W3D6 Quality time in the 34th Precinct

The plan today was dead simple: Hop on Ellie, ride 31 minutes to the farmers market, get some stuff, ride back. I certainly did not expect to be spending any quality time in the 34th Precinct Station (Washington Heights – Inwood). I should just stop now. The rest will be in next week’s installment. Just kidding.

First off, a tip: if you are riding around upper Manhattan or the Bronx, and there is a place with the word “fort” in it along your path, avoid that place. It is a hill. I know this from experience. Today I passed by the former sites of Fort Independence, Fort George, Fort Washington, Fort Lee, and Fort Tryon. All of them are on the tops of hills. As a matter of fact, I think I hit nearly all the hills around here.

The target farmers market was just 3.8 miles down Broadway. However, if you take the somewhat straighter route Google suggests (Google favors bike lanes and quieter parallel roads), it is only 3.5 miles. What you don’t see on the phone app is that it is a 210 foot rise to get to the market, and almost all of it comes in about a quarter mile section of Fort George Hill Road. Instead of taking you down St Nicholas Street, Google suggests you go down the quieter parallel street Wadsworth. Made sense to me. I had to avoid a spraying fire hydrant – they’re open all over the place in this heat. They have spray caps on them so the water squirts out in an arc about halfway across the street. I must’ve seen twenty today.

As I crossed 178th street headed toward 175th, I saw something lying in the street that looked like it might be a wallet. There was a car coming up quickly behind me, so I kept going. I got to the market and discovered that it was more flea market than farmers market. There was only one food vendor, and they had mainly produce, which does not transport well by bike. I turned around to head back.

I stopped back at 178th, saw that it was indeed a wallet, picked it up, checked Google for the closest police station and headed over to the 34th Precinct, though I have since discovered that 178th is actually in the 33rd Precinct (179th is the dividing line). I don’t think people turn in wallets very often, because it took them a while to get all the paperwork together. They knew who it belonged to in about 5 minutes, and if I’m not mistaken, judging by the snippets of conversation I heard, that person has a criminal record for cocaine. There were two other snippets I overheard (I was there for about 15 or 20 minutes, but I was enjoying the air conditioning, so I didn’t mind):

  • When a woman who was waiting for a cab (I don’t know why she had the police officer give the location of the station to the cab driver. Either did the officer. Afterward he asked her,”What was that for?”) asked if anyone had a lighter. No one did. One enterprising police officer joked as he looked at some stuff on the counter, “Hey, maybe the guy we just arrested has one!”
  • As several officers were looking at a video monitor of a tow truck impounding a car in the station lot, one said “If he touches my car, I’m gonna…”. No forget that one. It’s not in keeping with the family friendly tone of this blog.

On the way to the precinct, I noticed sign for a bike path headed toward the George Washington Bridge. One of my goals this summer was to ride over the bridge if I could, and today seemed like my best chance. I can’t imagine a reason I’d climb those hills again. But you never know. Here’s what I have to say about the GWB:

  • It is pretty long, about nine tenths of a mile.
  • The sidewalk is narrow – just enough for two bikes with riser handlebars, about the same width as the sidewalks on the Arrigoni Bridge (“Most Beautiful Steel Bridge”,1938).
  • There is a lot of pedestrian and bike traffic on the bridge. I probably passed thirty to forty cyclists.
  • Even though there was no traffic jam, biking is almost as fast as driving over the bridge, unless it is really empty
  • There’s not too much interesting on the Jersey side, at least in the direction I went. Ok, that’s not true, and would go against the spirit of this blog if it were. Some interesting things (I rode a mile or so north on the road next to the Palisades Parkway, were all the bikers seemed to be going. I turned around when I got to a sizable downhill because I didn’t want to have to climb back up it, not knowing what the trip home would entail):
    • You have to park your bike at a meter. It is not clear whether you have to pay.
    • There are a couple of places along the west side of the road where there are old stone lined ditches. I’m not sure how old. Not too, though. Maybe 30 years. Near one of them are two small, concrete statues that look like pagodas. I’m thinking this was someone’s front yard at one time. Update: I was close. It was the front of an office complex at one time. Right now, it is a level field of dirt. Here’s how it looked in April 2012. You can see the pagoda in the middle there.
    • There is a bike shop/cafe (Strictly Bicycles) with a ride up cafe window. Their seven layer bars are good. You can rent (rent) a bike there for a day for $200. Ellie cost $150. She is a rescue bike, and happy to have a (vacation) home (where the climate control is cooler than my room right now, and they play music for her all the time).

After that, I rode home.


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