A low grade climb on my bicycle used to bring up emotions, fears, dread and sometimes tears. My body needed to adjust, it needed time to acclimate to the changing terrain. My mind also needed training. It reeled at a tiny little hill seemingly familiar to the likes of a steep mountain. Embarrassingly enough, in almost the same spot every time, I would dismount, walking my bike the rest of the way. Isn’t it more fun to ride downhill anyway? About a few thousand miles and a year later I feel differently.
Our first big ride was last summer from Shelton to New Haven, CT. During this 30 mile trip, Bruce and I finally found the East Coast Greenway signs! The East Coast Greenway is a project of trails from Maine to Florida and has been coined “The Urban Appalachian Trail.” We rode a short distance from New Haven to Milford on the recommended path. It was a major milestone for us.
Our next ride was even more important.
For weeks Bruce and I had been planning a cycle in and through Manhattan. Each time that it did not quite work out, I honestly have to confess that I felt an enormous amount of relief. There is no hesitation in New York traffic. Hesitation is an area that I work on constantly. It is the very reason why I chose skydiving and canopy piloting long ago to help with body awareness in space. The thoughts of sharing the streets with a dizzying sea of cabs, trucks, cars, pedestrians and scooters still did not settle well with me. After four months of riding a bicycle regularly I was just getting used to traffic on the outskirts of a city, however, I knew deep down inside that it must be done!
It was quite amazing and not at all what I had anticipated. Especially the part where we rode in from Stamford, CT as our bikes were not allowed on the peak train! It was just after 7am and we could either ride or wait until 10am, which would really let our wheels run free shortly after 11am. . . We couldn’t bear the four hours and took to the streets. Now it did take us six hours to get there but that time was filled with burning leg muscles, coffee and pastry stops, amazing trails, views, a short ride through Harlem and finally a sense of unbelievable accomplishment riding down FDR drive.
Bruce and I cycled out of Stamford through some small neighborhoods in Greenwich, CT. We rode through Bruce Park and then Byram Park, not long after that we were crossing the Byram River into Port Chester, NY. We passed through Rye and stopped in Mamaroneck for a recharge. Returning to our ride we cycled through New Rochelle and were delighted to find a stretch along Shore Road passing by the by the Pelham Country Club and Pelham/Split Rock Golf Course. We had our first chance of the trip here to ride a paved trail specific for bicycles and through the woods!
The little breaks were exquisite, instead of focusing on the turn by turn navigation we simply followed the trail. The East Coast Greenway continues to focus on the connections through numerous communities over 2,900 miles up and down the coast.
Our revelry abruptly ended past the Bronx-Pelham landfill. Our navigation system asked us to jump on the Bronx and Pelham Parkway towards the Hutchinson River Parkway! Had we done something wrong? We stopped to take a good look around. Would we have to back track? Just the opposite–to our right was a small bicycle trail, adjacent to the freeway–this is where the Pelham Parkway Greenway begins, turning into the Bronx River Greenway along the official East Coast Greenway Route. The greenways were beautifully landscaped and maintained. Patrol cyclists were on duty with whistles and we had our very own miniature stop signs to safely cross expressway entrances and exit ramps.
My fears of riding through New York nearly disappeared. The organization was astounding. Just as you would think it was most complicated where the Hutchinson River Parkway, Cross Bronx Expressway and Bruckner Expressway converge we simply kept our eyes peeled for signs and bicycle friendly reroutes. We eventually decided to take the southeastern cycling route through the Bronx towards the 3rd Avenue Bridge, East Harlem and FDR Drive. While riding down Story Avenue was interesting for the historical reasons regarding breakdancing and DJ’s, next time I would love to bike inland a bit and experience more of the trail that the East Coast Greenway recommends.
Did I mention that we were on our way by Union Square to get Bruce’s hair cut?
Yes, this day was designed so that Bruce could part with twelve inches of hair and donate it to a good cause.
We selected www.childrenwithhairloss.us
It’s been about a year now and we are living in Miami Beach. Alas, we did not cycle here. Our bikes were shipped and then “lost” for a time by a well known cycling business in the area. . . They were later “found” with the help of our shipping company, Bike Flights, whom I do highly recommend. We have put on many miles and have accumulated quite a bit of Thule gear. There was a time not long ago that I thought it impossible to have a single bag with weight on my bicycle. Now I ride with camera gear, groceries, clothes, yoga mat, whatever it takes to enjoy the day. Bruce’s hair is growing back, he is happy about that. He even had a beard for a short time. . .
Perhaps next year we are ready for the cycle from Florida to Maine! For now there is plenty of East Coast Greenway to explore in South Florida and while Florida is quite flat I am overjoyed every time I fly down the Macarthur Causeway to the mainland. For most of this year, I had worked for Apple, cycling the ECG nearly 150 miles a week. What a feeling to come to work with the energy of cycling. I was thrilled upon discovering those green signs again and can’t wait to find more!