Art Ride: Guided Bicycle Tour of Rockaway! Public Art

NYC DOT and the Rockaway Waterfront Alliance is organizing a free bike tour of public art in Rockaway. The ride takes place this Sunday, August 3, beginning at 9:30. Unlike yesterday’s forty-mile EPIC ride from Greenpoint to Rockaway along the Brooklyn waterfront, this ride is only six-miles long.

PS1's Rockaway! on view until September 1

This is a great way to see Rockaway!. It is a public arts festival that MoMA PS1 is staging at Fort Tilden, not a musical about the seaside peninsula. It is open now until September 1.

And Now I Feel Old

All this month, Soundcheck, the daily music show on our local NPR cash-cow WNYC, is airing a series on the music of the summer of 1994 because that was twenty years ago and, looking back, that was a pretty nifty year for music. That was also the summer after I graduated high school and eagerly anticipated my move to college.

Man, that was a long time ago.

To give you an idea of how long ago that was, most of my music listening happened in my car1, and my way of listening in a car seems downright antiquated. The centerpiece of my in-car music system was a $300 Sony Discman CD player that came with a three-second memory buffer. That memory prevented the CD from skipping anytime I hit a pothole.

The Sony CD Walkman (Discman) D-235 from the 1990s

I could power this device with batteries, but it would barely last an hour, especially if the buffer was being used, not nearly enough for a drive from my parent’s home in the Antelope Valley to my school in Santa Barbara. To keep the tunes going, I used a DC adapter. I know many people still use these to charge a phone or, if you’re a cab driver, a standalone GPS unit. The charging port in cars from those days was designed as a cigarette lighter because in those days, there were more people who smoked than people who used a handheld computer. Getting that outlet to power an electronic device was, I think, one of the most clever hacks ever devised.

Listening to the CD player through the car’s audio system required another hack using a car audio cassette adapter that connected to the line-out jack from my Discman. I would insert the other end, shaped like a cassette tape, into the tape deck. Also, with that adapter I was guaranteed backward compatibility: I could listen to cassettes and CDs, and I wasn’t forced to upgrade until I was tired of exhausting my tape deck’s cutting-edge features, such as auto-reverse and song seek.

With all this great hardware, of course, I had great software. In 1994, and years before the iPod, carrying my entire music library was virtually impossible. I needed to bring a small batch of CDs with me. In 1994, I probably owned about 200 CD but didn’t travel with more than twelve discs at a time.2 Every car trip required careful curation and anticipation about what my friends and I might want to hear many hours in the future. This might seem inconvenient today, but I really got to know my music back then, especially how good a particular band was beyond their hits.

After college, I found myself listening to music in my car less frequently. Santa Barbara and UCSB were particularly friendly to walking and cycling, and long drives with my friends became a rare thing. That combined with a move to New York City made riding in a car a less common occurrence for me that riding in an airplane. Whenever I get into a car today, I just get turn the radio to the local NPR station.

As much as Soundcheck’s bidecennial retrospective on 1994 makes me feel like an old man, it at least confirms that my music is objectively better than anything these kids listen to these days.

  1. Yes, this is the same guy who drives about 200 miles per year but pedals about 20x that. 
  2. I never got the 100-disc binders that held a chunk of every single CD I ever owned. That was a good thing, in retrospect, because at least two of my friends had their big binders stolen from their cars. Those were, without exaggeration, devastating losses. 

Trivia Night at the Hostel

A novel but increasingly common sight in Long Island City is the presence of baggage-toting tourists descending to the subway station at 23rd Street-Court Square. Part of the reason is that the area has a healthy concentration of hotels, such as the Z Hotel and the Wyndham Garden, and our very own hostel, appropriately called The Local. I think a lot of travelers end up around here because the hotels must be cheaper than staying in Manhattan but are located one subway stop from Manhattan, although a hotel such as The Ravel is about a good ten-minute walk from Queensborough Plaza.

My travel experience wasn’t that of the typical youngster backpacking around Europe after college. Most of my travel consisted of many short trips, partly because I always had a steady job after college and, because my father worked for an airline, I could fly anywhere for practically nothing. Throughout my various travels, I only stayed in a hostel a handful of times: once in Italy with a bunch of college friends, once again in the Garden District of New Orleans, and most recently in London to attend an academic conference. As far as I remember, these hostels resembled university dormitories: they all had a shared bathroom, a communal kitchen and dining area, and a front desk with supportive staff to help you experience the city you were visiting. One thing that I don’t remember seeing at these hostels was a bar.

