A Trip to New York

On Sunday, Sept 4th, I rode from Philadelphia to New York City. Peter Odell, an active ride leader in my bike club, the Bicycle Club of Philadelphia, had a ride going from New Hope, PA (about 42 miles from Philly) to New York. That plan was that after getting to NY, we would put our bikes on a charter bus, have dinner in Chinatown, and then take the bus back. I rode from Philly to New Hope to join the ride. The ride from New Hope to New York was 83 miles long, so I logged 125 miles that day. Of the 16 people riding from New Hope to New York, 5 of them were women. The long version of the trip follows.

My alarm rang at 5am Sunday. I hauled myself out of bed, dressed, forced myself to eat breakfast (who has an appetite at 5 in the morning?), carried my bike downstairs, turned on my lights, and headed out. I was on the road by 5:30. I thought that it would be pitch black, but I noticed as I went over the Spring Garden Bridge that the clouds were edged in red over the Art Museum. I headed north, along 33rd, Ridge, and Henry.

I had read in the forecast that Saturday's overnight low would be in the high 50's. As a rule, I don't wear shorts and short-sleeve shirts until it gets over 60, so I thought that it would be a good idea to start out with a long-sleeve shirt and tights over my regular biking clothes. When I started out in the city I felt a bit too warm, but as I got out along Henry Ave the temperature dropped noticeably, and I was very glad for them, and almost wished I'd brought along something to keep my fingers and toes warm.

The sky gradually lightened, and by 6am there was enough light to see easily, and soon after I turned off my headlight. I caught my first sight of the sun at 6:36 on Joshua Road, while passing the Corson Lime Company.

After getting onto Joshua I followed a cue sheet sent to me by Peter Odell. I'd taken it the previous weekend to check out the route and to see how far it was and how long it would take me to get from my place to the meeting point in New Hope. I found out that it was just over 42 miles and took just over 3 hours. I figured that I should allow myself 3 1/2 hours, which is why I left at 5:30. The route is very nice. It follows good roads, is quite direct, and is easy to remember. Mostly, it's "go on road X until it ends at a T intersection, turn left (or right), then take the next right (or left)". This being the second time on the route, I only checked the cue sheet 2 or 3 times during the 42 mile trip. My only stop was at mile 27, where I visited a Wawa at the intersection of Street Rd and 611 to refill my water bottles. A guy there asked me "How far are you riding today?" I had the pleasure of answering "By the end of today, I'll be in New York City". He didn't reply. I wonder if he believed me. Well, I suppose it was conceivable: it was about 7:10 in the morning, so I had plenty of time to do it.

I rolled into the parking lot where we were meeting at about 8:45. Pete Laverghetta cheered, and said "I was afraid that we'd end up waiting for you". Instead it turned out that we ended up waiting for his friends...

Gradually, we all arrived, put our bikes together, applied sunscreen. I took off my long-sleeve shirt and tights and put them in rack bag -- I knew I'd need them to keep warm on the bus back to New Hope. Peter Odell passed out cue sheets. In addition to mileage markings (which turned out to be off by about 7 miles by the end), there were descriptive comments for the turns (for example "US 1/9 goes left, you go straight") and other little tidbits of info ("Look for llamas on hilltop", "City of Newark, El. 31, Birthplace of Peter Odell"). All of this fit, nicely formatted into two columns, on the front and back of one sheet of paper.

We took off, following really beautiful roads. At one point Jennifer pointed out that my rack bag had come unzipped. I stopped and took an inventory: my long sleeve shirt was missing. Blah, that meant I'd be cold on the bus back. Oh, well, I'd survive anyway, and at least I didn't lose anything really important, like my wallet.

We pulled into the town of North Branch, our scheduled lunch stop, only to find the store closed, despite previous assurances to Peter by the owner that it would be open Labor Day Sunday. We went along the main road for a bit in search of a substitute. We flagged down a jogger who told us there was nothing for 3 miles, so we decided that we'd continue on the route and wait for lunch until the next store in Liberty Corner.

