Day 1: Dippin’ the wheel

Where: Jersey City, Brooklyn, Brighton Beach, Manhattan

Such a full first day in New York! But before I could start it I had to get to a house in Jersey City where I’m resting my head for three nights. 

I came across Derek online a few months back and have been digging his vlogs a great deal (check him out. He’s fun to watch). I reached out to him and he told me he’d be in New York when I was starting my tour and hooked me up with a place to stay with his friends, Jen and Sandy. After getting off the Amtrak yesterday I had to carry my 100 pound load up and down the subway steps of New York (multiple times… I’m telling myself it builds character) and I finally made it in around 1:30am. Derek was up to greet me and we talked awhile about all sorts of touring stuff – meeting people, free camping, where to ride. He’s been out on the road for years, crisscrossing the continent multiple times and on multiple routes. It was great to pick his brain a bit. His videos have taught me a lot, and I learned even more last night. Good guy, good stuff. 

I crashed and woke up ready to head to Brighton Beach. A quick breakfast and I was out the door, loaded up the bike and pedaled down to the ferry to take me into Manhattan. 

Riding a bike in this city is one of the greatest feelings. You have to be totally in the moment, hyper vigilant yet relaxed, ready to react to anything. But on a 100 pound bike… My god. The momentum of my load guided me as I weaved through the Manhattan gridlock, and to say it was exhilarating doesn’t do it justice. These streets are alive, and however fleeting, however minimally, I became a part of it.

I made my way to the Brooklyn Bridge and cut my way through the mass of tourists into Brooklyn. A highlight was a passing cyclist nodding approvingly and saying “badass!” ( I love this stuff. I know it’s going to keep happening all across the country and that’s just fine by me. Each atta-boy keeps my legs moving another three miles). I weaved through Brooklyn’s roads, mostly in cycling lanes, until I hit Bedford Avenue. I passed Brooklyn College on my way to Brighton Beach, with the ocean winds and smell of sea water picking up the more I moved east. 

Why Brighton Beach? Because there’s a thing some cross-country cyclists do – you dip your rear wheel in whatever ocean you start at, and when you get to the other, you dip your front wheel in. I’ve been dreaming of the time I could dip my own wheel, and Brighton beach was where I decided to do it.

Pushing the bike through the sand was the hardest part of the day! I made it to the water though, soaked in the moment (see what I did there?), and had a couple nice women document the moment for me.

I cruised along the Coney Island boardwalk and got a hot dog at Nathan’s… Because of course. Food is fuel for me now, and there will be plenty more “let’s eat the thing that people think of when they think of food and this place” moments in the months ahead.

Then it was back to Manhattan via the Brooklyn Queens Greenway, which is lovely:

But not as lovely as this bike path in Brooklyn:

I cycled around the perimeter of Prospect Park and found just the spot for another bike portrait (I’m telling you, I love this thing like it were my kid, complete with portraits).

I took the Manhattan Bridge back to the island, which is much easier to navigate than the tourist trap that is the Brooklyn Bridge. I pedaled around lower Manhattan for a while, spending some time cruising the Manhattan Greenway.

I disapprovingly pedaled through the masses by the Wall Street Bull then went north trough Chinatown. 

The destination for the evening was an apartment on the Lower East Side where Jen and Sandy, Derek’s friends and whose house I’m sleeping in, nanny and pet sit. I was locking my bike up right when Jen was taking the dog out, and we chatted while waiting for Derek and Si, another bike traveler Derek met in Florida and reconnected with in Virginia, to come with beer and food.

We all started started preparing dinner – Si was the mastermind and Derek and I did the grunt work. 

We chatted a bit, grabbed some more ingredients down the street, and then cut it all up. When Jen and Sandy got in, we all enjoyed the vegan curry mixed in with beer and good conversation. 

Turns out Jen and Sandy are converting the house into a bed and breakfast, and they have several Workaway volunteers staying here while they get it ready.

Si, Derek, yours truly, Jen, and Sandy
The night winded down, and Si, Derek, and I headed out. They caught the train back to Jersey City and I headed down to the World Trade Center transportation hub (which has an elevator for my bike).

 I got out at Journal Square in Jersey City, pedaled back to the house, and rolled in the front door, and Derek and Si had just walked in. We were in the same train and got on a different spots. We got a kick out of this. They pulled out the ukeleles (perfect thing for the tent after a day on the bike…I’m thinking of picking up a cheapo plastic one) and unwinded from the day with laughter and stories.

I really couldn’t have asked for a better first day. I had wanted to bike the entire Manhattan Greenway, but the one quarter that I did is more than enough given how full the rest of the day was. I’ve dreamt of doing this for so long, and always wondered what it would feel like when I actually did it. I had no idea I could meet so many fascinating, fun people, or feel as comfortable on a 100 pound bike in Manhattan as I did. If the days ahead of me are half as rich as today, I’ll… Well, I don’t know what. I’m too tired to try to be clever, and that’s a good feeling. 

Tomorrow is off the bike and on my feet in Manhattan for the last day before heading south towards Philadelphia. Looking forward to it! Now SLEEP.


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