Thursday, September 29, 2005

12.8 mile night ride to Fairway

Super NY Times magazine article from 2003 on the study of happiness. These scientists say that we're bad at predicting how happy or unhappy various objects or events will make us, and that we have a biologically-determined happiness set-point. We may think that a BMW would bring us lasting happiness, or that a tragedy or loss of a limb would lead to lasting sadness, but we're brought back to our set-point in somewhat short order.

Only a few things give lasting pleasure by increasing that set-point - they mention social interaction and friendships, and money to get beyond a sustenance or poverty level. (I'd guess that exercise's endorphins would boost it too - go, biking!)

Most material windfalls don't increase our long-term happiness because we get used to them - for instance, being rich, buying a Porsche, buying a big house.

And contrary to what we'd expect, smaller chronic problems are worse than one-time big setbacks: a trick knee or a tense marriage affect us much more in the long term than the loss of a limb or a broken wrist, which we get over pretty quickly.

According to the article, having children tends to make people a bit less happy by decreasing marital happiness, but we'll try to forget that one.

Monday, September 26, 2005

113.5 miles to Philadelphia - Liberty to Liberty! - over two days

My cousin got married in Phila- delphia this weekend, so Mike and I biked there! Yes, we're doing our part to reduce this country's dependence on oil ;-).

There is a triathlon each year called Liberty to Liberty: a race from the Statue of Liberty to the Liberty Bell. We printed the bicycle course maps and off we went - in less of a hurry than those triathletes!

On Saturday, after riding to Pier 11, near the South Street Seaport, the first step was actually a high-speed ferry ride to the Atlantic Highlands in New Jersey. This let us avoid the turnpikes. The boat was very fun and comfy. We ate personal pizzas that we had brought along, and I drank a rum and coke from the on-boat bar -- foolish? maybe. Fun? Definitely.
We arrived shortly before 2pm. This particular ferry skipped the Atlantic Highlands stop and landed in nearby Highlands, so we rode a few hilly miles to reach the start of the bike route. A chained-off road might have thwarted some people, but not us! We slid underneath the chain and biked to the Atlantic Highlands.

The route took place over 14 maps, and went through rural New Jersey. At first it was a false kind of rural, with show ponies and occasional mansions. But these eventually gave way to real rural, with silos, fields, and tiny towns.

After the first 50 miles of biking, we were ready for a little break. And there - at the side of the road - was a very comfortable sofa! We relaxed for a bit before moving on. Here's Mike on the couch.

Then I relaxed on the couch.

We continued through a couple very small towns, and it started getting dark ... then very dark. We had to stop for the night. We reached a Howard Johnson's in Westhampton, NJ, right off the New Jersey Turnpike. They only had two nonsmoking rooms left, each with jacuzzis. We took them.

Here is the jacuzzi. I looked at the odometer - bicycling distance so far? 75 miles.

And here is the room. I parked my bike inside, and we left for a late dinner.

This town was chock full of dining options. A mile down the road there was a Wendy's, a Dunkin' Donuts and a Charlie Brown's Steakhouse. Or, right near the hotel, there was an Applebys, a Cracker Barrel, and a place called Karmas which offered spicy Indian fare.

There's nothing worse than bad Indian food, and since this restaurant was in the middle of nowhere and only patronized by folks stopping off the turnpike, I wasn't ready to chance it.

So we chose Applebys, and apparently it was the social hotspot in West- hampton NJ! It was a decadent meal: we started with oreo cookie milkshakes, then shared a combo appetizer of mozzarella sticks, quesadilla slices, spinach-cheese dip, and chicken nuggets. I skipped the chicken, of course.

Then I had a broccoli fettucini alfredo with a few other veggies mixed in. The apple pie a la mode looked tasty for dessert, but we were both ready to burst.

Afterward, in search of something to read, we stopped by the Cracker Barrel. For those of you who are not familiar with the Cracker Barrel (a group that included me until yesterday), it is half-store, half-restaurant. The restaurant serves all sorts of greasy fried meats. The store is the tackiest place you've ever seen. It makes the Yankee Candle Company seem refined by comparison. They sell all manner of tacky chintz - a woman followed us around trying to foist on us large dancing snowmen and witches for Halloween, and a miniature house decorated with Christmas lights with intricately detailed furniture.

We went back to the hotel and arranged to meet at the continental breakfast the next morning. I woke up shortly after 6am - after just five hours sleep - but couldn't fall back asleep. So I went in the jacuzzi and read Reader's Digest, which I had chosen over Martha Stewart's journal when perusing Cracker Barrel's very limited reading selection. Later, we met up for breakfast, checked out, and continued on our way. We were already on Map 11 out of 14, and it didn't take too long to get through to the Ben Franklin Bridge.

This is Mike on the Ben Franklin Bridge that connects Camden NJ with Phila- delphia. The bridge is only open to pedestrians and bicyclists from 11am to 7pm, though there's probably a train that goes across at other times. The bridge starts at the Rutgers campus in New Jersey and ends in Philadelphia pretty close to Independence Hall.

