Tagged: Saturday

International Obscura Day Returns May 2015

A little over a week ago, Atlas Obscura—the Greenpoint, Brooklyn–based purveyors of the strange, the offbeat, and, yes, the obscure—announced that they are relaunching their International Obscura Day. In the past, the day has consisted of organized tours, located throughout the world, in the spirit of the Atlas Obscura.

Obscura Day is the real-world manifestation of Atlas Obscura – a day of expeditions, back-room tours, unusual access and discovery in your hometown. More than just cataloging the curious, wondrous and overlooked places of the world, we’d like to encourage you to actually go out and explore them. Special events will be taking place at unusual locations across the globe as we highlight obscure collections, eclectic museums, hidden wonders and curiosities near and afar to show that the same sense of wonder invoked by exotic travels can be found close to home if you know where to look.

On Obscura Day 2012, Sarah and I went on a couple of tours, including a jaunt around our very own Superfund site and a lower-Manhattan pub crawl with a bunch of Victorians. As a validation of my photography that day, the New York City chapter used some of my photos to illustrate their recap of the day.

Although I didn’t attend any events in 2013 or 2014, I didn’t actually miss any events. Apparently, Obscura Day went on a two-year hiatus but will be returning this year at the end of May.

Atlas Obscura Day return May 30, 2015

As of right now, Obscura Day is in the save-the-date stage. You can, however, sign up for the newsletter, to learn of any updates. As excited as I am to see what tours will be scheduled around New York this year, it might make for a worthwhile reason to organize an out-of-town bike trip.

First Climbathon

On Saturday, I rode Richard Rosenthal’s celebrated Climb-a-thon through the New York Cycle Club. It was a tour of five notable hills in Bergen (New Jersey) and Rockland (New York).

Those climbs included:

First RR Climbathon

  • River Road (actual name is Hudson River Drive) and its .75 mile ascent to the Palisades Interstate Police station in Alpine, New Jersey.
  • a loop down to Snedens Landing in the town of Palisades, New York, to glimpse the priceless views of the Hudson, and right back up via a steep, winding road.
  • Bradley Parkway and Tweed Boulevard, a continuous climb through Blauvelt State Park that according to local legend is haunted.
  • Tallman Mountain Road that connects Tallman State Park, Route 9W, and the town of Piermont, New York.
  • Eisenhower Drive (affectionately known as “Ike”) in Demarest, New Jersey. I rode this back in June, and I distinctly remember as part of the climb through “Presidents streets.”

Well, I got dropped. Not because of the climbs because of the flats. The group had been advertised as a 18-mph ride. I was a little slower than that, just shy of 17, but whoever was pulling the group was going around 20. Keeping up with that would have been almost impossible for me. One rider also objected to this fast pace. He and I rode on our own and kept a respectable pace, doing about 18-19 on the flats, and about 4-5 on the really steep climbs.

My plan today was to follow up the climbing with a ride from Poughkeepsie to Ellenville to Beacon, where I would meet up with friends, much like I did on Bastille Day. But I was too damn tired. Not only did I burn out on those flats, I didn’t do a “good recovery” by playing softball and going to a friend’s late-summer BBQ. But it’s Saturday, and I didn’t want to spend it only drinking a protein shake.

Sometimes You Have to “Settle” for a Ride to Cold Spring

Having missed Saturday’s ride to the Ashokan Reservoir in the Catskills, I took a day off on Thursday to make up the ride. There were two complications. First, the earliest weekday off-peak train for Poughkeepsie leaves at 9:44. That’s two hours later than the first weekend bike train and under the best of circumstances I wouldn’t start pedalling until well after 11:00 AM. I had resigned to getting a late start and finishing sometime in the evening. That was fine since I kept the whole day free so I could ride, but something happened on Wednesday.

My weeknight softball team, the Ramblers, had to play a third game in our league’s semi-finals. We had split the first two games of the series on Wednesday and we had to play the third and deciding game on Thursday. I had to come back by 7:00 to play in that game. Riding to Ashokan would have been out of the question.

Instead of taking two trains and riding nearly eighty miles in the Catskills, I rode to Cold Spring via the tried-and-true Bike Route 9. I would have to take the 4:19 train from Cold Spring to make it back to New York by 6:00 and the 7:00 game.


