Wednesday, 1 August 2012

It's up to you .... New York New York

Starts and ends inevitably go together. The overwhelming emotions of so many goodbyes have been replaced by the excitement of the beginning. And as the days go by the conversations about work and home are replaced by references to an encounter from the day before. One of the interesting things about being a human being is that we make stories and connections of our lives and it is those connections that make our understanding of the world.

So a few connections from our New York stop.

James and I set off on Sunday. We cycled to Heathrow which turned out to be a very quick way of getting there with bicycle paths all the way.

Our bike panniers have our trip logo on them and as we arrived in
JFK airport I could hear people whispering. 'Two teachers two bikes one world - what's that all about?' Once you have a bike people talk to you and ask questions. It is of course quite a cool response saying 'I'm cycling round the world'. Better start soon then.

Getting from the airport to Manhattan was a trickier prospect. We had no map and most of the advice we were given said how busy the highways were. It was also getting dark. We headed through Brooklyn through suburban Howard Beach which quickly turned into a not so salubrious neighbourhood. Once safely in our host Rosanne's living room I looked it up. We had cycled through the notorious Brownsville - birth place of Larry King and Mike Tyson. Characterised by poor housing, high levels of crime and police on envy corner. Rosanne who we stayed with in New York remembered th e teacher's strike there in the 1968 when the district introduced a policy called 'community comtrol'. The aim was well intentioned but the effect was that the white, mainly Jewish teachers were sacked leading to tensions between the black and Jewish communities not only in Brwownville but across New
York. Until 2001 there were no high schools at all in the area. There are now two and it would be interesting to find out more about them if any reader knows.

The good thing about our route was that we arrived in Manhattan via the Brooklyn Bridge. By this time it was gone 10pm and the bridge was full of strolling tourists. Time for a photo.

We were really lucky to stay with Rosanne, my friend Fran's aunty. A born and bred New Yorker and psychologist. Not only did she make us incredibly welcome but reminded us that cycling is not a religion. We talked about rent controls, school testing and Hong Kong where her daughter works. James was able in about two minutes to fit her new shower head. Being able to fix things is a dying art and increasingly valued as most people's skills tend toward the technological. This could be our way of thanking our hosts.

We spent two days in the big city. In Central Park I overheard two runners talking - they'd just met. I got so fascinated by their conversation I started taking photos as an excuse to earwig. One guy, very tanned, slight build, was telling the other 'Do you know, I defy the ageing process?'. He was talking in great depth about his fitness regime then the other guy trumped his story. 'I was born in 1932. (Making him 80) 'I gave up smoking in 1974. I have run every day, apart from Sundays since then. Wherever I am in the world - Rome, Paris. Wherever I am I run.' I took their photo - surreptitiously of course.

We met a guy at an Irish pub who worked 250 feet under ground at the World Trade Centre insulating pipes. He told us about the thick copper cables that were brought in and were chained up because people would steal sections of them - such is the price of metal these days. Similarly New Yorks sewer covers have had to be welded down as one sewer cover retails at a value of 45 bucks.

New Yorkers were without exception incredibly friendly and polite. Even the police officer who was guarding the golden bull said it was fine to climb. Another photo op.

After doing some basic calculations - 4500 divide by 60 - we have worked out that if we are going to have any chance catching our flight out of California we need to get on with the biking and head west. We are now on a train, our bikes in boxes checked in and hopefully on the same train, heading to Richmond, Virginia.

We are being met by Fran's brother - Matthew. Fran's family really have come up trumps. So all being well we really do start cycling tomorrow. It's not a religion. I want this trip to be about people as much as places. I have a funny feeling it will be just that.


  1. You're outside a shop..... Did you succumb to starting to fill up your panniers?!

  2. Did you not watch cycling GOLD whilst in NY?

    1. Nope. But my mum kept me updated!

      Now in Utah. Delighted to hear of first tiny steps back in London.


  3. Im really enjoying reading .....

  4. Thanks.

    Have finally worked out how to reply to posts!