Tagged: Long Island

The Tale of Two Forks

Bicycling on Long Island has a questionable reputation among New York City-area cyclists. One reason, I think, is because the terrain is a lot more challenging and varied in places like Westchester County and across the Hudson in New Jersey and the not-quite-upstate New York counties of Rockland and Orange. Also, let’s not forget that most of Long Island is in Suffolk County, an area regarded as the worst in the USA for bicycling. But Long Island is also suboptimal for long-distance cyclists because one can only ride so far on Long Island before reaching the end of either fork. Nevertheless, there are plenty of good routes available, and a common way to expand the riding options is to ride along both forks of Long Island.

Over the last two weekends, I rode along the south fork to Montauk and along the north fork to Greenport, on two separate rides. The first was the annual Ride to Montauk, which I have ridden in some form or other since 2008, except for 2011. The second was what’s becoming a standard ride from Huntington to Greenport. Since I’ve done these rides—and recounted them on this site—so many times now, I won’t cover all the details, except for a few notes that were novel and stick out after the fact.

South Fork to Montauk

For the second year in a row, I skipped the full 150-mile route and opted instead for the 108-mile route that starts in Babylon. This year, I took advantage of the check-in in Brooklyn, at Atlantic Terminal, since that would spare me having to travel to Manhattan at 3:00 in the morning. However, that does not spare me from riding past bars at 3:00 AM when people are still out from the night before.

It never fails to amuse me that as I am about to start the Montauk ride, there are people still out from the night before.

As I arrived, I met a first-time rider who was doing her first century. Almost immediately, she admitted to being nervous to ride her first century. She said she trained with the New York Cycle Club, doing the C-SIG program, and that her longest ride was 70 miles in the hilly Bergen and Rockland counties region that seemingly every NYCC ride goes to every weekend. A few other riders and I advised her that the Babylon to Montauk route is significantly easier than what she rode on those club rides. However, Long Island can present one unique challenge that doesn’t factor as much as other rides in the area: the wind.

The headwind on this year’s ride was as bad as it was in 2014. We tried pace-lining to mitigate the effects, but I couldn’t keep up with my riding partners. I had a 16 MPH average speed for most of the first 50 miles, but once we got to Dune Road, the unrelenting headwind pushed that average way down. I was pedaling at almost full strength and the fastest I could manage was a meager 11 MPH.

Once I knew I couldn’t set a personal best for this ride and that we would be taking the 5:30 PM train home, I took it easy and kept a manageable pace to enjoy the scenery.

And to savor multiple slices of pie.

I finished the ride about fifty minutes slower than last year’s effort and managed a 15.1 MPH average speed, almost two full miles-per-hour slower than last year and about the same as what I did in 2014. However, because I took it easy, I wasn’t as exhausted afterward as I was in 2014. I told my friend Andre that I had another twenty miles in me. But aside from going to the lighthouse and back, I couldn’t go any further. I had really reached the end of the road. Besides, I really wanted to eat and have a beer.

North Fork to Greenport

This past weekend, I went with a small group from Huntington to Greenport, a ride that I’ve done a number of times now. Although you’re ever only about fifteen or so miles from the Montauk route, this is a significantly different ride. There are a few rolling hills on this ride, and Belle Terre east of Port Jefferson is certainly a noteworthy climb. Another way that this ride was different from last week’s Montauk ride was the wind on the Greenport ride was “favorable.” It was mostly from the north but later in the day, the wind began pushing us east. It was a welcome respite from the Montauk ride the week before.

The easy riding conditions made it so that we weren’t too hungry. Instead of eating at the crowded and expensive deli in Miller Place, we instead used the opportunity for a brief rest. A shaded porch welcomed us, but some big-city skepticism made us resist the temptation. We continued eastward.

As we usually do on these rides, we stopped for pie. Another group of cyclists also arrived at Briermere Farms in Riverhead at the same time as us. Their aim was to eat a strawberry rhubarb while we set our sights on a blueberry crisp.

When I asked where they were riding, one rider told me they were headed to Orient to catch a ferry. Their ultimate destination was Boston over a four-day period. It so happened that one of my friends was doing that same ride and, as soon as that thought crossed my mind, he rolls up to the pie stand. Hello Harry L!

About eleven miles later, partly on my insistence, we stopped at Lieb Cellars, a winery in Cutchogue. I had been there in January on a day trip, and I really enjoyed the dry sparkling cider. We split a bottle before heading out on our final eleven-mile stretch to Greenport.