In all, it was a tad over sixty miles to Cold Spring. I had planned on riding through Harriman State Park but I was concerned about having enough time so I opted for a more direct path along Bike Route 9. I had never taken this route past Rockland State Park so it was a new experience for me.

The route is clearly marked and with signs so it’s easy to follow. However, there was one place where the route appears to disappear. Between Tompkins Grove and Iona Island, the path directs you off US-9W to a lightly travelled road. But the road ends.

I backtracked a mile to the bike route’s junction with 9W and continued north along US-9W/US-202. A good deal of this route was uphill but nothing overwhelming. There were some nice views and a nice downhill after the climb. About three miles later, I was reunited with Bike Route 9, and I continued through Bear Mountain State Park and across the Bear Mountain Bridge over the Hudson River and on to Putnam county.

As I did when I rode to Cold Spring in July, I ended the day at Whistling Willie’s on Main Street. I could have made the 3:21 train but opted for a burger and a beer. The food and drinks are great after a ride, and better than the Depot, but the staff is a bit cold. “Good Food. Fresh Service,” as Ed Debevic’s used to boast.

Sometimes You Have an Aching Back and You Miss the 7:44 Train

Did you know that we only get about 4,000 Saturdays in our entire life? At my age, I only have about half of those left. Once I figured this out, I started to make as good use of them as I can, especially in the summer. It means avoiding spending the whole day in bed atoning for Friday. It means riding my bike, playing a rewarding softball game, shopping at the Farmers Market, or going to the beach or country.

For this past Saturday, I had signed up for a club ride into Ulster County, up to the Ashokan Reservoir, with the New York Cycle Club. It was a ride that I had anticipated for weeks. But I missed it. At a softball game on Friday, I strained something in my lower back. It was unprecedented pain for me, enough to drop me to the ground as I ran to first base on a clean single. A couple of teammates helped me off the field, and I began stretching my back to help with the pain. I blame it on sitting in an office chair for nearly thirty hours each week.

The pain lingered into the next morning. I was moving slowly around all morning, and it caused me to miss not one, but two trains. First, I missed the 7 train from Long Island City to Grand Central, and then the 7:44 train to Poughkeepsie departed as I was looking for Track 10. When I missed a spring training ride in May, I was able to catch them by riding the route by myself twenty-five miles in. Because we were taking a train, there was no way for me to do that. I either had to catch the 8:44 or just bail out.

NYCC rides to the Ashokan Reservoir. I stayed home.

Instead of joining the group for a ride around the Catskills, I decided to bail out. Whatever I did to my back on Friday was still bothering me on Saturday. Riding for almost eight hours with a questionable back would not be wise. Instead, I came back home, slept in, and rested my back for Sunday’s semi-final game with the Ball Busters in Central Park. The ride leader was nice enough to pass along a photo of the group.

Hot Ride to Cold Spring

Determined to ride to Cold Spring at some point this weekend, I rode there Saturday morning, going through the Bronx, Tarrytown, Croton, and Peekskill. My friend John was headed to nearby Breakneck Ridge for a hike, ending his day in Cold Spring, so it seemed like an opportune time to ride there since I could meet up with him upon arriving in Cold Spring.

Tarrytown-Croton-Peekskill-Cold Spring

It was a hillier ride than I had expected. Ride with GPS reports that I climbed more like 4,688 feet over 66.4 miles. I was well aware that it was going to be about 4,000 feet of climbing over about 65 miles, but it felt much harder than that. It had been about three weeks since I ridden my road bike so I wasn’t in the best shape for a long-distance ride.

Elevation: Tarrytown-Croton-Peekskill-Cold Spring

Hardest of all was the heat. My Polar reports that the average temperature throughout the ride was 92°. It’s entirely reasonable to think that the temperature was around 96° at the hottest time of the day. Ouch. I frequently stopped for water. My first water stop was in Riverdale at a Chase bank branch to fill up my bottles from their water cooler. I stopped again in Tarrytown at a 7-11 where the clerk gave me the stink-eye when I brought in my bike and bought a water bottle. (I should have paid with my AMEX to anger him even more.) I stopped again at a camp site called Tea Town where they let me use the bathroom and fill my bottles from their filtered-tap water dispensers.