This is me on the Ben Franklin bridge. There was a looney pedestrian in front of us, but bikes go faster than pedestrians so we just whizzed by him. We made it! We were in Philadelphia!

We parked our bikes outside of Indepen- dence Hall with a single Krypto-nite lock, and went to see the Liberty Bell. It's impressive to look at - but much smaller than you'd imagine. Then we headed out in search of lunch.

The place we'd planned on was closed on Sundays, so we asked two people for recommendations. The first, a skater kid who worked at the Marriott, suggested a nearby "brew-pub" called Champions. We passed it, but it was very loud and didn't look particularly good. The second fellow, a security guard who was standing outside the Hard Rock Cafe, said, "I know what you're looking for - good value, and good food." He recommended a 24-hour diner called Midtown II which had both. We took his recommendation.

It was a good choice. Midtown II had a large menu of food that was freshly prepared each day. Everyone there was black except for us and one employee. It was a low key and inviting atmosphere, and two older women at nearby tables started chatting with us about the food, hotels that have stoves or stovetops in the rooms, their kids, the weather, and bicycling. I love Philadelphia because it's such a friendly and social place. Here, you can see the chocolate milkshake that Mike had. I was "good" and skipped that indulgence, though I had eggplant parmesan with spaghetti as my side vegetable. (That also tells you something about Philly!)

We left and rode up to 30th Street Station, where Mike hopped aboard a train heading back to NYC. I continued on the bike up Lancaster Avenue and turned onto City Avenue to reach the wedding. Everyone in Philadelphia warns you about the rough areas, which include some parts of Lancaster Avenue, but from my limited experience, if you're bicycling there's not much to worry about.

I reached the Hilton on City Avenue and encountered my extended family in formal attire. I was perspiring, in a blue t-shirt that was damp with sweat, with a bathing suit instead of shorts. It was embarrassing! After a little chit-chat I went up to my parents' room (they had brought my suit), showered, and we all headed out to the wedding at the nearby botanical garden.

They had a van bring people to the wedding, but there wasn't enough room so we waited outside the hotel. Here's my father and sister. He brought a camera bag to take photos.

We gave up on the van and took their car to the botanical garden, chatting a bit before the ceremony started.

Here's a photo of J, my aunt, M (the groom), and my uncle.

It was a super wedding and a really fun party - a beautiful setting, nicely thought out, great conversations, great music. This photo was of the ceremony; I didn't get a photo of the larger garden where we ate, but that enclosed room was dimly lit with colorful lights that gave the garden a magical appearance.

I stayed til shortly after 11pm, went back to the hotel, removed the wheels from my bicycle and put it in my parents' car trunk, then headed out to 30th Street Station to catch an Amtrak train home. I didn't arrive home til 2am.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Happy Brick Oven Pizza

My bday dinner at Grimaldis was lots of fun! At the right, K and ML.

Tasty pizza and cannoli - how can you argue with that? From left to right, C, A, S and AT.

Here's K and me.

Then we sauntered across the Brooklyn Bridge: here's AT, DG, J and K.

I came up with a theory about friendship and groups of friends that would explain why just because you're friends with someone doesn't mean that you'll get along with their friends -- and why just because all your friends share something in common doesn't mean you share it too!

1. The idea is that friends can appreciate different things in the other (whether similar or complementary). Fred might enjoy Sally's devilish wit, while Sally might appreciate Fred's thoughtful insight.

If most of Sally's friends (Fred included) lack that devilish wit that they appreciate in Sally, then there's no reason that Sally's friends would befriend each other.

2. Let's say your friends are all smart and funny, but don't enjoy each other's company. This suggests that you might not actually be smart and funny - that while you value this quality a lot, and seek out people who have it, your friends who have it appreciate entirely separate qualities. (You might still be smart and funny, but it would be a coincidence.)

3. It's when Fred and Sally both share and appreciate the same quality in each other, and look for it in others (for instance, if they enjoy carefree bar-hopping and like to hang out with others who do too, or if they like to banter about technology), then they'll probably be compatible with each others' friends.

17.5 miles to the 168th Street tennis courts

I took a nice birthday ride along the Hudson River, pretty close to the bridge. There are benches overlooking the water, and tennis courts nearby.

K made tasty falafel for lunch, with a delicious lemon- tahini sauce. She gave me two t-shirts: a cookie monster shirt, and a Mr. Bubble shirt :-).

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

12.8 mile night ride to 125th Street

Took an evening ride to 125th Street and back.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

32.2 miles up and around Manhattan and to Ward's Island

I didn't continue to the southern tip of Manhattan because of the time. Ward's Island is a neat little isthmus on the East side. A drawbridge leads to it in the 90's, and it connects to Manhattan in the 100's, but bridges are more fun.

Before that, I passed the Cloisters and eventually bumped into the river underneath the Broadway Bridge. The Broadway Bridge separates Riverdale, in the Bronx, from upper Manhattan.

In the evening we dined at Pinch - Pizza by the Inch - for A's birthday. It was tasty and fun.

