Last Sunday, I organized a small group of cyclists from the New York Cycle Club on a ride from Newark, New Jersey to Philadelphia, as I had previously noted on this site.
When I boarded the PATH train at World Trade Center, there were about a dozen, mostly black cyclists that boarded with me, holding their bicycles as we travelled under the Hudson River. When we arrived at Newark Penn Station, we found that there were dozens more waiting in the lobby, and when we emerged outside, there were well over a hundred more cyclists waiting to start riding. Clearly, there we stumbled upon a some kind of cycling event.
One of the cyclists gathered outside Newark Penn Station asked us where we were headed and if we were going through New Hope. We said that we were going to Philadelphia and that, yes, we planned to ride through New Hope.
He then invited us to ride with the group, noting “we have a police escort.” The video below shows the peloton riding through the streets of Newark. You can see the NYCC cyclists scattered at the back of the pack at about 1:10.
The ride we stumbled upon was the annual New Hope Ride, organized by Major Taylor Cycling Club of New Jersey. This club traces its roots back to the 1970s when two sisters formed a cycling club in response to “the discrimination they experienced while riding with other NYC cycling clubs.” The club’s namesake, Major Taylor, was an African American cyclist who set numerous world records at the turn the of the twentieth century while facing racial discrimination and persecution.
Major Taylor, the namesake of the club we rode with on Sunday’s ride to Philadelphia.
After the rest stop in New Brunswick, at about mile twenty-five, I found that these cyclists could ride much faster than I could, so we detoured back to our planned route and continued on our way. Nonetheless, it was certainly an extraordinarily great experience to stowaway on this club’s event, taking advantage of their police escort and to blow through countless red lights through the streets of New Jersey. In this racially charged climate we live in today, especially after the violence in Charlottesville just the days earlier, we also rode in unity and in solidarity.
I lost count how many times I’ve ridden my bicycle from New YorkNewark to Philadelphia, but I’ll be doing this ride again on Sunday, August 13. The ride will run through the New York Cycle Club and is listed on their Upcoming Rides page (look for the “Cheesesteak Century”). If you are a member, you can sign up for the ride through this direct link.
After a ride to Montauk, I consider this to be a ride that every NYC-area cyclist must do at least once.
More likely than not, we’ll be doing the same route I’ve done the last few times, most recently in December 2015. However, if I have an intrepid group of riders with me that day, I’m tempted to try a more challenging route that crosses the Delaware River at New Hope, Pennsylvania and reaches Philadelphia through the northwest suburbs, instead of the usual route that crosses the Delaware at Washington Crossing.
The last time I tried to do this ride in the summer was as a first-leg of a ride to Baltimore. But this in the middle of brutal heat wave. Temperatures during the ride were as high as 103° so after I arrived in Philadelphia, I packed up my bike and shipped in home. I continued to Baltimore on a Mega Bus.
Let’s hope that we get more temperate weather on the 13th and a few cyclists get to check this ride off their list.
Pardon my silence over the last three weeks. I was asked to take an unpaid gardening leave for two weeks, and I stayed away from the computer as much as I could. And after my digital sabbatical was over, the beginning of the semester loomed on the horizon. Between the two, I stopped posting on this site.
I should have said something about it, but I was surprised as anyone that I would take such an extended leave from posting.
Before starting my leave, I planned to a bunch of awesome things, although tending to a garden was not one of them, including:
Visiting my friend Joe in Maine. He works there during the summer, and invited me to spend some time in the summer resort town of Northeast Harbor. Having never been before, it sounded like paradise.
Join my friend Steve in Baltimore as he watches a baseball game at a thirtieth different ballpark. Over the last three years, Steve leveraged all the spending his business generates into frequent flyer miles. Those miles allowed him to travel to a bunch of different cities to watch a baseball game at every current major league ballpark. His last stop was on August 17, at Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore. He’s not sure whether he’s going to do the International League or the Pacific Coast League next…or whether he’ll ever attend another baseball game again.
Hit the beach. It’s only in the last few years that I’ve been going to the beaches around here, and it’s pretty easy to bike to many of the beaches around here.
Organize my living and working space. Since I switched to the other side of the Newtown Creek, I’ve been uninspired to unpack the boxes I used to carry and hold my possessions. Going on cleaning and organizing binges used to be an embarrassing indulgence.
Go to Block Island or somewhere similarly exotic. As well as bikes and trains work together, bikes and ferries work even better. I had considered doing something like riding my bike out to Montauk and then catching the ferry to Block Island. But I could never find a time to do that.
As is the case with most of my grand plans, I did very few of these. Yes, I did go to the beach once, and I did go to Baltimore to watch the Mets play at Citi Field South Camden Yards with Steve and a few friends. But I didn’t visit any new places, such as the northeastern coast of Maine or one of America’s “Last Great Places”. Instead, I did a few familiar bike rides.