Is there liquor in cider (“inside ‘er”)?

After a few sandwiches and a few beers, and yes, that pie, we were on our way to the train.

The pie after riding in my backpack for 22 miles from Riverhead to Greenport.

The only thing that is a big minus about these rides is the amount of time one spends on a train at the end of the rides. Each ride, from Montauk or from Greenport, takes about three hours to return to New York. Doing this on consecutive weekends can test your patience.

It might be time to ride somewhere else this coming weekend.

How Riding on the North Fork Could Totally Suck

In the days leading up to this past weekend’s ride to Greenport, Long Island, I noticed there was an uptick in anti-bicycling sentiments from officials in Southold, New York.

Growing up in California, particularly around Los Angeles, you were either within the city limits or were in an unincorporated part of the county. Since I moved “Back East,” on the other hand, it’s been maddeningly frustrating trying to learn the difference between a city, a town, a village, a hamlet, and a borough, in addition to each’s relationship to the county. Located in Suffolk County, the town of Southold includes all of the North Fork east of Riverhead. The last twenty or so miles of last Saturday’s ride to Greenport went through the town of Southold.

Southold town map

Since at least 2003, our “tour director and humble servant” Glen has organized a North Fork ride that begins and ends in Greenport. After 2013, he had to shut down the ride because the town of Southold essentially banned any for-profit rides that pass through that town. This year, he resurrected the North Fork Century by partnering with Alzheimer’s Disease Resource Center. It was a clever workaround.

But now the town has banned all “race and bike events” between June 1 and November 1. It’s unclear if a club ride, such as a group ride organized by a local cycling club or an annual event such as the Suffolk Bike Riders Association’s Bike Boat Bike ride, is included in this ban. According to the town supervisor Scott Russell, “the blanket prohibition on running and bicycling events would help to put the brakes on the escalating problem, as bicyclists ride three and four abreast, running red lights and putting the public in danger.”

This ban, of course, won’t help to lift Suffolk County from its dead-last ranking as the worst cycling community in the United States, according to Bicycling magazine’s annual survey. Suffolk County is “always one of the most dangerous places in the United States to ride a bicycle. In 2008, the county was the site of 23.8 percent of all fatalities to cyclists in New York state, despite having less than 8 percent of the state’s population.”

Suffolk County being disproportionally responsible for mayhem on the roads extends beyond the roads not being “designed for bicycling.” Suffolk County is also the drunken-driving capital of New York, and last week, there was a ghastly fatal crash where an allegedly intoxicated driver killed at least four people in Southold. Strangely, the Southold police chief suggested that a limo being hit by a local driver was inevitable, seemingly downplaying the fact that a drunken driver plowed into the vehicle and was arrested at the scene.

As I reading through these reports, the Southold police and the town board are apparently discouraging any visitors to the town. This provincialist attitude was one of the things that bothered me about living in the Santa Barbara-Goleta-Carpinteria area, a region with 220,000 people compared to the 22,000 in Southold. It creates an us-versus-them mentality that isolates the community in a bubble. The town officials of Southold are prioritizing the rights of locals to speed on local roads—perhaps even while under the influence—at the expense of out-of-town visitors who might travel east by bus, limo, or bicycle on public roads.

It really makes considering another ride to the North Fork a disheartening prospect.

Going Green: Greenpoint to Greenport in July

Over the last couple of months, a few of cycling buddies and I have been entertaining the idea of riding along the north shore of Long Island to the North Fork town of Greenport. Like Montauk, Greenport is a worthwhile cycling destination because both towns are about 100 miles from New York City and are each the terminals of the easternmost Long Island Railroad lines.

This past Saturday, four of us rode the Ride Between the Greens, a 108-mile ride from Greenpoint, Brooklyn to Greenport, Long Island. Incidentally, we also rode a few miles south of of Greenvale and through Greenlawn.

Between the Greens, July 25, 2015

The ride takes advantage of the fact that the two locations are on opposite ends of Long Island and that they are similarly named. Green also provides a nice theme when it comes to designing a t-shirt.

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Regular readers of this site will remember that I am not new to riding along the North Fork. I went on rides in September, October, and November last year. However, each of those rides started in Suffolk County, either at Huntington or at Babylon, where I caught an LIRR train to save about forty miles of pedaling.

This ride, like my now-annual ritual of riding to Montauk, started in Greenpoint, at Transmitter Park. There, a sign signals the end of the road that ironically was the beginning of our ride.

