Morning broke with rain and dark clouds. Scholars educated in meteorology made promises of there being enough solar thermonuclear radiation to make our ride enjoyable. We chose to be believers instead of cynics for a day. The sun breached the clouds a bit as we departed on the LIRR, destined for Manhattan and ultimately the Manhattan Greenbelt Trail.
Arriving in Penn Station, we awkwardly trod in our SPD compatible riding shoes up to the street level. Strolling to the corner of 34th street and 8th avenue we waited for additional riders as we began to prepare for our clockwise circumnavigation of Manhattan. When all the riders had collected, we embarked upon our journey by launching down 33rd street toward the west side to enter the Greenbelt.
Cruising along at a comfortable pace, pacing the other running and wheeled traffic we quickly passed the U.S.S. Intrepid. Its bow glistened in the sun as we pressed our way northward soon to arrive in the pristine Dewitt Clinton Park. Traversing the Island of Manhattan farther north, the Greenway took us through Riverside Park. Spanning over a 100 streets we reached the first in our tour of the city's great bridges, the George Washington Bridge, beneath which resides the Little Red Lighthouse. So aptly named, The Lighthouse was built in 1880 to assist in naval navigation of the Hudson River. And it is most assuredly red.
In contrast to our preconceptions, the north end of this voyage proved to be quiet, pristine and not at all congested. Clean paths and unassuming vistas beckoned. The Grecian Temple beseeched us to sit for a while and take in the view. Further on at Fort Tryon Park and the Cloisters there exists a challenging 4 twist switchback. The challenge came as we scaled almost 500 feet in elevation across only about 150 yards of horizontal run. The steepness and sharp turns of this beast tested our group's resolve.
Arching over the top of the isle and heading south, we found other travelers along our route to be few and far between. Casually sinking south, 155th street greeted us with some tricky on-street riding. Leaving the concrete jungles of Central Harlem behind we reentered the Greenway, as Randall's Island came to view.
Spinning down the length of road parallel to Roosevelt Island we passed The Queensboro Bridge, The United Nations and the Midtown Tunnel. Which brought us to another short break from the Greenway, where our group of cyclists would briefly have to travel on a busy section of 2nd avenue. Dodging buses and vehicles quickly became a necessary skill for this section.
Back on the Greenway around 37th, the group spun safely to 20th street where construction on the Greenway once again forced our group to head down Avenue C where one of the natives directed us to go to take "C" through "Stuy Town" to Houston to return to the Greenway.
Rolling southward on the Greenway, we swept through the Lower East side past the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges. Where sweet salty ocean smell encircled us, signaling our approach to the docks at the South Street Seaport. From there our excursion took us to the southern tip of Manhattan where we could pensively take in the visage of Lady Liberty. The Statue's dignified posture stood there almost saluting us as we turned to end our journey, some 40 blocks to the north at 34th street.
Now to speak the truth, for the most part this trail is a complete and utter pleasure to ride. The stops for the most part are few, the scenery for the most part is actually spectacular, and although the Mayor claims that the trail is officially open, it is not complete! In addition, to the two through-city-street detours posted on the map we also found two other sections closed and requiring detours. One section takes you through a lovely sewage processing plant and burned out car graveyard, but aside form that the ride actually beats anything in Nassau County for picturesque and safe bike riding. My hat is off to the city planners who came up with the idea.
By the time you complete this jaunt around this Old Dutch Colonial Settlement, you have seen a laundry list of the New York Tourist attractions, The Intrepid, On this particular weekend, the Queen Mary, The George Washington Bridge, The Little Red Lighthouse, All The Hudson River Parks, The spectacular views of the Hudson itself, Harlem, The Upper East Side, The Lower East Side, The 59th street, Williamsburgh, Manhattan, and Brooklyn Bridges, The South Street Seaport, The Wall Street Skyline, Battery Park, The Statue of Liberty, Ground Zero, Chelsea Piers and even the Long Island West Side Yard where all those No Passenger Trains go to hide!