As Hal, Ray and I climbed the George Washington Bridge we got our first look at the scale of where we were. From a towering monument to America's industrial dominance of the 20th century, a weak morning sun sparkled on the Hudson and New York city sprawled to the south. Finally, after a day and a half of flying, airports, customs queues and taxis we were on our bikes and felt like we we had arrived.
While we were in New York to race the Red Hook Crit, we were not going to miss the opportunity to explore one of the great cities of the world on our bikes.
Earlier that morning we had rolled down West Houston Street to the West Side Highway (bike path) and headed north against the mid week commuter traffic. I know northern hemisphere riders will be shaking their heads when I say it was cold but when we had left Melbourne a few days earlier we had had weeks of mid 20 degree C days at the end of a long and late summer so as the the wind whipped off the Hudson and with the air temps at 12 degrees C it was a brisk start and we gave thanks for our gloves, base layer and our new Red Panther winter jackets.
Crossing the GWB is the start of the River Road ride. It's a mecca for the city's riders and for good reason. Tracking the river on the Jersey side, the River Road rolls through light woodland with a series of steep pinches up and down the side of the river valley wall - beautiful, mostly free of traffic and a solid ride.
Somehow on the way home we managed to miss the turn to the bike path so we simply struck out south along Broadway toward the upper West Side, turned left and rolled around the bottom half of Central Park with the runners, dog walkers and commuters. We were cold and hungry by this time and we had our hearts set on the bagels and coffee at the Atlas Cafe in the Lower East Side so we barrelled down 5th Avenue straight through the mid week peak - maybe not the best choice for our first up ride but I knew I was alive.
Our favourite ride came late in the trip when we were treated to a guided tour of Manahattan by NNR's Nemo and his mate, Chris. We met early at at Spreadhouse Cafe on Suffolk street and then took off straight up 2nd Avenue through the morning traffic, through to Central Park and north to Harlem in a street level tour of Manhattan. Sometimes hectic, battling traffic and hanging on to the wheel in front and then wide open spinning simply taking in the streetscape. Suddenly we were off the bikes and heading down a subway entrance and piling into a lift. I don't know if we went up or down but the doors opened to reveal the 191st tunnel.
The trip home was a Manhattan-long free for all down Riverside Drive, driven by the promise of coffee and lunch.
Riding in New York was great. We hired Citibikes and rolled around Central Park, we discovered the joys of Soho's cobblestone lanes, we mixed it with the morning boot campers on Williamsburg Bridge and in between Hal and Ray raced at Red Hook. But for as much of the city we saw on our bikes, we left having only just started and with a long wish list for the next trip. Thanks New York, we had a blast.