Day 78 - to New York - Not!
I decided to go to New York after all, but I didn't want to ride my bike all
the way there. I figured I would ride to Trenton and catch a train. It was
not to be.
It was hot and humid and hilly, a sweaty combination. I rode to Washingon's
Crossing Park, where I had lunch and crossed the Delaware River. On the Jersey
side I discovered the Delaware and Raritan Canal Towpath, which has been turned
into a bike path. This was a nice thing to find, because the path went all the
way into Trenton. It was an easy ride because the path is totally flat.
In Trenton an (apparently) homeless man on a bicycle offered to lead me to the
train station. He said he has been on a bike all his life, and that he has
never driven a car. He was married and he used to ride around with his baby
daughter on his bike with him. After his wife (who had apparently worked to
support the family) kicked him out, he gave his daughter her own bike, which
he had found and fixed up. He used to do free maintenance work on bikes for
kids in his neighborhood. This is a very nice fellow, who just doesn't fit
into "normal" working society. When I met him he was picking up aluminum
cans along the road.
At the train station I tried to buy a ticket with NJ Transit. They said "You
can take your bike on the train, but you need a pass." "How do I get a pass?"
"Go to New York. Get one at the counter there." "You have to be kidding!"
I tried Amtrak, but they said "No way. Try NJ Transit." That's when I decided
to try to ride to New York. Much of central New Jersey is rural, so I thought
I might find a place to camp for free, because there aren't any commercial
campgrounds in this area.
I headed out of Trenton and rode through Princeton. It struck me as a very
nice (rich) college town. I wouldn't mind living there if I could afford it.
I was a little way up the road when ominous black clouds started rolling in,
and I figured I better get a place to stay. I stopped to ask for directions
to a hotel, and the man sent me to US 1 (which I seem to cross very frequently
on this trip). I stayed in the Days Inn for $45.
Soon after I checked into the hotel, a terrible thunderstorm passed through,
with wind and driving rain and lightning all around. A bolt of lightning
struck near the hotel and set off the fire alarm. I was very glad I decided
to get a hotel room.
Day total: 45. Trip total 2102.
I hate to be harsh, but this thought kept running through my mind: "Trenton
is an armpit." The part I rode through to get to the bus station was as bad
as the worst parts of Philadelphia. It got better as I moved away from the
center of town, but I find it hard to imagine why anyone would choose to live
Day 79 - the Big Apple - Mo
I decided to ride on US 1 most of the way into New York. This is a major road
leading to the city and it is very busy. Fortunately, it has a wide shoulder
most of the way. I eventually left US 1 and rejoined the Adventure Cycling
route into New York.
I made it as far as the Goethals Bridge, which connects to Staten Island, when
I found the walkway was closed. The nearest alternative was via a bridge into
Harrison and another into Jersey City. From there I could ride north to the
George Washington Bridge onto Manhattan or South to the Bayonne Bridge onto
Staten Island (and then via the ferry onto Manhattan).
I wandered the streets of Newark (because I didn't have a good street map)
until I found my bridge to Harrison. Meanwhile it rained on me twice. Then I
wandered around Harrison until I found the bridge to Jersey City. And then I
got a flat. I stopped to fix it by a playground, and the kids were fascinated
by my bike and all the stuff on it. I patched the hole, but the patch didn't
hold (it's a long story). Then I put in a new tube, which exploded as I was
pumping it up. It sounded like a shotgun blast. I gave the shredded tube to
a kid who rode by on a bike, and I was very careful putting my last spare tube
into the tire. Fortunately, it held air and I was back on my way.
While I was working on the tire, a woman came by and suggested I use the PATH
train to get to Manhattan. She said people take bikes on it all the time.
