On a recent Friday, as the storm clouds gathered, I slipped on my finest woollen jersey and headed out for a ride--though before going outside I always check myself out in the mirror first:
Yet incredibly, I go out in public anyway.
Passing the most giggle-inducing intersection in New York:
I then rounded the corner:
(Boy, she's gonna be annoyed when she sweeps her way to that vandalism. If I were her I'd start by questioning Nat.)
And bounded up the steps to the Hudson River Greenway:
Only to realize once I'd reached the top that the city has finally completed this luxurious ramp, and that I'd gotten off the bike for nothing:
Few things in cycling are more vexing than unnecessary dismounts, especially when they involve stairs and you're wearing road bike shoes. Sure, it's not as bad as realizing you just installed your tire backwards, but it's up there.
My intention was to head over the George Washington Bridge, out of the city, and along some of the well-worn Fred routes in New Jersey and Rockland County:
Though the clouds across the river filled me with a sense of foreboding:
And that's on top of the foreboding I usually experience when I look at New Jersey.
Plus, as I contemplated the horizon, I saw a bad omen in the form of an Inverted Brompton:
An Inverted Brompton is not as portentous as seeing three non-bearded recumbent riders in a row--in that event I'd have saved everybody the time and just drowned myself in the Hudson--but it's still a harbinger of considerable misfortune.
So instead I altered my plan as abruptly as a Cat 5 changes his line and decided to head down to Brooklyn and ride the Great Hipster Silk Route
My thinking was three-fold:
--It's been nearly three years since I left the Artisan Borough and I wanted to see how they've been getting on without me;
--The Department of Transportation recently announced that the city has reached 1,000 miles of bike lanes
(a number that's more heavily fudged than a rat in a sweet shop) so I figured I'd check in on some of their handiwork;
--If it really started pouring, staying in the city would allow me to go "full woosie
" and hop a train home if necessary.
Plus, if I went all the way to Prospect Park and back I'd get a good 40 or 50 miles in. Sure, the route's about as flat as a Levi Leipheimer interview, but still pretty indulgent for a weekday.
So I headed downtown:
And by the time I reached 72nd Street the skies had opened up on my cockpit:
Forcing me to seek shelter:
And wait for the sun to beat back the clouds:
Growing impatient, I consulted a weather forecasting application on my portable telephone. However, not only was it unable to provide me with any data, but it also thought I was in Guttenberg, NJ, wherever the hell that is:
This was clearly the work of the Inverted Brompton, as electronics often get all wonky when you're in the vicinity of an omen of that magnitude.
Fortunately it wasn't long before the rain stopped, and so I ventured out of the tunnel--only to find the dastardly Citi Bike people hard at work begriming the city
with new stations and disorienting everybody with their azure bicycles
Clearly they were expecting some neighborhood resistance, because Hatzoloh was on hand should anybody plotz:
Anyway, Citi Bike haters love to fret about how these stations will hurt their property values, so it's good to know you'll soon be able to buy that Upper West Side Classic Six apartment with river views for next to nothing.
Affordable housing crisis?
Thanks Citi Bike!
Once I'd finally blinked the blue afterimage off of my retinas I hit the street and headed over to Central Park. One of my favorite things about cycling in New York City is the cinematic quality of the streets in Manhattan just after the rain:
And one of my least favorite things about cycling is getting shoaled
As for how I feel about wet horse manure, that depends on my mood at that particular moment:
There's been a push to ban horse-drawn carriages in Central Park because people think it's cruel to subject the animals to modern-day New York City streets.
Yeah, it's true, horses in New York have it much worse today than they did back in the old days
See, back then they could relax and be dead in the street while street urchins poked them with sticks, whereas now they have to pull tourists around in a leisurely fashion:
At least they don't paint them blue and brand them with the Citi Bike logo.
Soon I emerged from the park across the street from the Plaza Hotel, where this guy couldn't be bothered to finish installing his headphones into his ears:
I was shocked and appalled to witness such impertinence above 57th Street.
