On August 2nd four Canadians took to the streets of New York on bicycles to explore the city. We met Jesse, our tour guide (owner of bikethebigapple.com), at a storage locker in Harlem. From there the 5 of us ventured out on fitted bikes (mine had the cutest bell with a squirrel on it) and helmets. We made many stops along the route to take photos, get a short history lesson or hear an interesting anecdote.
Here are some of my favourite moments on the tour…
- After a short ride through Central Park we took the Ed Koch Bridge over to Long Island City which included a stop at 5Pointz Aerosol Art Center, Inc. A cool outdoor art exhibit space considered to be the world’s premiere “graffiti mecca”.
- Another noteworthy stop was on a street in Brooklyn named Fillmore Place which was mentioned in “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” a 1943 novel written by Betty Smith as well as “Tropic of Capricorn” by Henry Miller. The city has turned the one-block-long Fillmore Place in Williamsburg into a historic district. One of the houses on the block was Henry Miller’s boyhood home. In some of the less explicit passages of “Tropic of Capricorn,” Miller wrote that Fillmore Place is “the most enchanting street I have ever seen in all my life” and “the ideal street”. One of the home owners on the little street has taken the time to post a plaque on their front gate with a passage from Tropic of Capricorn. To the delight of the home owner, Jesse liked it so much that he’s incorporated the reading of the plaque on to his tour of the area.
- After working up an appetite we made a quick stop at Oasis Take Out at 161 North 7th Street for some tasty Middle Eastern Shawarma.
- Another area of Brooklyn that we passed through was Bedford-Stuyvesan a.k.a. “Bed-Stuy” which has a reputation as being one of the rougher neighbourhoods. Several famous people are from this area including The Notorious B.I.G. and rapper Lil’ Kim, rapper/actor Mos Def, and actor/comedian Chris Rock. Jesse told us about a reference to the area in a Billy Joel song. Billy, while trying to describe how tough he is, wrote “I was stranded in the Combat Zone / I walked through Bedford-Stuy alone / even rode my motorcycle in the rain”.
- The last leg of the tour took us on a bike path along the Hudson River. It was a very hot day so the breeze off the water was a welcome relief. Towards the end of the tour we stopped at a riverside café for some hydration in the form of a nice Brooklyn Lager. Following which Jesse took us through the campus of Columbia University and back to Harlem.
All together we cycled 43km in 6 hours. The tour took us though Harlem, Central Park, Long Island City, Queens, Fort Green, Williamsburg, downtown Brooklyn and Manhattan. This was a “custom” tour just for the 4 of us. We liked being able to set the pace and the agenda and was well worth the little extra money. We would highly recommend it!