The heat killed my appetite, and I didn’t eat very much on this ride. I consumed my first solid calories nearly forty miles after starting. It was a super hot L’Arabar, which wasn’t as bad as I feared it would be. Then I ate half of a Clifbar, and a couple of Clif Shot bloks. I ate a turkey sandwich at Mile 55, at a deli in Cortlandt Manor just north of the US-9 and US-6 junction.

When I arrived in Cold Spring, I was exhausted. I did get a little burst of energy when I realized that I was only four miles out of town. When I turned left from US-9 to NY-301 to Cold Spring, I was screaming down the hill at nearly 35 miles per hour. It was exhilarating.

I stopped at Whistling Willie’s in Cold Spring to cool down and rehydrate. They were reasonably bike friendly, letting me stash my bike in the outdoor patio where I could keep my eye on it. It was also a better option than the usual standby for hikers and cyclists.

After risking heat exhaustion and seeing only five other cyclists on the road once I left Manhattan, this might be a better ride for a day in late August than early July.

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Look Ma, No Train

After riding regularly with a spring-training group over the last twelve weeks, I decided to push myself and ride the full 150-mile route of the Ride to Montauk. This is my fifth ride along this course since 2008, but up to now, I have ridden only 100 miles from Babylon to Montauk. To get to Babylon from New York City, we put our bikes on a truck and take the train to the starting point at the Long Island Railroad station in Babylon. This time, there was no train ride for me nor truck for my bike. I began pedaling at 5:15 AM from Vernon Boulevard and 48th Avenue in Long Island City.

I started in Long Island City because I had already checked in the day before in Manhattan. My bike and I received our tags so I was set to start riding. Sarah was riding the 73-mile course from Mastic-Shirley, and since she had checked in her bike the day before, she offered to check in my bag at Penn Station. I was free to ride from home, hooking up with the official route at Metropolitan Avenue and Lorimer Street in Williamsburg. In all, it saved me four miles of cycling, which I easily could have done, but more importantly, it spared me the frustration of taking the subway into Manhattan before dawn on a Saturday. Getting to sleep an extra thirty minutes before heading east was a nice bonus, too.

The biggest highlight of the ride was that I finished just ahead of my goal. I set out to finish the 150-mile ride in 12 hours, and I arrived at the finish at 4:45, eleven and a half hours after I left Long Island City. It was more than thirty minutes earlier than my finishing time in 2012, when I rode 108 miles and arrived in Montauk at 5:22 PM, with a 7:00 AM start from Babylon.

For most of the ride, I kept an 18-19 mile per hour pace. I tried to keep my heart rate low, around 150 bpm, to ensure I had enough energy for the entire ride. But most of the time I was well under that, around 145 bpm. For most of the ride, I had about a 15 mph average speed, but conserving energy at the beginning and pushing harder in the second half made it easier to increase my average speed as I pushed towards the end.[1] When I finished, my Polar indicated that I had a 16.1 mph average speed over the entire 150 mile route. Last year, it took me just over two hours, about 02:05 to 02:15, to reach each rest stop. This year, I was getting to each one in about 01:30 or 01:45. The early season miles had paid off.

No long ride is complete without bonking, at least for a while. I bonked around mile 70, a few miles after stopping at the Blue Point Brewery in Patchogue for the third rest stop of the day (and for a sip of Rastafa Rye). At that point, I became concerned about whether I would be able to finish. So drawing from past experience, I began to eat all the food I had stashed in my jersey pockets. After gnawing on a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a small Larabar, and a bag of mixed nuts I picked up at the first rest stop in Lynbrook (mile 22), I came back to life and recovered for the rest of the day.

  1. Unlike previous years, I didn’t take many photos. I didn’t bring my Powershot and my iPhone stayed stored for almost the entire ride. This year, I focused on riding.  ↩

Spring Trained

My  B-STS group at the top of Little Tor Road

At first I didn’t think I was going be accepted, but in March, I began riding with the NYCC B-STS. I did miss two rides, as I had gone out of town those weekends, and we were rained out on our penultimate ride last Saturday.

This past Saturday, we finished our last ride. The challenging part of the ride was riding to the top of Little Tor Road, with a 0.9 mile climb at an average 10% grade, and following it with a mile-plus rolling jaunt on South Mountain Road.

