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Archive for the ‘New York’ Category

I first saw the gleaming metallic skull, then the horn, then the silver headlight. A few men sat nearby on foldout chairs, not minding my presence. The bike was gorgeous, even among a row of similar-style cruisers. One of the men motioned behind him, and pointed out the bike’s owner, who then noticed me and bolted forward. His name was Juan, and he looked about 60.  Like the other men, he wore a black leather vest, decorated with scores of pins—various military insignia, Puerto Rican flags, and a seaming hodge podge of affiliations. He rummaged through his wallet to try to find a card that identified his bike club—they meet every week, and he’d been working on his bike for eight years, he said. He spoke in a mix of Spanish and English, and even though I could’ve answered in Spanish I inexplicably chickened out, and mostly nodded my acknowledgement throughout the conversation. He couldn’t find the card, but asked if I’d come tomorrow. The crew would be there again. I said I’d try.

(Further investigation revealed the club is called Dueños de Bicicletas, or Classics Bronx Bicycle Club. A bit of background (and a shot of Juan circa 2007), here.)

Juan and his Schwinn, painstakingly built over 8 years

Juan and his Schwinn, painstakingly built over 8 years

This was my second time visiting Orchard Beach, located in Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx. The first was this winter, and unsurprisingly it was empty then—sad and dirty looking. But yesterday? Yesterday was a different scene. Every few feet a group of four of five sat on foldout chairs along the promenade, listening to salsa music, with those standing moving their hips ever-so-slightly. Looking out towards the water, I spotted several girls wearing Puerto Rican flag bikinis, and paying a bit more attention, those groups on the promenade? Most had long rods attached to their chairs, flying the Puerto Rican flag. Vendors sold shirts that said—“Orchard Beach—the Riviera of the Bronx,” and “Orchard Beach—little Puerto Rico.” All of a sudden I was in a Spike Lee joint, feeling more New York than ever.

We came to Orchard beach on the recommendation of the May issue of Backpacker Magazine. Hidden behind the party atmosphere lay Pelham Bay Park.

Sample rocky coastlines, beachside boardwalks, and brackish wetlands on this five-mile dayhike in Pelham Bay, the largest park in New York City“

I’d only heard the name during traffic reports ”…bumper-to-bumper traffic on the Pelham Bay Parkway,” but nary had an idea where or what it was. Turns out the shoreline and accompanying rocks out-date the Long Island Sound by millennia; the quartz, garnet, and feldspar bedrock exposed by moving glaciers during the last ice age. It’s the largest park in the City, however only a small fraction navigable by human foot. Wildlife, however, seem to feel quite at home in the salt marshes, coves, and along the crop of islands. We walked inside the ranger booth to ask about the trail, and the enthusiastic man inside told us to go around the perimeter of Hunter Island, that it was his favorite spot in all of NYC. Animals seen en route: herons,  breeding horseshoe crabs, horses (ok, those were technically in a stable where we parked), and one very peaceful looking rabbit. Worth the trip from Brooklyn? Most definitely. Am I sorry we didn’t instead go to Bear Mountain? Nope.

Detailed trail map and GPS coordinates, here.

View from Twin Island

View from Twin Island

View from Hunter Island

View from Hunter Island

Horshoecrab mating season @Orchard Beach

Horshoecrab mating season @Orchard Beach

More pics and a vid of the crabs getting all crazy: here.

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It’s been two years since Dmitry and I returned from studying in Barcelona, and I just realized that the last entry in this blog is dated July of 2010: graduation.  Dang, has it been that long? We call NYC home now, but there are still lots of road stories left to tell so I figured I’d take this sucka out of hiatus and start scribing. Hope we can inspire a few of you to visit a place you hadn’t considered, or at least shut down your computer and get out of the house for a few hours. Better still, maybe you’ll pick up the phone to say hello, and ask to hear all the gory details.

Last weekend we clambered out of our wintry cave to observe the rebirth of the natural world. Destination: Lemon Squeeze trail in Harriman State Park,  a painless 50 mile drive north of the City.

This Spring has been unseasonably warm and we’d been itching to get out of town. The flowers and trees blossomed early in the year, and served as a reminder that nature is back on. I started monitoring the weather on Wednesday, sticking my head out on the patio each morning, marveling at how each day was lovelier than the last. Alas, Sunday’s forecast did note bode well for our outdoor plans. Weather.com warned of a 50% chance of rain, which unnervingly inched several percentage points each day leading up to Sunday, finally stopping at 70. By the time we left, it was 1:30PM under gloomy skies, threatening but not yet menacing. Abysmal late start on our part, but we figured we’d take our chances.

From within the park, the trail was surprisingly tricky to find so I recommend you peep these directions, and pay attention to the following: from the parking area, cross the big field down the center. We accidentally ended up on a different trail because we followed a couple who crossed the field on the right side.  Once you get on the trail, turn left and walk a few paces (not right as the instructions indicate). Look out for the wooden sign with the arrow that clearly reads “Lemon Squeeze,” and then it’s all uphill for a while.

Along the way you’ll pass “Island Pond,” which is really a very beautiful lake. We made a pit stop to watch a few men fly fishing, and passing a bright red Ford truck, Dmitry stopped to explain the things hanging off the back:

Are you sick of looking at side steps and bug shields?
Want a REAL auto accessory?
Want a site that offers Hot Chicks, Bad-Ass Rides, Free stuff, and the funniest accessory in the industry?

Truck Nutz

(If you are a clueless Yankee like me, look up Truck Nutz).

Yeah, I don’t get it either.

We spotted a handful of other hikers on the trail: a group of mid 60’s Korean ladies, briskly making their way down,  holding walking sticks in each white gloved hand; several packs of teenage boy scouts joshing one another as their dads trudged behind;  and a triad of Latino youths, tugging along a happy but exhausted looking Bolognese pup. The trees were still mostly bare, but we saw bursts of  life: saplings popping out of old logs, moss that looked like it had recently re-carpeted the surrounding boulders, bright orange polyporus mushrooms that spiced up the grayish brown surroundings, probably leftover from the Fall.

Vegetation springs from every nook and cranny

And the moment you’ve all been waiting for: the Lemon Squeeze. There’s a scramble! There’s body wedging! And a fairytale forest hovering above. It started to drizzle as we approached the hike’s grand finale, but having come so far we decided to keep going. It began to pour so we took cover in a nearby cave and ransacked our bags for the hoard for the snacks we packed that morning. We hiked back in the mud, sopping with joy. Sitting in the car on the drive back to New York I couldn’t tell if it started to rain harder, or if the rain simply felt like less of a nuisance back in the woods.

The Squeeze

We came a bit too early to see the flowering trees, but no matter. The hiking season has just begun.

Check out more pics here.

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Take a peek at how people across the major US cities commute to work: via car, bike, foot, or public transit.
I think the # for public transit/foot/bike is quite higher in Barcelona, but would be interested to know the actual figure for comparison…

How Urbanites Commute to Work

via Good blog

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