The Local has a bar, and in the spirit of promoting conviviality among its guests, the hostel features activities such as a Thursday trivia night. Some of my friends like The Local because it’s a nice space off the beaten track. There is no “bar drama” because there are no regulars among its transient clientele. And best of all, it features some very inexpensive craft beer and decent wine, or so I’m told.

Last week, Sarah and I went to the Thursday night trivia contest. Assuming we were the only locals who would regularly attend this trivia night, we named our team LIC You Next Thursday. The questions consisted of some common knowledge questions, such as whether alligators sweat. (They don’t.) Because the guests undoubtedly have New York on their minds, there were questions about the city, such as naming and ranking the five boroughs in order of physical size. The pop-culture round were mostly about movies from the 1990s, and our having come of age in that decade really helped us answer those questions.

The prize was a $50 bar tab, which I am happy to report we won.

Last night's big trivia winners!! #thelocalhostels

The prize was so big we had to call on friends to help us spend our winnings. However, we also could have saved for another day: the prize expires after seven days.

Aside from winning the trivia contest and spending the prize, I received no compensation. The opinions expressed here are my own.

The Brooklyn Greenway Epic Ride

Less than two weeks remain for the Brooklyn Greenway's annual Epic Ride. This year's route goes from Greenpoint, Brooklyn to Rockaway Beach. The forty-mile route is a preview of what could one day be a complete recreational route along the Brooklyn waterfront.

Route Map: The Epic Ride 2014, from Greenpoint to Rockaway Beach

The Scenic Route: Greenpoint, Brooklyn to Rockaway Beach via the Brooklyn Greenway

A significant part of the route already hugs the coastline, especially the greenway runs along the Shore Parkway and another large section of greenway east of Sheepshead Bay towards Howard Beach. However, some part of the route runs along Third Avenue, a major artery with lots of high-speed automotive traffic, from Red Hook to Sunset Park.

Yesterday, the organizers distributed a ride guide and a route sheet to registered riders. For those who want to see the route, download a PDF turn-by-turn sheet, or download a GPX file, I drew the course on Ride with GPS. You're welcome to download the route, but don't be a douche and “pirate” the ride. Please register and support a good cause.

Newark to Philadelphia via Washington Crossing

After much anticipation and excitement, I finally rode my bike from New York to Philadelphia for Bastille Day weekend. After riding from Long Island City to Manhattan to catch a PATH train to Newark, the ride covered two states, and each state offered a very different experience.

PATH Train to Newark

The New Jersey part of the ride, from Newark to Pennington, was cycling nirvana after completing the first five miles, from Newark to Springfield. Those first five miles along Springfield Avenue went through some relatively blighted parts of the city with some pretty poor roads to match, but thankfully, traffic was light for a weekday morning, but I swear I must have watched every signal turn red as I approached it. The rest of the ride was on some very pleasant back roads. There was one significant climb in Springfield but once I crossed I-78, it was an exhilarating downhill.

Map of Newark to Philadelphia via Washington Crossing on a bike

I rode through the first quarter of the ride at a pretty good clip, averaging close to 16 MPH, and it was much faster than I had anticipated. For example, I had planned to reach my first breakfast stop in South Bound Brook around 9:30. I arrived there around 8:30.

After eating breakfast, I followed the Raritan and Millstone Rivers along Weston Canal Road but encountered a road closure. My planned route had me head north on the Manville Causeway, but the bridge that spans the Millstone River is closed for repairs. I had to detour by continuing south on Mettlers Road and then west on Amwell Road. The benefit of this detour is that I came upon a duck crossing, and to my surprise, the drivers of New Jersey patiently waited until every duck had crossed and without a single one of them blasting their horns.

I had arrived at the fifty-mile mark, in Hopewell, by 10:30 AM.

Hopewell, New Jersey looks quaint

I figured that if I kept that pace, I could arrive in Philadelphia as early as 2:30 PM. While that might sound great, it presented a logistical challenge. My friends weren’t due to arrive until much later in the day, around 5:00 PM at the earliest, so I decided to take my time once I arrived at the New Jersey–Pennsylvania border, 62 miles from the start, at about 11:30 AM. I slowly walked my bike across the Delaware River, toured the Washington Crossing historic site, took some photos, and made a few phone calls.

Washington Crossing in New Jersey

A little after 12:15 PM, I headed out on the Pennsylvania section of the ride. My route basically followed the Delaware, keeping the river on my left. For the first four or five miles, through Yardley, the ride was absolutely pleasant. But once I crossed Trenton Avenue, into Morrisville, the ride became much uglier. First, there were long stretches of industrial sections and the roads were in terrible shape with potholes. Second, because I was riding between the Delaware River, I-95, and the Northeast Corridor rail lines, my route was dotted with various distribution centers. That explained the endless stream of eighteen-wheeler trucks passing me as I headed towards Philadelphia. At one point, I had to turn on to a short section of Tyburn Road in Morrisville and to get on what seemed like a highway on-ramp to ride over a railroad. Compounding the danger was that the bridge was undergoing construction so there was no shoulder for me to ride next to high-speed traffic. I had to wait for a sufficiently long break in traffic and sprint for about a half-minute until I reached the first off-ramp. That was the most death defying riding I had done in a long time.

