August 3, 1999 - Day 53 - Millburn, New Jersey to Elmsford, New York
59.9 miles - 11.2 mph average (stop and go traffic) - 3671 total miles - 35.6 mph max speed
Meet Virginia Howe, the third and youngest of the Hall sisters. I stayed at her wonderful home in Millburn, New Jersey last night and we went out for dinner together. Millburn is a really nice town.
Ginny is a violist. She has always been the serious musician of the family. She was educated at Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York and makes her living giving lessons from the lovely Music Room in her home. Ginny is always playing in string groups of all sizes and spends most of every summer as an instructor at a music camp in Vermont. In fact, she just returned from camp on the 1st, so the timing of my visit was just right.
I want to say a word here about my maternal grandparent's (the Halls) educational values. Teaching goes way back on that side of the family. My great-great grandfather was a teacher and later the founder of the one-room school in their area. My grandfather (Benjamin Virgil Hall) was not formally educated even through high school, but did go to a kind of trade school and educated himself into a successful businessman. He and his wife, Lillian, made sure all three of their daughters not only graduated from high school, but also went to college. My mom said it was just expected of them, but it was highly unusual in the 1930's/40's. My mother graduated from Wellesley in Massachusetts, Aunt Rosalie graduated from Sweet Briar in North Carolina, and Ginny from Eastman.
After breakfast and goodbyes, I hit the road for NYC. Problem, how to get on "the island". I really wanted to arrive via the Staten Island Ferry. I couldn't think of a better way to go to Manhattan your first time.
But the bridges that leave Jersey and go over to Staten Island (one of the five boroughs that make up New York City) all looked like interstate types of roads. I told Ginny I'd head for the nearest one, see if I could get some info as I got closer to it, and just make up my mind as I got there.
The Goethals runs over to Staten from Elizabeth, NJ. Man, it goes WAY up in the air and it's a slow climb. It's also like an interstate with no shoulder, no walkway, and...
...no bicycles allowed
It probably took ten minutes to climb up the one side and glide down the other to the toll booth. Traffic was heavy, but kind, except for one semi, but nothing bothers me anymore. About 50 yards from the tollbooth, three police cars with full regalia pulled out across the road, creating a roadblock and stopping all traffic on the bridge. Uh-oh.
As I rolled down, an officer got out of his car and told me in extremely clear terms to pull my bike off the road and get off of it. Now! Unlike Illinois, where I stood my ground because I felt I was right, I didn't have a leg to stand on here. They were absolutely right, and not just "legally".
For the record, this was the stupidest thing I'd done in over 3600 miles of biking. I just didn't know how else to get onto the island. The officers pretty much ripped me a new one, and then for some reason, things began to change. They began asking questions about the trip.
Officer James Nelson, who had taken my driver's license, told me he would issue me a warning, not a ticket. He mentioned his brother, Bob, a teacher on Long Island who's close to retirement who has always wanted to do a transcontinental bike trip. He took the website address and I encouraged him to have his brother contact me with questions about transcontinental biking. (I can tell him another way to get on Staten Island)
Lieutenant Mark Winslow helped me with directions across the island and offered the use of the station house rest room and drinking water. Both officers escorted me through the tollbooth and onto the offramp safely.
In short, a day that started out with a bone-headed move on my part, ended up as a great welcome to New York City and the state of New York. It was all the better because I truly didn't deserve it. I think this was an example of good policing. And Grace.
So Officer Nelson and Lieutenant Winslow, thanks for being nice guys. You're my "Good Samaritans" today. Why no picture? Both men just felt it would be better that way.
By the way, they work for the Port Authority Police. The Port Authority handles all the ships, all the ferries, all the bus depots, all the subways, trains and airports in the whole city and into New Jersey. It's a huge police department.
I got to the ferry terminal and the next ferry was leaving in five minutes, so I went right on. 'To' NYC, it's free.
Manhattan Island, and a great confluence
From the Golden Gate to the Golden Door, 3600 miles of Route 99.
"...From the redwood forests, To the New York Islands, this land was made for you and me."
The ferry ride was an emotional one. I stood at the front and took pictures, chatting with a couple of people on either side.
You're looking at a confluence, by the way. To the west of Manhattan (left in the picture), the great Hudson River flows into the harbor, and on the east side, of course, the East River. But they don't make a river. They make a harbor and that water then flows out into the Atlantic Ocean through...
This picture is taken from the East River, looking out into the harbor. Verrazano Narrows Bridge is to the left in the distance and beyond that bridge is the Atlantic Ocean.
But not the part I'm going to.
I lift my lamp beside the Golden Door
That's another Staten Island Ferry crossing paths with ours.
It was through the efforts in the 1970's of Lee Iacocca, of Italian immigrant heritage, that Ellis Island was rehabbed and brought back to the public as the great museum of American immigration. I hope that some day the same will be done for Angel Island in San Francisco harbor. I believe at least as many immigrants came through the "gate" as through the "door".
Noon in Manhattan
I don't believe there's another city on the planet that hums with the same kind of energy. You can feel it, hear it. You become it. It's fantastic.
Our first capital
My bike is parked underneath the tablet that tells you that this is the spot where George Washington was sworn in as the first President of the United States in 1789. Prior to this, the old Constitution, called the Articles of Confederation, called for only one branch of government, a legislature, and it met in the building you see here, called the Federal Building.
