We had a great last meal here at 11 Madison Park as well that was relaxing, divine and extravagant - but none of that fit our time in NYC as much as the Ethiopian food down the corner. But here's some pics for remembrance sake. My favorites were the chickpea and goat cheese lollipops and plantains with bean foam and black-eyed pea reduction but it was all amazing!
There is little easy about riding a bike in New York. I enjoyed the hell out of it most days as I felt free in a city where so much is constrained. It's not always fun, sometimes dangerous and often messy. But there's a feeling that comes from smelling the streets, having the streets and detritus sprayed on your legs as you course up Manhattan and into the Bronx under the subway dodging people, cars and whatever else New York can throw at you that is compelling. Erin would probably argue that it's compelling to never do again, but I got a kick out of it and saw a lot of New York in the meantime. Here's the description. One more ride tomorrow... 15 miles round trip and I'm done.
It starts out easy enough in some ways, down the five flights and out the door onto 131st St and turn right onto Malcolm X boulevard. Most mornings I would leave early enough to not have to deal with the Harlem traffic but not early enough to have to negotiate all the delivery trucks parked in the right hand lane obstructing my path. Up to 145th street by the basketball courts is easy enough and usually gave me time to wake up, get my bearings, make sure the bike was ok and get a rhythm.
Then over the 145th street bridge and into the Bronx. Many a morning the sun would be coming up and be right in my field of vision crossing the Harlem river, often coursing quietly at that time of day and beautiful really in the morning light. The left onto River Dr was ok when there was no traffic; in traffic it could be a little hairy with cars racing towards me as I made my left across traffic, but I never got hit there. Then past the mall on the left with Babies R Us etc - a tough spot coming back at the end of the day with all the cars parked illegally to load their junk and random cars opening. Up and then down a small hill and into Yankee territory - past the old stadium now long a park and then up past the new stadium (only a problem when games were going - once doored by a drunk dude post-game).
Up a slow hill now under the 4 train and along one of the worst roads I've been on to 167th St where the worst smell of the ride always lurked - the live animal farm they somehow zoned under that stop. The worst smell came from the combination of the hill and the animal feces stench that unabashedly filled my nose without the ability to hold my breath. A gradual right past the police station eased me onto Jerome Ave and then to the intersection at 170th where I was hit not once, but twice by cars turning right.
The trick about riding under the 4 train was the nice lane that I often had to myself that went unused to the right and the fact that cars also knew it was often unused and would turn without notice into the lane either for their turn or to take a break. Hit twice, neither time did anyone stop. So it goes - at least it seemed as though they looked in their mirror to see if I was ok - which I was for the most part. The one time I was not ok was on a different ride I used to take until I got too many flats and broke my ribs - the Harlem River ride.
You can take the west side of the Harlem river up to Fordham road and then over to the Bronx by following a river park with a bike lane most of the way. For some inexplicable reason, there's a ton of glass on the path from revelers I assume either tossing their bottles from their cars or from partying in the park. The fateful day I broke my ribs and my bike I tried to avoid a little family (all short) and ended up twisting my front wheel to the extent it snapped and so did my ribs... hobbled to find a subway and ultimately to have Mili, my partner, pick me up after a breathless call to her (Erin forgot her cell phone that day to her chagrin).
Anyway, back to the usual ride... after crossing 170th, you have run of car lots and repair places before crossing over the Cross Bronx - 'open season' as Erin liked to call it. The number of near misses at that crossing is too many to count. Even though I don't believe, I said the Lord's prayer a couple of times crossing that intersection with its on and off ramps. Don't know if it helped. Mainly the part about walking through the valley of the shadow of death. After that lovely bit, it's a fairly smooth ride until Jimbo's and the hill after that. There was a spot with some really bad potholes and an inexplicable metal thing in the road that was really rough in snow on the way, but the road was largely ok and again mostly random car repair places and the occasional weird bodega/bar. The only tough part was the Dominican car repair guys who were paid probably 8$/hr stand in the road with their advertising signs and often wander into the road creating a mobile human obstacle - perhaps a death wish from the job?
The hill after Jimbo's burgers was the biggest one but my legs were always warm at that point and the only dicey part was if there was ice on the road which makes any hill a challenge. From there, it's a straight shot to Fordham road. Straight shot with a lot of one-way streets that I got into the bad habit of going through if I could see no cars coming - there are lights but they're not timed, so if you wait for each one, you wait forever.... only a couple of times post-call or post-ER did I have close calls there. The west African drivers were always the most effusive in their apologies after the most abusive driving. I stopped trying to communicate my frustration or rage after I realized there was little point and behavior change was not a reasonable goal. The part after Fordham coming the other way was always my favorite coming home because it's all downhill and you can really cruise without a care in the world and just enjoy the night (or the rattling 4 train).
Fordham and Kingsbridge roads are not to be crossed without a green light and even then at your peril. Major and clogged thoroughfares, they attract the best and brightest of the Bronx drivers with their aggression and disregard primed! In the mornings, I usually made it through unscathed. Then into my old neighborhood of Bedford park where a short separation from the 4 train provided some acoustic relief if I was keeping pace with the train and a downpour if it was raining - the other benefit of riding under the train - not having all of the weather coming down directly on top of you.
Bedford park is mellow enough and I could usually really cruise through seeing the students heading to Lehman college early and the Ghanians coming out of their tower at Moshulu Park apartments in their colorful gear. Past that, a right on 210th street leads to Montefiore and work... usually sweaty and slightly bitter, slightly happy and a little grateful to be alive.
Off to Texas and big roads and big cars!