Notes from biking from New York City to Philadelphia over the weekend

September 1, 2021 by Joshua
in Fitness, Nature

Saturday and Sunday I rode over 100 miles from New York to Philadelphia, sleeping overnight in Princeton as a fundraiser for an organization creating a bike route from Maine to Florida called the East Coast Greenway.

Technically we started in Jersey City, just across the Hudson River. I took the subway instead of swimming. Saturday we rode about 65 to 70 miles, Sunday 40. I rode an extra 10 or 15 to my dad’s house in Philadelphia, where I stayed overnight before taking the train home. Actually, I rode from his house to the Philadelphia train station and from the New York train station to my home.

Reflections I liked

Several hours of the ride went along an unused canal that was stunningly beautiful. At times it meandered I-don’t-know-where. Others it ran parallel to highways on which no driver would have known the once-industrial, now-idyllic path was there.

The organizers ran it well, especially for a first time.

The six guys I rode with helped motivate me to ride farther, faster, longer than I would have otherwise. We weren’t competing, but knowing the other guys were doing it kept me pedaling longer.

I like the cause. I’ve biked long rides since high school. On this trip, I rediscovered my stride. That is, something clicked compared to the long rides of the past few months. It felt natural again, like the bike was an extension of myself. Cycling requires more gear than running or burpees, so it’s less free or liberating, but moves me farther and lets me carry more.

All that riding exhausted me in a great way. I was more tired than usual from lifting weights two days before and being in my 50s, so far from recovered.

I posted about it only a few days before and many people sponsored me without me chasing anyone down. I didn’t think anyone would, so my community and family pleasantly surprised me and built my faith in people. Thank you!

Saturday evening, in a park where riders ended the day’s ride and stored our bikes overnight, a bike mechanic helped anyone who asked. I asked him about a couple small things. He fixed them, then found things I didn’t even know needed adjustment and fixed many things I thought were just that way. The next day felt great, with a more responsive bike. Wow, did he make my day Sunday!

The travel experience rivaled, in terms of life experience, what could have come from flying. I went less distance but enriched my life as much. Several times I found myself in places that could have been remote, despite being only on the other side of some trees from crowded highways. We haven’t destroyed everything yet.

I visited my sledding hill, which I described in my third TEDx talk, with my dad for the first time in years, then a different park. I’d forgotten how stunningly beautiful these nearby parks are. They slow time to human scales. I’d been thinking of the sledding hill in winter, stark, trees leafless and covered with snow. This time the trees overflowed with green. We broke a sweat walking up and down the hills.

Reflections I didn’t like

Many people drove to the start, or had someone drop them off, then pick them up at Princeton and Philadelphia. I’d guess most of the people drove about as far as they rode, which seemed counterproductive for an event partly helping the environment.

I couldn’t believe how much plastic and disposable food and doof wrappers and containers the organizers distributed and people brought with them. I guess I’ve lost touch with the mainstream.

People seemed unaware of how much disposable and one-use packaging they used.

Not because of the riders, but modern culture, nearly the whole way there was litter by the roadside or wherever we were, including along the canals far from anything. No spot far from habitation, however beautiful, didn’t have some litter at least every minute. The urban areas were covered with litter. I couldn’t help thinking, “we’re doomed,” a lot.

Sponsorship that meant water transported from Fiji for an event billed as helping the environment. Many riders refilled at each station disposing of several water bottles and a bunch of food and doof wrapping.

I brought a big container of my famous no-packaging vegan stew, which saved me from all the packaging from the doof and food they provided. I made the whole ride with the only disposable waste I produced being a quarter of the napkin from the restaurant we ate at Saturday evening (the rest I took home for future use). Eating at my dad’s house, I accepted a lot of packaged food, sadly.

At dinner Saturday evening, we ate at a restaurant, one of my first times in a year or so. I forgot how much oil restaurants put on everything.

One of my dad’s and my shared activities in the park this time, sadly, was picking up litter. There was plenty.

In short

I loved the two days riding, pushing myself beyond what I would have otherwise. I saw the beauty and experienced the fun of beautiful local natural beauty I’ve missed most of my life despite traveling between New York and Philadelphia often.

I’m back into biking. From high school to graduate school, I biked as my main transportation. When the unlimited metrocard came out, meaning all my transit rides were paid for, I rode less and sold my old bikes, maybe 15 years ago. Older, I wondered if I would enjoy riding again, but now that I’ve ridden a few days over 70 miles, I’m ready to ride more. This bike is solid, but doesn’t fit me perfectly. I’ll look out for a better-fitting bike.

Since the bike came from my mom and I visited with my dad places from my childhood, it was a meaningful family experience.

I got exercise, fresh air, friendship, support from friends and family, fun, and sites. I gave support to a worthy cause.

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