I have a knack of picking them – days with bright sunshine and not a cloud in the sky! Not on this Sunday, however, as I sit on the forward deck of the Staten Island Ferry and watch helplessly as a series of threatening clouds loom over the horizon!
Sometimes it just pays to check on the weather forecast!
It is 11:30 in the morning and no sooner have I wheeled my bike of the Ferry does it start to pour! I have two options – I can either sit and wait it out or carry on as planned. Wisely or otherwise, I decide on the latter!
A couple of miles south of St.George, after it has dawned on me that I am about the only bicyclist out on the road, Bay St. ends abruptly and gives way to the grounds that make up Ford Wadsworth. A US Military outpost till ’94, it is now run by the National Parks Service and on this fine day is blissfully devoid of visitors. After securing a map from the perplexed Park Ranger at the Visitor Centre, I make my way up to ‘the overlook’ to behold some fabulous views of the Verrazano Bridge, Brooklyn, Upper New York Bay, and last but not the least, Battery Weed, which once protected NY harbour!
The grounds of Fort Wadsworth are lush, undulating and dotted with handsome colonial buildings, all warranting a second closer look, but that would have to wait for another visit! I pedal on, and a mile or so later, the thickly wooded greenway emerges into the vast openness of Lower New York Bay! To my left is the bridge, in front of me a sandy beach, and on my right is the FDR Boardwalk, undoubtedly the most pristine one I’ve seen in the NY area!
South Beach is one of three on Staten Island’s east shore, and just south of it, where the boardwalk ends, lies Midland Beach. A promenade continues where the boardwalk has left off, and enables me, the sole biker of the day, to enjoy unhindered vistas of the wide expanse of sand and surf that make up this very inviting beach. All this, while the rain finally let’s up!
The island is known to be the most suburban (read not very transit or bike friendly!) of NYC’s 5 boroughs and also its least diverse! So without doubt, I catch the attention of many a motorist, as I plod along on the few decrepit bike lanes there are!
Somewhere along Hylan Blvd, a lady driver honks at me, for no apparent reason. I pull up to her car at the next traffic light and ask politely, ‘Was I in your way?’ ‘No, but I’ve hit two bikers in the past so didn’t want to run you over’ comes the friendly reply! ‘How thoughtful’, I think to myself!!
Staten Island measures about 16 miles – north to south – as the crow flies. On my ride however, I’ve ended up doing 26 in all, taking into account several detours through parks and beaches! Three hours after setting out, I finally arrive at my destination of Tottenville! In doing so, I accomplish two of the three things I had set out to do, viz, biking the island from north to south and reaching the southernmost tip of New York State!! I am chuffed 😉
The Pavilion at Conference House Park is within swimming distance – if Arthur Kill was ever worthy of that – of the township of Perth Amboy in New Jersey, and officially marks the southern tip of the State of New York! The park itself takes its name from a 17th century Manor House, best known for a Peace Conference it hosted in the 18th century, attended, amongst others, by Benjamin Franklin!
The 265 acre park not only boasts historic buildings and landmarks of significance but also stunning views of Raritan Bay, and several hiking and biking trails set within an upland forest. Sadly, I have to give most of them a miss as I’m scheduled to board the 2:36 departure from Tottenville – the southernmost station on MTA’s humongous 229-mile network!
The third and last item on my list has to do with the all-essential act of eating! It’s a little past 3 when I alight from the train at Tompkinsville and I am obviously ravenous. Help comes in the form of SanRasa, a couple of blocks away..
This Sri Lankan eatery has been on my list for the longest time and the all day, all you can eat buffet doesn’t disappoint! The Non-Veg dishes, especially the Chicken, are great but what is most impressive is their huge vegetarian selection – each one unique in flavour, and across the board, excellent! The Sri Lankan version of the Faluda is a tad disappointing but their Lion Lager (8% alcohol) isn’t so 😉 SanRasa scores bonus points for having a bike rack right outside!!
The 4 pm Ferry takes me back to Lower Manhattan, and just as I’m ready to catch some winks on board the Queens bound R train, a dance troupe boards my subway car and all hell breaks loose!
They alight at 49th St and the penny drops – they’re Broadway performers! Never a dull moment in this amazing city 😉
A full set of pics from the ride can be seen here.