As if merging onto a highway with no shoulder wasn’t bad enough, I had to salmon on a narrow road with high-speed commercial traffic barreling towards me. For whatever reason, the eastbound lane of Bristol Pike east of Tullytown just ends. My route sheet instructed me to continue riding, and I did so because there was no other way for me to continue riding, other than to ride on, US-13, an actual highway. There was however a three-foot-wide shoulder on the left side of the road. As soon as I saw that, I carefully rode my bike like a velocipede on that narrow shoulder.

Finally, much like the beginning of the ride in Newark, the ride went through some blighted neighborhoods, and despite the presence of bike lanes on Torresdale and Aramgino Avenues, the roads were in terrible shape. Much like the beginning of my ride through Newark, it seemed like every stop light I approached turned red.


I arrived in Philadelphia’s City Center just before 4:00 PM. I checked in to our weekend rental, and immediately grabbed a shower. I needed it!

Biked to Philadelphia

The last bit of the ride, just under forty miles, took me about three hours to complete. It was so absolutely stressful, especially compared to the New Jersey part of the ride, that upon returning to New York, I began searching for more pleasant routes from New Jersey to Philadelphia. It appears that the best way to do that is to ride a bit north of Washington Crossing and cross the Delaware River at Lambertsville, New Jersey, continue to New Hope, Pennsylvania, and approach the city from the northwest. I’ll take that next time.

And, yes, there will be a next time. I had a great time in Philadelphia, and if you know a better way to get there, other than by bicycle, I’d like to hear it!

Tessa Hughes-Freeland at Millennium Film Workshop

Lest I be accused promoting only men filmmakers at the expense of women, allow me to inform you that Millennium Film Workshop will be screening a collection of films by Tessa Hughes-Freeland, a filmmaker closely associated with the Cinema of Transgression.

The Cinema of Transgression was a 1980s film movement that documented the underground arts and culture scenes of New York City. The movement disavowed the production style and principles of the commercial cinema. Some of the films are not for the faint of heart.

The following Hughes-Freeland films are scheduled to screen:

  • Baby Doll, 1982, 3 mins
  • Hippie Home Movie, 2013 , 2 mins
  • Joker, 1983, 5 mins
  • Kind, 2013, 1 min
  • Rat Trap, 1986, 12 mins
  • Gift, 2010, 6 mins
  • Playboy Voodoo, 19991, 12 mins
  • Western Tests, 2011, 2 mins
  • Nymphomania, 1994, 9 mins
  • Instinct: Bitches Side, 2007, 13 mins

Of these, I’ve only seen Baby Doll and that was at least a decade ago. You can watch it as a low-quality video on YouTube, but it’s NSFW. However, as the video is about the working girls of the long-gone Baby Doll lounge in Tribeca, I guess it really depends on what you do for work, right?

Having vacated their old theater on East 4th Street in Manhattan, Millennium Film Workshop now holds their screenings in Bushwick, at the Brooklyn Fireproof, at 119 Ingraham Street.

Cheesesteak Century

Tomorrow, I will be riding my bike to Philadelphia, and spending the weekend there, because…

  • It’s something I’ve heard New York cyclists do.
  • It’s something I’ve always wanted to do.
  • It’s something cool to do in observance of Bastille Day.

One of the more challenging parts of the ride is getting to New Jersey. One option is to go all out and ride over the George Washington Bridge and head southwest towards Philadelphia. It’s something better suited for riders living in upper Manhattan but not for someone in Long Island City, Queens. A second option is to take the ferry from Manhattan, at either West 39th Street or Wall Street, and go to Paulus Hook in Jersey City. This is a very common option and an especially nice one because it keeps you above ground the entire day, and it’s a quick trip that would only cost $9 for me and my bike. A third option is to take a train, either NJ Transit or PATH, to Newark and start there. This is the option I have selected.

