Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Queens for a Day

Saturday, April 18th

One by one I am conquering each of NYC's famous Boroughs on foot . This past Saturday I set my sights on Queens. I'll be honest and admit to knowing very little about Queens. I've visited there probably four times in my two years living in NYC and two of those were for sporting events. True to form, it was a sporting event that drew me there on Saturday. The Mets were playing their fifth regular season in their new Citifield and I was the proud owner of tickets in the extreme nether-regions of left field. Most fans from Manhattan pile onto the 7 train and jump out at Willets Point, mere steps from the new stadium. I chose - as always - to walk it.

It's amazing how much can be accomplished in one morning when you wake up early enough. I stepped out of my house (top left) at 7:50am and by 12 noon I was sitting in front of Citifield (top right). It took me just 4 hours and 10 minutes to walk 12 miles - down the western span of Central Park, across midtown, over the endless Queensboro bridge, and then underneath the elevated subway shadowing Queens and Roosevelt Blvds. right to the doorstep of the Metropolitans. I only took one short 20 minute break just on the far side of the Queensboro bridge to rest my dogs and enjoy a 25 cent banana (I defy you to find a 25 cent banana on the Manhattan side of the bridge). That banana, a bottle of water and some cut-up pineapple that I purchased from a vendor further up Roosevelt Blvd. sustained me all the way until lunch.

I had lunch in the park, where there was a dearth of 25 cent anything - unless you count the $7.25 plastic cups of beer - of which I certainly did not partake. I opted for a $4.75 hot dog, a $3.75 pretzel and another bottle of water, this one priced at $3, for a lunch totaling $12.50. Ah, the joy of sports-based modern capitalism. If I would have known food could have been brought in, I would have stowed away a deli sandwich in my bag like the woman sitting to my left. But I didn't want to take a chance, especially after my experience with Yankee Stadium last year where they don't allow ANY bags in the stadium, unless it is a woman's purse (so much for gender equity).

There was little else to complain about in this sparkling new field. Once my Sherpa showed me to my seat in the 537 section above left field I settled in and soaked in the views. It was a beautifully sunny day, my iPhone registering the temperature at around 72 degrees. But sitting there in the cross hairs of a noon sun it soon started to feel closer to 92 degrees. I am not sure of the exact Physics equation that can account for this, but somehow being at a baseball game in April either raises or drops the temperature level by 20 degrees depending on it you are sitting unprotected in the midday sun or in the darkness of a bone chillingly cold Spring evening. Of those two options, I prefer the former, but I did silently pat myself on the back from remembering to apply some SPF earlier in the morning.

My friend Daphnie showed up in the top of the 5th inning. I did my best to not root for the hated Mets, but they pulled out a 1-0 victory between Johan Santana anyway. We fought our way through an absolute crush of humanity out of the stadium and into the subway where we retreated back to Manhattan.

I am not sure where I will walk this weekend. Maybe I will take the subway out to Coney Island and then walk 15 miles back into Manhattan. It's going to be warm again this Saturday, which will serve me well. But I realize that the ideal walking temperature is really between 65 - 75 degrees. That means the most challenging walking I will experience will likely be in September, when days could still be substantially warmer than that. I'll worry about that another day. For now, I will say goodbye to Queens and the division-rival Mets. Wake me up at the end of the year when they are chocking away another Division title.

Total Miles = 12.02

Saturday, April 11, 2009

There'll be (rainy) days like this

April hasn't provided me with the best weather on weekends for me to get my "walk on". I know the earth needs rain, though, so I'm not begrudging all the rain showers. Yet. This is a three-day weekend, but I knew that Saturday offered me the best chance time-wise to take a practice walk, so I steeled myself to doing just that - rain or shine.

Mother Nature dealt the rain card and I didn't fold. Instead, I got up and out of the apartment by 9 o'clock sharp and made a beeline over to 1st Avenue, which I proceeded to stay all the way down to Chinatown when I had to maneuver around to find the entrance to the pedestrian lane going across the Brooklyn Bridge.

