On the Road: Coney Island, NY

Long gone are the days of endless touring and constant adventure. Rides are typically limited to weekends or more likely, mornings or afternoons. An apartment feels like a ball and chain, not allowing you to venture further than daylight hours will allow. There are upsides to this are full sized air pumps, home cooked meals before, after and baked snacks for the ride (see protein oat cups below). Plus tools, fresh clothes and showers at your disposal. A trip completed last week extended from the Financial District to Coney Island.

Previously, the closest I had been to Coney Island was a ferry ride on the to Rockaway Beach, peering at the looming rides and boardwalk from the water, the shore littered with human shapes. The plan was to take a river path to Coney Island. The problem is that you have to get through a considerable distance, some 70 blocks, in Brooklyn to get to the start of the path. We went over the Manhattan Bridge, less pedestrians, and made our way to Fifth Avenue to head south. There is a bike path most of this route, but nearly every street has a light, slowing us considerably. Double parked cars constantly forced us into traffic, which was fairly slow due to the aforementioned traffic lights.

Soon we arrive at the river path that will lead us another 6 or so miles towards our destination. The path was quiet on a Tuesday afternoon, a slight chill in the air may have kept people inside. Fisherman were common, their lines cast into the waters, killing the afternoon on the bulkhead. I almost got hooked in the back during the return trip while passing a man casting his lure, pay little attention to anyone behind him. With no cars to dodge or lights to slow cruising speeds, we make great time towards the destination, racing a freighter crossing under the Verrazano Bridge. The Coney Tower was our focal point for the finish.

Turns out Nathan’s was the actual finish line as we were starving by the time we reached Coney Island. Being early October, all the rides at Luna Park had been shut down for the season. This was ok for me, as I didn’t want to spend too much time off the bike and cool down. The sun was very warming, but any breeze or shade quickly reminded that Autumn is here. We at a smattering of fried goodness and each a hot dog. Our hunger did not allow time to be wasted capturing images of chicken tenders, jalapeño bites, hot dog with sauerkraut and a chili cheese dog. Never one to order a hot dog when eating out, I had to try the 100 plus year old establishment’s main cuisine. I was not disappointed. The rubber looking dog snapped when bitten into and flavor was amazing! Nathan’s in addition to a Chicago Dog and Detroit’s American Coney Island Dog are the only places I can recommend getting a hot dog out to eat. The rest should be grilled at a cookout.

The food definitely made the ride worthwhile. The ride back however would be completed with a dry mouth, as the amount of salt consumed was intense. We spent some time on a bench taking in the ocean views from the boardwalk. Some decent people watching, though considerably less than what I imagine the high season offers. A return trip will be necessary as the area has a lot more to offer than the Rockaways. After we weaved through the city streets of Coney Island we made it back to the path where I was nearly hooked. After escaping a barb, we cruise through the path and decide that we would try Fourth Avenue on our return trip to Manhattan. There was no dedicated bike lane, but a wide shoulder, with less lights and less cars double parked. We made considerably better time on the way home. Against better judgement we ate more sodium of the MSG variety, grabbing some pork/shrimp dumplings and wonton soup after the Manhattan Bridge deposited us into the heart of Chinatown.

The day’s was just over 30 miles in total, with a good mix of path and road riding. It was nice to find that Brooklyn’s Fourth Ave was better than riding the bike lane on Fifth Ave. Also, Manhattan Bridge will tend to be cyclists’ best option for traversing the East River in/out of Brooklyn, but it is less picturesque than the Brooklyn Bridge. If one goes late enough at night (or I assume early in the AM, but I have never tested this) the BK Bridge is less congested by tourists who WILL jump out in front of you at the least expected times. This may still happen at night, just not in the same frequency. Plus there is more space to dodge them.

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