My plan is to start from home and ride to the World Trade Center to catch an early morning PATH train. From there, I will cross the Hudson River into New Jersey and continue to the end of the line in Newark. I will start pedaling just outside of Newark-Penn Station. Part of me feels like a cheat for taking the train and starting in Newark, instead of New York proper, but two factors changed my mind:

  1. There’s only one feasible way to get from Jersey City to Newark, and it sucks. This requires you to cross two rivers, the Hackensack and the Passaic, along US-1/US-9. From all accounts, it’s a treacherous route. Traffic is heavy and moves fast. There is little room on the shoulder to ride. There’s also a steel bridge to cross, and I’m terrified of crossing steel bridges on a bicycle. This seems like a terrible way to start a long day on the bike.

  2. Continental United Airlines refers to its northeast hub as New York/Newark, NJ. If they get to pretend that Newark is the same as New York, so do I!

A map image of a planned route from New York/Newark, NJ to Philadelphia

My planned route will go through the hills of Summit and Middlesex before descending into South Bound Brook, briefly following the Raritan River as it splits into the Millstone River, which I will follow for about 20 miles. I will then head southwest through the towns of Hopewell and Pennington and then crossing the Delaware River where George Washington himself did in the town, appropriately called Washington Crossing. The rest of the route follows the west and north banks of the Delaware River to Philadelphia.

I have planned a few stops for food and fluids:

  • Mile 28. The town of South Bound Brook has some fast food chains and independent delis where I can have breakfast. It comes after riding through the most significant hills of the day, which appear to be rollers in the elevation profile.
  • Mile 64. After crossing the Delaware, the town of Yardley offers some sit-down and more casual options for lunch. I’m considering the Yardley Inn, which offers a three-course lunch for $15, or maybe opt for a simpler lunch at Cafe Antonio.
  • Mile 85. I’ll be going through a few towns as I follow US-13/Bristol Pike, and there appear to be a great deal of shops, service stations, and eateries for that last stretch into Philadelphia.

The one part of the trip I can’t control is the weather, and it looks like I’m getting a great day tomorrow. The forecast high will be in the low 80s, with little humidity, and it even looks like I’ll have a slight tailwind as get through central New Jersey. That’s so much better than my last really long ride with a steady headwind over a 150-mile route.

Liberté! Egalité! Phraternité!

Yes, Bastille Day is less than a week away. And if you’re looking for a way to observe the weekend, the Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia is staging a “completely historically accurate” reenactment of the storming of the Bastille that sparked the French Revolution. The anniversary of this day serves as the French national day.

The event is free to attend, but they also are offering a VIP “French Bourgeoisie” experience for $40, which includes a high-perched seat, beer, and a gift bag. After the vainqueurs successfully storm Bastille and the ancien regime is overthrown, the Penitentiary will open for a rare evening tour. I wouldn’t mind taking the tour because I missed the Obscura Society’s May road trip to Philadelphia, where they toured the Penitentiary and the Mutter Museum.

Since I plan to ride to Philadelphia this Friday and spend the weekend there, I might consider adding a pair of culottes to my Bastille Day wish list.

North Brooklyn and LIC on the Fireworks: “That’s It?”

The 2014 Macy's Fourth of July Fireworks from Greenpoint, Brooklyn

Everyone was excited about the fireworks coming to the East River after many years of being staged on the Hudson River. The streets of Long Island City were full of people heading towards Gantry State Park and LIC Landing to see the fireworks.

We didn’t stick around the neighborhood and headed to Greenpoint for a rooftop party. Many of the attendees were excited to finally see the fireworks from Brooklyn, which haven’t been able to do for several years. When the show started, a bit after 9:00 PM, the crowd reacted in disbelief to the show.

“That’s it?”

We could barely see the fireworks because all the barges were south of the Brooklyn Bridge. It even appeared that we were watching the Jersey City’s fireworks, but we were in fact watching New York City’s epic firework show. What a disappointment!

At least we didn’t pay as much as $125 to hardly see any fireworks.

El Mundial with an Antenna

Every cord cutter could resort to watching the World Cup games, en español, on Univision’s website. But starting after July 4, after the Round of 16, cord cutters had to find another way because Univision now requires viewers to authenticate with a cable TV subscription.

However, if you live in a major metropolitan area, you can watch the games the old fashioned way, over the air using an antenna.

ABC aired today’s Belgium–Argentina game, over the air, and in New York, I found the game on channel 7.1. Today’s late game, between Netherlands and Costa Rica, was on ESPN only so I had to find it on Univision’s broadcast channel. In New York, I had remembered that the channel was on 41 in the old analog days. I expected to find the digital channel on 41.1, but that’s not what you get in New York City. The Wikipedia article on WXTV had some information about the digital channel, but I had to get creative and search the proverbial dial. I found there were two feeds, one in 480-line SD and one in 1080-line HD.

Signal Channel
Standard Definition, 480 lines 68.2
High Definition, 1080 lines 40.1

As I’ve said before, we cord cutters need to stick together.