Biked to Peekskill. This was a Monday ride that turned into an opportunity to enjoy dollar-oysters at the Peekskill’s Brewery. It however started as a coin-toss ride. My friend Brian and I rode the Westchester and Putnam county trails to Carmel, then rode on NY-301 to the junction with US-9. There we flipped a coin. Heads: we turned right to Beacon; Tails: we turned left to Peekskill. Since neither of us had a coin, I asked Siri to do so. At first, it gave us a smart-ass response: “You’re never going to believe this, but the coin landed on its edge.” We flipped again, Siri said “tails,” and we headed south to Peekskill. I’m considering making this a formal club ride, calling it something like “Heads Beacon, Tails Peekskill.”
Biked to Philadelphia. I am planning to write a dedicated post about this ride. In the meantime, suffice to say that I had planned to ride all the way to Baltimore, over two days, to meet my friend Steve for that game at his thirtieth major-league park. However, after riding 97 miles to Philadelphia in 95°F heat, I decided it would be better to ship my bike back to New York and take a bus to Baltimore. The ride did serve as a testing ground for my canonical route to Philadelphia.
Biked to Amagansett. Like the aborted ride to Baltimore, this was supposed to a Babylon-to-Montauk ride. On the same day as this ride through the Hamptons, our house was hosting a BBQ—a DreBQ as we call it out here. Since I didn’t want to miss the party, I aimed to return to NYC on the 3:30 PM train out of Montauk, which would put me in NYC by 7:00 PM. A couple of mechanical issues delayed our group’s progress so I bailed in Amagansett to catch that Montauk train along its westbound route. Until we had those flats, after the first half of the ride, we were due to finish the whole 92-mile course in about six hours.
And since returning to work, I assembled syllabi for three classes:
With the long summer break and my own gardening leave behind me and the semester beginning today, I recognize that I didn’t completely “turn off” during the break or do something completely unfamiliar. But I did do things that I enjoy and do pretty well.
When posting a ride for the New York Cycle Club, the ride leader is supposed to rate the rides based on the riding style (A, B, or C) and cruising speed we expect to maintain. I listed Sunday’s ride to Philadelphia as a B-ride, meaning that we would ride as a tight group but wouldn’t be pace-lining, cruising at about 17 MPH on flat terrain. However, I didn’t count on there being a really strong wind out of the north. That 10-15 MPH wind was at our backs the entire day and when it would gust to about 30 MPH, it was like a divine hand pushing us closer towards Philadelphia.
Five of us started pedaling from Bound Brook, New Jersey, at around 8:30 AM. At the beginning of the ride, we got a nice start, averaging close to 17 MPH. That was due to the fact that we were riding at 17-18 MPH and that we had open road ahead of us: there was no reason to slow down or stop. We made really great time to our first stop in Hopewell, twenty-three miles from the start, and continued at an accelerated pace towards the New Jersey-Pennsylvania border. We arrived in Washington Crossing, 35 miles from the start, at about 11:30 AM, where we encountered a dress rehearsal for a reenactment of Washington crossing the Delaware on Christmas night in 1776.
We didn’t have time to watch the whole thing, but we did stop to take a photo with a soldier.
We grabbed lunch in Yardley and even had time to each get a small four-ounce pour at the Vault Brewing, a personal favorite of one of our riders. Afterward, we sped through Pennsylvania, taking a different route than I did in July. Instead of riding through the industrial wasteland between the Delaware River and the Northeast Corridor railroad line, we rode along Trenton Avenue between Morrisville and Bensalem. It turns out that this particular road is designated as bike route PA-E and part of the East Coast Greenway. Over the twenty or so miles west of Yardley, we cruised at around 22 MPH. One guy in our group quipped, “I didn’t realize that this was a B22 ride to Philadelphia.”
Our hustle paid off, we arrived in Old City at around 2:45 PM. It was 15 minutes before our target time, and it gave us almost two hours in town before catching the ghetto train back to New York City.
When our waitress asked me if I rode to Philadelphia from New York often, at first I said, “no, not often.” But then I realized that this might be a worthwhile ride to keep doing. As long as there’s enough daylight, a swell group of riders, and beer at the end, this really is the best way to get to Philadelphia.
Earlier this year, I ticked off a ride that appears on most every New York City cyclist’s list of “Rides to Do.” It was a century ride to Philadelphia in mid-July.
As great as that ride, and the accompanying weekend with some of my greatest friends, was, my life more or less went south since then. It has been plagued by one big suck after another:
Sarah broke up with me.
I moved out of Long Island City. That was difficult because it’s where I lived the longest since leaving my parent’s home.
I couch surfed for two months. Then I moved into a place on the other side of the Newtown Creek.
A month later, I moved again. My new room doesn’t have a ceiling and has only some floor coverings. I now have to wear shoes or thick socks to walk around my own room. (But, hey, at least, I’m paying below market.)