Where are we? On Wall Street. Look carefully in ads for financial institutions. They often try to include this statue.
Alexander Hamilton's grave
Those ads should really try to include THIS guy's statue, not Washington's. Hamilton was the original friend of big money. He may well have been the most influential politician of the early federal period. Hamilton's sarcophagus is in the forefront of the picture. The monument was put up later. I wonder if the "Factory Shoe Outlet" was what Hamilton had in mind when he envisioned his laissez faire financial world.
Anyway, because he was so influential, he was able to sway some House members after about 200 deadlocked ballots in deciding the tie election of 1800. Hamilton privately told some Federalist Reps to vote for political opponent Thomas Jefferson instead of political ally Aaron Burr because he questioned Burr's stability. Jefferson won on the next ballot and Burr, under the provisions of Article II of the new Constitution, became vice-president since he was the runner-up.
Vice President Burr, never able to forget the back-room politics that shafted him out of the Presidency, challenged Hamilton to a duel several years later. They rowed across the harbor to the New Jersey swamps one early morning in 1804, and Hamilton died at the ripe old age of 47. (This ruined Burr, but I think it would help Vice President Gore.)
Hamilton is buried in the yard at Trinity Episcopal Church, just at the west end of Wall St. (Wall St., by the way, got its name because it was where the first wall of the city was back in New Amsterdam days.)
The Brooklyn Bridge
I had never taken the pedestrian walkway across the Brooklyn Bridge and so went out of my way to do it. It's a New York "must". What a beautiful bridge. What a beautiful skyline.
My paternal great-grandfather saved his life
This plaque appears on one of the two great towers of the bridge.
In my Grandmother Graham's autobiography, she tells of the time that her father, who was a self-taught homeopathic "doctor", was approached by a neighbor lady in Newark who begged him to help her child. He refused, telling her that he didn't even treat his own children, only himself, due to his lack of credentials. She continued to beg, telling him that the regular doctor had told her that her baby had less than a day to live and that he had done all he could. So he gave her some herbs and the baby's life was saved. That baby was Washington Augustus Roebling, who along with his father, was the chief architect and engineer of the great Brooklyn Bridge.
Just wait til midnite THIS year, eh?
Over Wall Street, up Church Street, up Mulberry Street, over Bleeker Street, up the Bowery, through Union Square, across 5th Ave., over to Herald Square, up Madison Avenue, the Avenue of the Americas, Broadway, past the Empire State Building.
In many cases I moved faster than the traffic. Biking Manhattan was great. I don't know why, but I'm just completely comfortable on a bicycle under any circumstances. I love finding the flow, the seam.
I witnessed only one example of road rage today, and that was by another bicyclist who took offence at something some car did.
Up the Avenue of the Americas past Radio City Music Hall and into Central Park. All the way through the park (what's the attraction with those boring horse carriages, anyway?) and out the north end into Harlem, climbing the heights. Yes, they ARE the Harlem Heights. North, north, north on Adam Clayton Powell Drive, on Frederick Douglass Drive, on Malcolm X Boulevard, across the Harlem River at about 155th. Now out of Manhattan and into the Bronx, my fourth "boro" of the day (if you include my brief foray into Brooklyn)
Harlem was great. Wide streets full of life, loud music from store fronts, cars beeping. I took a detour up a side street to ride through an open hydrant that was spraying across to the other curb.
And all of a sudden, it's Little Puerto Rico. And everything changes. The music is different, the food smells are different, the clothing, the people.
And then you're out of the city and into Yonkers, still on Broadway. And now you begin to realize the Dutch heritage, the earliest Europeans to run the show.
And then you begin to get the snooty names. I think they're humorous. Hastings-on-Hudson, Irvington-on-Hudson, etc. They remind me of Puddly-on-the-marsh in Dr. Dolittle.
Broadway goes all the way to Albany, but I'm only going to take it to Poughkeepsie. In north Harlem they start calling it Route 9 (just one digit off)
So tomorrow I will meet my "shirt-tail" cousin, Annabelle Secor and her husband, Bob, for the first time. They live just minutes from the Hall family homestead, where I spent happy summers on my grandfather's "farm". We'll see the farm, visit the graves, and hopefully, find my grandfather's tractor. I have an idea for it.
It looks as of now that Route 99 will reach Plymouth Rock in Plymouth, Massachusetts this coming Saturday, August 7. I think after I leave the farm and turn to the East for the final leg, I'm going to REALLY start getting emotional. I can feel it coming.
Lois is going to drive back to pick me up.
And the bike, too, if we can retrieve it from the ocean floor.
Minor correction: In labeling the picture of Robert McDermitt at the Princeton Chapel organ in yesterday's journal, I referred to his Princeton 'hit' on the organ to the left. It should have read Princeton 'hat', but it got cropped from the photo anyway. I'm sure Matt didn't know what the heck I was talking about.
And a final piece of neat trivia, thanks to Gary Case of Case Construction in Wheaton, who put the addition on our house and became a good friend in the process. Gary said the Ivy League got its name because it originally consisted of only four schools. IV.
Thanks, Gary. Not bad for an Iowan.
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