Ride with Between the Greens

The route followed some pretty major arterial roads that were lightly trafficked early on Saturday morning. We took Greenpoint Avenue, over the Newtown Creek, to Queens Boulevard and then east to Douglaston to ride the LIE Service Road for a 14-mile stretch to Syosset. In Syosset, we stopped for our first meal of the day at—where else—a Panera Bread location.

Ride with Between the Greens

After filling up on egg sandwiches and coffee, we headed towards Cold Spring Harbor and then to Huntington, where two of last year’s North Fork rides started. As a sign that we were riding on well-worn cycling routes, we spotted markings for several other rides, including the Huntington Bicycle Club’s Gold Coast Tour, the Suffolk Bicycle Riders Association’s Bike Boat Bike ride, and, yes, faded marks from past North Fork Century rides.

Speaking of well-worn places, we stopped at Briermere Farms for a peach-raspberry pie. The pie wasn’t to our expectations, which was a little disappointing considering that peaches and raspberries used in the filling were both in-season and especially surprising given that we were famished from this ride.

Ride Between the Greens

The ride was especially tough. As happened almost on every Long Island–ride last year, we faced a stiff headwind most of the day, and as we got closer to the end, the wind intensified. Four of us started the ride, but only three of us finished: one guy bailed about 70 miles into the route. Another rider was riding her first century ride and was challenged by the sheer length of the ride. But regardless of our experience and our training, we all were physically and mentally drained on this ride.

Ten hours and almost 110 miles after starting in Greenpoint, we arrived in Greenport just after 4:30 PM. As soon as we arrived, we went to the Greenport Harbor Brewing’s taproom to fill our growler—yes, I carried a 64-ounce glass bottle for over one-hundred miles—for the train ride home. We then went to the Little Creek Oyster Farm and Market for a bucket of two-dozen oysters we shucked ourselves.

Ride Between the Greens

We caught the 6:11 train out of Greenport—the last train that runs on weekends—back to New York City. Credit goes to my Tom Bihn Daylight backpack because, despite its apparently small size, it carried a full growler of beer, a pie, and my wallet, keys, phone, snacks, and the mirrorless camera I used to snap some photos that day.

Ride Between the Greens

As we nibbled on our pie and sipped our beers, I asked, “so, when are we riding the South Fork?” The silent but stern glances I got in response suggested that it was a little too soon to consider a ride to Montauk.

One of the coolest parts of the ride was, when in Greenport, Ian Wile, the proprietor of the farm and market heard about our ride and came to personally congratulate us. He confessed that he always wanted to do a ride like this. I was tempted to quip that I always wanted to run an oyster farm and market, but honestly, I would even know where to start.

Maybe I should send him a t-shirt.

Montauk in May

With another cycling season upon us, it was time for another ride to Montauk. This is the seventh time, either through the 5BBC’s Montauk Century or on Glen’s Ride to Montauk, that I’ve pedaled to Montauk. And, as I’ve done since 2013, I rode from home.

Greenpoint to Montauk

Greenpoint to Montauk

This year was a bit different in a few ways:

  1. The ride was earlier than usual. The 5BBC used to run their ride on the weekend before Memorial Day weekend, but Glen’s ride was always later in the summer. Word on the street is that he did so to take advantage of the longer day and to avoid the rainy climate and cold temperatures that linger over the east end of Long Island well after Memorial Day weekend. But with all the battles he’s faced with the East End towns of Southampton and East Hampton, he has undoubtedly had to make all kinds of concessions, such as capping the ride at 1,500 participants and scheduling it outside of the summer shitshow season.

  2. For obvious reasons, I didn’t start from Long Island City as I did in 2013 and 2014. This year, I started on the other side of the Newtown Creek, in Greenpoint, which put me about 0.6 miles closer to Montauk than starting from my former home on Vernon Boulevard.

  3. I had a riding partner for almost the entire ride. I rode the century course a couple of times with Sarah, and in 2012, I rode with Colin, a fellow cycling and softball enthusiast. But this year, I rode with Andre for the 150-mile course. Over the years, Andre has accompanied me on some rides and has also helped me mark the first forty miles of the course. This year, he and I rode together from Greenpoint all the way to Amagansett, after which he turned on the after burners and got to Montauk about ten minutes ahead of me.

