8/3/20 – New York, NY
What a city! The first time I came here in 1971 thick clouds covered the city and only the top of the Empire State Building could be seen. When we arrived yesterday, it was clear and the whole city presented itself in spectacular vividness. We approached from the south arriving at the Liberty Park RV Park on the Jersey side of the Hudson River. Judy joined me for the first time riding both bikes along the waterfront. What an incredible view of Manhattan!
We passed Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. I had never seen the Statue before. Every time I’ve been to New York it was either foggy or I couldn’t find it. Lady Liberty, whose official name is “Liberty Enlightening the World,” is awesomely beautiful. She’s bigger than I expected, as tall as a football field with a 35-foot waistline, and she’s on an island to herself facing across the Atlantic. A gift from the French in 1884, she stands for America, the land of the free, and welcomes the “tired and the poor.” I was struck by her grandeur and her overwhelming beauty. I felt a rush of love and joy and respect and appreciation. I felt reverence for what she stands for and gratitude to the French for their artistic genius. What a gift!
We rode to the end of the pier then on the way back I was flagged down by a small group, a man and some kids, calling my name, “John, John!” I slowed down, not expecting to bump into anyone I knew. “We looked you up. Good luck on your ride.” They must have noted the “license plate” on the bike reading: “SUNRIDE.US” and looked on their phones and found me. I was surprised and flattered. All I could say was, “Thank you,” which I repeated three times. It must have been the children who looked me up.
Day two in the Big Apple was an absolute delight. We came into the City by ferry, a short beautiful ride across the swift flowing Hudson landing us at the Brookside Pier beside the financial center at the southern tip of Manhattan Island.
We chose to walk the short distance to Wall Street, Trinity Church, and the World Trade Center Memorial. Trinity spoke of how old New York is.
Wall Street spoke of sheer financial power. The World Trade Center shows the strength and character of our nation. Where two great buildings once stood over a quarter-of-a-mile into the sky now are two square pools marking the exact spot where they stood. It’s so perfect to remember the original Twin Towers this way. The last time I was in New York I visited the bar at the top of the South Tower. I remember standing against the window seeing how far down it was to the ground between the two buildings. Then, a few months later the Frenchman Philippe Petit walked between the towers on a tightrope. The movie “Man on Wire” is one of my favorites. Nearby stands a new building, the same height as the ones knocked down on 9/11. It stands tall and strong, like the American spirit, looking formidable like nothing could knock it down.
Walking back to the Pier, we unchained our bikes and began what would be a perfect day of riding in New York City. We started on the Hudson River Trail that runs along the West side. Reaching mid-town, I was impressed by all the new, architecturally splendid skyscrapers that simply weren’t there before. I’d previously thought Shanghai had a monopoly on cool tall buildings, but not so. New York is just as impressive.
Along the bike trail, everywhere I looked New Yorkers were out doing things. On the grassy areas young moms were chatting with each other – six feet apart – while their babies gazed about from their carriages. People were playing tennis, basketball, doing stunts in the skateboard park, working out, and kayaking on the river.
The city is alive. The city works. I always thought you’d have to have lots of money to live in this city, and it’s true New York has more millionaires and billionaires than anyplace else, but I saw lots of people that probably weren’t rich seemingly doing just fine. I saw one homeless person, although I’m sure there must be others. Still, in such a large, expensive city you’d think there’d be lots. Dreamers who want to see a utopia should come here.
It was such a pleasure riding up the river. With all the trees and parks, you’d never know you were in a big city. The big city. What an impressive place! As big as it is, New York is one of the most livable cities in America. Even in a Covin-19 semi-locked down state, it seems easy to be here. Restaurants are being allowed to push out onto the street with wooden decks the same height as the curb. We had lunch at a quaint Turkish Mediterranean spot in Greenwich Village. We rode up-river 57 blocks, then headed cross-town to Central Park. A gracious dedicated one-way bike lane goes all the way up on the east side of the park and doubles back down on the west. There xc are slow lanes and a fast lane, and all the lanes are wide without a single car in the whole park. I pulled up next to one fit young cyclist going 20 miles per hour who wanted to race me. I declined. I knew I couldn’t go much faster and he could, but I knew I could beat him in a distance race, say 100 miles or so. We chatted as we rode along. In the end, he admitted he was impressed with Sunride. Even with lots of cyclists all over the city it’s not the least bit crowded. Central Park is immense. Viewing it from the top of the Empire State Building one sees what a huge swath of the City is dedicated to this special place for all the people. Riding through the Park you see numerous baseball fields, soccer fields, lakes, and nature trails. What a gift to everyone who lives or visits here!
New York is easy to figure out. Manhattan is a long thin island that runs 13 miles north to south, and two miles between the Hudson River on the west side and the East River on the east. Lower Manhattan, the southern tip, is where Wall Street, the financial center, and a concentration of tall buildings including One World Trade Center stand. Halfway up is mid-town, where Central Park begins around 59thStreet running 50 blocks or so to Uptown New York. We rode past Harlem’s famous Apollo Theatre on 125th Street, then over to the East River, rode down the river for a few dozen blocks, then doubled back through Central Park to Downtown again. The Streets are in numerical order running east and west. Avenues like famous 5thAvenue run north and south, but there are other non-numbered avenues like Park Avenue, Lexington Avenue, and Broadway. Bicycling is the way to see New York. There’s so much to see, and so much to miss. I’d been to Central Park before, brunched at the Tavern on the Green, but never noticed Carnegie Hall, just outside the south entrance to the Park. I gazed intently at the building, imagining my world-class-guitarist son Jonathan playing there someday. If he does, I’ll be back!
New York is a busy place. There are cranes erecting more tall buildings, and construction of every kind going on. Ubiquitous delivery trucks double-park, and electric bikes silently buzz about delivering documents and pizzas. Sometimes double-parked vehicles blocked the bike lanes forcing us to swing out into traffic, but that was no problem. New Yorkers are good at everything they do including driving. I felt myself taking on the City’s confidence. By the end of the day we rode straight down 5thAvenue all the way from Central Park to Wall Street at rush hour! Judy, one of the world’s more conservative people, rode in front of me sanguine through the city. We literally ran up one side and down the other, back and forth crosstown, and all-around Central Park. No matter where we rode in New York we were always safe. I can imagine no better place to ride. No wonder New York claims to be one of the safest cycling cities in America. By the time we boarded the Ferry back to Jersey City, with its own impressive skyline, we’d logged 60 miles in and around New York, and we hadn’t even begun to scratch the surface of all there is to do here. Perhaps if you lived here all your life you’d say the same thing.
I even had the thought I’d like to live here, just because the city works so well and there’s so much to see and do here. The city’s vitality is energizing. I’d start a delivery business with solar powered electric bikes. I already have two of them. My cost of zero dollars for energy would make me competitive with other delivery service providers. With the electric rates here, that would be a big advantage. See, I’m already thinking like a New Yorker.