How Far to Rock Away?

The ‘A’ train offers the longest single ride (30 miles / 50 km) one can possibly take on New York’s humongous subway system. But most people have rarely ridden it past Howard Beach! With no beach to its credit, unfortunately, Howard Beach is better known for being the transit stop closest to JFK airport! Ride 7 stops further and you reach Far Rockaway – the eastern tip of Queens, bordering Nassau County in Long Island, and also the last stop on the ‘A’ train.

Welcome to ‘The Rockaways‘! Oft known as the ‘Playground of New York’, the Rockaways refer to the peninsula with a south west projection off Long Island. Once a popular resort area, it is mostly residential today with housing ranging in type from modern apartment blocks to old bungalows. Being a peninsula, it is surrounded by water on most sides – its south side forming a 10 mile long coast line along the Atlantic Ocean.

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A Bronx Island Tale

Probably the two most well known Hollywood films set in the Bronx are ‘Taking of Pelham 123‘ and ‘A Bronx Tale‘. I’ve appropriated the title of the latter to suit this blog and I mention the former for good reason to. Contrary to popular belief, the ‘123’ in the film’s title does not refer to the 1, 2, 3 subway lines of NYC. Quite simply because those lines do not serve Pelham! It actually refers to the time (1:23) in the plot when the train departs Pelham! It is the no.6 train that serves Pelham and as I write this, a remake of the film is underway! A few Saturdays ago, I rode the 6 to its very last stop – Pelham Bay Park.

The Bronx is host to the city’s first Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) experiment – the BX12 Select Bus Service or SBS. It runs from Inwood in upper Manhattan to Pelham Bay Park in north east Bronx and on alighting from our train, it was the very first thing that caught my eye!

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Tour De Queens

Three consecutive days with highs in the mid 30s (~ 100 F) is considered a ‘heat wave’ in NYC. Laughable if you come from India but not so humorous when you take into account how sudden the transition was. From a low of 14C (60F) one day to a high of 36C (97F) the next! Add to that a humidity index of over 70% and you’ve got the best of Indian summer scorching down at you!

So it was with some trepidation that I set off from home on the second Sunday of June to join 500 other bicyclists on the first annual Tour De Queens. The venue: Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, right by the Queens Museum of Art and in the shadow of Arthur Ashe Stadium, where tour marshals braced themselves to lead riders on a 20 mile route through the largest borough of NYC.

The route would take riders through the western perimeter of Queens along waterfront greenways, parks and a gamut of neighbourhoods ranging from residential to historic to the industrial, finally ending back where we began. Ten neighbourhoods in all – most of which I had never seen before!

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Tour De Brooklyn

On the 22nd of May 2008, the city of New York, amidst much fanfare, fireworks and a Navy fly past, celebrated the 125th Birthday of Brooklyn Bridge. To coincide with the event, the 4th annual Tour De Brooklyn was moved ahead by a few weeks. And befitting such an occasion was the location chosen for the flag off – on Water St right under the glorious bridge itself!

The event recorded the largest turnout to date – topping out at a little over 2000 riders. While not nearly as large as the 5 Borough event or even the Tour De Bronx for that matter, the enthusiasm amongst the riders more than made up for the numbers. And at a cool 24C (80F), they couldn’t have asked for better weather to ride in.

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High Five!

Sunday the 4th of May, 45 past noon, Staten Island, NY: A moment of immense physical and emotional accomplishment. I had completed the 42 mile (67 km) Five Borough Bike Tour. I was well and truly stoked! 🙂

4 hours and 45 minutes earlier: The northwest corner of Duane St and Church St in Manhattan – I wait for the flag off along with 29,999 other cyclists. We are four blocks away from the starting line and the mass of bikers behind me stretches for another 15 blocks south. I don’t feel so bad any more for having awoken a little past 5 that morning!

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Fringe Benefits

May is ‘Bike Month NYC’ and the official start of the cycling season. But the first weekend of May also hosts the largest urban recreation event in the US – the 5 Borough Bike Tour – so most cyclists are out training a whole month before. And I was no exception! More on that in my next blog though. For this one, I focus on a relatively short but most interesting 10 mile ride in Brooklyn, the day before the tour.

The Brooklyn Greenway Initiative or BGI is a non profit body working towards building a continuous 14-mile long waterfront Greenway (or bike path) from Green Point to Bay Ridge in Brooklyn. Each year they conduct a tour of the route to showcase their plans and progress on the same. On Saturday, the 3rd of May, I joined a hundred other cyclists on that tour.

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So long, LIC

December 21, 2007. I was all set to walk out the door and head to JFK for my winter trip home. But the excitement was short lived – my landlord showed up and handed us an eviction notice. Our building was being sold and we had to vacate by the end of January ’08.

On my return to NYC in January, I had little or no time to recover from jet lag. Instead the hunt for a suitable apartment took up all of my waking hours outside of work. After looking at no less than 7 apartments across Upper Manhattan and Queens, we finally found one in Woodside. It was time to pack our bags and say goodbye to LIC. It had been a short 6 month stay for me but a memorable one nevertheless.

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Celebration on wheels

We’re back in winter now – towards the end of 2007 and more specifically the last 2 weekends leading up to Christmas and my departure for India. The Big Apple is a joy to wander through at this time of the year and 5th Ave typifies the festive spirit best. From the giant snowflake suspended high over 57th street, to the window displays of Saks to the massive Christmas tree at Rockefeller Centre, celebration is in the air.

But what better way to celebrate the holidays than with trains? And the city did just that. No doubt, with a much broader audience in mind, it dished out 2 huge treats on successive weekends and gave me a fitting send off on my trip home!

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Measuring up to Manhattan – 3

Quite unlike the previous weekend, the night prior to Stage 3 (as I like to call it!) had been peaceful and sober. Whether I had company or not, I had no excuse but to continue where I had left of.

Having covered the better part of the island’s West Side previously, it would only have been fair to cover as much ground on the East Side as was available. So I set out by myself that Sunday morning to ride north along the East River till the end of the bike path at 125th street and back to Long Island City. Covering a length of about 7 miles to and fro, the ride would be a lot shorter than those done over the previous weekend.

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