As I mentioned earlier, it’s common for it to rain on Long Island throughout May. The first year I rode the Montauk Century, it was like the first time you do a hard drug. It was perfect! It was one of those rare May days when the temperature is about 80°, and a gentle southwest wind was at our backs all the way to Montauk.

But, like doing any hard drug, on the subsequent times you do it, it’s never as good as the first time. Each year after that, there was always something wrong. For example, in 2009, Sarah, her friend Mindy, and I rode the 100-mile route from Babylon, but it rained the entire day. And it wasn’t just an isolated shower, it was a menacing drizzle with very cold temperatures. I remember getting to the rest stop in Westhampton Beach, about half way through the ride, unable to feel my feet.

This year’s ride, scheduled before Memorial Day weekend on May 16, saw a sizable storm hit us as we rode through Islip. The rain was heavy enough to impair visibility. Andre and I waited it out under a highway overpass for a few minutes and then, as the rain increased, we took shelter inside a gas station with three other cyclists. We waited out the rain for about an hour an a half, which jeopardized our finishing the ride before 6:00 PM.

Once the rain subsided, Andre and I hustled through the rest of the course. We also shaved off about ten miles of riding by skipping “Glen’s flourishes” in Oakdale, Southampton, and Wainscott. Instead, we stayed on the Montauk Highway through those towns to make up for lost time. We did, however, stop to get a lobster roll at Tully’s in Hampton Bays, as I did last year, but we sat inside because it was too cold for outdoor dining.

We stayed together, pedaling between 17-19 MPH, until we got Amagansett. It was there at the final rest stop, Andre gulped down three slices of pie, whereas I only had one slice of blueberry crisp, enabling him to power through the last fifteen miles of the course about ten minutes ahead of me. Another reason I fell behind was that I followed the prescribed detour around the town of Montauk. Our ride happened on the same weekend as the annual music festival in town, and we were told to take a slight detour to avoid the attendant congestion. I think I might have been one of a few riders who actually took the detour, which was great because it was less congested than the main road, and also had some hard pack at the end before the road ended at the Montauk Highway. (Like with rolling hills, I have become a fan of hard pack.)

Two crazy jerks arrived in Montauk.

Two crazy guys biked from Greenpoint to Montauk.

We arrived, at a lakeside restaurant northeast of town, at about 5:30 PM. The shortcuts saved us about 11 miles—because we had only pedaled 139 miles instead of the more impressive sounding 150—but insured we arrived at the finish in time for a shower and hot food.

I have to admit that I felt a bit cheap afterwards that I skipped some of the more scenic parts of the ride in order to finish the ride by 6:00 PM. But for the first time since I’ve ridden the NYC-Montauk route, I didn’t feel like I needed to sleep for days.

If this sounds like something you would like to do over the next week, a friend of mine is organizing an unsupported ride with a bike truck through the New York Cycle Club. It is fitting that the first group ride to Montauk was through NYCC in 1964, and that, after an extended hiatus, it is coming back as a small group ride.

North Shore Ride to Rive^H^H^H^H Greenport

I convinced three guys to overshoot Riverhead and go to as far as Greenport.

I convinced three guys to overshoot Riverhead and go to as far as Greenport.

Yesterday was my much-anticipated North Shore Ride to Riverhead. Except we didn’t go to Riverhead. We overshot it by about 20 miles and rode all the way to Greenport. Again.

I arrived at Woodside to catch the 8:03 train to Huntington and met Harry, one of my fellow riders. As he and I spoke about the ride and the modifications I made, he said something like, “too bad we couldn’t go to Greenport.” I knew that we had a small group of four guys (including me) for this ride, and I knew one of them well. I said that if everyone was game, I was fine with going to Greenport and taking the late, 6:11 PM train back.

On the Huntington train, we met up with the other two riders, Brian and Joe. Harry and I asked them if they would mind riding an extra seven miles to go to Greenport, instead of Riverhead. Without hesitating, they both agreed.

After arriving in Huntington and exchanging Westhampton-New York train tickets for Greenport-New York tickets, we got on our bikes and, at around 9:30 AM, pedaled east toward Greenport.

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Sunday was by far the warmest day of the weekend, with highs around 55° and, for the first time this year, the wind was coming from the west not the east or northeast. That’s right, I finally rode on Long Island without the wind in my face for the entire day.

