Saturday, July 10, 2010
Day 21 - Washington DC to New York
Boy was I grumpy when I woke up in DC...or should I say, when I woke up in the Motel 6 in South Central L.A. At least that's what it felt like. When we asked the ranger at Pettigrew St. Pk. if we should be worried about any animals or anything he said that the only animals that he's afraid of are the two-legged ones. Dylan and I agree wholeheartedly. Dylan said that he would have much rather slept in an area with snakes around than in that Motel 6. We didn't have any problems but it was still living on the edge for these two blue-eyed white boys.
The drive to NY was pure turnpike the whole way which really surprised me about how many tolls you have to pay. I'll bet it cost us almost $30 to drive to NY on the turnpike. It was fairly fast, though. At first I was driving the speed limit and was getting passed by literally everyone but, eventually, I got wise I just stayed in the pack of traffic traveling at 75 to 80 the whole way. We saw a little traffic but it wasn't as bad as L.A.
I was carrying a lot of stress about where we were going to stay in NY. We are on a serious budget for this trip so spending $300 for a hotel in Manhattan wasn't going to cut it. We needed to find a place on the outskirts where we could easily get into the city for the evening. I thought that Staten Island would be perfect because we could take our bikes on the ferry and have it drop us right in Manhattan. Dylan was looking online for motels and coming up short. Luckily, Sandra volunteered to find something for us. It took her a while but she persevered and found us a brand new Comfort Inn to stay at. Perfect!! Thank you, Snardy!!!
The ferry ride to Manhattan was really kinda cool. To see The Statue of Liberty, one of the great symbols of America, as millions have before me, was really an honor. Before this trip, I was at a point in my life where I really thought that I would never get to see all these things. I will forever be a changed man. Manhattan loomed in the distance and got bigger and bigger and bigger. It kind of reminded me of coming into Seattle by ferry for the first time. Very impressive. Dylan and I disembarked and made our way to Battery Park and looked for a map or something. We saw a sign that said, "Broadway" and that sounded very NY like so off we went up Broadway. We rode around a bit and kind of came to a halt feeling very overwhelmed and a little lost. We had ridden by the Trinity Church and the World Trade Center site, which is just a construction zone now, and ended up at City Hall Park. We were hungry and really didn't know where to go. We wanted to see Times Square and Central Park but we didn't know where to go. I eventually went down into the subway station and found a bus map that saved us. Central Park sure looked a LONG ways away but we decided, "what the hell" and off we went.
New York City is all about the sounds, smells and crush of humanity. At first, we were riding on the sidewalk but as we got further and further uptown, it was impossible...not to mention that we kept seeing bikers riding by on the street hauling ass. Into the street we went to battle with taxis and buses. In and out, stop and go, swerve here and there. Smells of sewer, hot dogs, diesel exhaust, cigarette smoke, electrical ozone smell from the subways below, perfume, bad cologne, sweat all intermixed with the dusty wind being kicked up by the cars and buses. We were in NY...in the trenches. We figured out that, when in NY, do as the NY'ers do and don't stop for red lights. Just wait until you're not going to get killed and go!! There is no such thing as getting a jaywalking ticket in NY. We watched people cross right in front of cars which had the right-of-way. Wow!
We followed 6th Ave for quite a ways when, like a mirage rising up out of the desert for parched travelers, a Chipotle appeared out of nowhere. Dylan immediately fell to his knees and thanked a higher authority for putting his very favorite place right there in front of us. We chowed down and watched the world go by. We noticed something very interesting in that virtually all of the women were wearing dresses. Women of all ages, too. In L.A., women tend to gravitate towards shorts and t-shirts or tank tops. Not here. Another thing that I noticed was that cell phone reception SUCKS in Manhattan....obviously because of all the buildings but it's not something that I expected.
Our hunger satiated, off we went. What a blast it is riding a bike in NY!! Far and away the fastest way to get around. We were in Central Park in no time. There is a road that circles Central Park that is closed to cars but very open to bicycles and joggers. It is literally a bicycle freeway! Hundreds and hundreds of bicyclists hauling ass around the park. Most were on street bikes which are significantly faster than our mountain bikes but we found that if we can catch up to one of the super fast guys we can actually draft behind them with very little effort at speeds well above 25 MPH. We had a blast riding around and checking out all the people. I asked a fellow biker how far around the full loop is. He responded that it was 6 miles all the way around. La di da....we're riding and riding and eventually we figure out that maybe we're seeing the same things again. I pull out my trust Droid with GPS mapping and, sure enough, we had ridden 1 1/2 times around and missed our exit to 7th Ave. Ooops. Well, you certainly can't ride against the flow of traffic without getting killed, so we made our way across the park to the other side. Wow, I could see how easy it would be to get lost in this park.
Our next goal was Times Square as the sun was starting to set. We found it with no problems and immediately stopped in the middle of it, got off our bikes and just looked up with our jaws dropping. Wow! We locked the bikes to a tree and proceeded to be part of the swarm on foot. Times Square is the Mecca of Consumerism. A shrine to our ability, as American's, to spend well beyond our means. Even Walgreen's has a store smack dab in the middle of TS that is, obviously, the chain's showcase store. We took pictures and played tourist with all the others. A lot of you readers got picture text messages from us. TS is pretty much the turning point in our trip. From NY, we head west towards home so TS kind of symbolized the beginning of the end of our adventure.
The ride back to the ferry terminal was a super fast, exciting road race through the darkened streets of Manhattan. I loved it!!! We said goodbye to NY and made our way back to the hotel. By midnight, I was drinking a Longboard Lager, eating Flavor Blasted Cheddar Cheese Goldfish and watching the Discovery Channel. Off towards Ohio tomorrow. I had planned to drive the almost 600 miles to visit friends in Springfield but I think we're going to do it in 2 days instead. Pennsylvania, here we come!