Now that I’ve overcome my fear of biking, I really wanted to get in a good bike ride this past weekend, before an autumn chill settles in. So, Todd and I decided to take a ride along the Shore Parkway bike path. The bikeway follows the Belt Parkway, which travels east from Brooklyn into Queens. We found a parking spot only one block away from the trail’s start (west of Plumb Beach, near Emmons Avenue). Then, we donned our helmets, took a preparatory gulp from our water bottles, and embarked on our nearly 17-mile roundtrip.
Unfortunately, about a mile or so into the ride, we realized that part of the bikeway had been damaged by Hurricane Sandy in October 2012 and had never been fixed. An entire swath of the pathway was covered in sand too deep to ride our bikes through. Some of the more confident cyclists had taken to the highway and pedaled alongside the cars; others navigated down the curb and through a nearby parking lot. We followed the majority: we simply dismounted and walked our bikes to the other side. Ready for some continuous cycling, we started off again, only to hit another sand trap a few minutes later.
Luckily the trail improved after that, and we hit our first real hill cresting up to the bridge over Gerritsen Inlet. According to the Marine Park Civic Organization:
Gerritsen Creek was a freshwater stream that once extended about twice as far inland as it does today. Around 1920 the creek north of Avenue U was converted into an underground storm drain. Yet it continues to supply the salt marsh with fresh water, which helps the marsh support a wide range of organisms. Broad expanses of fertile salt marsh, meadows adorned with wildflowers, sandy dunes held in place by beach plants, and jungle-like thickets of shrubs and vines nominate the landscape of Marine Park. Myrtle warblers, grasshopper sparrows, cotton-tailed rabbits, ring-necked pheasants, horseshoe crabs, and oyster toad fish are a small sampling of the animals that inhabit these plant communities and live in or around Gerritsen Creek.
We were barely two miles into the trip, but my legs already burned with effort. I decided it would be a great place to stop, rest, and take a photo of the Marine Parkway Bridge, which leads the way into Rockaway.
The trip into Queens felt long, with a wrong turn near the entrance into Rockaway and a pit stop to call Todd’s mom and let her know how many eggplants we would need for the eggplant parmagiana we planned to cook for dinner. We took a bathroom break at Canarsie Pier, where couples stared out at the water and more than one person was napping on a bench.
For the remainder of the ride, the road undulated like a camel’s back, with long ascents that taxed our strength (usually leading to a bridge) and then downhills that gave us a much-needed break from pedaling. As we progressed along the bikeway, it widened to three (sometimes four) wide lines, with smooth pavement beneath our tires. Less than one mile from the end of the parkway, we crossed from Brooklyn into Queens.
We started the return trip expecting to feel winded and exhausted, but the ride passed quickly, probably because our muscles had already warmed up to the exercise. Before we knew it, we had to dismount our bikes and walk back across the two sand piles. When we reached the spot where we had commenced, we both looked at each other and promised to return. And maybe on our next adventure, we’ll begin even earlier along the parkway, near the Verrazano Bridge; then, we’ll get to pass through Coney Island and Brighton Beach as we cycle through the boroughs.