Earlier today (at the AAA office on US 1) a man had said the same thing, so I
decided to try it. It was a short ride away, and I had to maneuver my bike
into two handicapped elevators to get it down to the train level. But no one
stopped me, so I made it all the way to 34th Street in Manhattan via the
train. It was 8:30 pm, and I was very happy to be near the YMCA, which was
at 63rd street. The hostel was full, and the "Y" was the cheapest alternative
at $51 per night.
Day total: 58. Trip total: 2160.
They kids at the playground kept saying things like "I can ride that bike" or
"I can have a drink from your bottle." It took me a while to realize that they
were _asking_ for a ride or a drink. The language these kids speak is almost
Day 80 - Wandering the big city - Tu
For my first day in Manhattan, I had to see Central park. The YMCA is only a
block away, so I walked over and spent a couple of hours wandering around the
park. It seems strange to be in the middle of a forest and still be able to
see buildings peeking over the top all around.
I caught the subway down to the Empire State Building and went up to the
observation deck. It's pretty cool to get a birds-eye view of Manhattan and
the surrounding area. Of course I had to get pictures, and I called my mom
and my sister from the top.
From there I walked to Chinatown to find dinner. In the morning I left behind
my wallet and only took as much money as I thought I would spend, plus a credit
card. I ran out of cash, and I had trouble finding a restaurant that would
take credit cards. The more interesting, smaller restaurants wanted cash.
After dinner I walked down to the Staten Island Ferry, which is the cheapest
attraction around at 50 cents for the round trip. The ferry goes past the
Statue of Liberty, and I got a nice view of the nighttime skyline of Manhattan.
The room at the YMCA is very small, and the TV is on a shelf hanging from the
ceiling. The AC unit is acting up, so I had to fiddle with it in the dark and
I whacked my head on the TV shelf. Now I'm walking around with a big lump on
YMCA - $51
Day 81 - to Hostel and Statue of Liberty - We
I was able to get a room at the hostel, so I packed everthing back on the bike
and rode out. The hostel is quite large, with about 300 beds that are almost
always full. I unloaded my bike, locked it up, and explored the place. I was
able to get a discounted ticket to the Statue of Liberty at the hostel store.
The subway took me to the ferry to the Statue of Liberty, where I met a
Taiwanese guy from the hostel. He came to the US to study English at one
of the university summer programs. We walked around the statue to the the
front, where there were many photo opportunities. I hope the pictures come
out. We waited over an hour to get into the building, and then it took even
longer to climg up; there was a continuous line of people from the bottom to
the top. I had hoped to go to Ellis Island to see the immigration museum,
but it took so long to see the statue and its museum that I didn't make it.
I had a sausage dog and a knish for dinner. The street stands are a good
deal if you want a cheap meal. Then I rode the subway back near the hostel
and wandered Broadway (2 blocks away) to find a bagel shop and a bike shop.
The bike shop was closed, but I bought a half dozen bagels. I've been looking
forward to having real New York bagels, and they are very good. But the ones
I used to get in Atlanta were just as good.
Someone at the hostel played the video "Bad Boys," and the "library" was packed.
It struck me that the only peaceful place in the hostel was quiet no longer.
Hostel - $22
Manhattan is in constant motion, and the noise never stops. The hostel is a
microcosm of the city, with an unending flow of people and noise. My room has
12 beds, no carpet, and a plaster ceiling; so everyone hears every sound anyone
makes. A couple of guys came in at 11:00 pm and had a loud conversation. Even
my earplugs don't cut all the noise. I may not get much sleep this week.
Day 82 - more wanderings - Th
I walked to the bike shop to buy spare tubes, since I used up my last one in
Jersey City. Then I headed to Chinatown to grab lunch. I found a guy with a
portable griddle in a store entrance. I asked what he was selling, and he said
something I didn't understand. I pointed to something that looked interesting,
and he heated up a huge portion of noodles and vegetables. I got a couple of
rice cakes, too. Total cost: $2.
