I've always said that one of the best things about living in New York is being able to get out of New York. The city demands so much of you on a daily basis and it seemingly gives you nothing in return. Between the expense of being here, schlepping your entire life with you everywhere you go, dragging groceries home on the subway (love those stairs!), overcrowded loud trains and whatever else (enter your own gripe here) it's a wonder anyone chooses to live here at all.
But for all its challenges there are often overlooked rewards too, and this weekend me and Avery set out to experience them.
On Saturday me and the doggie headed to Van Courtlandt Park in the Bronx. It was my first time there–yes, I'm embarrassed to admit it, but definitely won't be my last. It was so beautiful and huge and, in my opinion, knocked the socks off of Central Park. Nothing against that famous spread in the middle of the city, but Van Courtlandt Park seemed twice as big with half as many people. Compared to CP's Sheep's Meadow where you often have to step over people as you walk through it, VC's Parade Ground was sparse and welcoming.
And the trails were extraordinary. They were as quiet as a church mouse and I felt like I was far far removed from New York City, when in fact I was still in it. Amazing! Everyone that I encountered was so friendly and Avery reveled in the woods, chasing squirrels and generally instincting as she does.
Today I left the doggie at home and rode my bike to The Cloisters within Fort Tyron Park in upper Manhattan's Inwood neighborhood. Again, I was blown away. I could not believe that such beauty existed a bike ride away. Everything was so lush, fragrant and flowerful that I felt transposed to another time and place.
As I hot-wheeled myself through Fort Washington after leaving The Cloisters, I decided to follow the rest of the bikers and take a little trip across the GW. Another first, and probably the last. Not sure if you're aware, but a lot of the bikers who ride uptown (for its extreme hills, I'm sure) are hard core. There are no polite bike bells to alert you, just a whoosh! as they blow past you, even going up hill. These were the people I naively decided to follow across the bridge. Was interesting.
First off, I screamed a prayer in my head for the Lord's protection once I saw how low the railings were. Couldn't really turn back once I was on the bridge so I just threw caution to the wind, as it were.
After I got my panicked breathing under control and tried not to be intimidated by my "fellow riders," I was actually okay. My first look out onto the Hudson as I rode unnerved my stomach so that I thereafter kept my head forward and concentrated on making it to the Jersey side. Between the pedestrians, including a parent carrying his kid on his shoulders by the railing–why, I don't know, and the other bikers, I was terrified for most of the ride. Trying not to collide with any of the above while navigating the narrow space was harrowing. I was never happier when I made it to Jersey and back and aggressively rode my brakes down the windy decline leading from the bridge to the street, much to the chagrin of the Tour De France team behind me who, I know, wished I would just get out of the way already.
Never thought I'd feel safer in New York City traffic than I did on that bridge, but the hazards of the streets were a welcome relief after surviving that bridge.
Both our three hour meander through Van Courtlandt Park and my lung-challenging bike ride uptown, left us both spent, exhausted by the city. She'd won again.