Previously on New Yawk: Having left the Tesla in New Jersey and the bike locks in the Tesla, we finally arrive at Central Park after wheeling the bikes 20 blocks from Penn Station. Wearing helmets, but not riding the bikes. (We are special. No one seems to notice).
OMG, there it is! Central Park! I can barely see it half a block away through the crush of people. We get to the corner and we can see trees and open spaces and a horse drawn buggy and hardly any people over there. What a relief! We cross the street and tuck our bikes into our crotches and pedal past the barrier that proclaims, “No Cars Anywhere in Central Park Today”. The collective soul-destroying stresses of the megacity’s 35,000 people per square mile drop behind us, replaced by mature trees, empty roads, and – is that… is it really? Yes! – boulders of bedrock, like we have all over our mountains back home in the West! This made me feel ever so much better.
We biked all down the one road, across, then all up the other. It’s a really big park. And quite beautiful and relaxing. But where was everyone? We saw an occasional jogger, biker, or dog walker, but really very few when you consider what a grand and serene resource this is in the middle of such a densely populated dearthity of serenitiness. It was surreal in a way, but I tried not to think about it much.The obvious explanation – that the city dwellers were as uncomfortable in the lonely open space of C-Park as I was in the surrounding press of humanity – just made me sad.
But we bikes around, stopping at every red light and waiting for it to turn green. We had some lovely arguments the first few lights about how stupid that was since the cars were forbidden that day. Her argument was that we might get a ticket. Mine was that the police in NYC could not possibly care about us running lights on our bikes on a day that the traffic lights were unnecessary anyway ‘cuz of the lack of cars and the cops were only barely holding their own against the gangs of murdering drug dealers and other assorted ‘real criminals’, of which there is no shortage in NYC. A war zone, you know. Bigger fish to fry and all that. I mean, when we were undergraduates at Uni of Cali in Davis, the bicycle capital of the world, everyone knew that the bike cops enforced the stop signs, but that’s because it was a ‘thing’. In NY? Ridiculous. As was arguing about it. As was leaving her in my dust at the next red light. So we patiently waited for the lights to cycle to green so as to stop the non existent cross traffic before peddling on. Later we saw a cop writing another bicyclist a ticket, we know not what for but there was no blood so it was probably for some minor traffic infraction. The cop was small and insignificant, and looked the type that wouldn’t last a day on the mean streets of New York, so I’m not surprised that he chose to spend his time in the park.
Noon! Time for lunch at the iconic Russian Tea House. They were all very nice, which I suppose is because, from the looks of their clientele, they get 80% of their business serving lookyloo tourists as opposed to underworld Soviets. We split a lunch and had a tea service with it, paying a king’s ransom for it. Great tea. Great service. Great atmosphere. The Russians sweeten their tea with sour cherries. They are a hard people, indeed. Our server claimed his name was Boris. Maybe so. He looked like a Boris. He was certainly ten times more sophisticated than we are or will ever be.
After that we found a one way street with a bike lane and braved it to the riverside park. It wasn’t bad at all! In fact, by the time we got there we were feeling like natives. We were even using some of the regional sign language that we’d seen bicyclists and pedestrians using to communicate with drivers. The NY sign that says “Thanks for letting me cut in” is to hold your hand up and backwards towards the driver with your middle finger extended. The way the driver says “Anytime” is to give a long, friendly honk. But don’t make eye contact! Apparently that makes them mad.
We biked for blocks and blocks along the water. They’ve got some really interesting stuff along there. We went all the way down to the 9-11 memorial where we were told to leave after I leaned my bike against one of the trees. Apparently each tree is symbolic of something or other and using it as a bike prop is indecorous.
Back up the riverside park, another one way street, and a most confusing session trying to figure out where and when the correct train was. Here’s a tip: Ask a fellow traveler for advice, NOT the person at the information desk whose job it is to answer questions. They are overburdened with other responsibilities and have no time for your foolishness.
I’m working up a FAQ. Post your questions in the comments.