Spring was in the air and the weather was absolutely gorgeous on our ride out of Washington D.C. We had spontaneously adjusted our route plan the night before – and instead of heading towards Baltimore and Philadelphia, we left the metropolises behind and turned our wheels due east towards rural Delaware. We had set our sights on arriving in New York City by Eden’s birthday – May 3, and could just make the timing work out using two boats as shortcuts: the Lewes/Cape May ferry to get into New Jersey and the Belford ferry to jump right into Manhattan. Reuben’s aunt and uncle live just north of NYC and we were eager to visit with them and enjoy some downtime at their house. Also, my mom, dad and sister were planning on driving down from Hamilton to see us for a few days, so we had a lot to look forward to. The icing on the cake was that the largest cycling event in the country, the NYC 5-boro Bike Tour, was scheduled for May 6th and we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to experience New York with 32,000 other cyclists on traffic-free streets. We did not have registrations for the event, however, as they were assigned months ago with a lottery system, so we were hoping to somehow make things work when we arrived.
Our ride across Delaware was a quick one thanks to the flat nature of this small state, or maybe we were just distracted with the thoughts of tasting some great craft beer at Dogfish Head in Rehoboth Beach. A generous reader hooked us up with an amazing beach house near the brewery where we had an incredibly relaxing and wonderful stay after enjoying tiny sips of 16 flavourful brews.
We were braced for a hectic and busy ride through New Jersey, but were pleasantly surprised following a bike route that stretches the length of the state put together by the DOT. The maps, which were gifted to us by a Warmshowers.org host in Virginia, guided us from the ferry terminal in Cape May all the way to New Egypt where we then plotted our own course to Belford and the ferry to Manhattan (however, one could follow the route all the way to it’s northern terminus at High Point). Riding on back country roads devoid of traffic and rolling through beautiful small towns along the way really changed our perceptions of New Jersey. It wasn’t until we left the route and got closer to the built up urban areas in the northern sections of the state that the traffic started to increase, the drivers got more and more impatient and rude, and we had a reminder of how things are just a little ‘different’ on the roads the closer you get to a major urban center.
May 3 was very exciting. Eden turned 5 years old and told me that morning that it felt very different than being 4. She held a proud smirk on her face all day. We woke bright and early at Warmshowers.org hosts Toby and Dan’s place in New Jersey and rode out towards the ferry after a most delicious breakfast. We saw the Statue of Liberty and the skyline of Manhattan through thick fog and were delivered right onto the lower west side. The rest of the day was spent piecing together a route through the city to Scarsdale – starting with the West Side Greenway, a bike ‘highway’ that heads up the west side of the city. We broke off of this near 34th Street to get a taste of the real Manhattan, riding the bike lane up 8th Ave. Bike lanes don’t get a lot of respect in NYC, and it was more common to encounter cars turning left, taxis picking up fares, and delivery vehicles unloading goods than other cyclists in the lane. Where were the cyclists? Riding in the car lanes, of course. Where it is safer and there is no need to dangerously route around all of these obstacles!
Riding through Central Park, however, was a treat. After playing and snacking in a few of the 21 playgrounds the park has to offer, naptime followed for both kids while Reuben and I connected the Putnam Trail, the South County Trail, and the Bronx River Path before arriving at Reuben’s aunt and uncle’s house where we were warmly welcomed with fresh bread spelling out Eden’s name, presents, and a lovely birthday cake complete with a licorice bicycle!
The next morning, we had the privilege of taking our loaded bicycles next door to a nursery school where Eden and Harper participated in a presentation to kids their own age. It was by far my favourite presentation ever. The children were mesmerized by the lives Eden and Harper were living and all wanted turns trying out their seats on the bike and the trailer. Eden and Harper also got to join their peers for lunch, and for some playtime for a few hours at the school.
Later that afternoon my mom, dad and sister arrived from Ontario with a birthday surprise. They beckoned Eden to open the door of the car to reveal that her cousin Dylan had ‘stowed away’ on the trip and she would get to spend the weekend with him as well as the rest of the family!
It was great to explore the Big Apple with these family members that we had not seen in so long. Over the next few days, we all took the train downtown and strolled through Times Square, the kids got some special time with their Grandma and Grandpa at the NYC Children’s Museum while Reuben, my sister, and I got to walk around for a few hours ‘kid-free.’ We all met up again at the 9/11 Memorial for a truly moving experience walking around the footprints where the towers used to stand. This memorial is enormous in size and will be even more breath taking when the museum and the new WTC buildings surrounding the site are finished in the next few years.
The rest of our time in NYC was spent relaxing at Reuben’s aunt and uncles place, soaking in their hot tub, and staying up late into the night relishing in meaningful conversations with family.
And miracle of miracles, we managed to get registrations for the four of us to ride the 5-boro bike tour of NYC! And what fun is doing the ride if you can’t share it with old and new friends? Erick, a cyclist we rode with for a few weeks on the West coast portion of our trip, also managed to get a registration – and new friends Sara and Peter and their three sons from New Haven CT, whom we ‘know’ through a cargo bike Facebook group were also registered to be riding! But that event deserves a post of its own, so stay tuned!