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Climate Ride: Pre-Ride New York City

May 13, 2011

Today has been a mix of chaos and calm. Although the Climate Ride doesn’t start until tomorrow morning, I wanted to get to New York City plenty early so that I could be prepared.

The morning started off with Chris and I scrambling to get out of the house and get me to my bus on time. Although a 9:15 AM bus from Dupont Circle doesn’t seem that early, it could be half-way across the world when you have to drive. We left at 7:35 AM and barely got there by 9:05 AM, which is longer than it takes me to get to work, which is further and involves 20 minutes of walking. I would have taken the train, but they justifiably don’t allow bikes on during rush hour. The entire time in the car, I was freaked out that we were going to be late, which only made both of us bickery. Nonetheless, we got there in plenty of time and both of us calmed down enough to have a nice goodbye.

Besides the large number of bikes on the bus – which the bus ticket-guy was not exactly thrilled about – the bus ride was blessedly uneventful.

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The view from the bus just before we were dropped off. The Deusche Bank’s giant digital carbon calculator is in view.

The bus dropped us off at around 2:00 PM near Penn Station. I knew that my hotel was just under two miles away, which seemed simple. Of course, that was before I put a nearly 40 pound bag on my back and was pushing around a bike. Almost immediately, I benefitted from the kindness rarely spoken about in New York City. A string from my tent got stuck in my bike wheel, tangling the bike and my bag together. Someone who I never actually saw (they were behind me and the bag towers over me) helped me untangle myself and had great patience doing so. Thanks, anonymous New York City person!

Thankfully, the rest of my walk was less dangerous. It was also conveniently The Greatest Hits of Tourist New York City. I walked through the end of the Broadway district, and Times Square. I even saw the Naked Cowboy! He is in fact as hilarious and eye-rolling in person as you might predict. There was a kid next to me who said to his parents, “Does he have any shame?” I wanted to turn to him and say, “No honey, but I bet he makes a living doing something he enjoys!”

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I also passed by Rockefeller Center and spotted the flags in the Square. St. Patrick’s was also on my route, and I paused for a moment to gaze at the beautiful stained glass visible through the open doors.

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As I looked, I caught the attention of a tourist existing the Cathedral. He commented, “I hope you aren’t traveling like that!” I answered, “I am, but someone else is carrying it from here on out,” and then explained to him about the Ride. He looked duly impressed by the concept, and then did something completely unexpected. He said, “Hey, let me support you” and handed me $10! I told him that I would be sure to put the money into my Climate Ride account and asked for his name. Unfortunately, his first name has escaped me, but thank you Mr. Gill, for your generosity to a stranger.

I eventually made my way to my hotel, The Pod Hotel. It’s basically a step up from a trendy hostel, in that they have private rooms. It reminds me of the hostel we stayed in in Vienna, although that one was actually a little cooler. They had a real bar. The Pod Hotel does have this amusing picture on the back of the door though:

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After dropping off my stuff, I headed down to meet my college friends, Greg, Laura, and Geoff. Greg and Laura are married and Geoff lives right around the block from them. Laura, the author of the very tasty cooking blog, Cooking from my Heart(h), is vegetarian and a great cook, so I knew dinner would be a delight. Then, she really upped the ante when she told me she made strawberry-rhubarb pie just for me! Although I was originally considering taking the subway, I decided to brave the streets of New York and bike to their house. I hopped on the bus/bike lane going up 1st Street and biked about 50 blocks. (That sounds so odd – NYC blocks are so short!) It wasn’t as bad as I had expected. As long as I kept a close eye on buses and taxis, I was safe. Traffic is controlled chaos. Although people do break the rules, most drivers are pretty predictable (far moreso than pedestrians). Riding in traffic reminds me of skiing double black or very difficult black diamonds – you’re constantly on the lookout, so your senses are heightened in a very unique way.

I arrived at Laura and Greg’s safe and sound, although almost 10 minutes late. Just as I was emailing Greg to let him know that I never got their apartment number, he walked right up! We walked up together with Geoff, who showed up as I was locking up my bike. Once there, we met Laura and Gavin, their beautiful little toddler. We chilled on their overstuffed couch and watched Gavin be endlessly fascinated with my helmet, water glasses, and his dad’s lap. For dinner, we had a lentil and tomato stew over pasta, which I’ll have to try for myself. It was like the dal I tried to make, but more successful. Mine was too watery. Then, the pie! Topped with homemade whipped cream, it was everything as advertised. Finally, the title of this blog has been truly fulfilled, thanks to Laura.

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But more importantly, I had a really nice time hanging out with them, catching up on their lives and comparing the advantages and disadvantages of both New York and D.C.

Laura then accompanied me to the Climate Ride kick-off, with Greg putting Gavin in the bath and to bed. The kick-off was way downtown, in an old fire station in Chinatown. I picked up my goody bag full of exciting stuff – water bottles, lip balm, a bike bell – and bought two pairs of adorable socks (one for me and one for my mom). They have a polar bear on a bicycle on them! Geraldine and the other organizers gave an engaging pep talk where they introduced the volunteers, gave a short overview of the bike mechanics’ services, and handed out the schedule for the next day. The best part was the photos of previous rides projected on the back wall behind her. The photos of the cyclists going past the Capital and Washington Monument reminded me of how magical biking at home in the city can be. Even dodging tourists, there’s still something thrilling about biking past the Lincoln Memorial on my way into work. As we listened, we nibbled on some more snacks, including some pretty pettifores.

Unfortunately, as I left my bike for storage, I realized I had forgotten something very important at Greg and Laura’s apartment – my helmet! So I accompanied Laura back to their apartment, with a short stop at Lush, a natural bath-stuff shop. (Their stuff smells so good!) I hung out at their apartment for a little longer, and then hopped back on the subway for the ride back to the hotel.

So far, so good. Tomorrow, 47 miles. After that, the world.

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