During most of that time, I could barely walk because I had an ingrown toenail. The new toenail only grew back a few weeks later to cause even more pain and a nasty infection. It’s gross, I know.
The softball teams I played for this summer all lost. The Librarians and The Robots lost in the finals, and the Ball Busters did even worse, losing in the semi-finals. And likely one of the reasons the Librarians and Robots did as well as they did was because I was an emotional wreck and didn’t play in the playoffs
The softball team I quit won its league championship. That’s great for them, but it sucks to know they were better off without me.
I won’t be going to Greenport as much anymore. The reason I was riding towards Greenport, as often as I was, is moving to Nevada.
And let’s not even talk about “satisfactory academic progress.”
At this point, all that is keeping me going is some irrationally primal instinct to not die, a handful of great old friends (and some really nice new ones), and bicycling. The latter is why this blog has turned into an informal record of my rides. It’s the only thing I look forward to doing each weekend, and it’s the only thing that I enjoy doing all week. I’m even looking forward to riding in the rain for the first time ever.
In the spirit of revisiting a personal highlight and exorcising the demons that I might have agitated the last time I was in Philadelphia, I will be leading a ride to Philadelphia this Sunday with a small group of riders who are as obsessed with cycling as much as I am.
The ride will not be a full century as it was in July. For one thing, it’s December, and the days are short. Moreover, it’s going to be cold with a daytime temperature hovering around 40°. To make the ride a more palatable seventy-file miles, we’re going to start in Bound Brook, New Jersey, where I made my first food stop on July’s ride. Not only does that cut out the junk miles outside of Newark, it will also save all the day’s hills.
Since Philly is a lot more fun when you actually spend a bit of time there, we’ve charted a few places to go once we arrive. Current possibilities include 2nd Story Brewing in Old City, Strangelove’s near Center City, and the City Tap Room in University City. After that, we’ll head back on the ghetto train: the combination of SEPTA and NJ Transit trains back to New York, with a connection in Trenton.
And instead of being as sad as I’ve been over the last few months, going to Philly might make me angry. That has to be better, right?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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:
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.
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!
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.
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.
Next week, if all things go according to plan, I’m planning on finally riding from New York to Philadelphia.1 It’s one of those rides that all New York City bicyclists talk about doing, such as riding to Montauk, but I’ve never headed that far south on a bike. I am really looking forward to doing that.
Despite now living in New York City for almost thirteen years, I’ve only been to Philadelphia four times.2
The first time was for a baseball game at Veteran’s Stadium. It was Labor Day 2003, the game was between the Red Sox and the Phillies, and it was Mike Schmidt Bobblehead Day. The nine-inning game lasted about four hours, the score went back and forth, and the game was decided by Trot Nixon hitting a grand-slam off maligned Phillies reliever Turk Wendell. My friends and I drove home after the game.
The second time was for another baseball game, between the Dodgers and Phillies at the new Citizens Bank Park in 2005. Although the two ballparks were located close to each other, you can experience the difference between a 1970s cookie-cutter, multiuse stadium and a 2000s retro inner-city ballpark. You really can feel the forty year time-warp. Again, we drove back the same day.
The third time did not involve a baseball game. It was for a talk at the University of Pennsylvania. While I didn’t drive this time, I did take the “ghetto train,” using SEPTA and NJ Transit, with a connection in Trenton, back to New York City.
Last April, Sarah and I needed to burn a free night at the Omni Hotel, and we booked a one-night stay around it. It was the first time that I got to explore the city a bit, and I really liked it. I immediately regretted that we didn’t book a second night.
But next week, after cycling through New Jersey and crossing the Delaware, George Washington–style, I am going to stay not just one, but two, two, two nights. Sarah is taking the train, and my friends from Washington, D.C. are also coming up to spend Bastille Day weekend in one of our nation’s earliest capital cities. To bone up on the city and its people, I listened to an episode of the podcast, Like I’m an Idiot, where a guest explains a topic to the host, Josh Cagan, like he’s an idiot. In this episode, native Philadelphian Mike Monteiro explains why Philadelphians are angry.
The episode reveals that the anger stems from various nationally known incidents, such as fans throwing batteries at sporting events and Frank Rizzo, the mayor of Philadelphia, ordering the police to bomb a part of his own city in 1985. We also learn that Philadelphians now wear that anger as a badge of distinction. Good for them!
Towards the end of the episode, Cagan reveals that despite living in New York City for many years and on the East Coast his entire life, he only went to Philadelphia three times.
You see? I’m not the only New Yorker who doesn’t go to Philly!
I’ll technically start pedaling either in Jersey City or Newark to shave off some miles and riding through some automotive wasteland, specially US-1/US-9 between Jersey City and Newark. ↩
I did pass through Philadelphia as part of a vacation/mileage run to Portland, via Houston and Seattle, back in April 2011, but I’m not going to count it. ↩
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