A fellow club member, who I referred to as a club elder because I’ve seen his name on rides for years, emailed me earlier in the week to suggest taking a few back roads to avoid NY-25A and NY-25. I adopted about half of his suggestions, which added about 400 feet of climbing, and the modified route was absolutely worth the extra effort. The roads had rolling hills, which I personally love to ride, and were for the most part bucolic, tree-lined roads that wound around Long Island Sound. I didn’t take many photos because we were hustling up and down those rollers at a pleasant but accelerated pace.

Somewhere in Stony Brook, Long Island.

Ducks on a Pond.

Because of the tail wind and the rolling hills, we progressed along our route at a very quick pace. For most of the ride, we averaged around 14 MPH and, as usually happens on a Long Island ride, we increased that average as continued further east. Because I was leading the ride, I purposefully kept a slower-than-usual pace, but I still finished with a 15 MPH pace.

We stopped for lunch at a market in Miller Place and, because I promised everyone pie, we stopped at Briermere Farms in Riverhead for a blueberry crisp pie that we all split.

Blueberry Crisp pie from Briermere Farms

Four guys. One Pie.

We left Riverhead at around 2:30 and continued for the final twenty miles along Sound Avenue and then on to Main Road in Mattituck. It’s hard to believe that even with a quick bathroom break at a winery in Peconic, we still rode the last 20 miles in about 75 minutes. We arrived by 3:45.

Because we arrived so early, we had over two hours to spend in Greenport. We had our customary burger-and-beer post-ride meal. The other three guys watched football. And then we went to the Greenport Harbor Brewery for a couple of pints and bought a growler for the train ride home. I even had time to greet a friend.

Greenport Harbor Brewing's Porter

Speaking of Ducks… Black Duck Porter from Greenport Harbor Brewing.

One of the things I like about the New York Cycle Club is its structure. But it’s great when you gather a group that’s up for some spontaneous (and extra) riding. It makes for an unforgettable day.

Keep the Sound on Your Left

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This Sunday, after making some modifications to my initial route, I will be leading a North Shore Ride to Riverhead for the New York Cycle Club (membership required to access listing). Much like September’s North Fork ride to Orient, this ride begins at the Long Island Railroad station in Huntington and continues to Port Jefferson, where we will climb Belle Terre, and then to Riverhead. Although we may have a chance to get some pie in Riverhead, we will certainly stop to enjoy a pint at the Crooked Ladder Brewing Company before continuing for another seven miles to Westhampton, where we will catch the train back to New York City. If we are running behind or are feeling extra festive, we can always catch the 6:40 train from Riverhead to New York, with a connection in Ronkonkoma.

Although I would rather have gone from Huntington all the way to Greenport, a town which I am beginning to like quite a bit, I was concerned about the train’s capacity to hold eight bikes. I didn’t want to have anyone stranded 110 miles from New York City, or, worse even, have to make them take the jitney back.

This, by the way, is not the last ride I plan to do along the Long Island Sound. Next week, I am co-leading the New Haven ride I did last November with the club.

On that ride, we will be keeping the sound on our right.

Playing Hookey on Halloween from Playing Hookey on Halloween

Remember how I planned to ride from the Bronx to Beacon on Halloween Friday?

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Those plans changed on Thursday after I received an email from the NYCC club president. I had proposed a North Fork ride from Huntington to Orient Point, similar to the ride I did in September instead of the NYC Century, but he said that taking the train from Greenport to Ronkonkoma might pose a challenge for a club ride. Indeed, that train from Greenport is a very small one, with only three cars, I think, and last time, we had to cram our bikes into a small area. If more than six riders were to come on my proposed club ride, we would be left scrambling for space and some of us might even be stranded.

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He proposed that I lead a fifty-mile loop from Ronkonkoma, which would rely on a train with more regular service and with more capacity for bicycles. He sent me a few cue sheets, and I reviewed them during a break on Thursday. He also suggested, in the interest of adding more miles, finishing in Babylon, which also has more train service. Since I was pressed for time on Thursday, I misread his suggestion and that I should ride from Babylon to Greenport. In my head, that seemed like an equivalent ride to Huntington to Greenport so I agreed to lead that one.

Trip 3716687 map full

So, instead of riding to Beacon, I decided to scout the ride from Babylon to Greenport. In passing, I asked if the club president wanted to join. He did, and the next morning, we connected on a Babylon-bound train in Jamaica for a Halloween ride towards Ronkonkoma and Riverhead.

This week was peak foliage on Long Island, and the leaves were in their autumnal greatness.

IMG_3103

And there were haunted houses ready for Halloween.

