a spring sighting:
This has been a month of firsts for Basil and me: First huge cycling event (the 5 Boro Tour), first time riding in New York City traffic, and this ride, my first attempt to conquer I ride I’ve feared for quite a while — the long steady climb into a local town. Inclines are not my friend; I have a lot of trouble going up, particularly if the action must be sustained.
This one doesn’t look like much, does it? In my defense, it continues beyond the curve ahead; somehow I just can’t seem to capture its fearsome nature in a photograph. The ride is equally steep either way, with equal breaks, too, where Basil and I can just fly downhill. It was hard work, and I struggled a bit, but Basil and I made it into town and back: One more first!
We stopped along the way to explore a cemetery. Though these trees are enormous, they have a certain grace. Basil posed beneath this one. (Mr. Diarist saw this shot, and said “Haven’t I seen this before?” knowing full well he hadn’t — Basil is just fond of posing with trees!)
From a distance, I wondered if the tree had been burned. I think, instead, that it must have lost a limb, instead. When I lived in orchard country, if I recall correctly, damaged areas on trees were often treated with tar (maybe creosote?) to seal and protect the vulnerable spot where there was no bark. I think that’s what I saw here:
It’s a fascinating look at the texture of the wood — as well as testimony to the resilience of the tree itself.
Other than going, at times, very, very slowly, we had only one bothersome moment: A single gust of wind nearly knocked us over.. When I checked the weather record after, the highest recorded gust was only 14 mph/22.5 kph, so it’s surprising that it affected us so greatly. (Although it’s worth noting that measurement was taken at the weather station, not exactly where Basil and I were.) In any event, we held our ground, and arrived home safely. Now I want to see if, with practice, I become stronger, and more capable, at managing this route. That’s what spring is for!
After Basil and I returned from New York, Mr. Diarist, his mountain bike, Basil and I took a short ride together on a local trail.
It was a lovely temperate day. Newly-revived greenery provided lush frames for the usual sights along the way.
We spied this hearty little family, too. Mama was leading nine goslings, all of them larger than usual at this time of year, having (apparently) gotten a good start on spring.
Mr. Diarist offered directional assistance to a fellow looking for another trail. Whereas I can’t find my way out of an open paper bag, Mr. Diarist has excellent geographic skills, so it’s likely that the lost cyclist found his destination, as he’d had to good sense to ask the right person!
I snapped a picture of this house while Mr. Diarist was assisting the cyclist. It’s perched on a hillside overlooking a lovely green patch (and, now, the end of the trail). The location must have been wonderful once, but these days the building is all boarded up and no longer occupied.
Below the house, to my left as I took this picture, was once some kind on industrial installation — part of a mill, perhaps, as they were once common in this area. It’s likely that both were abandoned at approximately the same time. I’m surprised, though, that someone hasn’t snapped up the house and refurbished it. Though it now overlooks a trail parking lot, the setting is still marvelous, and that porch would be a marvelous place to spend a bit of evening on a summer — or spring — day.
So shiny new that it still had a retailer’s tag on it. It’s a Huffy Nel Lusso one-speed, with a coaster brake, a rear rack, a massive comfort saddle, a tiny basket, and a leatherette cupholder, in chocolate brown and caramel. Oh-la-la — and get a look at those sidewalls!
Note the “longhorn” handlebars. My wrists hurt when I think of using these, but you’ve got to admit they’re quite retro.
Practical considerations aside, I think this is an arrestingly attractive bicycle. I doubt I’d find owning it a pleasure, since it’s engineering that makes my heart sing, but oh, is she pretty — and maybe not a bad choice at all for a rough-and-ready city bike which may be only minimally, if regularly, used.
Why ride a Brompton bicycle? I mean, really, look at Basil.
Even at rest he looks quick, zippy and alert. How could you resist such an enthusiastic companion? (Not easily, I can tell you. Not easily!)
The day this posts, though, I’ll be away again, briefly, and missing Basil. Bah, humbug.
When I sat down to write up our 5 Boro Tour, Mr. Diarist pointed out that storms were on the way, and that, if I wanted to ride Basil to the market, I’d better do it sooner, rather than later. Forsaking my bloggerly duties, then, I headed out the door.
In the week we were gone, our suburban world had changed enormously. Spring was no longer a half-hearted hint.
The sky was fantastic: Mr. Diarist had been right about the storm. Nonetheless, one must have veggies.
Basil’s Brompton “basket” is very deep. Thanks to the wonderful luggage block — which is mounted on the frame, not the handlebars — weight in the front does not affect either handling or steering adversely. Or at all, really.
This was an emergency run, so I bought bulk stuff. There was room for plenty more — including the milk that I forgot. No matter; forgetting something is a good excuse for another ride — after the storm passes.
Yorkville, Upper East Side, New York City:
Seriously, if one were moving to NYC, wouldn’t this be tempting? Such a bargain, too — a unit in the building is currently for sale for “WELL UNDER $3 MILLLION!” (plus maintenance fees approximately the cost of one super-equipped Brompton bicycle, per month). There’s a doorman, though.
(You know what they say: If you have to ask . . . )
For the first time ever, a Brompton-spotting in Washington Heights! And not just one, but a brace of Bromptons, accompanied by two delightful cyclists.
Sadly, I was not riding Basil at the time, as I was returning from hauling a package — on foot — to the UPS store. I sent a Japanese ironing board home, and couldn’t figure out how to attach the long and unwieldy package to Basil’s rear rack in any way that would let me ride without obstructing traffic.
