• gfeldstein

Day 16 Portchester, NY to NYC, with detours 66 miles 2849 feet

All of us had been looking forward to the day that we would ride into Manhattan. It was especially important to me as I spent over 20 years living in NYC. The City was where I attended medical school, met my wife, raised my children, started, and then sold my first company. We had all been following the long range weather forecast which did not look promising for a triumphant ride back into the Big Apple. The weatherman had been predicting heavy rain and strong gusty winds with the possibility of thunderstorms.

When we awoke in the morning we were pleased to discover that the storm front had stalled somewhere over western New Jersey and was not anticipated to reach the city till dinnertime. When I rolled out the front door of our air-conditioned hotel lobby I was immediately hit with heat and humidity, as if I had been magically transported to Miami. The sky was shrouded in grey clouds and the wind was already gusting from the south, but there was no eminent threat of rain.

Before arriving in NYC we would roll through the bedroom communities of Rye, Harrison, Mamorneck, Larchmont, New Rochelle, and Rosedale. These were the towns that the lower level Wall Street executives, the ones that still worked for a living, chose to raise their families, owing to the excellent schools systems, low crime rate, and close proximity to NYC via the Penn Central Railroad which ran through the center of all of these towns. For the most part, the homes were grand by normal American standards, but not much larger than the accessory structures located on the grand estates of lower Connecticut. The route took us right past the Rye Playland Amusement Park, where I can recall spending many pleasant Sunday afternoons with my children. In the commercial district of Rye we rolled past massive office complexes full of Hedge Funds, including Gabelli, which apparently manages over $41 billion dollars. I encountered the last of the fancy homes at the Westchester County line on a street, coincidentally, called Park Lane. A short jog on the Mosholu-Pelham Greenway and we entered Pelham Bay, our fist town in NYC. Pelham Bay is located in the only borough in NYC proceeded with an article and pronounced within the borough as “da Bronx.”

In da Bronx, I made a short detour to the City Island Causeway but not onto the island proper. In medical school I spent many an evening at the bars and hippie ice cream shop on the island, while weekends frequently included sailing small sloops, and even windsurfers, alongside 1,000 foot long oil tankers heading into dock. Less than a mile farther down the Greenway I once again veered of course, this time to visit my alma mater, Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Along the way I passed my old auto shop, where Tony would keep my ancient Fiat running. Whenever I brought her in I always exclaimed, “Fix It Again Tony,” more about my Fiat later. Very little had changed in over 40 years, this is after all da Bronx. Einstein was still using the same dorms I had lived in but stole the grass lawn where I practiced frisbee to build a modern new office complex. The only other change was the addition of a Starbucks, clearly not an improvement in my mind.

A few more miles down the road we entered Bronx Park, which encompasses the Bronx Zoo and the New York Botanical Gardens. Staying on the Greenway, we then rode through the much larger Van Cortland Park through which the Old Croton Aqueduct used to provide clean dinking water for NYC. I spent 4 years in the Bronx during Medical School and did not know that all of this green space existed literally a stones through away.

After exiting the park we rode through Manhattan College and crossed the Harlem River over the Broadway Bridge, to finally enter Manhattan. We actually had to carry our fully loaded bikes up a flight of stone stairs to reach Riverside Dive which would eventually lead us on to the Hudson River Greenway, our conduit along the Hudson River all the way down to our hotel in the Financial District on the southern tip of Manhattan. I rode under the George Washington Bridge and past the 79’th Street Boat Basin before exiting at 72’nd Street for a detour through Central Park. I made an obligatory stop at Gray’s Papaya, 2090 Broadway, a New York tradition since 1973, for 3 dogs with mustard and onions, my go to for over 40 years. I entered Central Park on 72’nd Street and rode the entire park loop, for the first time on a road bike, albeit a 45 pounder with all the gear I was carrying. I still managed to hammer up Harlem Hill, AKA Heartbreak Hill by locals, and set a new personal record on Strava. I exited the park as I had arrived, via 72’nd Street, but not without a stop to pay my respects to John Lennon at Strawberry Fields. Not surprisingly, there was an enterprising young man, possibly a college student trying to help cover the cost of NYU or Columbia, taking requests. His voice was actually quite good.

Riding away from Strawberry Fields brought back a sudden memory of where I was on that fateful night of December 8, 1980, when Mark David Chapman gunned down John Lennon right across the street at the Dakota, and it happened to involve my beat up old Fiat. I was driving up Third Avenue with my high school buddy Lew, after an early night at some clubs in the Village. Amongst the many shortcomings of my ancient Fiat was the lack of a reliable gas gauge, it was around 11PM when my car suddenly came to a complete stop. The only gas station open in Manhattan at that hour was on First Avenue and 96’th Street, coincidentally just down the block from Lew’s apartment. We hopped on a NYC bus and were there in no time. The gas station was fairly deserted but the attendant initially refused to sell me any gas as this was during the oil embargo induced gas rationing system in NY. You could only by gas on alternate days based on the first digit of your car’s license plate being either odd or even. In his mind no car meant no license plate, which meant NO GAS. I explained that we were doctors trying to get back to the hospital and after producing my hospital credentials he finally agreed to sell us some gas. The attendant did not have a gas container to sell us and all the local hardware stores had been closed for hours. Not wiling to give up, I rummaged through the station’s garbage cans for any substitute. I found an empty 1 gallon container of antifreeze, sans its lid, which I filled, then “capped” with a rag. We hopped back on a NYC bus, carrying a make shift Molotov cocktail, and headed back downtown to my car. Today I would probably get 20 to life as a suspected terrorist if I attempted the same feat.

Once back on the Hudson River Greenway I rolled past the Intrepid Sea Museum, many cruise ship docks, and Little Island, the most recent addition to Hudson River Park. The 2.4 acre island took over 5 years to build, is lushly landscaped with more than 400 species of trees as well as plants, and even has a 687-seat auditorium. I continued past Chelsea Piers, a veritable smorgasbord of sporting options, the old Meat Packing District, Greenwich Village, and finally into the financial district. On my left I saw legions of new, ultra-expensive, high rise condominiums interspersed with or even replacing the original 4 story structures. I my right, through the thickening clouds, I could make out the increasing dense high rises on the Jersey side of the Hudson as well as distant views of Lady Liberty and Ellis Island.

I arrived at my hotel too early to checkin so I made a final detour across the Brooklyn Bridge on the newly completed bike path. This was my first ever ride in Brooklyn so I headed to Prospect Park which appeared to me to be a scaled down version of Central Park in Manhattan. I rode past what I thought was a professional dog walker, but upon speaking to her, all 16 or so, of those dogs were hers. Only in NYC, I would hate to be her landlord, or worse yet, her downstairs neighbor. I exited the park at Grand Army Plaza, marked by the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Arch, and headed back over the Brooklyn Bridge to my hotel.

It was a busy day, I covered 66 miles, visited many of my children’s playgrounds, my Medical School, and rode within a block of all 7 places I called home over a 21 year period.

Five states down, 10 more to go.

Cumulative Totals

Miles 908 Feet Climbed 37,652

States Visited Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York

For more details on my route, see my Strava link

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