Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Road Trip!

It's not hard to take a weekend bike trip. Mind you, I never had. But I did. And the recipe is simple: hop on your bike and ride.

Of course it helps to have maps but you don't even have to know where you're going. You don't need a fancy bike. You don't need fancy equipment. You don't need special. It does help if you can afford a cheap hotel room. You'll pass hotels everywhere. Even one that (gasp) may not have websites. Sure it can be nice to book a room in advance (we did on night one, because we could use miles and get it for free). And we have friends in Cold Spring. So we had a place to stay there. But there's a great freedom in biking and not having to be somewhere. See a nice place? Stop and stay. That's what we did in Peekskill.

My wife and I put some stuff in our our city bikes and left. The bike I used was heavy and has two speeds. Does it matter that my bike was slow? No. It kept us on on a more equal pace and what's wrong with biking slow? We didn't actually have to get anywhere. And on the steep hills, we walked.

We headed north. Up over the Triboro/RFK and through The Bronx and Van Cortland park. And onto the North and South County Bike path. It's not the greatest bike path in the world (it's next to a freeway, the Saw Mill River Parkway much of the way). But it's nice enough and level as it's built on a railroad right of way. And it goes a long way! All the way from Van Cortland to Putnam County.

Now the route we went wasn't too ambitious. A night in Tarrytown, Peekskill, and Cold Spring. We went to Dia: Beacon and ended up having lunch in (grim) Newburgh. From there it was a beautiful ferry ride across the Hudson and an 80 minute train ride to 125th St.

If you're counting, it was a six-county odyssey. About 85 miles in four days. The longest ride was the first day, about 35 miles. We left after the crack of dawn, at 1pm.

Honestly, it would probably be better to start up in Beacon and bike from there, where traffic is a bit less. But there's something great about just leaving your house and going. And the bike path is there. It does go a long way. Give it a try.

I learned a lot about the area I didn't know. I saw some of our drinking water at the source. It was pretty. I got good exercise and got to eat a lot. We got no flats, didn't get wet, and had no accidents. It was fun.

And if worst comes to worst you just hop on a train and come home.

Welcome to the Bronx!

Beacon Falls

South Bear Mountain Pass (there was pushing on the uphill)

Our Drinking Water

The ferry at Newburgh

On the ferry. We biked over that two-mile-long bridge in the background.

From the ferry, grim Newburgh fading into the distance.

Crossing the Hudson

Our good bikes coming home

A rainbow from the train

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Hose Bike

A garden hose as a tire?! Brilliant?

No. Crazy.

For real? I don't know. Can it go? I doubt it. And the metal ends would be hell to bike over. Ka-thunk ka-thunk ka-thunk.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Astoria Bike's Guide to Queens' Streets

“In Queens, to find locations best...”

[Sound of needle dropping and record scratching. Replaced with proper Queens beat.]
Roads, drives, streets and lanes.
Most have numbers,
But some have names!

Queens is manic,
And the grid’s no good.
So you gotta not panic,
To find our hood.

Streets and avenues run opposite ’hattan,
And the ave’s go up as you walk to Staten.
But before you go and pop champagne,
You gotta learn this: street place lane.


Between the avenues, come roads then drives,
But one more thing, or you won’t arrive.
The dash don’t matter, but it’s like the cross street.
Very nice if you're walking with tired flatfeet.
But you still gotta take this from Butler: "Even numbers you will meet/Upon the west and south of street."

Feel free to make up your own. Winner gets everlasting borough-wide fame!

Still lost?

In the Times, J. David Goodman says I quote E.P. Butler's rhyming verse affectionately.

I mention this only in order to quote an article in the Times that quotes me quoting an article in the Times. Meta reference in the house! Now if they reference this, I promise to reference that, and which point The Rapture could be upon us. It is written.

But I digress.

Do I feel affection toward E.P. Butler? Sort of. I really do want his verse in needlepoint on my wall.

But this does not negate the fact that I consider Monsieur Butler an absolute idiot.

His verse? Great... until you think about it. The words that rhyme -- best/west, plain/lane, meet/street -- don't actually help you remember anything! No wonder it never caught on.

The key to understanding the streets of Queens is to know that avenues, roads, and drives are grouped together and run east and west. Streets, places, and lanes are similarly grouped and run north and south. It helps to remember that that avenues and streets run in the opposite direction as in Manhattan. And also opposite Manhattan, our numbers get bigger going south.

I mean, really now. Somebody picked this system? This is absurd. And when you read about it, it's called the "Philadelphia System." Except I've been to Philadelphia. And I can't help but notice that our system is nothing like theirs.

It's as if our leading citizens put on the top hats and went on junkets to examine all the great cities of America. They came back, met at a beefsteak, and debated the pros and cons of each city's system. But instead of choosing something that makes sense (Baltimore, Chicago, even Philadelphia!) they got drunk and slapped together the world's worst system.

But none of this is Butler's fault. He was trying to help. And perhaps he had a similar fondness for the bottle.

For all of my affection toward Butler, his verse could just as well be this:
Verse Affords Means to Get Totally Lost
Astoria Bike's Rhyming System Helps Nobody.

In Queens, to find locations best
Streets and place and drives run west;
But ways to north or east 'tis plain
Are avenues, roads or lanes.
While dashes in numbers you will meet
Upon each and every goddamn street!
And then you'll really need a drink.