The day got off to an exciting start. I took Gracie for her morning walk at Paulus Hook and let her off the leash in an area where she never goes into the water. However, this morning she looked on the bank and saw a family of geese and couldn’t resist a chase. The geese reacted quickly and skillfully. The two adults and three goslings scrambled into the water and then one of the adults (mother, father…how do you tell?) took the role of decoy, staying close enough to Gracie to give her some hope of a catch and leading her out into the Morris Canal channel. I had been through this once before and learned that it is useless to keep calling her name; she has a laser focus on her quarry until she finally gives up. This can take awhile. Fortunately, early on a Sunday morning there is not much traffic on the Hudson, so she was not in grave danger from the ferries. She finally did give up and probably swam the equivalent of four or five lengths of an Olympic pool in all. I guess she is a pretty good swimmer.
Our plan was to begin the trip in Times Square and to come back to Jersey City to end the first day. We loaded ourselves and a bicycle into the van and headed to the Holland Tunnel, up the West Side Highway to 10th Avenue, and then made our way to Bryant Park, just down 42nd Street from Times Square. There we found a convenient place to deploy the ramp and get the scooter out. After a photo in front of the NYC Public Library, Rob headed to the north side of Central Park, and Gracie and I headed for Times Square.
Gracie and I made our way through a crowded Times Square and up 7th Avenue to Central Park. After taking refuge under a hotel awning to wait out a passing rain shower, we entered the park, merging with the runners and cyclists on Center Drive. We encountered Rob on his bike shortly after turning onto East Drive and made our way together to 90th Street. Here we made a detour to the Guggenheim Museum for a couple of photos. The temperature and the humidity were climbing and sun was directly overhead, so were we careful to make frequent water stops for Gracie, allowing her to rest in the shade a little while each time. Although I had been in Central Park several times in the past,this was the first time I really witnessed its enormity and the variety of fields,trails, and the different venues. Since we stayed on the roads with the hundreds of others jogging, scooting, skating, or cycling through the park, we didn’t exactly get to investigate specific areas like the Great Lawn, Turtle Pond, Strawberry Fields, or model boat sailing in the small lake. It would seem to indicate that it was a crowded affair to be among many hundreds of others making their way through the park, but that was not the case. Somehow, the park is able to accommodate this mass of individuals and still preserve a sense of tranquility and slow pace, or whatever pace you choose.
Central Park was where the idea was first driven home to me that this trip on a scooter would have to be more about getting to my destination each day than about exploring the places I encountered. I could have spent an entire day, more really, exploring Central Park, but I still had to get back to Jersey City and be ready for another day on a scooter the next day. We all continued until we arrived at 110th Street. There, Gracie and Rob got in the van and headed for Fort Tyron Park, north of the GWB, to cool down and enjoy the scenery.
I made my way west to Riverside Drive, and from there headed north toward the bridge. Traffic was light and there was a bicycle lane available, so I drove in the street for most of the way uptown. I passed Riverside Church and tried to capture some of its magnificence with my camera. Its incredible architecture almost ensures that any photo in focus is will reveal something beautiful. I also got a quick photograph of Grant’s Tomb, just across the street on Riverside Drive. A little further north I met a mother with her young son Chris who was on his push scooter, and we had a short race that I videoed, but since have misplaced. He won.
On the street I was able to maintain a good speed, around 8 mph, and before long the GWB came into view. I continued to 165th Street and mad my way to Fort Washington Avenue. From there, I headed north past New York Presbyterian Hospital and Columbia University Medical School. At 178th Street, I turned west toward the entrance to the pedestrian walkway to the GWB. By that time Rob and Gracie had made their way to Fort Lee and were walking in my direction from the New Jersey side of the bridge. To the south, it was still a gorgeous bright day with breathtaking views of the Empire State building, the World Trade Center, the Chrysler Building, and a 1396-foot abomination on the upper east side called 432 Park Avenue, a residential building that is now the second tallest building in Manhattan. Fortunately, with Photoshop it can easily be removed from photos of the New York skyline. To the north, however, ominous dark clouds hinted at the severe storms to come.
I was excited to see Gracie and Rob, meeting them close to the tower on the Jersey side. Rob was able to park only a few blocks from the bridge entrance, and it was not long before we got to the van and they got in to drive to the next meeting place. I decided not to travel along River Road as I had done on previous trips over the bridge, because its too congested and there are several places where it necessary to cross to the other side of the street near blind curves. In addition, when I went that way in my previous test run in March, the sidewalks were still covered with mounds of snow and ice and road debris, and that negative impression remains.
Instead, I went through Fort Lee and headed south along Palisades Avenue, passing the landmark Hiram’s Hot Dogs, which has been serving this area since 1932. Fortunately, traffic was fairly light and it was possible to drive either in a bike lane or along a wide shoulder. I made good time, and soon was heading down the palisades to River Road.
The sky was getting dark to the north. It began to rain, and I pulled into an elevator entryway at the Port Imperial Ferry Terminal until it cleared up a little. After about ten minutes I decided to see if I could make it to Hoboken before the real storm hit. Going full speed–ok that is only 8-10 mph–I nearly made it. But before I could find the shelter of a gazebo I spotted just ahead, the sky coalesced into a black mass, with high winds, lightening, and horizontal rain. I was soaked in no time. My lightweight “Mac-in-a-Sac+ poncho was no match, easily blown up by the winds. My t-shirt remained relatively dry, but all else was drenched. What could I do buy push on. My only concern was that the electrical components on the tiller (i.e., the handlebars) did not get too wet, so I pulled to poncho over it to keep it dry, being careful not to let the material get caught in the forward/reverse lever–something that could cause really big problems.
In 20 minutes I was close to Frank Sinatra Park and I spotted Rob and Gracie in the van. There was a brief lull in the rain, so I decided to continue on to Jersey City. No sooner had I started out again than an earsplitting clap of thunder brought me to my senses. I turned around in time to catch Rob before he pulled away, and I drove the scooter into the van to consider the options. We watched lightening strikes all over the city until the windows became too fogged to see out. After about 30 minutes, it was still raining hard, but the worst of the thunder and lightening had subsided, so wanting to avoid getting behind schedule, particularly on day-1, I got out of the van and headed south. After stopping again at the Hoboken train terminal to wait out some weather, I noticed other ill-prepared commuters without umbrellas were just forging ahead with a newspaper over their heads, so I started the final 4 mile trek to my destination, our apartment in Jersey City.
I was soaked and cold, but all in all it was a successful day. I wouldn’t want to ride in weather like that again, and I was hoping it would be better on day 2.