Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Circumnavigation of Manhattan

Monday the 17th of January was a holiday from work, and the training plan called for a recovery ride so what better way to spend the day than riding a road bike around Manhattan?  Never mind it was the coldest day of the year by quite a bit with a forecasted high of -5C, and to make sure I didn't snooze behind the shifters, snow and ice were in abundance on the bike path from the few major snow storms the NYC area has recently received.

near w181st access to Greenway
The Neil Pryde Alize was the weapon of choice to take me around the "Greenway", a path that in some unforeseeable future is going to wrap around Manhattan in it's entirety.  For now it completely covers the west side, and roughly half of the east side.  The west side of the path from the southern tip in Battery Park to Dyckman St, currently the northern terminus, could be tackled by anyone, but the entire route should only be ridden by the more adventurous rider who's capable of basic bicycle maintenance, and is comfortable pedaling through a few lively neighborhoods that aren't known for their kindness to spandex clad folk.

The Alize is an amazing road bike, but is not renowned for it's handling over icy paths.  Toss in some nasty winds creating a "real feel" temperature in the -15-20C range and we have ourselves an epic ride!

underneath George Washington Bridge
Usually there's a path leading to the lighthouse.  The Little Red Lighthouse has a touching story that everybody will love, and it's worth checking the huge plaque set beside it.  Before the monstrosity above the lighthouse existed, it's job was to keep boats and ships from running aground on the rocks during foggy conditions.  

I continued south on the bike path with a helpful tailwind pushing me along, and did not stop until around W. 70th st.

Pictured above, the structures behind the bike are remnants of an old pier.  If you spin around 180 degrees you'll be awed by the beautiful spires of luxury glass high rises courtesy of the mighty Mr Donald Trump.  Be wary of this area as there are many wealthy pedestrians who gleefully taser perceived threats, and there's almost always security lurking in the shadows itching to give a biker a ticket for ignoring the camouflaged signs stating to stop breathing if you are riding a bike.  OK, they don't say that.  They say to dismount in certain areas, but I personally disagree with their requirements.

Downward I went until I was in the meatpacking district which is around west 14th st, and also happens to be near where I work.  The dual rectangle glass hotel behind Alize is relatively new to the Manhattan skyline, but is already infamous for it's guests exhibitionism to the point where the management decided they needed to mention it when checking in.  Eh, hm, please, uh, don't undress, or perform any other nefarious activities before the hundreds of watching eyes on the Highline park directly below!

On the southern tip of Manhattan things begin to get a bit messy.  There's currently construction just north of Battery park briefly forcing the intrepid adventurer off the Greenway, and then Battery Park is a bit confusing to navigate especially on a nice day when you are bound to be negotiating the area with one million other tourists.  The South Seaport has some sail boats to check out while you soak in the rays, and enjoy the Brooklyn backdrop while munching on some roasted nuts purchased nearby.

Heading up the east side, the adventure truly begins.  The path is seriously lacking continuity, but persevere and you will be rewarded with some amazing views.  Famous bridges are everywhere, and eventually you'll get to see the entire midtown skyline.  Pictured above are the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges.

Not too long after this photo, in the 30s, the path dead ended and I was forced out on to the city streets.  I passed the UN building, and eventually ended up on the path again in the 70s, and was kicked off again, and then got back on again - I really can't remember exactly where, but the route I'll link at the end should give a better idea.  It should be noted by this point I was FREEZING.  What once was a tailwind was now a strong headwind.  My hands rebelled and stopped offering feedback.  My face, I'd find out later, would be nicely windburned.

One last photo to whet the palate.  My hands could barely operate the camera at this point, and the path (again) terminated at 120th St. where I was forced in to the city streets.  This section is where you should be alert.  The path doesn't continue again until around 155th, and it's very easy to miss the Greenway signs guiding you along the route.  At this point, you'll probably be laughing at the "green" signs.  What's so green about this?  There's trash all over the place, stinkeyes are hitting me from every direction, and, man, does that fried chicken smell GOOD.

I managed to make it to the 155th St entrance to the path, but unfortunately it was totally unplowed.  The Alize can adroitly handle many situations, but foot deep snow is not one of them.  I turned my frozen carcass towards the west, quickly calculated my arrival to home time, and hammered away for the last ten minutes eagerly anticipating my very warm apartment to thaw my frozen digits.  Epic!

Route can be found here.

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