I went to the Lower East Side in hopes of finding an authentic Jewish deli, but
after wandering around a bit I decided I could live without it. Instead, I
walked to the National Museum of the American Indian - a part of the
Smithsonian. I had wanted to see it since the first time I heard of it. I
enjoyed the visit, but I tired very quickly of learning new facts and I walked
over to the Stock Exchange. It was too late for a tour, but the building is
impressive. There were people all around posing for pictures next to it.
The World Trade Center had the nearest subway station, where I rode to Greenwich
Village. I wanted to find one of the internet cafes that are cropping up, to
see if I could pick up e-mail. I found two places, but no one could help me
get my mail. I also stopped at a computer store to see if they knew how to fix
my modem, but they weren't any help; they wanted to sell me a new modem.
They were playing a very bad movie at the hostel, so I did a lot of reading.
I was in the World Trade Center subway station during rush hour, so I got to
see the masses of people I expected to find. It was just like you see in the
Day 83 - the Met, Fifth Avenue, and Times Square - F
This was my day to viisit the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I decided I needed
a whole day, so I got up fairly early and rode my bike through Central Park to
the museum. The place is huge, and I missed several sections even though I
stayed the whole day. My favorite part was a room from an Italian count's
castle or villa. The walls are flat, but they are inlaid with wood so they
appear to have paintings, carvings, and shelves full of books and sculptures.
From the Met I headed down Fifth Avenue, passing all the famous places: FAO
Schwartz, Tiffany's, Trump Tower, and more. I would have gone into the toy
store, but it was after 7:00 and they were closed. So I locked up my bike
and walked down to Rockefeller Center and St. Patrick's Cathedral. Rockefeller
Center is a group of buildings with shops and offices, and it was filled with
people even though most of the shops were closed. The Cathedral is one of the
largest in the US, and it was also filled with people, praying or sightseeing.
I wandered past the main library (closed) and over to Times Square. I never
figured out why they call it a square, because it isn't. It's Friday night,
so of course there were people everywhere. I passed a group of people counting
backward in German, staring at a billboard. It was the countdown to the
Olympics, and I watched the last 10 seconds go by.
There was a billboard near Times Square proclaiming the national debt, showing
each family's portion, which is currently $62,000. It really hits home when
they put it in those terms. (I found out later that the debt is about $45,000
per taxpayer, which still sounds bad.)
Day 84 - United Nations and libraries
I visited the AAA office to stock up on maps for the next part of my trip and
rode to the United Nations. They have a display showing the horrible effects
of land mines on civilian populations. We are incredibly ingenious in finding
new ways to kill each other. My favorite was the land mine that jumps up in
the air about 3 feet before blasting shrapnel in a ring. If someone is near
the mine when it goes off, he could be cut in half. In heavily mined countries
like Cambodia, they have a tremendous need for prosthetic limbs to replace the
legs blasted off by the mines. The UN and other humanitarian groups are trying
very hard to get international agreements limiting land mine usage.
The UN tour was interesting, but the place was nearly empty because no
committees were meeting. The shops are filled with wares from all over the
world; it's a good place to shop for unique gifts.
From there I rode to the Main Library, where I learned that it is a research
library; which means that most of the books aren't available for checkout. I
found out about a Science, Industry, and Business Library branch with Internet
terminals, so of course I had to go see it. The SIBL is a new building, and
they have about 70 workstations on the Internet, reserved for an hour at a time.
It seems a great way for a net junkie to get a fix. Unfortunately, I couldn't
use them to get to my e-mail (and I tried).
Grand Central Station wasn't far away, so I rode over to see what it's like.
[Joke: A boy from the country went to New York City for a visit. When he
returned home, his friends asked what he thought of the city. He said "To tell
the truth, there was so much going on that I never made it out of the train
station."] The place was busy, even on a slow Saturday evening.
I rode my bike down Broadway in the morning and back up in the evening. I'm
still overwhelmed by the constant activity and inescapable crowds.
Changes last made on: Wed Aug 14 06:43:48 1996