Halloween Ride to Greenport

And a decommissioned but well-preserved gas station in Yaphank.

Halloween Ride to Greenport

After I posed for this photo, someone drove right up to the pumps, expecting to fuel up, until he realized that it was out of service and drove on in search of gasoline elsewhere.

In Yaphank, our two-man riding group split up. He headed back to Ronkonkoma and I continued east towards Riverhead and then to Greenport.

Fall Foliage Cycling Selfie

There were more leaves in their full glory.

Halloween Ride to Greenport

Further east, there were even more signs of Halloween, such as this corn maze in Cutchogue.

Halloween Ride to Greenport

For whatever reason, every ride I did on Long Island this year was with a headwind. This one was no different, and I had the wind in my face for the entire seventy miles. A few miles after Riverhead, I was getting cold and tired. I had planned to scout a hillier route along the Long Island Sound, but the headwind made reconsider. Instead, I followed NY-25 the whole way from Riverhead.

Halloween Ride to Greenport

When I saw the carousel in Greenport, one that I had last seen with my mom in August, my exhausting journey on two wheels was finished.

North Fork Ride to Orient Because I Skipped the NYC Century

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As part of my ongoing mental therapy-by-bicycle, I called a friend and fellow cycle club member to join me on a ride from Huntington, Long Island to Orient Point and then back to Greenport to catch the 6:11 PM train back to New York City. Having ridden to Montauk more than a few times in the past, I always wanted to reach Orient Point on the North Fork, and yesterday was as a good a day as any to do that with yet another eighty degree day with low-humidity.

We started in Huntington because there was a direct train from Penn Station, it would put us close to New York State Bike Route 25A, and it would make for a ninety-mile ride. Once we got out of the train station, we quickly found ourselves on suburban roads with some signs of the farms we would see throughout the ride.

Chickens in Huntington

Long Island has a reputation for being very flat, but we found that there were a good number of hills between Smithtown and Riverhead. We even encountered one of the most storied climbs on Long Island, East Broadway, which leads from Port Jefferson to Belle Terre. It was a challenging hill, but I managed to climb it through the “sit-and-spin” method and I didn’t need to get out of the saddle. I reached the top before Brian did, and that allowed me to snap a photo of him reaching the summit.

Climb from Port Jefferson to Belle Terre

He looks as tired as I feel.

By about 65 miles in, Brian wanted to rest for a minute so we stopped at Hallock’s Cider Mill, a roadside farm stand in Laurel, where they had some very delicious preserves.

Strawberry Rhubarb Preserves

And a pretty awesome blueberry crumb pie that rivals that other pie place on the North Fork.

Blueberry Crumb Pie

Towards the end of our ride, we found that the one of the best views along Bike Route 25 was at East Marion Orient Park, a place so magical that people can apparently walk on water.

East Marion Orient Park

Even with all our rest stops and all the photos we snapped, we reached Orient Point just before 4:00 PM.

The End

I was a little disappointed with the view, but that’s probably because I didn’t scout the route beyond reaching the Orient Point ferry to New London, Connecticut.

Orient Point Ferry

We turned back from Orient to Greenport to get our customary beer and burger in town there and to catch the 6:11 PM train. When I was last in Greenport last month, I tried to go to the Greenport Harbor Brewery for a taste, but it was closing so I didn’t get any beer. This time, we had enough time for a flight.

We Biked 90 Miles… Beer Me

We finished the day at First and South, a pretty good place at the corner of First and South in Greenport with food and prices that rivaled what I found at Birdsdall Inn in Peekskill.

A 100-Mile Loop Around the City Would Be Too Hard

The ride came together over the last couple of days because I had other bike riding plans for this day. Sunday was also the same day as the NYC Century, a ride I first did in 2003, as my first century. This year, I had volunteered on Saturday to get a free entry to the ride.

NYC Century 2014 Route Map

As I kept thinking about the ride and the route, which is largely the same as it’s been for the last decade, I felt that it would be too emotionally difficult to ride it. It would have reminded me of the first time Sarah and I rode that ride together in 2007. At one point, she fell off her bike around mile 20 and wore a bandage on her knee for the rest of the day. It was her first long-distance ride, and I remember she was bonking with six miles left on the 55-mile route. At Astoria Park, I offered her some encouraging words: “Sarah, we have only six miles to go. That’s the distance between your work and my apartment. You can do that, right?” She then agreed that she could and gave me a big hug. I remember seeing a woman passing by who witnessed this tender moment between us. Her reaction to this moment made me realize we had something special. Sarah ultimately held on to finish the ride, and I was really proud of her. I was also inspired that my support helped her on that day. It was the first time my words picked up someone like that, and I wanted to feel that feeling forever.