We went through several nice parks, and went right by AT&T Bell Labs, where I'd worked the summer of '92, so I was able to provide a bit of local trivia (like: in this park there is no foliage below the height of about 5' because of a serious deer overpopulation). The route we followed had a few ups and downs, but only a couple major hills, both crossing Watchung Mountain, which Peter (who had invested in US Geological Survey maps) said had a J shape.

Mostly we kept together, since Peter was the only one who knew the way, and it was much easier to follow him than to follow the cue sheet, good as it was. Occasionally some of us would pull away from the pack (mainly, going up hills), and we'd wait for the rest of group to catch up. I was getting pretty sleepy from waking up so early, so I got into the habit of lying down in the grass as soon as we stopped. Coming out of a park near Bell Labs, we stopped for the usual regrouping, but soon discovered that four people were missing. Glenn went out in search of them, but didn't find them. After some discussions, it was decided that they would probably find their way back to the cue sheet eventually, and if not, they had the phone number of the bus, so they could get a ride back to Philly if all else failed. I listened to all of this from my prone position in the grass, where I was in a semi-dozing state, soaking up the sunshine, like a lizard on a rock. When we got going again, I found myself much more awake, refreshed by the long pause.

After many beautiful green roads, we got into more populated areas, and we rode on broad suburban streets. We met the bus, parked on a side street, and asked if there were any calls. Nope, but the bus driver had met two of our wanderers (including Bill Cotton), who had gotten back on track, and reassured them that they were on the right path, and were in fact ahead of the rest of us. No sign of Roberta Shorrock (?sp) and the fourth lost person. We wondered what we should do, maybe keep the bus there a bit longer before having it head into NY. Just then a call came in -- it was Roberta and the other guy! Peter looked at his maps and arranged a rendezvous point with them, and we headed on. We met Roberta's party and headed into the cities.

We went along some big roads, with cars whizzing past. We went along in single file, and I was glad for my bright yellow jersey. Then we went through a big industrial area. This was a broad four lane road, smooth, perfectly flat, with factories, warehouses, and docks along the edge. There was almost no traffic -- we were passed by cars maybe three times while we were here. Peter was right about the various smells. Not all of them were bad -- especially when we passed the extract company, which had a nice aroma with hints of wintergreen. Here we met Bill and the fellow with him, and then we were all back together again.

After this we went into some streets that looked to me alot like the bad neighborhoods of West Philly. Yukk. At this point, we got the first flat of the trip. We stopped as it was changed, and then headed on. After a wrong-way ride down a one-way ramp, and various other city streets, we pulled into the Hoboken transportation center. Here we bought ferry tickets for us ($2) and our bikes ($1), and waited for the 7pm ferry. The ferry went pretty fast, and soon we were in New York, at Battery Park, with the late afternoon sun lighting up the surrounding buildings. I felt elated: I'm biking in New York City! I have ridden all the way from Philly to New York, a 125-mile trip, in one day!

We headed for Chinatown, and at this point we got our second flat tire of the trip. We were very near the end, so instead of fixing it, the guy who had the flat (the same guy who had had the previous one) and a few other people walked, while the rest of us headed to the bus and loaded our bikes on. Just as we were finished, the walkers arrived and we loaded their bikes as well.

Then came a problem. It was about 8pm, when we'd told the bus driver that we'd be leaving NY, and we had just arrived, very hungry. The driver wanted to go home, and we wanted to stay and eat. How to resolve this? Anne came up with the solution: we all contributed $5, making a pot of $80, and used it to bribe the bus driver to wait for us to have dinner. And so, wait he did, while we walked another block to our restaurant. We waited 15 minutes while they cleared a table, and then sat down to a nice Chinese dinner. (My favorite was a dish with big black mushrooms and some kind of green in a nice sauce.)

Then back to the bus, and out of New York. As I predicted, I was cold, and shivered all the way back to New Hope. Oh, well. When we arrived in New Hope, Peter graciously gave me a ride back home: I had no desire to bike back to Philly.

I went to sleep tired but happy: it had been a great day. An ocean of thanks go to Peter Odell for organizing this wonderful ride. Who says bikes are just toys, and can't be used for serious transportation? We rode to New York City!

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