But my biggest accomplishment on Saturday was catching up to the group. I overslept until 7:20 and was supposed to leave at 8:00 to meet my group at 8:30. I didn’t get out of the apartment until 8:22. And I realized I forgotten my wallet and had to go back to get it. Although there was no way I was going to make it in time to meet everyone at Sakura Park for an 8:45 departure, I kept going, figuring that at the very least I would ride on my own. At mile 25, I caught the group at a rest stop right before the climbing was due to start. Hurrah!

By the end of the day, I had logged 91 miles, and now I am in great cycling shape for the rest of the summer. And it’s not yet Memorial Day.

Biking to Our Tap Water

Croton Dam

Do you know where water comes from?

On Saturday, I went with the New York Cycle Club for a ride to Croton Dam. It was an absolutely wonderful ride, especially since I missed the ride the previous week, partly due to being sick and partly due to being in Philadelphia. I also had a bad cough most of the week, the remnants of said illness, and it made riding a bit more challenging than usual. Seeing the dam and reservoir at the northernmost point of our ride was absolutely worth the effort.

Early Season Cycling Pains

First Spring Training Ride

It’s been a pretty long, cold winter. Most of my friends have complained about it, exclaiming "I’m over this winter," and "Bring it, spring!" since Martin Luther King Day. But I enjoy the long winter because it allows me to savor the months when there’s work for me and because it feels like there’s a lot of semester left for writing my dissertation. But winter makes me inert. It makes me slow. And I am usually quite out of shape by the time the spring equinox rolls around.

Being out of shape was most evident on Saturday when I rode with the New York Cycle Club for a 59-mile bike ride from Sakura Park to Pizzarena in West Nyack, and back to Central Park. It was my first long ride since last summer. And I was completely out of shape. I began cramping up on the return particularly on the hills on Route 9W. The group kept dropping me despite a good number of the members being my parents’ age.

Once I figured out that they had dropped me, I took my sweet time. I used the restroom twice: once at the Englewood Cliffs Police station and again at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park. I rode at a pokey 15 miles per hour, but took it easy on the hills because I wanted to avoid the painful cramping.

When I returned home, I found a couple of mechanical issues with my bike. First, the front tire had a bulge, suggesting that the thread had started to weaken. I could have been in some real trouble should my tire had burst while I was riding, especially since my group was well ahead of me. Second, my rear wheel was significantly out of true. I seem to remember this when I rode it as some point last year. I had loosened my rear brake as triage and made a mental note to repair it later. As with most mental notes, I had forgotten it and thought that my brakes needed a simple adjustment. Nope, my bike really needs a proper tune up.

Wiped Out

Discovering that I am out of shape and that my bike needs some work has been a brutal but necessary start to the cycling season.

Scavenging… Again

Modern Architecture Scavenger Hunt 2013: Team Mies van der Bros and Hos

Much like we did last year, Sarah and I spent an entire Saturday searching for icons of modern architecture around New York City. The hunt was pretty simple. There were about forty clues. We had to solve each clue by going to each building and snapping a photo of ourselves in front of it. To ensure we didn’t submit snapshots of ourselves either before or after the hunt, we had to sport a very specific “ONHY” button.

We learned from last year’s that there’s a lot of traveling involved. While we used a 7-day unlimited ride Metrocard to get around last year, we brought our bikes for this year’s hunt. We found that we could get around a lot faster, especially going crosstown, but it didn’t see like we covered much more ground than we did in 2012. Go figure.

Because we were getting around by bicycle, I saw a lot of places I haven’t in years. For instance, there were reminders of when friends would come to visit, the hotels they stayed in, and the places we visited. We also spotted a few potential candidates for future contests.

Modern Architecture Scavenger Hunt 2013: Team Mies van der Bros and Hos

Highlights of this year’s contest included Paley Park, a little courtyard with a waterfall right in the middle of midtown, the Synagogue for the Arts in TriBeCa, and the Kelly and Gruzen–designed branch of the New York Public Library at 10 Jersey Street. While most of the photography was pretty basic, there were some difficult shots. Perhaps the most difficult was getting a shot of the AT&T Building (now the Sony Building…but not for much longer) and the Rockefeller Apartments in the same shot. The only way we could get that shot was by going inside of the Museum of Modern Art and snapping a photo just past the museum’s entrance.

I uploaded the photos to Flickr just before the Sunday 2:00 PM deadline, and you can see the spots we visited on a lovely day in early March.