Disgusted, I headed east, where there's a TJ Maxx with a bridge on top of it:
So I mounted the bridge, and contemplated that, while we're all fussing over our fancy saddles, there are people out there who are actually using their bikes to earn a livelihood:
Though I suppose it might also be a sustainable anatomic saddle made from recyclables.
Another of my favorite things about cycling in New York City is crossing the bridges:
This is a city of bridges after all, and the handball-like *POCK*
of car tires on expansion joints is a quintessentially New York sound, right up there with the rattle of the subway and the constant backdrop of complaining.
I was now in Queens, which as of late boasts not only an increasingly robust bike lane network, but also a strip club with a bike share station:
It's the only Citi Bike station in the city that takes $1 bills.
Bike traffic over the East River between Queens and Manhattan now also rivals Brooklyn's in sheer esotericism, as evidenced by this juice delivery bike
Where do you think the talent at Scandals gets all that boundless energy?
(And don't say drugs. I refuse to believe it. Next you'll tell me pro cyclists are on something.)
Next I headed down to the Pulaski Bridge, which takes you over Newtown Creek and into Brooklyn:
And which is also in the process of getting a great big new bike lane
Good for them.
Now I was in Brooklyn, backdrop for innumerable films and TV shows as of late, hence all the movie trailers:
Here's Jimmy's, whatever that is:
And here is a shirtless person sweeping in front of Jimmy's who may or may not be Jimmy:
In most of New York City you'll generally find the bike lane blocked by delivery trucks or police cars, but here on the Great Hipster Silk Route you're far more likely to find your progress impeded by a photo shoot:
I don't know what they're shooting, but I like to think it's someone's Twitter profile pic:
The portion of the Great Hipster Route has evolved over the years from a pothole-ridden industrial stretch to something with all the charm and character of a European airport:
And while I was unsurprised to see riders on vintage Bridgestones with Brooks saddles:
This group of somewhat older and more upright cyclists seemed atypical for the area:
Then again, gentrification marches quickly in Brooklyn and I'm pretty out of it these days, so maybe it's all those grandparents who have been forced to move there
Why hire a nanny when Grandma and Grandpa can just move to town and price her out?
But of course there's more to the Great Hipster Silk Route than bikes. There's also skateboards:
And Hasidim waiting for the Moshiach
Or, pending his arrival, the bus.
Speaking of strip clubs and the march of gentrification, it used to be that after you passed the pious and rounded the corner you'd pass this joint
Well, it's since been buffed to a high sheen and is now a fancy coffee place:
I'm certainly not saying one's better than the other, because I'd be similarly ill at ease in either establishment.
This isn't to say I don't enjoy coffee, because I do. In fact the sight of the coffee place gave me the idea to go somewhere else to get coffee, so I detoured from the Great Hipster Silk Route and headed for Red Lantern Bicycles
Which is a bike shop and a café and a bar:
And which displays art from a time when cycling could still get away with pretending to be gritty:
And which cunningly obviates bathroom key theft by attaching it to this truly "epic" pie plate:
Though the joke was on them, because I always carry a chain tool.
If you ever want to take a surreptitious bathroom break just let me know.
So I fortified myself with some sort of foamy coffee drink:
And on I rode, past the businesses designed to look like they've been there forever even though they've only been there a few months:
And the bike corrals the city lavishes on Brooklyn because all the advocates live there:
And the Box Butlers helpfully blocking the bike lane for you:
Until finally I reached Prospect Park:
Designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, Prospect Park is arguably their masterpiece (according to people who live in Brooklyn), and as I rode it was filling up with portable toilets at an impressive rate:
I also had opportunity to study the local fauna:
And I learned more than I ever wanted to know about butt crack beverage portaging:
Prospect Park is certainly a beautiful park. It also used to be my backyard, which means I've ridden around it roughly a billion times. So even though I hadn't ridden through it in at least a couple years, by the time I finished one (1) lap I was more than ready to get the hell out of it again:
So I returned to Manhattan via the dreaded Williamsburg Bridge, a.k.a. the "Hipster Habitrail
Which is streaked with skidmarks proving that, incredibly, people do still ride fixies:
And by the time I was nearing my own latitude the sky had cleared and the Inverted Brompton was gone:
Sometimes riding is the best exorcism.