a ride of passage

New York Century
55.1 miles
average speed 9.4 mph

For the 25th annual ride, 25 dedications:

1) To the lady on the curb waiting for me to ride by so she could cross the street, who said “Be Careful” to me in accented English, as I smiled. She reminded me of my Aunt Emily.

2) To the family who I rode behind for several miles, woman riding strongly, bent over like the wicked witch of the West, son “Spencer” (along with various nicknames), his bike fastened to hers in a way which left him riding slightly tilted to the left, father (or partner? friend?) with excellent hand signaling, which I appreciated.

3) To the Triboro (RFK) bridge, which freaks me out consistently with its narrow catwalk, highway to the right, water to the left, especially after the fencing disappears mid-span, and my decision to walk my bike over most of it this year.

4) To the Hasidic community of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, which feeds my voyeurism wondering how can people dress in such an antiquated manner, what must their lives be like, what are they carrying in that pillow with the plasticized cover, how do they all learn to carry it the same way, how the men retain such pale skin, how the older men suddenly sport white beards, how do the boys get their hair to form those curls, are there prohibitions about women wearing colors?, etc. etc.

5) To the waterfront of New York City, so gorgeous, so expansive, so pristinely clean and blue, so visually restful in spite of headwinds.

6) To Nathan’s and Coney Island, for their awesome sunlit presence without people early on a Sunday morning.


7) To the woman in the riding skirt, who had the proper clothes and gear, but seemed especially wobbly and inexperienced, always seeming to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and overly reliant on her partner’s example, for reminding me how much skill I’ve developed at cycling in the city.

8) To the city’s almost insurmountable challenges to the cyclist – seriously dysfunctional asphalt, hair-raising pedestrian catwalks over bridges, star-like intersections of multiple thoroughfares where the bike lane is always where you don’t end up, construction that leaves narrow roadways barely passable by car let alone a lane of cyclists, allowing me to feel the thrill of riding upright in a narrow span of one foot between the traffic and the curb.

9) To the older woman who approached me at Central Park to chat, who’d ridden the 35 mile route, who comforted me about the ease of my last leg to Prospect Park (mostly downhill, I’d only have to climb the Brooklyn Bridge). I wish I had given you a hug.

10) To the Brooklyn Bridge, you gorgeous gorgeous relic, impossible to photograph, jammed with 4 lanes in motion on the wooden slats – cyclists 2 directions, plus pedestrians 2 directions – yet everyone cooperating more or less, except for the occasional impatient runner who really didn’t fit in anywhere.

11) To the cue sheets, which were full of minor errors, yet held out authority in case the “C” markings spray painted on the street failed to deliver.

12) To the teams who put the “C” markings on the street, their valiant intentions to guide every rider through this intense maze of motion, and their almost 100% success rate, although I spotted one “C” marking underneath a large truck at an intersection, almost totally obscured.

13) To the route south from Central Park on Riverside for its shady coolness and down-hill-itude, although it’s certainly not as exhilarating in the afternoon riding in a pack of 5 or 6 as in the dawn with maybe hundreds.

14) To James Langergaard, the TA rider/volunteer murdered by a car on Queens Boulevard, may you rest in peace, although I wonder what peace can come to a cyclist who is put to rest. And to the man who was “taking care of the garbage” at the James Langergaard Rest Stop in Astoria. You are no mere garbageman, rather a superhero of composting.

15) To the occasional practitioners of Tai Chi near the waterfront, inspiring me with the slowness of their movements as I speed by.

16) To my bicycle which holds up well (although maybe that minor ticking in the back tire area could be addressed) and to Sam for diligent bike maintenance.

17) To my body, which powered 55 miles with only minor complaint, and this with a mere regimen of walking and yoga, no cycling at all since June.

18) To my mind, which took it easy on me (somewhat), and to whatever it is within me that allows me to disbelieve my mind when it becomes particularly obnoxious.

19) To Rob and Nicole, for offering a place to stay in Brooklyn, avoiding a super early morning trip from Connecticut to Manhattan, and affording a place to shower and rest afterwards.

20) To Sam, for introducing me to cycling in New York, and teaching me so much, and for making me get pedal clips, and for taking on the requirement for someone to be in a bad mood after the ride (not sure what that’s all about yet).

21) To red lights, who really haven’t completely figured out their relevance to the cycling community (except for the cunning red bicycle cutouts at bike lanes, an innovation).

22) To bike lanes, especially protected bike lanes, which give me an amazingly luxurious and unexpected feeling of safety, much appreciated.

23) To the adrenalized rush from doing something very dangerous, because you just can’t avoid it and to some extent, this is the thrill that cycling-in-the-city’s all about.

24) To the dignity of black men and women dressed to the nines for church on Sunday. I appreciate your outfits, especially the gentleman in the white sport coat over plaid shorts.

25) To my clips, so frightening when I first got you that you kept me up all night, now forming a trusted bond between me and the bike. This ride, instead of falling over at a stop light, I was able to unclip instantaneously and save myself in seconds, much to the relief of all the cyclists and pedestrians assembled there.

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