Sunday, July 31, 2005

See the city, see the zoo

On Wednesday I biked to City Island in 97-degree weather, continuing the project of biking to every island in NYC (and now I think I've finished every bikable island except the ones on the way to the Rockaways) and continuing the unfortunate trend of planning long bike rides on the hottest days imaginable. Any other day since Wednesday would have been far more pleasant, but for some reason I chose the hot and humid first half of the week for extensive outdoor entertainment, including the Bryant Park Film Festival (showing a Pepe Le Pew short followed by Hitchcock's Suspicion) and the Staten Island Yankees vs. the Vermont Expos (a farm team of the Washington Nationals that has bravely kept its name despite the major-league affiliate's move from Montreal -- "why should I change? he's the one who sucks").

I do recommend this bike ride, especially when the weather isn't so extreme. The majority of the ride from anywhere in Manhattan to City Island is on designated bike paths, so you don't have to ride much in traffic. Some of us started downtown, and some of us joined the group further uptown, and we took the West Side Greenway as far as it goes, then went up the very steep uphill paths near the George Washington Bridge. We continued on the bike path next to the Henry Hudson Parkway, then took city streets across Inwood to the University Heights Bridge into the Bronx. The "university" in University Heights was the main campus of NYU from 1894 to 1973, and is now Bronx Community College. We went east on Fordham Road; this was the main part where we were actually in traffic. We continued on the road between the Bronx Zoo and the Botanical Garden, and ended up on Pelham Parkway. There is a dedicated bike path along the whole length of Pelham Parkway (with just a few traffic lights, and entrance/exit ramps to cross), so we could have taken it all the way to the end, but a minor disaster struck and necessitated a detour. My rear tire went flat, so I had to walk a mile or so out of the way to the nearest bike shop (which was easy to find, thanks to the free bike map), in Westchester Square. With a brand new tire, we continued on the last leg of the journey, through Pelham Bay Park, NYC's largest park. The City Island Bridge took us into the "Seaport of the Bronx".

City Island is a strange place. Yacht clubs, seafood restaurants, houses overlooking the ocean (including new houses under construction), all like what I imagine Cape Cod to be like (I've only been there in December, and in an isolated enclave), except it's part of New York City! We filled ourselves with food and air conditioning.

If it had been a smidge colder than 97 degrees, we could have biked back too, but instead we just watched garbage barges pass under the drawbridge in Pelham Bay Park, and biked as far as the 5 train and rode the rest of the way home on an air-conditioned subway.

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