Before the 5 Boro, I’d ridden in two events, both the previous autumn, and both so small that I essentially rode them alone. A “real” event like the 5 Boro Tour was a first for me. (Nothing like starting your cycling event life on one with 32,000 other riders!) The same week, I marked another milestone by doing something I thought I would never do: I rode in Manhattan traffic. A lot. And lived to tell the tale.
On Tuesday after the Boro, Basil needed a small repair, the detais of which I’ll post later. He was fixed much sooner than I expected, so I collected him, and then took a bus back to the west sde, and then the subway to 28th St., with Basil in tow. I grabbed an indifferent sandwich at a “gourmet” market next to a favorite sandwich shop (unexpectedly shuttered) while Basil waited patiently.
The paucity of quality ingredients in the sandwich were compensated by the glory of this creation, which made a much more satisfying lunch.
We were behind FIT (the Fashion Institute of Technology), and hadn’t too many blocks to go to reach our destination. I’d seen a cupholder on a stroller that might work on a Brompton, so I wanted to take Basil to Buy Buy Baby to see if I could find the holder. It was only blocks away.
I couldn’t stand the thought of having Basil with me and not riding; it felt far more wrong than risking death in Manhattan traffic.
We rode to the store. We failed to find the cupholder. We left the store.
Then, much as happened on the day of the 5 Boro, I said to myself, “If I go east and then turn left, I must run into the Greenway eventually.” And that’s what I did; well, I went east, and then left. I never found the Greenway.
Before I knew it, I was passing UN Plaza, in the mid-Forties.
The blocks just fell away; I was in the high 6os before I’d blinked, it seemed, and then back on familiar turf in the UES. And Basil and I were both still alive! In the process, though, I learned these things:
- In New York, it is possible to be doored from the right side, the left side, and the front. Take this seriously.
- Also, it’s possible to get doored from a traffic lane. Really. When a New Yorker wants to exit a vehicle, said New Yorker will. No matter where the vehicle is.
- Motorists believe that bikes should use the ostentatiously painted — red — dedicated bus lanes, even though they (inexplicably) observe the prohibition themselves.
- When vehicle windows are open, it’s possible to get a driver’s attention with a bike bell. And garner a smile, too, potentially.
- Bus drivers may toot their horns, very lightly, with several quick taps in a row, to politely let a cyclist know that the bus will be entering the bus lane behind, and next to, the cyclist. (I was watching in my mirror, but that was really helpful.)
- Taking the lane, sensibly and overtly, is often Very Important.
- Some motorists will come very close to side-swiping a bicyclist, either because they don’t notice, they hate cyclists, or they just don’t care. There’s actually very little one can do about this, except veer into the space one has kept between the parked cars’ doors and oneself, and hope none of those doors open at the same moment.
- Average speed of a slow-moving Brompton will well exceed that of any motorist travelling the same route, even if the Brompton rider observes all traffic laws, as she is wont to do.
- It’s possible that I was the only cyclist in all of Manhattan wearing Hi Vis apparel. Really.
Taxis, blitzing across many lanes with laser-like focus toward prospective fares, and, in the process, completely un-alert to the possibility of a bicycle in the trajectory, seemed to pose a more serious hazard to cyclists than the occasional impatient civilian motorist. On the other hand, several taxi drivers went out of their way to indicate that they saw me, and I had a great conversation with another taxi driver while waiting at a light. He gave me a thumbs up, and said that walking and cycling were the best ways to see the city.
Admittedly, New York was in a great mood during this particular week: cars were being driven with the windows open, to take in all that cool, but definitely spring-like, air, and people were uncharacteristically smiling a lot. All that aside, though, it was all-too-obvious how a freak moment could send a cyclist crashing into oblivion — whether or not he or she had been vigilant. I was terrified for most of the ride — also thrilled, and completely disbelieving: Were we really doing this?!
Basil and I hopped the crosstown bus for the second time that day, and then took the subway to 168th, where we decided we hadn’t ridden enough, so we rode over to Amsterdam Avenue and down to about 155th, back again, and tootled around the neighborhood a bit before going “home”.
On Broadway (I think) somewhere around 170th, we saw a cargo bike — with a passenger on board.
Drivers were more easy-going, and generally friendlier, in Washington Heights, but it’s safe to say that vigilance is the skill of the hour. Riding in Manhattan, especially in Mid-Town, feels like a death-defying act — but it was a completely exhilarating experience, too. What a week this was: Two “firsts” for Basil and me: a huge group ride, and navigating New York City traffic. Who woulda thunk it??!?
Altogether we rode over seven miles/11.2 km in New York traffic. (It’s a small island, folks!) Will I ever need a subway pass again? We’ll see!
Here’s the route we took:
9th Avenue south to right on 26th
26th to 7th (errand stop)
25th to left on 1st Avenue, with some noodling around looking for the Greenway. (I could see the FDR below, but no way to get near it, or anything that I could positively identify as the path)
1st Avenue to a left on 71st, which I had mistaken for the street the M79 (yeah — go figure) takes across Central Park
71st to right on 3rd Avenue
3rd Avenue to 79th, the actual stop of the M79 crosstown bus (d’oh! — although, in fairness, you catch it at 81st on the west side)
Then we took the bus and the subway back to Washington Heights, riding down Amsterdam to around 155th, back up again, and a bit in the neighborhood.