Monday, September 12, 2005

12.8 mile night ride to Fairway

Tonight, on my bike ride, I had a strange interest in listening to Tom Clancy's Clear and Present Danger on the iPod. My arms were still sore from yesterday's trip to the gym, which was the first in a couple months. I did 11 sets of weights: 3 for pecs, 3 for back, 5 for arms. Not trying to do anything remarkable .. just get some neglected muscles back into shape :-). We'll see if I keep it up ...

Saturday, September 10, 2005

90 miles to Kaser, NJ, returning through Nyack

I didn't mean to bike 90 miles today. I had intended to explore the start of the route to the Poconos, then turn back after 35 miles.

The ride started fine - I crossed the George Washington Bridge and generally went North and West. I went north into Englewood, then west through Englewood along Palisade Avenue. It's a really nice area with fun shops and happy people! I stopped for a Portobello and Mozzarella panini for lunch.

I continued north into Hillsdale, and found a few-block stretch of Broadway that's bustling and cute. Was this turning into a tour of fun downtowns? The directions were bad starting in Rivervale, so I'd already gone back and forth a few times.

These photos are of Woodcliff Lake, which is also a reservoir. It is northwest of Hillsdale.

I continued East into Allendale, and the directions got progressively worse. It was time to turn back, but they didn't believe in putting up signs on a bunch of the streets. That coupled with bad directions got me quite lost. I stopped in a hardware store and the fellow said, "Just follow any street that says East and you'll eventually get to the Hudson River. Just take East Saddle River Road, turn right at Lake Street, then turn left onto Chestnut Ridge Road, and continue in that direction."

That was terrible advice! I only found out later that this primarily took me much further north - to Saddle River, then Upper Saddle River, then Kaser, which is right below Ramapo NJ! It is six miles west of Nyack Beach State Park.

Kaser is a crunchy town and I stopped in an organic food co-op for directions. A nice fellow said to turn east onto Route 59. Route 59 is a bustling highway that has a shoulder most of the way. I reached Nyack and stopped for a slice of pizza. Nyack also had a fun downtown, that was larger than those in the other townships.

I returned via 9-W, which generally goes along the Hudson River.

It was getting dark when I reached Alpine, and the Palisades bike path was blocked off. A sign said that it closed at dusk. I went around the sign and went there anyway. It got pretty dark, and when I reached the Alpine picnic area I didn't see the chain that blocked the road until it was very close. I slowed as fast as I could but not in time to avoid the chain. I thought I was going to go flying, but the chain was attached to a post that moved inward, and I reached a stop a foot past the chain's original location.

The Palisades bike path is set along a hilly cliff overlooking the Hudson river. At times it's over 100 feet up. It's beautiful - especially at night - but with the tree covering and some bad road conditions, it's not a relaxing road to ride at night. This photo doesn't do the road justice at all - I wanted to capture the beautiful river below, but the camera didn't pick it up in the dim light. The flash did illuminate the road and the rocks, though - the road was much darker and my lousy bicycle light wasn't much help.

I crossed back into New York and arrived home sometime later, going a bit further to reach an even 90 miles.

Looking at the map online, it's clear that I would have avoided a lot of problems had I printed the map beforehand so it would display towns and large streets! Life lessons ...

Thursday, September 08, 2005

13 miles to 125th Street

with Mike on the way there, and on my own on the way back.

You may have noticed the absence of photos for a while. My camera phone is on the fritz! But today, K's new Sony camera arrived. It takes much sharper pictures! I'll be borrowing it for bike rides ...

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

12.8 miles to Fairway

... at a good speed.

This evening, I tried out that NYC foosball doubles tournament. It's a really talented group of foosers :-). My partner was Donna; she and her boyfriend, who was on another team, will return to Edinburgh, Scotland tomorrow, after doing an apartment swap for a month. We lost both times, but got in some good shots. I played defense and scored twice from there. I blocked some shots but let in others.

There was only one table for around 16+ players. So that meant a lot of waiting and watching - one three-game set, and another one-game set, in 2 1/2 hours. I'll probably return, but not that often.

Will gave me some good advice: with these champion foosers, you need to keep your men in motion to make it harder for your opponent to set up a direct shot.

Monday, September 05, 2005

30 miles to Central Park and four loops around it

I rode with Kevin, who is originally from North Carolina. He thought he did the loops at an 18-19 mph average speed, but he really rides much faster. That's what cross-training 3 hours each day with no odometer will do, I guess!

Sunday, September 04, 2005

12.8 mile night ride to 125th

It was a fast ride!

Why no long ride this past weekend? K and I just returned from a brief weekend in the Pocono mountains where bike time was replaced with tennis, foosball and billiards. In my teens, I was quite the foosball player. Now may be the time for a comeback in a NYC foosball tournament :-).

BTW, congratulations Mike on your ride to Bear Mountain today! We want photos!

Friday, September 02, 2005

13 miles to Fairway

Met up with Mike on the way back, and we rode together.