Pedal to You Drop
By Elizabeth OuYang
It’s your choice! Why bike 35 miles, when you can do 55? Better yet, if you can do 55, 75 miles is just
around the corner. After 75, pedaling to a century is a piece of cake.
Led by Peter Lau with Mr. Rong’s encouragement, Nancy Liang, Cam Luc, Winnie Ng, Francis Lo and I joined them along with 3,000 bikers for the New York City Century bike tour on September 8, 2002. This event that canvasses the outer boundaries of four boroughs was organized by Transportation Alternatives, a non-profit group advocating for safe cycling in New York City. Our motto was “pedal to you drop.” The weather was sunny and beautiful.
The starting point was Manhattan’s Central Park at 110th Street at 6:00 a.m. Francis rose at 3:30 a.m., followed by Nancy and Winnie at 4 a.m. Together, they took the subway from Queens to 59th Street and then pedaled to 110th Street to meet Mr. Rong and Peter in Central Park. From Central Park, the route went over the Brooklyn Bridge, through Brooklyn Heights, onward to Prospect Park, passing Canarsie Pier, then to Queen’s Forest Park, Alley Pond Park, Flushing Meadows Corona Park, and Astoria Park. From there, the 75 miles route crossed the Triboro Bridge back to Central Park. Valuing sleep over the thrill of starting with 3,000 bikers, Cam met me at 6:30 a.m. (sharp) in Brooklyn Heights where we waited for the flood of bikers to reach us.
The route was well marked with orange chalk arrows on the streets. The first rest stop was approximately at the 15 mile mark in Prospect Park. Awaiting us were fresh cold sliced oranges, bananas,
prunes, and peanut butter and jelly bagels.
Refreshed, we biked out of the park, following other bikers down Ocean Avenue which was a wide street lined with row houses. While we were busy alternating passing one another and yelling “CLEAR” at intersections, we suddenly realized no one was following us and we were lost. Cam’s “Bay Ridge” 6th sense navigated us back on track toward Shore Parkway. On the way, we passed Charlie Ong’s house in Brooklyn for an unplanned bathroom stop at approx. 7:30 a.m. Charlie was home asleep. Rather than being upset at the early wake up call, he instead was apologetic for not being able to join us on the ride!! What a socially correct CMC attitude to have! Then we passed George Li doing tai chi in a nearby park!
Onward to Canarsie Pier for our second official stop. By then, we had biked 35 miles and we were going strong. We took pictures and ate more oranges and peanut butter and jelly bagels.
Crossing over the Pennsylvania Avenue Bridge, we entered Queens! Immediately, we began to think which CMC members in Queens could we pay an impromptu visit. It was after entering Queens that our biking speeds began to noticeably differ. Cam and Francis sped ahead with Nancy trailing behind. Peter, plagued with muscle fatigue from running the 26.2 mile marathon in Canada two weeks before and leading an adventurous CMC canoe/camping/hiking trip a week later, kept pace with Winnie, Mr. Rong and I. On the way to Forest Park, we biked on an elevated narrow winding path. It was nice and shady to ride through. We passed Francis Lo’s house, but did not stop because Francis was clever and biked ahead. Alley Pond Park was where we stopped for lunch. Tired of peanut butter and jelly bagels, we decided to telephone Allen Wang who lives in nearby Whitestone and see what they were having for lunch. We took turns talking to Allen, however, lunch for seven on five seconds notice was not an option! At this stop, we were each treated to a “healthy” bag of terra chips, and peaches in addition to the main staples. It was here that we last saw Francis. He was set on completing the 100 miles route that went from Astoria Park through the Bronx and back to Central Park. We wished him well.
Immediately after each official stop, we were faced with big hills and each bridge we crossed was a steady incline. On this next segment, we pedaled along the Little Neck and Flushing Bays, part of the
Long Island Sound shores and we could see Shea Stadium in the distance.
While beautiful, this section was the most grueling. Some of us, particularly the early risers, were getting tired. The clusters of bikers were getting thinner and thinner. No one could tell we were part of an organized bike tour but for the registration labels pinned to our backs. Knowing there was watermelon at the last stop kept propelling us forward.
Finally, we all made it to Astoria Park.
No sign of Francis, but we assumed he touched base here. Watermelon was waiting for us!!! We sat on the grass, stretched out and ate the watermelon. What stood in the way between Astoria Park and Central Park was the formidable Triboro Bridge. This was a challenging finish. Exhausted from the early rise, Winnie opted out and took the subway home from Astoria Park. To get on the bridge itself and at various stages on the bridge, we had to walk our bikes up and down several sets of stairs. Since the bike path on the bridge was very narrow, we had to bike single file.
We crossed the 75 miles finish line at 4:30 p.m.
It was sheer ecstasy!!! More watermelon was waiting for us and we could receive complimentary massages!! No sight of Francis. However, it was not over for Cam and I. Since we did not start at Central Park, in order to officially say we completed 75 miles, we needed to bike another 7-8 miles from Central Park to Brooklyn Heights. Mr. Rong and Peter took the subway home from Central Park. Nancy rode through Central Park with Cam and I from 110th street to 59th street to catch the subway to Queens. At this point, Cam looked at me seriously and said, “Liz, if you want to finish, you have to bike faster!!” Wanting desperately to say with a straight face that I completed 75 miles, I dug deep down for a last reserve of energy and responded, “Okay, I will!” Cam and I headed for the bike path on West Side Drive that followed the Hudson River. In less than a ½ hour, I followed Cam (almost right behind him), from 59th Street all the way down to Chambers Street. The path was very flat, paved, and crowded with roller bladders, strollers and family bikers, but the traffic kept moving.
After reaching Chambers Street, we stopped for a break. The last challenge was crossing the Brooklyn Bridge.
Up, up, up, I pedaled like a turtle. At the top of the bridge, Cam let me lead. For the next 3 minutes, I was in front heading into Brooklyn. When we reached Brooklyn Heights, I yelled, “We did it!!!” after nearly 10 hours of biking, several oranges, and multiple peanut butter and jelly bagels! The time was 6 p.m.
The century ride had no mercy for those brave cyclists willing to complete a 100 miles. The last 25 miles were full of rolling hills through the Bronx greenways.
Francis says he completed it at 5:40 p.m. Even though he has produced no witnesses, we believe him! The reward was complimentary Ben and Jerry’s ice cream!
For everyone, the day long tour propelled us
further to challenge our abilities.
We all made history. For Peter and Mr. Rong, this was their 5th and 4th NYC century tour, respectively. On previous tours, Peter finished 100 miles 3 times and 80 miles once due to a thunderstorm; Mr. Rong did 100 miles once and close to 75 miles previous times. For Francis, this was the first time he completed 100 miles with this event -the last time he attempted it he had two flats and quit in Queens. For Cam, while he’s biked 75 miles before, this was his first NYC century tour and certainly his first time biking with just Liz following. Not only were his biking skills fine tuned, but so was his patience. Nancy actually completed 75 plus miles, tacking on the sprint from 59th to 110th street in the beginning and the end, placing her in the number one position for the first CMC woman to have biked the most miles. And guess who comes in second. ME!! Winnie follows as a close third, but she may contest this result since I did not start at Central Park at 6 a.m. and one arguably has less energy in the morning, than in the evening. Whatever-we have now self classified ourselves as “professional” bikers. Don’t you think we’ve earned it?!