Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Bike New York!

This goes down as one of the greatest days of my life, without a doubt. To start, this was my Facebook status the night before the ride:

"Heading to bed only to wake up at 5:00 am and ride my bike with 6 other people in 40 degree weather to a ferry to cross the hudson and endure the painfully cold grip of the wind blowing through our stupendously embarrassing biking shorts and jerseys to finally meet up with 32,000 other cyclists to ride our bikes 40 miles through all 5 Boros of NYC in the biggest biking event of the country that is the only day in the entire year to shutdown the great city of New York - all for the love of cycling!"

 The day was finally here! After weeks of planning and figuring out the logistics of hauling seven bicycles two thousand miles from Orlando to New York City, the group settled on having Brandon Norman and myself drive the Norman van all the way up. With three bikes mounted on the roof and four in the trunk, Brandon and I set off on our road trip up the coast of the country. Stopping in Washington D.C and spending the night with family friends of the Normans, the drive was for the most part pretty uneventful... that is until we got into the big city. Heading into Staten Island from New Jersey was some major construction that was in full swing, and in my directionally challenged state of mind and fumbling with the GPS unit, I managed to pass our intended exit and found ourselves crossing over the Verranzano, the 6th largest suspension bridge in the world. The bridge dropped us unwillingly into Brooklyn where we spent the next half hour attempting to find a place to turn around amidst the hectic one way streets and bustling traffic. Needless to say, the drive going into the city was a nightmare. We finally found our Bed and Breakfast which was a cozy house sitting alongside the Hudson with a spectacular view of the city skyline of Manhattan  After unloading our bikes, checking into the B&B and accidentally breaking into a Chinese man's room, we set off to meet the families. The excursion from Staten Island to Manhattan was a rather large undertaking as you had to catch the bus from the B&B four miles down to the ferry station, ride the ferry across the Hudson to catch either a cab or the subway into the heart of the city. 

The Pipkins and Jeremy took off to a show on this first night while the Wagner's and Norman's ate dinner and met with the Smith's who as always kept the night entertaining. 

The next morning Matthew, my dad and I woke up early and took off on a 40 mile bike ride with the Staten Island Cycling Club. This was a ride to never forget. I have never experienced such dilapidated and tarnished roads in my life. Riding on top of these roads were the equivalent of tackling the European Pave that professionals race over. Due to our infinite wisdom and male testosterone, we found ourselves riding with the "A" group, whom proceeded to completely kill us within the first fifteen miles. After a hard effort of bridging the gap between the three Floridians and the native Staten Islanders, I realized that it was hopeless. The guys were of another breed of cyclists who apparently were never taught the proper etiquette of riding. Blowing through stop signs and charging through red lights were surprisingly common. These guys were convinced that they owned the streets and were not going to let any car tell them otherwise. After being dropped we navigated the last twenty miles on our own, finishing our tour of Staten Island by bike. Needless to say the three of us ended our ride absolutely drained and in more pain than we ever imagined.  

Central Park in all its splendor

And we finally arrive to the big day of riding bicycles forty miles through the heart of one of the most important cities in the world. It was two hours before the sun would even rise that we found ourselves waking up, mulling around the room as we all silently got our gear together and in place. Excitement for the adventure that was to come and the complete and utter exhaustion kept the conversation to a low. Once everybody managed to don all of the appropriate gear, we walked to the door and stepped out into harsh, bitter cold. The weather must have been in the mid - thirties, it was almost too cold to bare. I found myself riding my bicycle along side my Mom, Dad, Jeremy, Eddie, Deborah and Matthew towards the ferry in the darkness of early morning, still before the Sun had made its way up. Once at the ferry we waited in line, boarded and rode off into Manhattan  All of a sudden, it got real. Cruising along on my bicycle I found myself craning my neck upwards in complete marvel of the buildings around me, and I was on my bike! We rode a few blocks from where Freedom tower stood and found ourselves in the midst of thousands of other cyclists waiting to take off. After what seemed an eternity, the national anthem was sung and we found ourselves rolling underneath the starting banner. Not before long we were meandering through Central Park, which is absolutely breath taking by bike. It was through this section that we saw the first person wipe out, causing us all to grimace in pain and sorrow for the unlucky individual who was now tangled in their bike on the ground.

For the next four hours we rode through Manhattan into Harlem, from Harlem to the Bronx to Queens and over the Queensboro Bridge into Brooklyn and over the Verrenzano onto Staten Island. The ride was truly spectacular and such a unique way to see the city of New York. It feels incredible to know that I was lucky enough to ride my bicycle through such a monumental city, and the experience will always be cherished. 3/4 into the ride our group found ourselves split apart, but through the confusion we all finished and enthusiastically shared stories and reminisced on the wonderful time that was had.

Highway closed off for us

Crossing a bridge into Queens

Trophy Girl with the Giro D' Italia Trophy

View of Manhattan from the B&B

Riding the ferry to meet 32,000 other cyclists. It is bitter cold and the sun is just rising

Brooklyn Bridge
Whether in Ireland or NYC, the classic Friday's picture has to be taken.

Thousands and thousands of cyclists. What a heart warming sight. 

The highlight of my ride: Riding with William Wallace

My plans for after the ride quickly changed. I originally planned on biking from NYC to Washington D.C., but the weather would see otherwise. Instead, my two cousins so graciously opened their apartment in Brooklyn for me to stay in. In these two extra days in the city I saw my first Broadway show, Newsies. I actually enjoyed the performance and found myself very impressed with the dancing and singing. Broadway is not my thing, but I can appreciate it none the less. I also found myself exploring areas of Brooklyn, napping in Central Park, spending over six hours in the Natural History Museum and meeting up with a long lost friend, Meredith Beard. 

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