Measuring up to Manhattan – 3

13 Dec

Quite unlike the previous weekend, the night prior to Stage 3 (as I like to call it!) had been peaceful and sober. Whether I had company or not, I had no excuse but to continue where I had left of.

Having covered the better part of the island’s West Side previously, it would only have been fair to cover as much ground on the East Side as was available. So I set out by myself that Sunday morning to ride north along the East River till the end of the bike path at 125th street and back to Long Island City. Covering a length of about 7 miles to and fro, the ride would be a lot shorter than those done over the previous weekend.

As always, the Queensboro Bridge provided me a quick passage into 58th street on Manhattan’s East Side. The bike trail resumes a few blocks north of the bridge at 63rd street and as I glanced back, a Roosevelt Island Cable Car (or Tramway) worked it’s way East. Together with the bridge, it made for a lovely silhouette.

The bike trail heads north along the East River passing through the upscale residential neighbourhoods of Sutton Place, Yorkville and the rest of the Upper East Side. It is much more a shared path here than anywhere else. Bicyclists, runners, strollers, dog walkers, the young and the old jostle for space with one another. Benches line most of the pathway greatly reducing the usable area making any kind of speed biking not only dangerous but virtually impossible.

If it’s relaxation you’re looking for, you’ve come to the ‘right’ side of the island. If it’s pace you’re looking to set, head west! 🙂

Expectedly so, the views as you ride north are more impressive looking east towards the river front. Looking west, the only thing of interest to me was the very impressive stone facade of the buildings that make up Rockefeller University. I made a mental note – yet again – to visit their campus someday.

The University buildings, apartment blocks and high rises that make up the Upper East Side are separated from the bike path by the FDR Drive which flanks the Island on its East Side. The bike trail runs parallel to the FDR Drive for most of its length except at Carl Schurz Park where it straddles the highway.

While the apartment buildings in Roosevelt Island would fail to impress most people from an architectural standpoint, the water channel between the two islands provides for some interesting activity ranging from Kayaks to Speed Boats to Luxury Yachts to the odd Tug or two. At times, the lack of contrast can be striking!

The old lighthouse at its northern most tip signals the end of Roosevelt Island and almost immediately, the less imposing skyline of Astoria, Queens comes into view.

The big attraction at Carl Schurz Park is Gracie Mansion – official home of the Mayor of New York. It hasn’t been occupied since the days of Giuliani though. No photos of that I’m afraid but believe me if you will, the setting is more beautiful than the house itself.

Carl Schurz has all the makings of a charming city park with some smashing views to boot.

It felt strange to be on the other side of the Triborough and Hell’s Gate Bridge. To me, those bridges symbolised the start of my biking trips this season and with the summer drawing to a close, I felt like this was also the end.

Near Randall’s Island, the East River’s channel bifurcates to form the Harlem River which eventually connects with the Hudson River about 8 miles away. In doing so it separates Manhattan Island from the Bronx. There are over 10 Bridges of varying design, size and use which span the Harlem River. Almost all of them connect Manhattan with the Bronx. The only one that doesn’t is an unusual ‘lift bridge‘ for pedestrians (the first that I’ve come across) which connects Manhattan with Randall’s Island.

The crowds thinned north of Carl Schurz Park so much so that at 125th street I was probably the only one left riding. And for good reason to – I had reached the very end of the East Side bike path. Even the famed Manhattan skyline seemed to have receded into the distance.

A leisurely 32 miles (52 kms) completed over 3 wonderful days. The island sized up!

Well, almost..

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