The Clean Hippie

Seeking the sustainable life in New York City

Rain rain go away, come again anoth- oh, f*** it. June 11, 2010

Filed under: bicycle,Lifestyle,New York — Alden @ 7:54 pm
Tags: , , , ,

“If you like pina coladas, and getting caught in the rain….”

Yesterday I woke up at 6 am with a slight hangover. The night before I went on a charity cruise with my friend who works at Deutsche Bank. (Think: a lot of bankers and their girlfriends and wives, drinking too much) Good times had by all, but I might have drank a bit much.

The forecast said cool and foggy, but it wasn’t raining anymore. My bike was still at work, so I decided, why not? I gulped down some water, stuffed some clothes in my backpack, strapped it securely on my back, and set off on a jog down to work. It was only four miles, though jogging with a backpack takes some getting used to. I’ve seen other people doing it before on my ride home and wanted to try it.

I jogged past my usual turnaround point and down a path I had never seen before that curved an arc out over the water in a sort of bridge, then through some beautiful landscape work with roses and tall grasses. I decided I would definitely do it again next time I had left my bike at work. Why ever take the subway?

When I finished up with work at the end of the day, I popped down to the gym to pull on a pair of shorts underneath my t-shirt dress (don’t want to flash the masses!) grabbed my helmet, and went to the garage to get my bike.

As I unlocked it from the rack, I looked up to see the first fat drops of rain streaking the window. It took me about 3 seconds to decide that I would ride home anyway. I didn’t have an umbrella, and I wasn’t about to take a taxi, so either way I would get soaked. The night before I had taken a taxi because I needed to run home and change before the cruise, and the traffic was a royal pain. So I strapped on my helmet and wheeled out into rain.

At first I shivered as the drops came faster and faster and  I waited for the light to change at the West Side Highway. I kept my bike far away from the street so I could avoid puddles being splashed up from the cars moving past.

Once I crossed the street, though, things got pleasant. There were plenty of other cyclists and joggers out and I warmed up as I pedaled north past the piers. My t-shirt dress was already pushing it a little as far as being see-through, but now I – along with plenty of other female joggers – were engaged in a full on wet t-shirt contest. Luckily we all had on sports bras too. Sorry boys.

The bike path home from work takes me under the highway overpass for about a half mile, which gave me a reprieve from the rain. Usually it’s just cyclists, but today there were plenty of pedestrians standing underneath: joggers fiddling with their iPods, a young guy leaning against one of the huge columns smoking a cigarette, a middle-aged couple holding hands, and mother with her two little girls sitting on a blanket, all gazing out at the rain that fell on the soccer fields, the landscaped paths, and beyond that the Hudson. The basketball players continued their game, shielded by the concrete humming with cars a hundred feet above.

As I approached the end where the path curves toward the Hudson and out from underneath the highway, several cyclists were stopped to wait it out. “Sissies!” I called out playfully. One guy looked up at me as I said this but I was already gone, back out in the rain.

In the east over Jersey the clouds had parted to reveal a blue sky. I splashed through muddy rivulets of water pouring off Riverside Park, not really caring whether I got muddy at this point.

Another cyclist pulled abreast of me. “I was just cleaning off my glasses!” he said, smiling. It was the guy from under the overpass! I started laughing as he pulled away, and just then the rain slowed and stopped, and the sun came out.

I took a different route home. Instead of cutting up into Riverside park, I went straight, which took me on a pretty new path. It was another path that went out over the water, with nautical themed lights and freshly varnished wooden railings. (I just love the care that NYC puts into its parks, it never gets old.) By the time I got home, the birds were having a field day, and my t-shirt dress was starting to dry.

“Hi Phillipe!” I called out to the my doorman. “Hey Alden,” he said, always with a smile. He helped me lift my bike up the steps into the lobby.

“I don’t know how you ride in those heels,” he said, looking at my espadrilles. “It’s better than walking in heels,” I told him.

“Yeah, I guess you’re right!”

I took the elevator upstairs to my apartment, saying hello to the cats as I stowed my bike in my room. I poured myself a glass of wine, and settled into read with Luca sitting on my lap and Matteo watching me from on top of a pile of magazines.

Life is good.


I was bike-curious… April 30, 2010

So I took the plunge!

This afternoon I managed to wrangle myself out of work by 6:15, and my first thought was, “Yay! Time to get a bike!” I think I told every person I saw on the way down the elevator. When I emerged from the building, I was greeted by a beautiful day still awash in sunshine. Luckily for me, there’s a bike shop right around the corner from my office, Al’s Cycle Solutions. The little shop is not quite a year old, but it’s already a hub of neighborhood activity. The owner, Al, bustled around, juggling three customers at a time. While he rang up one guy who bought some accessories, he discussed my requirements for a bike with me, teased his fat black lab, and periodically yelled to the back to ask one of the mechanics to get up there and help. (They pretty much ignored him.)

I looked at a bike called the Amsterdam (too kitschy, even if I did love the bike scene in Denmark) an adorable fat-tired cruiser (too bulky and difficult to ride), and a basic commuter (too boring!). Finally a mechanic showed me the Bianchi Milano, a light-weight, baby blue, 3-speed city bike, and I fell in love. Compact enough to take on the subway without annoying everyone around me, light enough to carry up the stairs in the my apartment building lobby, and adorable enough to make me feel like a cute hipster.

I ended up buying not only the  Milano, but a wire basket that turns into a shopping basket when you unhook it, a lock, lights for the front and the back (for when I get out of work late, or just want to avoid being doored) a helmet, and a sweet bell to tell joggers to get out of my way. I got a 5% discount for being an Ogilvy employee too!

I’m really lucky, because not only is my office one block away from the West Side bike path, it also has bike storage in the garage, a gym, showers, and lockers for rent. So even when it’s sweltering outside, I can bike down Riverside Park to work, lift some weights, hop in the shower, and be ready for work! It’s a good thing too, because I haven’t been using my gym membership at all.

So a new, proud owner of this beautiful bike, I shoved my purse in the basket and wheeled it outside of the shop. You know that phrase, “Like riding a bike”? Well, it wasn’t easy as all that. The last time I rode a bike, I was flying down a long bike path in Cape Cod last summer with only other cyclists in my way. Now I was wobbling a bit, trying to avoid the potholes, and cringing as I negotiated the one block of traffic to the bike path. What a difference between the city and the beach!

Once I crossed the West Side Highway at 49th Street (almost losing a shoe in the process) I relaxed, and lazily started my route north. It was the perfect temperate for an evening bike ride, so I let my trench flap open in the wind and took in the scenery. Across the Hudson to my left, the last wash of oranged crowned the New Jersey office buildings. All the boats were out from winter hibernation, resting at their slips. I passed after-work joggers, basketball and soccer pickup games, kids playing on the playground, and lovers whispering on the park benches. Other cyclists whizzed by me, but I just cruised. A huge grin spread across my face. “This,” I thought, “is the way to commute. No wonder Denmark is the happiest place on earth!” (If you don’t know, they have a love affair with the bicycle. Not a coincidence, in my opinion.)

The four miles from my office to my apartment whizzed quickly by. I wouldn’t even call it a workout, really. But I would call it far superior to waiting in the grimy underbelly of the city for a crowded train to arrive. I have a bag packed with my work clothes, and yoga pants and a tee laid out, ready for me to bike to work tomorrow morning. You can’t even imagine how happy I am!