I did my usual preflight checkoff with Melody before taking off, including fuel supply: four bars full. Just enough to get me to Gig #1 in Park Slope, Brooklyn but I'd have to scurry for gas before heading off to Gig #2. I mentally measured my projected mileage, then suited up, fired the bike up and made my way.
Two problems arose relatively quickly:
- Rain: There was close to zero-percentage chance of precipitation when I checked the night before, but now I was staring at 80%-plus, just as I'd be switching off from the Garden State Parkway to Rte 440, which unfortunately includes some lane-swap bingo crossing the Driscoll Bridge (which I could almost swear had to be the inspiration for Mario Kart). Rain came in pretty much on-cue, but fortunately was neither intense nor long in duration. It did, unfortunately, leave both my helmet visor and Mel's legshield and Flyschreen a bit of a mess once dried.
- Traffic: Things were reasonably smooth and fast until coming off the Verrazano into Brooklyn: the BQE was at a worse-than-usual standstill for minutes at a time. However, I saw what appeared to be a miracle of timing: usually, I ride into town too late to take advantage of the inbound HOV lane, but this time it was still open. I took one look at the barely-crawling masses, saw my one opportunity to squeeze onto that lovely, barely-occupied express lane, and promptly muscled my way past a few trucks and vans to make my way to it. The sensation of flying past hundreds of cars, buses and trucks was simply heady. I thought Piaggio should steal an old slogan from Dial soap: Aren't you glad you ride a Vespa? Don't you wish everybody did?
This reverie didn't last long, because of one critical detail I forgot: this express lane is barrier-protected, and that barrier is solid, all the way to the Hugh Carey (a/k/a Brooklyn Battery) Tunnel. You're comin' to Manhattan, bro, like it or not. I had to make some quick calculations in my head, but apparently Los Googles was a few steps ahead of me in regard to corrective measures. Unfortunately, one of those measures involved a brief-but-somewhat-brutal encounter with the FDR Drive…Melody's first rodeo on that rotten road, if memory serves. I got through that as quickly as I could, then made my way across the Brooklyn Bridge. The funniest thing? I probably lost all of five minutes on account of that logistical screw-up.
Once finished with gig #1, I made my way to the Shell station on 3rd Avenue and Bergen Street, where Melody took on a full two gallons, about the most I've run the tank down in a while (no bars on the gauge, and the low-fuel light having glared at me since crossing the Verrazano). A bit more jousting with city traffic (Grand Army Plaza is always a great test of character and braking response), and I was parking near the Brooklyn Botanical Garden for gig #2. Once finished there, I hopped back on, rode North on Washington Avenue, meandered to Flatbush and gradually made my way toward the Manhattan Bridge. Perhaps "gradually" should be "grudgingly", since again, even for Flatbush in mid-day, traffic was extra-sludgy. But, in the middle of this, I had what I'll call Cool Biker Interaction #1, with one cool dude on a gorgeous 2018 Triumph Thruxton, fully café'd-out, gleaming in British Racing Green (the "proper" kind, which can look almost black depending on how the light is hitting it). We chatted about each other's rides, how nice the day was for riding in spite of bad traffic, then we fist-bumped and made our own way through the morass, eventually making it to the bridge.
And this was where I made my second tactical mistake of the day, albeit a more-honest one: I chose to take the upper level of the bridge, where I was shocked to find traffic at a literal standstill: as in nothing moving an inch. Turned out that there was a large work crew periodically occupying both lanes , but there was absolutely no signage warning of this at the bridge. The central, lower lane was moving freely, and I could see Triumph-dude speeding along that route with ease. I think it was at least a good fifteen minutes before I made it to the other side.
Once safely in Manhattan, I needed to make a quick stop at Bigelow Apothecary in the West Village to pick up a herbal remedy for Le Wife. Just before arriving, rolling along 6th Avenue, I heard what seemed to be a very aggressive two-stroke sound coming in hot behind me, then to my left: a slick-looking gloss-white two-banger Vespa, its quasi-hipsterish pilot popping the occasional wheelie in the center lane, then speeding off. To my surprise, when I arrived in front of Bigelow, Hot-Rod Two-Smoker (actually, there wasn't a hint of a blue puff from the thing) was standing at the corner, rider casually checking his phone, sunglassed beneath an open-face helmet painted in full Italian livery. We nodded to to each other - maintaining cool, of course - and he sped off, popping another wheelie ahead of oncoming traffic. I suppose this could be Cool Biker Interaction #2, but embodying a different formulation of "cool."
A little under an hour later, I'm on the Upper West Side for gig #3, which I knew would be the longest in duration, as it often is for this client, since the work often involves not just computer gear, but audio and video gear as well, from CD duplicators and label printers to VHS-to-DVD dupicators, EQs, open-reel and cassette decks et cetera. By the time I was done with this one, it was pushing 9 PM. (Was hoping for no later than 8.) Thankfully, my previous fill-up left me with way more than enough go-juice to get home. My only problem was picking out a route: The fastest way outta town would involve the Henry Hudson Parkway downtown. I've known this highway since childhood, and I'll tell you this road has not aged well…at all. It's desperately in need of more than just a tacit facelift. My usual route involves going in the opposite direction along West End Avenue to West 96th Street, hanging a left, then getting on the Northbound side for an eighth of a mile until I peel off for an underpass that takes me to the Southbound lanes. This is dicey enough in broad daylight, bad pavement and all; at night, I might as well be landing an F-18 on a carrier. I decided to get on at the 79th Street Boat Basin, which was only slightly-less insane, because while you're not white-knuckling it getting on the road like West 96th Street, you must traverse a traffic circle that looks like it was last tended-to during the Reformation. I was weaving like a MotoGP racer warming up his tires, just to avoid the larger craters in what obviously use to be proper pavement. Then onto the Parkway, with everyone doing their constitutional 15-to-20-over-the-posted-limit rolling, the tarmac somewhat better than the just-getting-on process.
The other part of the "fun" here, was at least somewhat predictable: I'd be going through the Lincoln Tunnel, spitting me out onto 1-9, then the Turnpike for some 18 miles, and finally the Garden State Parkway. 1-9 is always 1-9: eye-watering by day, nerve-wracking by night. But it was quick this time, with no road crews in sight. This was not the case with the Turnpike: the cars-only express lane was open, but the local lanes were not, meaning my having to duke it out with the big rigs again. I decided to tuck in behind a FedEx tandem trailer that was moving nice and steady while assorted Beemers, Lexi and Hemi RAM folk scurried past and jockeyed for position, to which all I could do was shake my head.
The Parkway is almost always good: the sights at least semi-bucolic, the road surfaces at least decent, and the traffic fast but not video-game hyper, and I feel freer to let Melody rip for a bit. Home by 10:30, everybody (mostly) asleep, the cat being my sole welcoming party (he's always good for that). Kick off riding boots, pour a nice adult beverage, and now off to sleep. I've cleared my schedule through the weekend, and I'm going to be as slothful as I wanna: I've got my music playlist, books and new issue of Meta (No. 021) to paw through.
See y'all next week.
Bigelow Pharmacy, West Village: Rather famous in these parts, and you find stuff here you won't easily find elsewhere.
Meanwhile, North of Bigelow, there's this view: weather was indeed nice, minus the morning's rain.
Riverside Park/Henry Hudson Parkway: By day only slightly treacherous; if you squint hard, you can almost make out the George Washington Bridge, way, way in the background.
UWS, Heading Home: I walk out to Melody, and It Happens, Again. (Why is it always a Primavera?) ;-)
Last edited by amateriat on Thu Apr 08, 2021 12:06 pm; edited 16 times in total