Central Park in Fall
Business travel offers the opportunity to visit many wonderful cities. Often, however, that simply means flying in, taking a taxi to a hotel, and “touring” the inside of yet again another all too familiar lobby and set of meeting rooms. Then it’s a quick dash back to the airport in another cab and jetting off to the next destination.
The “spirit” and philosophy of “Bike Speed” is to make a conscious effort to carve out time for yourself to actually participate in the environment where your travel takes you. Your company paid for you to attend the event and expects you to devote your efforts to meeting with clients and learning from presentations. The conference agenda may be jam packed, but with a bit of advance planning or flexibility, it is possible to make the trip much more meaningful. You can get your work done and still find time to enjoy the hidden gems in the surrounding area.
From October 8-10, 2011, I was in New York City to attend a customer’s annual convention. Their theme was “Taking the Stage” and the backdrop for the general sessions resembled a look down Times Square and marquees from all the famous plays. Broadway performers provided a break between speakers and they had marvelous voices. One entertainer had performed the role of Mustafa in the Lion KIng over 3,000 times – he sang the Impossible Dream and everyone had goose bumps.
Entertainment after dinner one evening was provided by Gary Sinise and the Lieutenant Dan Band (yup, the same person who played Lt. Dan in Forrest Gump and is now starring in CSI – New York.) The band performs about 50 – 75 shows per year for the troops around the world and here at home. They covered a wide range of songs and were a lot of fun to see in person.
When I checked into the hotel, I saw a sign for bike rentals. I was staying at the New York Hilton which was only a few blocks south of Central Park. I gathered some information and made plans to return the following day. Unfortunately, when I went back about 4:00 pm on Sunday, the counter was closed for the day. I grabbed my iPad and quickly Googled up bike rentals in the area and found the Central Park Bicycle Shop, which was just five blocks away. I quickly made a reservation and earned a discount for booking online – paying just $8.00 for a one hour rental. The shop was two blocks south of Central Park. I should have taken more time selecting the bike, since it wasn’t the greatest ride. I’ve experienced that problem in the past, so I should create a “checklist” to guarantee a better experience. Sure wish I could use my own bike when I travel – may have to invest in a folding travel bike one day!
I started off by heading east on 57th Street, then turning north on 8th Avenue. That took me to Columbus Circle (built in 1905), a major New York City landmark. I used the techiniques learned in my Cycling Savvy class and easily navigated this four lane round-about. Traffic was reasonably light since it was a Sunday afternoon. But nonetheless, it was still “Columbus Circle” – that was “crazy exciting!” Here’s a view that I snagged from Wikipedia of a photo taken of the Circle from within the Time Warner Building. For those who watch “Anderson” (Anderson Cooper’s new show), his set looks out on this same view.
I then proceeded north up Central Park West in the bike lane with taxis whizzing by on my left. I entered Central Park at 67th Street. If I’d done a bit more advance research, I would have gone on to the 72nd Street entrance instead, which leads directly to “Strawberry Fields,” the garden containing the Imagine mosaic honoring John Lennon – after all, the day of my ride was October 9th, John Lennon’s birthday.
I joined the parade of horse drawn carriages, cyclists, roller bladers, and pedestrians on the one way loop around the park. While it was slightly “organized chaos,” everyone was in a great mood due to the perfect Indian Summer day – not a cloud in the sky, temperature in the high ’70′s to low ’80′s. With my interest in stopping here and there to take pictures, I was probably criss-crossing traffic more than most. Every level of rider was represented from true novices, to families crusing along together, to “serious” cyclists in full kit. It was a fantastic, and eclectic, gathering. The picnic areas and public lawns were full of people sitting on a blanket and simply enjoying each other’s company. The mood and merriment evident throughout the park’s 843 acres that day must have been exactly what the designers had in mind when they first opened it back in 1857.
Rolling along Center Drive, I passed the Carousel. The original carousel burned in a fire, but was replaced by the current one in 1950 – a year before I was even born – now that’s old! I manuevered my way to the side of the road and took a photo. After reading more about the carousel and the park, in general upon my return, I wish that I had taken more time to investigate this classic piece of artwork more closely. On a previous trip to New York, I had purchased a book entitled “Central Park, An American Masterpiece” by Sara Cedar Miller. It would have been well worth my time to study up a bit more prior to my visit to Central Park. Yet, I only had an hour, so I pressed on.
I made a stop at the Loeb Boathouse, a popular spot for lunch and renting boats. While I was reviewing the menu, I looked up the lane and an entire wedding party was making their way around the boathouse to pose for photos. In spite of all the people in the park that day, I’m sure that their photographer was able to capture some beatiful images since the park looked fantastic and the lighting was perfect. Off in the distance were the twin towers of the San Remo Buidling, a 27-story luxury apartment building. The names of some of its past and present residents would be rather familiar – Stephen Sondheim, Donna Karan, Stephen Spielberg, Steve Jobs, Demi Moore, Glenn Close, Dustin Hoffman, Bono, Steve Martin, Eddie Cantor, Hedy Lamarr, and Rita Hayworth. Nice neighborhood.
While I didn’t have time to stay for dinner, the menu at the Loeb Boathouse was rather enticing with dishes such as Heirloom Tomato Salad, Boathouse Steak Tartare, Oxtail and Leek Terrine, Kabocha Pumpkin Raviolis, Roasted Scottish Salmon, Muscovy Duck Breast, and Pepper Seared Loin of Venison to name a few of the delicious offerings. Instead, I pressed on and continued my loop around the park.
I passed the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir and turned west above the North Meadow, rejoining the West Drive headed south. Even though it was approaching dusk, plenty of people were still enjoying their ride on rented boats or strolling along the water’s edge. Over the course of a single hour, the light had changed the atmosphere from midday to the promise of a romantic evening setting.
It was getting close to the time to return my rented bike, so I exited the magic of Central Park onto 7th Avenue. I rode two blocks and turned right back onto 57th Street, crossed Broadway and cruised up to the Central Park Bike Shop. I was right on time. Even though I’d only been out for an hour, I’d taken in so much in that short period of time.
New York City’s motto is “I Love New York.” I was fortunate to snap this photo from my hotel room on the 27th floor looking down onto the Avenue of the Americas and catch this statue framed in a sunbeam. It perfectly captured my feeling about this trip and the wonderful city that I had the privilege of visiting.
Next trip I might spend a bit more time planning the area where I will be riding to make sure that I don’t miss anything. I will also be more selective about the bike that I choose for my journey – and welcome any suggestions from my readers on how to do just that. But most of all, I am so very glad that I took one hour out of an active business trip to see Central Park – at Bike Speed. I hope that you get to do the same one day.