By midday Saturday, however, I decided I couldn’t very well ride that route. It would be too emotionally difficult to get through that ride, thinking about how happy we were on that first of many other rides we did together.

For now, it appears, that I need to make some new memories.

Jamaica to Blue Point Brewery

Route map from Hlllside, Jamaica to Blue Point, Long Island

My god, what would I do without bicycling? I’d probably have to go on some kind of medication.

My friend Nicole recently lawfully wedded Tom, although their ceremony won’t be until next spring, and they have decided, like any good married couple should, to get the hell out of New York. They will be relocating to Southern California.

As a last hurrah here in the Empire State, they planned a Labor Day weekend in Patchogue, Long Island, where they currently live, with beer at the Blue Point Brewery, bowling at the local alley, and a Saturday BBQ. I was lucky enough to be invited to this weekend of beer, bowling, and BBQ, and, like the cycling glutton that I am, I decided to add another b-word to the mix. I would bike out to Patchogue.

My route from to Patchougue was almost identical to the Ride to Montauk, except that I would only be going one-third of the distance, about fifty miles. It was a train-assisted ride because I had a doctor’s appointment in Manhattan that morning so I was figured it would be easier to start in Jamaica, shaving off some junk miles and to also bypass some Labor Day weekend traffic. I took the F train to Sutphin Blvd and biked south on Sutphin through Jamaica Center onto 109th Ave, then to 137th St, and onto Linden Blvd (which has bike sharrows). After that, I crossed Merrick Ave, which is very familiar to those of us who do the 150-mile Ride to Montauk route, out of Queens and onto Nassau county.

The rest of the route was very familiar to me. I’ve now ridden it twice and have marked it at least four times. It’s one of those routes that I can almost do without a cue sheet.

Since I was not riding very far today, I was able to stop and look around a bit more than usual. I hadn’t realized how pretty the neighborhoods were once we get past Valley Stream and off Merrick Blvd in Lynbrook. There were a few times I wasn’t sure where I was supposed to turn, but thankfully the route marks from the Ride to Montauk, including the ones Andre and I made in May, were still there.

The Route Marks are Still There

Another nice aspect about this particular ride is that I had time for a leisurely lunch about half way through. I noticed a sandwich shop in Amityville that looked good and, boy, did it deliver. Here’s a recommendation for KJ’s Heroes in Amityville. Delicious!

Turkey sandwich from KJ's Heroes

The rest of the ride was a breeze, and I, of course, stopped to see my favorite swans in Argyle Lake in Babylon.

Swans in Argyle Lake

Once I got past Babylon, I picked up the pace. This seems consistent with my previous experiences on this ride. It gets easier the further east you go, except for those hills in Montauk.

I arrived in Blue Point at 4:21, nine minutes ahead of my estimated time of arrival. However, it worked out perfectly because as I rolled into the parking lot, my friends were walking in from their car. Talk about timing!

And, of course, I did get a beer or two.

Careful

Thanks to my friends, Nicole and Tom, and good luck out west. I really admire your courage to take a plunge like this. I hope to do something like myself in the near future.

One Hundred Fifty Miles to Montauk: No Hills, but a Lot of Wind, and a Few Cops

On Saturday, I rode to Montauk on a bicycle for the sixth time since 2008. Like last year, I pedaled 150 miles, from Long Island City to the other end of Long Island in Montauk.

montauk150-2014-map

Hit-and-Run Crash in Long Island City

The day had an inauspicious start. I woke up around 4:30 AM and, as I was preparing to go, I heard outside of my window, the sound of screeching tires followed by a crash. A small sports utility vehicle, which was blaring music at a very high volume, had just rear ended a minivan that was stopped at a red light on Vernon Boulevard at 48th Avenue. I then heard a woman’s voice in the minivan scream in a slurred voice, “Shit! Let’s get the fuck out of here!” The small SUV then went in reverse uncontrollably and almost hit the curb on Vernon Boulevard. Luckily, there were no cars parked on the street or else they would have been crushed for sure. The driver in the minivan got out of the car, inspected the damage, and made a phone call, presumably to the police. As I continued getting ready for my ride, I would go back to the window to check if the police had arrived. After several minutes, I saw that the driver and passenger in the SUV swapped seats, and then the SUV accelerated south on Vernon Boulevard, blew past a red light, and fled the scene. Ten minutes after the crash, the paramedics arrived, and they proceeded to check the driver of the minivan. By the time I went downstairs to hit the road for my ride, the police had still not arrived to investigate a hit-and-run collision that was also likely a DUI. Thankfully, no one appeared to be critically injured, but because the police didn’t respond for at least twenty minutes, with a precinct only two blocks away, I can’t trust the NYPD’s ability to respond to felony hit-and-run and drunken driving.