I know there will be plenty of (rainy) days like this this Fall and Winter when I am trudging across America. What today taught me is that there is no reason to fear a little blowing rain. With my trusty umbrella and a rain resistant jacket I was pretty much safe from the storm surrounding me. Oh, who am I kidding. The bottom of my pants got soaked and the sleeves of my jacket looked like a slip 'n slide most of the day. But it didn't damper my spirits. On the "glass half full" side of things, it probably made the walk a bit easier, given that it thinned the crowd of pedestrians on otherwise very busy Manhattan streets and across the Brooklyn Bridge.
Speaking of the Brooklyn Bridge, walking across its wood-lined pedestrian span was probably the highlight of my trip. The views from the bridge are gorgeous - or at least would have been gorgeous - if the sky wasn't a cement gray and the wind doing its best job to push each of us walkers over the cement beams into the traffic below. Yet there was a freedom and expense to being on top of that bridge and looking over to Brooklyn and back to Manhattan that I really enjoyed.

Terri Gross' interview of John Mellancamp was the soundtrack to my descent into Brooklyn. They were talking a lot about mortality, which is a central theme in his new album and he told her that his father - who has been retired for 30 years - always asks him "John, have you done something for yourself today?" Life is short, another of his songs, go, "even on the longest days". It felt good knowing that this walk was me doing something for myself. I ENJOY this, and I look forward to each of these sojourns.

I wrapped up my walk at the corner of Flatbush and Atlantic Aves. in Brooklyn, just about 11 miles from where I started at my apartment. I'm creeping closer to my goal of 15 miles, which will be my average daily walk. I left my place at 9am and finished the walk at 1:40pm, with a substantial breakfast break in between. I was wet and happy to get out of the weather, but my mood was light. There will be rainy days like this, but they won't stop me from enjoying the road ahead of me.

Total Distance: 10.92 miles

Food Eaten: 1 banana; 1 organic Horizon low-fat chocolate milk; egg, cheese & bacon breakfast pannini; one small McDonalds coffee; small McDonald's fries.

Oddest Sight: A runner on 1st Ave. on the Upper East Side running barefoot on a Manhattan sidewalk. And I thought I was crazy.

Most annoying trend: The single walker using the huge golf umbrella while walking on already crowded NYC sidewalks.

Here's the link to my route. It is also copied below.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

A River Runs Through It

In the interest of easing myself into what will be a 15 mile a day, 6 day a week walking habit come the end of August, I have decided that each week I will bump up my training distance by two miles. Last week I walked for 5.5 miles down the West Side of NYC and into the Village. This week I pointed north and decided to walk across the Harlem River and into the Bronx. The first thing I noticed is that it is a whole new world on the other side of the river. There is trash everywhere along the streets of the Bronx. I know that most people would say that Manhattan streets are trash-strewn, but they are the yellow brick road compared to what you see walking up the Grand Concourse to Fordham Road.

The Bronx doesn't have much from an aesthetic standpoint to recommend it. Yankee Stadium stands out like a cathedral to capitalism surrounded by aging architecture that at hints more at squalor than success. The part of the Bronx I walked through seemed to be largely - almost overwhelmingly - Latino. I wonder if that was the case 10 or 15 years ago. When I finally got back on the subway at the bottom of the Bronx Zoo and then disembarked back in Harlem, the difference was startling. Being back in Manhattan I experienced at a very visceral level that in NYC the Haves and the Have Nots live side by side in many cases without too much awareness of each other. We live in a vivacious, multi-ethnic city and three rivers run through it. Today I witnessed the difference on other other side of one of those rivers. In coming weekends, I'll take a peek at Queens and Brooklyn, on the other side of the East River. But for now, below is the route of my Sunday walk.

Distance: 7.5 miles

Bronx Walk

9th Avenue on a Friday night

My foot is healed. After two weeks on the IR after my 20-mile trek across LA, my right foot magically healed itself right before my doctor's appointment. So on Friday night, March 27th I decided to ease back into training - emphasis on the word EASE. I decided to take a stroll down 9th Avenue from 60th Street to 14th Street and then angle over through the West Village on Hudson and Bleecker Street. The Bill Simmons podcasts were loaded up. The air had a hint of Spring warmth in it and I set forth. Below is my route. Total distance for the night was just under 5.5 miles.