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Bicycling

Look Ma, No Windshield!

3:59 PM EDT on July 15, 2011

My teenage son’s baseball game in Inwood on Wednesday gave me a fine excuse to ride the full length of the Hudson River Greenway and back. Watching my son’s Downtown team dispatch the Harlem club was a treat, but the real blast for me was my ride home.

The trek up was easy enough. I left my Wall Street office around 4:20, zipped the half-mile to the southern entrance of the greenway, and pedaled for a solid hour to the Dyckman Street northern terminus. No cars, of course, and, because I left before rush hour, no bike gridlock on the greenway either. From Dyckman it was a short hop to the ballfield at Seaman and Isham, just in time for the 5:30 first pitch under a pearl blue sky with a gorgeous view of the Henry Hudson Bridge in the distance.

The view from the greenway. Photo: Charles Komanoff

Late in the game, though, the wind started picking up. By the last inning, dust was swirling across the field, and the whistling trees and clattering parking signs were heralding a heavy-duty storm. I tucked my wallet and phone in a plastic bag left over from lunch and stashed them safely in my knapsack just as Downtown’s pitcher threw strike three for the final out. Another parent offered my family a ride home. I would bike.

My watch said 7:20. Drops of rain were spattering before I reached Dyckman. No way I’m not getting soaked, and no rain gear, damn! To compose myself, I thought back to other rides I’d done in heavy rain — through an Adirondacks thunderstorm in 2008, a drenching ride the next year to Franklin Lakes, NJ and back. Those were 60 miles, and this was nothing.

As I trudged up the stairs leading back to the greenway, my mind dredged up a painful memory from my suburban childhood. Whenever it poured on schoolday mornings, my mom would drive me to the bus stop (three short blocks!) and make me stay inside (with the engine running!) until the school bus came. Though she parked discreetly around the corner, I was still terrified that the other kids standing in their slickers would glimpse me in the car. Whether they saw me or not, I still felt humiliated.

The hell, then, I thought, as I slowed for the corkscrew turn leading to the GWB lighthouse, let the heavens rain down. Except that they didn’t. Though the sky overhead stayed steel gray, the clouds in the west were lifting to let the sun through. The rain tapered off and then stopped altogether. By the time I reached the bend at the water treatment plant, the horizon was aglow. I turned to the east, and there it was: a huge rainbow.

As I said, the rest of the ride was a blast. The strong tailwind made pedaling a breeze, and the churning of my legs kept me warm as I smashed through puddles. I didn’t quite beat my family home, but I felt as though I’d journeyed somewhere — not just through a dozen miles of Manhattan, but through fifty years of time.

Let the Times and their reporters luxuriate in the “guilty pleasure” of driving in Central Park. I’ll take my bike, and the elements, any day.

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