Long Island Ride

21 Apr

In preparation for the Montauk Century, I went for a weekend ride to Medford, Long Island this past Saturday/Sunday. The idea was to familiarize myself with the lay of the land, as I’ve not invested enough time exploring “the island” for an all out trek across it. So with that mindset, a deviously roundabout route was created to get from NYC to Medford: cutting through Brooklyn, and following the South Shore eastward. With this routing, what should have been about 60 miles transformed into a nice little 85 mile day trip (plus the miles added on from “creative” “improvisations” to the route).

Day 1: Saturday morning was brisk and cool, the skies murky with clouds that shook showers, but I was prepared for the weather, wearing leg warmers over the tights underneath my cycling shorts and a rain jacket on top of the arm warmers over the thermal underarmor beneath my Bike & Build jersey… Yes, I do enjoy layering. I find it fun- and useful, for though it was cold for the first half of the day, by the afternoon the clouds had scattered and it was a warm spring day.

I followed the Hudson River Park Greenway and crossed the Brooklyn Bridge over the East River- familiar territory. Once in Brooklyn, I made my way southeast and wound up at Prospect Park and just HAD to ride around it- but in doing so, I somehow lost Flatbush Avenue… which is quite ridiculous if you look at the map. Looking back, I’ve no idea how this occured, but it did. And for the next hour and some, I was drifting about Brooklyn’s roads: Church, Kings Highway, Bay Parkway, Ocean Parkway- had I known how the grids were laid out, I may have been able to pull off the improvisation, but in the end, I asked a few people how to get back on track.

Finally following Flatbush Avenue, I skimmed the edge of the Jamaica Bay National Recreation Area and crossed the Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge. The bridge is a pedestrian bridge and there were signs which stated that cyclists were to dismount and walk bikes across. I complied for the first half of the way, but seeing as I was the sole person using the bridge that morning, I decided to ride the rest of the way. No one seemed to mind as there was no one to notice.

Once across, I made my way to the Boardwalk and rode down it a ways before stopping for a late morning break. The boardwalk stretched for miles, the beach was deserted but looked inviting, and I was content snacking away, reading warning signs in Spanish, and enjoying the sound of the waves in their never-ending concert with the shore. It was a welcome contrast to the morning’s madness through Brooklyn.

The rest of the ride was, for the most part, uneventful. I followed my directions with little incident and found my way to Medford in no time at all. Long Island’s South Shore is quite flat, so the ride wasn’t too challenging in and of itself. It was quite interesting riding through the towns and hamlets, the incorporated villages and whatnots- it made me wonder what sort of governing system all these places have and how it relates to the overall state… yes, as the wheels on the road turned, the wheels in my head mused over government and local politics.

Day 2: For the ride from Medford, I opted to go more or less straight across Long Island’s mid-section so that I could cross the Triborough Bridge and visit Randall’s Island for the first time. While slightly shorter in distance, this ride was a bit more challenging, but no less enjoyable, due to the rolling hills.

Still a bit fazed from yesterday’s Brooklyn adventure, I clipped directions to my brake cables- an ingenious idea from my Bike & Build hero, Sonya. As enjoyable as it always is, I was determined not to get (too) lost- and for the most part, I succeeded. I followed the directions to a ‘T’. I was good. I was on top of the world. And about a third of the way back, I found myself on G Road just as the directions stated- except G road became dirt road became muddy state park fire road…

I doubted myself, turned the directions upside-down and sideways, and cursed at myself for not printing a visual map. But I continued on, taking a break to collect myself and to take a picture of an abandoned vehicle that seemed a manifestation of my darkest thoughts: “It’s over man! Bail out!” Still, the hum of a main road, what I hoped was “Old Commack”, was just barely audible- so I kept on, keeping on the so called ‘G Road’. After more than a few WTF moments, I emerged from the underbrush and was indeed at the “intersection” of G Road and Old Commack. I muttered a few unsayables, thanked my lucky stars, and continued on without any other mishaps.

I stopped at a little church to admire the spring blossoms, and by mid-afternoon I was crossing the Triborough Bridge back into the city. I rode around Randall’s Island a bit, and then took the Bronx Kill’s Crossing north since I could not find the Harlem pedestrian walkway. This slight deviation was much more manageable as the terrain is more familiar and I found the 145th street bridge with ease. Officially back in the city, I went straight home, promptly cleaned up, and then passed out after another interesting cycling adventure.

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