Mid-Life Cycling

Mid-Life Cycling

20 February 2017

Presidents, Pedals And Pets

Here in the US, it's Presidents' Day.  

When I was growing up, we used to have two Presidential holidays in February--Lincoln's Birthday on the 12th and Washington's on th 22nd.  Somewhere along the way, the government decided to consolidate the two observances into one, which would be on the third Monday in February.  At the same time, some other traditional holidays, such as Memorial Day, also became Monday fetes.

Now, if you've been reading my recent posts, you know what I think about the current President, whose name I dare not speak!  I must say, though, that it's ironic that the most anti-bike President we've had in a long time (perhaps in all of history) is also the only one ever to have sponsored a bike race.  That is how, for two years, the Tour DuPont--at that time, the most important race in the US--became the Tour de Trump.

In past posts, I wrote about, and included photos of, presidents (including a couple in other countries) riding bikes.  One of my favorites is of Jimmy Carter three decades after leaving the White House, and looking younger than he did then.  I also liked the one of former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, his politics notwithstanding, and of former candidate Mitt Romney on his bike while doing Mormon missionary work in France.

Back when I was working for American Youth Hostels, I read somewhere--a biography, perhaps?--that Franklin D Roosevelt cycled "all over Europe" during his youth, freqeuently staying in hostels.  As a child and young man, he frequently took trips there, as someone of his social and economic status was wont to do.  If I recall correctly, his early trips were made, not surprisingly, with his parents and other family members, while as a teenager he went with his tutor, who also enjoyed cycling.

I also seem to recall that one or both of them were arrested in Germany for eating cherries they picked on a roadside, and that they committed a few other misdeeds.  I have read, elsewhere, that he was a fun-loving young man who skated along the surface of life.

Anyway, I tried to find a photo of FDR on a bike.  I couldn't, but I found this, by artist Mike Joos:

By the way, today is also National Love Your Pet Day.  This is the first time I've heard of the holiday.  I wonder whether it's held on a fixed date, as nearly all holidays were when I was a kid, or whether it's a "movable feast" and it just happened to fall on President's Day.

I know one thing:  I'd rather spend time with Max or Marlee than just about any President!

19 February 2017

Into The Hole

Today I rode to a hole.  No, I didn't go to the Grand Canyon.

All right.  I rode to a ghost town.  And, yes, I stayed in the cofines of New York City.

Mind you, it wasn't my destination:  I didn't have one for today.  I just felt like riding and after an overcast morning turned into a sunny and unseasonably warm afternoon.  I rode Vera, my green Mercian mixte, with no particular itinerary in mind.  I just pedaled forward and turned whenever it looked interesting or I simply got tired of the street or lane I was riding.

I briefly covered a part of yesterday's ride:  through Howard Beach and Beach Channel, the latter of which is partly contained in the Gateway National Recreation Area.  Vera gave me a couple of brief encounters with the ocean, but the bodies of water I saw, mainly, were ones that open into the Atlantic--namely Jamaica Bay and Starrett Creek.

And this:

As we've all been told, immigrants of my grandparents' generation were lured to America by rumors that the streets were "paved with gold".  Well, there is a street under that puddle, or whatever you want to call it, made of emerald.  All right, that's a bit of an exaggeration.   But the street is called Emerald Street.  A block away is another venue called Ruby Street; a nearby thoroughfare is Amber Street.  

In a perverse irony, these streets comprise a neighborhood--if it might be called that--commonly called "The Hole."  It's easy to see why:  the land drops about five meters from the grade of Linden Boulevard--which itself lies below sea level.  According to some reports, that puddle lies 30 feet (9 meters) below sea level.

In another twist, the nearest building that has any connection to the rest of the world is about 50 meters away but seems to have its back turned to it: a psychotherapy center.  And, across Linden Boulevard--a.k.a. New York State Route 27--from it is the Lindenwood Diner, where travelers to and from JFK Airport and truckers to and from all points imaginable stop for burgers, shakes and such.

To give you an idea of how desolate--or, at least, how far removed from the rest of the city--The Hole is, no one seems to know whether it's in Brooklyn or Queens.  Perhaps it's a separate borough?  It certainly seems to exist in another time, if not jurisdiction.

That puddle in the photo might've been a result of the snow we had last week.  But, from what I hear, there's almost always an unnatural wetland there.  The Hole is, to my knowledge, the only part of New York City that doesn't have sewers--people use septic tanks and drains--because the land is too close to the water table.  

That geographic feature is probably a reason why it most likely shares agrarian past with the neighboring Brooklyn community of East New York.  In the late 19th Century, Brooklyn was--believe it or not--the second-largest (after southern New Jersey) vegetable-producing area in the US.  No doubt some of the folks living there--off the grid--are growing tomatoes or cabbages or other vegetables in patches of sod surrounded by rubble-strewn or weed-grown lots.  Most of the houses are abandoned; the people who call the area home are living in trailers, campers or trucks--with or without wheels.

The Federation of Black Cowboys stabled their horses in The Hole (and a few Cowboys lived there) until about a decade ago, when the city housing authority chased them out in order to erect middle-class housing that, to date, hasn't been built. In 2004, bodies of Mafia figures were found there, confirming longstanding rumors that the area was a mob dumping ground.  

Anyway, I have a rule when I ride:  If I can't see the bottom of any body of water I won't ride through it, unless there's no other way.  Not even if I'm riding a bike with full fenders, as I was today!

18 February 2017

The Best Place In The World For Ducks

I didn't see any other cyclists.  But I wasn't the only one who went to Point Lookout today. 

I mean, who wouldn't have wanted to be outside on a day like today?  Skies were clear and the temperature reached 15C (60F).  

Tosca, my Mercian fixed gear, was also happy to be out for the ride, even if she got spattered with mud and wet sand.  Most of the snow from last week's storm was gone, but the sand and road salt weren't.  At least, with only one gear, she's easy to clean--though I think I might ride one of my bikes with fenders tomorrow.  Still, it was great to spin that gear again!

I was stretching my legs, and they were spreading their wings.  A woman with two small boys watched them.  "I've never seen so many ducks here," she marvelled.

"Nor have I."

Then the older kid--about four or five years old, with eyes as bright as the sky--chimed in.  "They're here because it's the best place in the world for ducks.  Isn't that right, Mommy?"

She said nothing.  He turned to me.

"Lady, don't you think they're here because it's the best place in the world for ducks?"

"Why else would they be here?"

"So this really is the best place in the world for ducks."

I nodded.  "Do you know what makes this the best place in the world for ducks?"

He shook his head.  His mother gazed at me.

"Here there are a lot of things they like to eat."

He gazed at me, fascinated.  She looked puzzled.

"Well...Don't you like to go where there are good things to eat?"

"Yes, ma'am.  What do they like to eat?"

"Clams, oysters, you know, the creatures with shells on them. The ducks love those.  And seaweed, too."

Now, for all I know, I may have given him nothing but misinformation.  But I figure he's no worse-informed than anyone is after one of our current President's press conferences.

What did I just say?  Hmm...It's probably a good thing I've never been a parent!