lighting to show off all their opulence. Relieved to know that the American dream hadn’t completely bypassed Staten Island we headed back to shelter and readied ourselves for a Saturday in Noo Yawk.

After a sumptuous breakfast that couldn’t be beat, we took a cab to the ferry. I had some trepidation about taking a boat anywhere as I get motion sickness at the slightest tipping of a deck. The Staten Island Ferry is smooth as silk so I had no problems at all. The ride goes past the Statue of Liberty so the sight seeing was underway while we were underway.

Our first order of business in Manhattan was to pick up our event packets at the Bike Expo located on the waterfront two miles east of the ferry terminal. We decided to walk because the weather was splendid. Along the way, by previous arrangement, we met up with Susan, an old friend from my college days in Boston. Susan has lived in Manhattan and Brooklyn for most of her adult life so we had a great tour guide the day.

The Bike Expo was well organized. We picked up our packets without a wait and proceeded to browse to exhibits. There were scores of them. After getting some free ice cream we headed out to be shameless tourists.

Susan took us down Madison Street to Canal Street and Chinatown. We passed dozens of people hawking jewelry and purses and whatnot, all authentic brands no doubt. We somehow resisted making a purchase. Susan gracefully begged off when an eastern monk handed her a medallion and slipped a beaded bracelet over her wrist. Hare Krishna, Beauregard.

In Chinatown, Susan ducked into a bakery to buy a sweet rice treat. As we were sampling her purchase, two muscular thugs came bounding through the sidewalk crowd, looking over their shoulders as they slalomed through the mass of humanity. We all thought this was bad news until we started walking and found them talking to their cameraman and director. I don’t know what they were filming but we may be inadvertent extras in an epic crime fighting movie spectacular. Or maybe just a student movie short.

We walked to a square filled with court buildings. Susan pointed out that we should recognize them from movies and the TV show Law and Order. This would become a recurring theme. Basically Manhattan is a giant TV and movie set. This began a recurring theme for the day: everything seems to look familiar because you’ve seen it all before a million times on screen.

After our court date, we worked our way over to the World Trade Center area. Susan was in lower Manhattan on September 11 and she lived in a neighborhood where many 9/11 victims lived. She pointed out Saint Paul’s Church where pictures of the missing (and mostly deceased) people were posted, as well as a firehouse that lost all its fire fighters when the towers came down.

The memorial includes two deep square pits with water pouring down their black marble sides. On the top of the sides the names of the victims are carved into the stone. I couldn’t get over how many buildings so close to the twin towers survived the collapse. The new tower looms over the sight, reaching into the sky.

We sat for a while and rested our legs. Susan’s Fitbit read 10,000 steps. Good thing we only have to ride 48 miles tomorrow, I thought.

A cab took us to Chelsea where we walked the length of the High Line linear park, taking a break for lunch in the process. The park includes places where people sit in what look like grandstands. Perfect for people watching.

We exited the High Line and walked into the garment district back across Manhattan past the New Yorker, Madison Square Garden and Macy’s. We turned up the Avenue of the America’s just a block or so shy of the Empire State Building. Then we hailed a cab. And got a limo. Dead legs love limos.

We rode to Central Park South and walked through the southern edge of the park to Columbus Circle. In the Time Warner building we found a bar with comfy chairs and sofas and had ourselves a drink. Pooped.

After resting up, we headed back out and hoofed it past Carnegie Hall and into Saint Patrick’s Cathedral. I am a very lapsed Catholic but even a heathen can admire such an amazing building.

Spent, we hopped a cab back to the ferry. We thanked Susan profusely for wearing us out. (20,000 steps at least!) The ferry ride and a taxi ride later found us watching hockey on TV at the B&B. We hoovered a pizza and hit the hay.  The weather forecast called for rain and 50 degrees, all day on Sunday.

The ride would go on, rain or shine.

My pix from this crazy adventure on on my Flickr page.

Next blog will describe the ride.




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