Below is a narrative for my day at the MS New York bike ride. There is also a photo index available, and the thumbnails in the description point to the photo album.
Woke up before the crack of dawn to make a 8:00 flight out of SFO. My car must have been pretty humorous to see as I drove up 280... the bike was in the seat next to me, and my suitcase was lashed to the crossbar behind the drivers seat. Traffic was light at 5:45, and everything went flawlessly.
I flew out in business class (being a United 100K is wonderful... enough upgrades to upgrade almost every flight). The person in the seat next to me was quite engaging... a 60ish businessman who was a graduate of Yale. It turns out that he knew John Kerry well (he was captain of Yale's JV hockey team, and Kerry was on the team; he did admit that Kerry had a tendency to do the showy plays and moves). He thought quite highly of Kerry, and shared my sentiments on Bush. I won't represent his political views, but it was good to talk to someone else who voted for Bush because he appeared to be a more decisive and stronger leader, but will be voting for Kerry this time. Simply stated, Bush is strong as in stubborn, and will cling to a path even when it is proving to be both wrong and harmful to the country. As an engineer by training, I find Bush's roughshod approach to science quite troubling. Apparently, so do a number of other scientists and engineers, who expressed their views in an open letter.That is enough politics for now; we will have to wait for November 2 to see how this turns out. He was also on the board of an organization called Natural Step which helps comes achieve sustainability (environment and manufacturing) in their organizations.
For the first time, I tried taking the AirTrain and subway from JFK to the city. The good news is that the trip is only seven dollars, and predictable in traffic. That being said, the port authority wins awards for the most unfriendly and confusing signs. The signs are in English only (so much for being our country's major international gateway). The signs were all text, and did nothing to explain that one side was a loop around the airport, and the other side had two trains that connected to different parts of the subway system. If a picture is worth a thousand words, these folks came up 996 short. After the trip I did look at their web site, and it does an excellent job of explaining the situation.
The A train to Manhattan was uneventful. The only mishap was that I missed the Fulton stop of the train (busy reading a magazine, what can I say), so I got off two stops later, hauled my suitcase, bike, and backpack up the stairs and down to the other platform. After that, I got off at Fulton, walked 5 blocks to the hotel and checked in. I have learned that bike assembly is the highest priority, so I did that before I went out for dinner. Then I settled bed on a early evening.
I woke up at 6:30, got dressed (I had already decided that it was 2 layers plus a wind breaker). As I got to Water Street (my hotel was three blocks from the check in), I saw bicyclists streaming in. Then, I turned the corner, and there were thousands of bikers, lined up with their bikes, in lines for registration. The registration moved rapidly, with multiple lanes of processing and no dependency on the first letter of your last name. They took your envelope, handed an appropriately colored bib to you (red was 30, blue 60, purple 100, MVP yellow). Once through this, we walked down a street and they had the breakfast area... imagine tables with enough bagels and Dunkin donuts to feed 5000 people. I then waited in the repair/inflation line to pump up my tires (it takes forever to inflate tires past 85 pounds with a mini pump). One of my few complaints is that people waiting for inflation had to wait in the same line as repairs... I gave up after 20 minutes. We then started the ride (including as many riders as possible gathering at the start line for a photo opportunity).
Riding on the FDR was great. I'd been there many times in a cab, but the freedom to be able to look and see the city was wonderful. The police blocked all of the entrances to the highway so we were safe from vehicles. However, one also needs to be safe from other riders, and the roads were busy with bikes, of all different speeds. The views were wonderful, but not easily captured in photographs. My favorite was making the turn toward midtown, with a vista that went from the Empire State building to the United Nations. The skies were blue and the sun was warm. The rest of the ride up the FDR was uneventful, at least for me; one rider did get forced off the road into a barrier and got a bit scuffed up (inexperienced riders tended to wander over the road and were occasionally dangerous).
We had our first rest stop at Inwood park at the North end of Manhattan. You can see the sun was shining and wonderful. There were plenty of bike repair folks (with pumps) so I did manage to get inflated to 110. We even had bagpipes serenading us.
From there we started our trip down the west side of Manhattan on the west side highway. Suddenly, the skies grew dark, and the winds picked up, from the south. I was not able to understand NY wind patterns at all this day. The weather forecast called for winds from the west. The winds were from the west when we were in New Jersey later in the day. But, whether because of the river, or the buildings on Manhattan, the winds on the west side of the city were consistently from the south (in your face). The view on the west side was nice, but not as spectacular as the east. The 60 and 100 mile riders then got in line to go through the Lincoln tunnel. We were sent through in batches of 75 riders, with police checking us and any backpacks before we were allowed to enter. The marshals of the rider made sure that they told people to take their sunglasses off (worthless advice to those of us with prescription sunglasses). As advertised, we had a tube of the tunnel all to ourselves.As soon as we were given the go ahead, people took off, hooting and hollering. It was great fun. The people who had done this ride before provided the spirit; there was lots of hooting and hollering as people wanted to heard their voices reverberate in the tunnel.
After that we rode a bit on streets in New Jersey, heading north. At last we got off main streets and into Palisades park, which was a slightly hilly tree-lined area along the river, with little traffic. Quiet tree-lined roads along the river are not the most common thing to come to mind when you say "North Jersey" to people.
Finally, we entered Rockland County in New York. This got us close to the home of Washington Irving and Ichabod Crane. My favorite street name for the day was "Spooky Hollow Road," with other names like "Strawtown Road." There were also names that took me back to growing up in New Jersey, like "Kings Highway." Rockland county, with quaint little towns like Nyack, was beautiful. There were many rolling hills, a few short, steep climbs, and beautiful views of fall color (east coast people may take this for granted, but this is rarely seen in California).
After Rockland county, we retraced our route, back to the Palisades, and then across the George Washington bridge, and then down Riverside drive to the finish. This time we were on streets with traffic and stop lights, so it was not as exciting as the earlier parts of the ride. I did, at least, get to see Riverside Church by Columbia and Grant's tomb (now correctly called the Grant Memorial, since Grant is not buried there). After a bit more riding on 11th avenue, we went to the bike path along the Hudson river. The ride ended at Chelsea Pier, with a bit of a pasta snack (I would hesitate to call it a post-ride meal, but it was enough to forestall the hunger pangs).
After that, I took the Hudson bike path down to the Wall street area, past the World Trade Center site, and came up to Broadway on my way back to the hotel. I then realized that the famous Wall Street bull was just a few blocks away, on Broadway near the old customs house and the Cunard shipping building, so I went down for a photo opportunity. I can only hope that my picture in front of this icon will precipitate a new bull market. I now feel that my experience was complete.
The day comes when you have to get back to work. In this case, that meant a 7:00 AM flight from JFK to SFO. This translates to waking up at 4:15 AM (which would be 1:15 AM in California). The cab ride at 5:00 AM was incredibly fast... taking the Williamsburg bridge to the BQE and then to Kennedy. The ride took less that 1/2 hour. Got to work just after noon, and came home exhausted that evening.