Sunday, June 10, 2012

Two Cargo Bikes thru Five Boros (Part II)

OK, I know you were waiting with baited breath for the end of this story. In the meantime, Heidi from The Pedaled Powered Family managed to post about the Five Boro Ride well before me AND finish their year-long+ ride so no excuses on this front, I guess!


Riding into Queens.
Photo credit: The Pedal Powered Family

After hauling our longtails up the subway stairs to street level, we took a moment and watched the flow of other riders mounting their bikes and heading off to starting line.  This year in an attempt to 'thin out' the riders, there were three different starting points and start times. We were in the last batch, the silver crew, beginning the furtherest south and at the latest time of 9:15AM.  Riding with both auto and bike traffic down to Battery Park was fun with the highlight of passing Trinity Wall Street Church where our boys got to visit the bell tower last year, thanks to my brother-in-law who is a change ringer there.

The start was a mass of people. We knew it would take time to get going so we broke open the snacks, and just looked out at the sea of green-bibbed folks ahead of us and the riders pulling up behind.  Starting took a whole lot of patience, and P and I kept having to decide if it was worth dismounting the bikes and walking with them or continually hopping down off the saddles with our legs astride the top tubes, shuffling along still balancing our passengers.  With the boys on the back, we did a combination of both.  The guys are really adept at mounting and dismounting, but we had to take particular care given the crowd of bicyclists, some it seemed who had not participated in a group ride before.  Of course, we had never bicycled with such sheer numbers, and may never again, but smaller group rides back in New Haven gave us some excellent experience with awareness of spacing, communicating, passing, etc.  Overall, we found that at times we did have to ride pretty defensively as some other participants rode unpredictably.  We are happy to report though that no injuries were had and the only times we stopped--outside of the bottlenecks and the one rest area we decided to pull into-- was when we dropped a cell phone (yes!) and when one of our chains popped while shifting on a hill.

Once we were riding, really riding, it was all quite cool and magical.  Having lived in NYC and traveled in the city for multiple years, it was amazing perspective to do so now by bike.  There were times, especially when pedaling fast down the FDR Drive, having the boys excited by seeing a Water Taxi skimming along the Hudson, when it just felt surreal. I could hear a voice in my head saying, "Wow! I am riding my bike down the FDR!"

North bound,  the FDR was open to cars but we were cruising along by bike going south.
One of the boys took this photo from the back of the Yuba Mundo.

It was fun going through tunnels with bells ringing and participants calling out to hear the amplification of their voices. Riding the bridges were both the toughest parts of the route, often the long slow uphills, and the most satisfying, knowing these views could never be repeated by car.  Another highlight-- on Fifth Avenue, just before entering Central Park, P called out, "Hey, there's Bill Cunningham!" I looked to my right to see the famous NY Times photographer, and city bike commuter, snapping away with his signature blue smock coat.  Right after, another participant, an older woman, rode up behind us and said with sincerity, "Thank you so much for bringing your kids on this ride. I think it is so important that they have an experience like this."

Heading into the Park, we were focused on getting to the 96th Street Playground where we were meeting up with The Pedal Powered Family, Heidi, Reuben, Eden, and Harper.  We had connected on Facebook and then exchanged some messages right before and during the ride, hence the dropped cell phone!  I actually have some great video footage from our handlebar-mounted camera (Thanks, Liz Canning) of our rolling meet-up and now we were three cargo bikes and bike and a trailer. Riding with their crew was a friend that they had met on the road, Erick, and we all enjoyed chatting as we went along.

Stopped in Harlem
Reuben's Big Surly/ Xtracycle with homemade kid seats and sunshade garnered much attention.
F got a different view as he rode with Reuben and Harper for a bit.
He was the perfect banana distributor, reaching into the panniers and handing them over!
It was clear that very few cyclists had ever seen a cargo bike before and we got lots of questions about them throughout the 40+ miles.  I did note that Bike New York needs to update its language about riding with kids: "Youth ages 3 to 9 must ride on a child bike seat, tandem bike, tagalong bike, or a bike trailer."  Of course, cargo bikes should be included in that sentence!  Often other riders could not believe that we could haul the boys the whole way and many warned us about the Verrazano Bridge.   While P and I do not ride for distance, our everyday family cycling put us in good steed for this bike tour.  At times when some other cyclists dismounted and walked their bikes up hills, we simply put the cargo bikes in low gear and pedaled along slowly.  And so when the long, slow rise of the Verrazano came, right near the end of the ride, we pedaled on through, rewarded by cool, crisp air at the highest point of the bridge, and strong breezes rushing by on the way down.

We were pleased when we rolled into Staten Island and did not hang around the Festival much. It was crowded and from what we understand, there was little food left as we were in the last group of finishers.  Getting to the famed Staten Island Ferry and then on a ferry took some time, and it did become a bit torturous waiting with the throngs of others.  The boys, however, were troopers and engaged in multiple conversations with strangers. It helped that we continued to ply them with snacks-- a huge advantage of doing this tour by cargo bike was that our carrying capacity far exceeded most others!  The subway trip back up to P's brother's apartment was an adventure unto itself, one I do not wish to repeat. It included us separating and taking the bikes on different trains, my car filled with annoyed passengers who were not keen on sharing the limited space with my long tail bike.  So while it may have been advisable to ride back uptown, at this point in the day, I was just too darn tired.  In the end, we did make it to our subway stop despite the grumbling.

After feeding the boys their first real meal of the day, we headed by taxi (AHHHH!) down to Grand Central Station and hopped on an 8pm train back to CT.  We were all grubby and tired but there was a real feeling of satisfaction and of shared adventure and an air of possibility of what we might be able to pull off together in the future.

2 comments:

Kayla said...

Seriously, impressive. What a day.

Lynette said...

Wow, Sara - just catching up with your blog as we've returned to US for summer and have access to your blog without censor issues. What a great ride! Sounds like some parts could've been fairly high on the stress meter but you pedaled through! Super for you and the kids! Looking forward to more great reads and fun rides as I page through your posts!