Thanks to Mickerdoo for allowing me to reprint this photo.
What is the magic that happens when you feel two rubber tires burning up the pavement and you know that for this one day, for this solitary time, you are in charge of your own destiny?
Not if you have had any similar experience. A biker who feels the power of a “hog,” the rider who sits high in the saddle and knows the majesty of nature and can feel the muscles of their steed pulsating against their thighs. They will tell you. A solitary ride with wind and sun and sky, sea and wide open roads, the indescribable feeling of being one within yourself … that is pure magic.
That is the same magic that happens when you can take out a simple two-wheel bike and roll down the road. Ride until your legs are hot and ache and feel wonderful. Ride until you are forced by time and circumstances to stop. Only to know you can hop back on and feel the same magic the next time.
I’d lean into the handlebars and let her glide along the path, eating up the miles until I came to the end and then with little effort, turn her around and head back in the opposite direction.
The Best Ride in Brooklyn
Today I want to tell you about the bike path along Shore Parkway in Brooklyn. A round trip of eight miles that made my day feel so complete, nothing that I had to face at home could stomp on my euphoria, nothing was too much to handle.
Did the kids expect dinner? Maybe we’d have an impromptu picnic on the living room floor. Was there a job assignment waiting for me or a term paper I had to deal with? Not to worry. Work, always the work for mere dollars, came last. And term papers? Gees, I could write them in the middle of the night while my babies slept.
We lived in the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn in a refrigerator-cold one-bedroom apartment for almost six years. And for five and a half of those years I spent spring to fall on my dark blue, fat-tire Schwinn Roadster with foot brakes and a basket.
During those years I worked a hundred office temp assignments, started a home typing business, and worked my way through college and the first ten credits of my graduate degree. I raised the kids like I was the biggest kid in the apartment … and during that wonderful time of my life I was the biggest kid in the apartment.
On the corner of Bay Parkway, our building was crammed with a crazy assortment of residents from three continents, dozens of strange kids who camped in my living room, a second-floor fire escape that faced a park and Bay Parkway traffic, and not a care in the world.
For those years I held onto my naive innocence long enough to enjoy the most spectacular time of my life and as if that wasn’t enough … I lived 1.5 miles from one of the best damn bike paths in Brooklyn. From our corner building to the beginning of the path, a round trip of 3 miles.
The bike path, a round trip of 8 miles.
My summer routine included doing the round trip on the bike path and then gliding down Cropsey Avenue towards the beach. I rode along Surf Avenue to Brighton One and traversed the entire length of the Coney Island Boardwalk (from Brighton to the chain link fence surrounding Sea Gate), a round trip of another 5 miles.
A daily ride of 16 miles. On days when I was rushed or it was too cold for the beach, I would only do the eight mile round trip along Shore Parkway and back home … or a mere 11 miles.
The vistas along Shore Parkway change with each neighborhood that skirts different parts of the bike path. Bensonhurst, Bath Beach, and Bay Ridge.
Heading out in the morning from the Bay Parkway entrance to the path, I could see the Brooklyn Narrows, Staten Island and the Narrows Bridge before me in the distance.
Once I had ridden under the expanse of the bridge the vista was dominated by small ships, the narrow waterway that leads to New York harbor, and at the end of the first half of my ride, the old 69th Street Ferry Slip, and the opening to Bay Ridge and Owl’s Head Park.
Riding back home, the vista was dominated once more by the Narrows Bridge and again, after I had ridden on the path under the bridge, I faced the end of the Brooklyn Narrows and the mouth of the Atlantic Ocean.
During the years we lived in Bensonhurst, the bike path was in complete disarray, with pot holes and cracked concrete, broken pieces of the short railings hanging over as if to fall onto the retaining walls and crash into the Narrows. Long stretches of the railing were missing and replaced with chicken wire and wooden slats that leaned into the wind or splintered your hands if you touched them.
Much has changed along the path since we were summarily evicted from that small one-bedroom refrigerator, and all but a small section of the path have been repaved with arrows and mile markers and new railings, and new benches.
Along the beach there are now regulations regarding the times of day you are permitted to ride your bike along the Coney Island Boardwalk and plans to rip up the ancient wooden slats and replace them with solid concrete.
I liked the old path with its pot holes and cracked cement and crooked railings … the old Coney Island Boardwalk with its splintered old wooden planks.
For while they can replace concrete and old wooden planks, no one can alter what nature created eons ago. Nothing man-made is quite so magical as the views of the Brooklyn Narrows that leads into the main harbor of New York.
I miss Brooklyn … always. And what I miss the most is that eight mile trip from end to end on the bike path along Shore Parkway.
Tell me, please?
Do you ride a bike or a horse and lose yourself in the grandure of nature?
Where do you go to find peace and solitude?
fOIS In The City
Note: Visit Mike’s blog … Mikerdoo … for more great photography from my beloved Brooklyn. Link under the first photograph. Thanks, Mike.