A Mid-day Ride to Central Park

On the Queensboro bridge

Last Thursday I got the wild idea to ride to Central Park from my home in Queens. Now many of you know that I run everywhere, so no big surprise if I had planned on running there, sure it might’ve been a bit of an endeavor with the impromptu nature of my decision, but not impossible. However riding to Central Park is on a whole other level given that I have never ridden in the city before and that I have only started cycling about 3 months ago, a shirt while after the pandemic started. Add to that the run-in I had with a car about a month after – scars still visible – and you’ll perhaps understand my delayed incredulity that I actually never second guessed myself when, in a moment of desperation to get out of Quarentine and see the city I missed fiercely, I opted to hop on my bike and go the way a newbie cyclist had never gone before.

Queens Boulevard

That I’m in a position to retell the tale bodes well for newbies everywhere. Though I will say I think second-guessing is a killer. Do not indulge. I’ll even go so far as to say that upon deciding that you’re going to do something, realistically speaking, then just do it. There’s nothing more dangerous to success that doubt or lack of belief in oneself. And the fact is the longer you spend in the valley of indecision, the more unlikely a positive outcome seems. If, per chance, I needed the impetus to get going, then there it was. I was not going to be left wondering if I could have had I been courageous enough to.

Long Island City

In hindsight, it’s wild that I started out in the afternoon. I would never choose that time to run so it must have been the promise of overcast skies that made me so adventurous, that and the knowledge that only hotter days were ahead. I set out on a Google searched and pre-planned course hoping that it didn’t include any freeways and highways. While it didn’t appear so, I couldn’t be sure. I have many anxious moments when I think about riding on roads with big trucks and vans etc that show little care for cyclists that dare to venture onto what they perceive as their domain. Imagine my surprise to find that I had the use of bike lanes and paths the entire way! There has never been a happier cyclist, except for those in the Tour de France I’m sure. You would have to know New York City and Queens in particular to understand my elation. I was all kinds of ecstatic to be cycling down Queens Boulevard after going through Kew Gardens, the back area off of Flushing, through Forest Hills and unto the boulevard. I then made my way through Elmhurst, Woodside, Sunnyside, then into Long Island City, and over the Queensboro bridge (a bit of an upward climb that eventually went down all the way into the city) and finally spilled out unto 1st Avenue in Manhattan. It felt super amazing to be finally back after my almost 3-month hiatus. Here’s the thing, each time I return to Manhattan, after a holiday or break, there’s always this feeling of returning home. It’s the oddest yet familiar feel of the crowded and often-time dirty-bright streets that offers a weird welcoming feeling that’s really difficult to pen. One of those things that just is I guess.

The MET Museum

That said, this time around there were a lot of locals about on 1st Ave. For a New Yorker it’s pretty easy to point out the locals, they’re the ones on a mission and under no threat of getting run over due to idyllic strolling and gazing about. I was surprised at how easy it was to get around on a bike there, and I shouldn’t have been really given that I’ve seen lots of cyclists in the city before – often riding at breakneck speed through traffic. I always imagined that I could never be a part of that and I still do. I think the reason I was able to get away with it this time around was because of the reduction in traffic about. Not saying I’m glad for “Covid-19,” absolutely not. But less foot and vehicular traffic does make room for wonders otherwise impossible. As I moved over to 5th Ave, on the Upper East Side, it was easy to see the effects of a city denied its ability to shine. It also made me quite sad as I had never seen the city so quiet and lack luster before. Now I understand the governor’s comment about the pandemic bringing this city to its knees. How apt. I rode to the Metropolitan Museum and reminisced for a few before heading into the park for a brief sit-down in the fields off the boathouse (restaurant and lake) area and in view of the popular Cat Hill, a running favorite of my run group for hill repeats.

@Central Park

It’s not often I ride into the city, never before actually, so I had to lie on a rock, take some pics, and get on a call to give credence that this was really happening. I was not alone in my jubilation as there were many others about on picnics, exercising, walking or laying about. One might be tempted to think sunshine was missing because of the overcast nature of the skies but that didn’t stop the humidity and brief specks of sunlight that made me glad for the clouds. I eventually got up and made my way to the mall area, famous for being featured in a few movies. The Mall It’s another favorite interval running spot for my run group and an overall favorite of many park goers; that day so green and uncrowded. From there I meandered my way through the East Drive, where the NYC Marathon exits out the park onto its final leg on West 59th Street. There I stood at Grand Army Plaza with 5th Avenue off to my left and the famous Time Plaza Hotel to my right. Straight up ahead on 5th Ave was the opportunity for a shopping experience the likes of which you’ve only seen in the movies, only not that day, they were all closed, well almost all. From my precarious perch, camera in hand, I could see the Apple store open while practicing social distancing with people lined up outside. Apparently, iPhones are “essential”. Still, there was more traffic in these parts and I was getting nervous so my hands went to the handle bars and my eyes to the roads as I made my way back over to 1st Ave and onto the bridge once more for my return to Queens. I didn’t feel so nostalgic then, where there was a will, there will be a way.

East Drive

It’s funny how much faster the return route is. After taking forever to get to a location because of an unknown route, the return is always so much more seamless and quick. It seemed in no time at all I was back in my neighborhood. In actuality, it was about 2 hours and that was because I took a wrong turn somewhere as mass confusion abounds when it comes to me following the street rules. I finished up with a total ride time of 3 hours, 59 minutes. Not too bad for my first long ride in unfamiliar territory I think. Now I know I can do anything! Kidding. Sorta. 😜

The East River from the Bridge
Queensboro Bridge

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