Day 62: The Atlantic!
In the morning, Dustin made me a delicious pile of pancakes. We discussed what route I should take to NYC from Philadelphia. I had planned to stay inland and ride from the mainland to the island. However, Dustin advised that I take the coastal route along the Jersey Shore. From there I could take a ferry that would drop me right in Manhattan. If there is one thing I have learned from this trip, locals almost always know what’s best. I decided to change my route and head directly east into New Jersey and then up the coast. That also meant today would be the first day I could see the Atlantic on my trip! While New Jersey wasn’t my final destination, today would mark the day that I could officially say I had ridden from coast to coast.
I also learned from Dustin that the new route I would be taking would lead me right through a large Hasidic Jew settlement. Knowing my desire to try regional foods, Dustin said if I didn’t get a bagel there, I should definitely get one in NYC. Everywhere I travel, I always try to get regional specialties and people kept insisting that East Coast bagels were vastly superior to West Coast bagels, so I was excited to test whether that was true.
I had reached out to a bunch of Warmshowers hosts in NYC, but most either did not get back to me or were busy at the time. Understandable, considering they are likely inundated with requests due to living in NYC. However, one host, Thomas, did have availability and said that despite them just getting back from a vacation the day I would be arriving, they would be happy to host me for the night. They lived in the Bronx, so I would be seeing a lot of the different parts of New York today!
Leaving Philadelphia was uneventful. I was slowed by the stop signs, but would usually just roll through them as long as there weren’t cars. I also wasn’t in a rush as I ate the last of my morning’s fuel. I had one river crossing, but luckily there was a pedestrian walkway and there were no issues getting across it. With that, I was now in New Jersey.
I had never been to New Jersey before, but I was surprised to learn that it has the highest population density of any state! Also weird considering it’s called ‘The Garden State,’ so I was a little worried I would be in for another slow day with lots of cars and traffic. Instead, I found New Jersey to be pretty easy to ride through!
Following the route suggested by Dustin, I was generally on roads or small highways, but there weren’t many lights and I always had a good enough shoulder. It was also largely shaded, a rarity on my trip so far. So despite the population density, I found it to be one of the most pleasant rides on the East Coast, and I was making good time towards the ferry. Listening to Dustin’s route advice was definitely the right choice.
As Dustin said, I was passing many bagel places and I also saw a few of the Hasidic Jewish kids in the full garb with the hat and side curls. However, having had all the donuts earlier, I decided I would wait to have my East Coast bagel experience until I got to NYC itself.
For the last 3,000 plus miles, I would do fun challenges while riding, like the Colorado trail, the double century, or riding directly through Nevada's desert. Doing those segments always made me feel accomplished, but as I approached the ocean, it finally sank in that I was so close to being able to say I had rode coast to coast and it began to feel real.
For the months of riding prior, it was almost without exception hot and often humid every day. But as I rounded a park and felt the sea breeze, the ride truly became worth all the effort. It may be the biggest sense of accomplishment I have ever experienced. I chose the first road I came to and went down to the end to see the Atlantic for the first time this trip.
While I would see the Atlantic today, I decided I would wait to dip my tire until I reached my final destination of Cape Cod. That would be the indication that the ride was over.
Also, after a month of headwinds, I finally had a tailwind again for the first time. It was a cool sea breeze to boot. There were few days of my trip that I enjoyed as much as this one! And it’s all because I changed my route thanks to Dustin’s advice.
We’ve all heard of the TV show, The Jersey Shore, but the name of the show was about all I knew about the area. I was pleasantly surprised with how nice riding next to the shore was as I wound my way up the coast.
As I was riding, someone driving by asked if I had just biked from California! In 3,000 plus miles of riding, he was only the second person to read my jersey and ask me about it, but even for those two people it was well worth the work that was put into making the jerseys. It helps that we were both going pretty slow along the beach. We chatted for a bit until the speed of traffic separated us.
From there, I still had several miles of ahead of me before the ferry, but the scenery helped it pass rapidly. I tried my best to not make any progress on my trip that wasn’t under my own power, but now that I had competed the coast to coast, I was fine with cheating a bit to get to NYC, especially considering how nice the ride was today.
When the ferry arrived, they lashed my bike to the railing and then for my sake (and everyone else’s) I went out on deck and enjoyed the breeze. We passed Ellis Island and headed under the bridges into the main part of Manhattan. You can see just how happy I was to have finally made it to NYC!
