Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Philly by bike [day 1]

Another epic and epically wtf bike outing! The plan was simple, one which we thought would require no more than a modicum of determination and quad strength: ride bikes from New York to Philly. That was before the blowdryer-in-the-face weather defeated us like the wusses we are (and by "us", I mean everyone except Keith).

To back it up to the beginning though, we met at 8:15 at the Staten Island ferry terminal

doing a dazzling impression of a cmyk color space.

On the boat ride over, we took the time to ambush the bare bars on Cara's bike, which Yasa was borrowing.

We cruised along Bay Street and Richmond Terrace (getting a "no brakes!" holler from a middle aged couple in sweatpants hanging out by a bodega), making our merry way to the Goethals Bridge, which was to be our point of exit from New York State. We had anticipated that this might turn out to be a hairy portion of our ride, as this message on the Port Authority's website indicates:

But we kinda just thought we were gonna be able to wing it, until we spotted the police vehicles up ahead.

We came upon a cop casting a watchful eye over the scene, who told us in no uncertain terms that he would make no exceptions in allowing us to cross the bridge on our bikes, and that if we tried, he would have to haul us all off in handcuffs. He was stern but quite likeable, in the way you want a police officer to be.

He then told us in no uncertain terms that I better stop taking pictures, and that his photo better not be appearing on youtube.

We figured we'd just call around and find a car service that could pick us up on the Staten Island side, drive us across the bridge, and drop us off on the New Jersey side, but none of them were having it. Next we spent 20 minutes trying to flag down flatbed trucks to ferry us across state lines. Wasn't happening either. Finally Stella had the genius idea of doubling back to the Home Depot we had passed a few blocks earlier, to see if we could drum up some pity from any of the contractors that were sure to be milling around the parking lot with nothing better to do than help a bunch of stranded bicyclists in a bind. We found a guy who was not only receptive, but also had a spacious and empty cargo van at his disposal! He kindly spread out some moving blankets

and we piled all six bikes and all six people into the cargo hold!

At $8 a head, I suppose we would have been remiss to expect our ride to be anything more than the glorified go kart that it was.

The rear doors were held shut with what the driver gleefully proclaimed was his "new lock"--frayed twine and a shred of ribbon tied in a granny knot!

We thanked him profusely as we piled out on the New Jersey side of the bridge, on the outskirts of Elizabeth. It was about 11am at this point, and we only had 8 miles of riding under our belts. The temperature was rising and the sun was beating down on us, and we figured we had lots of mileage to catch up on, so we jumped in our saddles and rode. Through Rahway, Iselin, and Metuchen. Edison, Highland Park, and New Brunswick, then on past Kendall Park and Kingston.

Somewhere along the way is where the 90°+ temperatures and utter lack of shade got the best of us. There was some major heat exhaustion going on, so we made the decision to take a lunch break in Princeton, roughly a third of the way to our final destination, and assess the situation.

We stopped at what is now my new favorite grocery store in all of New Jersey, where we spent the next couple hours regrouping--clustering in front of the air conditioning vents, taking sink showers, stuffing our faces with free food and drink samples, and generally acting like utter vagabonds.

The group decision was made to abort the mission of riding the full way to Philly, and to instead get there by whatever other means were available: New Jersey Transit from Princeton Junction to Trenton, and then Septa the rest of the way into Philly. This is where Keith decided to jump back on his bike and ride the rest of the 40+ miles SOLO, illustrating the fact that he is an iron man while the rest of us are all withering pansies.

A few highly aggravating snafus (involving surly train conductors) later, our now five person group finally disembarked from the 30th Street Septa station just as the sun was starting to set. We navigated our way towards the Chamounix Mansion, which is what's got to be the classiest hostel in all of North America.

Here's the obligatory bike pileup shot (nestled beneath the covered porch out back):

I think we all had the best showers of our lives, and then headed out for the only dinner option within walking distance: pizza and french fries, washed down with coke and sprite. Yum!

Back at the hostel, tucked into our dorm beds, sleep came quickly.


audrey said...

Our near-betrayal by SEPTA didn't come in for a mention.
Btw, we also got a shout-out from the spandex-clad racing team that passed us: "Philly or bust!" Little did they know "bust" was no part of our intentions!

audrey said...

ps i love the cmyk picture! i'm patting myself on the back right now for wearing the only shirt i own that is indeed 100%C!

stella im hultberg said...

ahahaha that cmyk comp had me almost spray my monitor with green tea i was drinking.
great crop job, j!

why didn't anyone tell me my hair looked like don king's? i guess we were all too tired.

Julia said...

Was that a ploy to get me to do a google image search for "don king hair"? It worked!