Watching a hit-and-run crash right outside my window made me very anxious about pedaling through Brooklyn, Queens, and Nassau County, knowing there would be a bunch of residual drunken drivers on the road at 5:00 AM and that they would proceed undisturbed.

Starting from Vernon Boulevard, the west end of Long Island

Thankfully, my initial concern was unfounded as I saw very few cars out on the road at 5:00 AM, and since I knew there wouldn’t be any police out there anywhere, I blew threw just about every light and stop sign until I got into Nassau County. After all, Montauk is very far away, and I have only thirteen hours to get there.

Headwind, Heartburn, and My Hammy

The ride itself was a lot harder than last year. First, I had not been on my road bike since my last club ride on May 3, and there’s always some comfort issues going between my road bike and my commuter bike. Around mile 35, my right hamstring cramped up. After eating a shot block, drinking a bunch of water, and stretching my legs, I returned to the road, but because I was anxious about cramping up again, I wasn’t able to pull up on my pedal and wasn’t able to go very fast.

Second, I had not eaten an especially good pre-ride meal. Instead, I ended up at Corner Bistro devouring a chili burger when I should have gotten something with rice or pasta. For the first third of the ride, I had some pretty bad heartburn that didn’t clear up until I got to Patchogue, around mile 60, and it was bad enough that I didn’t get any beer at the Blue Point Brewery.

Not a Drop of Beer Until Montauk

Third, there was a significant headwind the entire ride. Everyone I spoke to complained about the wind, and although it wasn’t so strong that it threatened to blow you off the road, it did force you to pedal hard the entire route. You weren’t coasting for very long on this ride. Last year, I finished the 150-mile route in a little more than nine hours of riding. This year, I pedaled for more than ten and a half hours. The wind was toughest on those long flat stretches, such as the nine-mile stretch of Union Avenue, east of Babylon, the seven miles of Dune Road, between Westhampton and Quogue, and the final sixteen miles of the Montauk Highway, east of Amagansett. That last stretch included some hills, which blocked the wind a little and gave you a nice descent after you reached the top. I have never been so happy to see hills!

My bike and I are tired #ridetomontauk

Riding for a Lobster Roll… and Pie

As I suspected would happened, food was scarce after the Westhampton rest stop. There were a few energy bars left, and I ate a couple to give me a bit of energy. I didn’t need that much because I was planning on getting a lobster roll at Tully’s in Hampton Bays. And that’s exactly what I did.

Tully's Lobster Roll

In years past, the pie from Briermere Farms is available at the rest stop in Water Mill, but this year, it was at the last rest stop in Amagansett. I skipped this stop last year, but this year, I needed a bathroom and water break, so I stopped there. And I had a slice of cherry pie.

I finished the ride around 5:40 PM, and I had a great time despite the wind, heartburn, and sore legs.

Beer Here!

Beach Towns vs. Bikes

But whatever fun I had was tempered by knowing that ride was considerably smaller than in years’ past. The ride had a hard ridership limit, and because East Hampton had threatened to prevent the ride to go through their town, the 30-mile route and the new 70-mile Montauk loop was cancelled. I didn’t learn about that until I checked in on Friday, and I saw a couple of inconsolable people, crying on the phone after learning about their weekend plans being cancelled.[1]

Despite ruining a lot of people’s plans by shrinking the ride, the cops in Southampton and East Hampton provided a few police officers to guide us through some tricky intersections. That was nice of them, but I couldn’t believe how young a lot of the traffic cops looked. Is that what kids do for jobs now that we don’t have video stores for them to work at?

At least it’s nice to see cops patrolling traffic somewhere!


  1. Sarah, for one, was planning on riding the Montauk-to-Montauk loop, after spending 12 hours route marking the week before. She had even brought her bike out east a few days earlier, but then she had no ride to do.  ↩