As we got off, I quickly planned a route through the city that would take me to Central Park and then over the bridge to the Bronx. I was pretty tired from the riding I had already done, so I didn’t have a huge urge to explore much of the city outside of the park today. I decided I would try to do more exploration tomorrow and hopefully stash my bike somewhere safe since now I would have to be vigilant about theft for the first time in a while.
Having never been to NYC, it has an entirely different feeling from any other big city I’ve ever been to. Everyone seems to be going somewhere or doing something and they’re always in a rush. As I entered the bike lane, I was caught up in the stream and you can’t really stop because if you do, someone will run into you from behind. At stoplights and stop signs the safest option was just to run them because no one else was coming to a stop and stopping felt more dangerous than just avoiding the cars in the intersection. Honestly, it was exhilarating, but if I did that every day I don’t think I would last three months in NYC without getting hit by a car. But for my short time there I had a blast weaving between cars and going with the flow of the other cyclists.
Going with the flow, I was soon in Central Park. It was interesting to ride through, if not quite the adrenaline rush the streets were. It is such a weird place with so many people in it while being surrounded by all the concrete and buildings in all directions. But the park was a lot of fun. Since I had gotten off the ferry, the rush of the city hadn’t let me stop for a break and that continued all the way until I got to my host’s house for the night.
Thomas and Sandra were very nice. They said their apartment complex was pretty safe, but there had been a break-in before, so I should take everything off of my bike that I could. They had an old cat who was not in the best health, and they had spent the day cleaning their mattress after he peed on it. I was given the other bed, for which I was thankful. We planned to go out for dinner that evening.
From Thomas, I heard about the best bagel shop in NYC and also some recommendations for the other iconic NYC foods, such as the numerous delis and New York pizza. But that evening we got Mexican food instead. They also told me about School House Ice Cream, which was a shop on Cape Cod and sold the largest ice cream bowls Thomas had ever encountered. It sounded right up my alley!
While we ate, Thomas also gave me some advice for the rest of my trip. I planned to ride the length of Long Island and take a ferry to Connecticut. He said it was doable, but it was not especially fun to ride the first part of Long Island because it was so urban with no good bike routes. Because of that, I decided I would take that section in two stages and find a place to stay partway through the urban section. That way I wouldn’t be slowed down so much on the day I would actually ride Long Island. This would be a good decision since Long Island is actually much longer than I thought at about 90 miles. Having more time also meant I would be able to meet up with some more extended family who I had never met before!
Thomas and Sandra offered to let me stay a second night, but I was hoping to be able to stay in Manhattan itself for a night and I reached out to a bunch of other Warmshowers hosts in the area again. Hearing nothing back, I tried one last idea.
I reached out to Isaac, the rider I had met in Farmington, Missouri. He had been riding the opposite direction of me and was getting close to finishing his trip. He had gone to school in New York and had friends who were still in the city. Luckily for me, Isaac came through big time and arranged for me to stay with his friends that evening. Their apartment was right in the middle of downtown Manhattan, so I would never have been able to afford to stay in the area without Isaac and his friends.
A quick update on Isaac as well. He had been thinking about having to cut his trip short since he was running out of time. When I had met him in Farmington, he was strongly considering ending his trip in Denver. However, since then he had decided to go south and finish the full coast to coast.
There are three main routes across the USA, the south, middle, and north. The south is the shortest distance. By heading south, Isaac would be saving significant miles and time, allowing him to finish his full coast to coast. He was now in full agreement with me that tubeless tires are absolutely the way to go for cycle touring. He hadn’t had many flats when we met in Farmington, but since then he had been getting multiple flats per day until he stopped at a bike shop and put tubeless sealant in his inner tubes. I didn’t know you could put the sealant in the tubes themselves, but Isaac said it helped a lot. My bike didn’t use tubes at all and instead relied on just a tire and sealant. The main issue with regular tubes is that there are wires on the side of the road from car tires and they puncture tubes easily. With sealant, you can roll right over them without losing air.
With tomorrow’s accommodations planned, I also realized I had one more connection to New York, Rob Hickman. Rob was an avid cycle tourist who spends any and all free time on the road. He’s also much more religious about keeping up his blog, which you can check out here. This is the post from the day we met! We met in Utah, but he was riding west and finished earlier than me. That meant he was now back in NYC, where he was an art professor. I texted him to see if he was available to hangout tomorrow. With that, I went to bed and was excited to get up early and spend the day exploring the city.