Today was day one of an overnighter in the Big Apple. After breakfast Steve and Kirsten dropped me off at the train (which I narrowly missed) and sent me on my way into the city. The train was about 45 minutes away from Penn Station when I got a call from a friend, Gary Goldfinger, who goes to school at Plattsburg University upstate. He is in town for a few days at his parents house just north of the city before he heads out to Asia for seven months to work as an outdoor activities guide/instructor/coordinator for a school out there. Gary was still in bed when he called but still managed to get ready, drive into town, find parking, and find me before I finished my first street vendor hot dog.
Steve was a bit bummed that he couldn’t join me in town today as he enjoys seeing people’s reactions to the city when they see it for the first time. He wouldn’t have been disappointed with me, for sure. When I got to the top of the stairs out of the subway my jaw dropped… right there was Madison Square Garden, The Post Office, and the Empire State Building… all HUGE! That was the thing that struck me throughout the day, the sheer immensity of all the buildings. It truly was like walking through a canyon of buildings at times. And the people… so many people… of every shape size color and nationality you can imagine. It’s not a melting pot in New York it’s a salad bowl.
Gary and I made our way from 32nd street where we met up down to Battery Park on the southern tip of the island where we caught the ferry to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. I was a bit disappointed to learn that you need advanced reservations to get tickets to go inside the statue (which are sold out until September by the way). But we still got to get right under the statue then hop over to Ellis Island on the ferry for a very interesting tour of the famous entry way to the US for millions of immigrants.
After the statue and island tour we slowly worked our way back up to the Empire State Building near where we started our day. Along the way we found Veniero's restaurant and pastry shop and had a canole as recommended by the kids I stayed with in New Jersey the other day. We also passed so many of the famous sights that New York is famous for; Wall Street, the New York Stock Exchange, Ground Zero, Macy’s, China Town… It’s all so big and all so close together.
It was after sunset when we reached the Empire State Building but we decided to go up and see the city lights from above. After waiting in numerous lines and climbing more than a few flights of stairs we were rewarded with a stunning vista of the city below light up with millions of lights. To the south I could make out the lights of Atlantic Heights where I stayed before crossing into the city the other day, and to the north and west I could make out the dark gap in the city lights that is the Hudson River and the path I’ll be continuing on toward home next week.
After more stairs and lines and amazingly fast elevators, Gary and I were back on the ground. We hustled over to the parking garage where his car was parked then did a drive by of Times Square which rivals or beats any display of glitz and lights I’ve ever seen.
I thought I had only nodded off for a minute but I pretty much passed out for a half hour while Gary drove me out to Kristen’s apartment in the Bronx where I stayed for the night. Tomorrow I had planned on hitting the town hard again but I think I’ll slow my pace a bit so I’m not all worn out when I catch up with Steve and Kirsten later in the day to see a show downtown.
Today was the first day of eight days that I’ll be taking off the water in order to see the local sights, get some rest, and of course EAT as much as I can. During this break I’ll be staying with Steve and Kirsten who live in a beautiful home out on Long Island about a two hour drive from the city. I met Steve via the trip web site about two months ago and ever since we’ve been making plans for me to do a presentation for his club, The Long Island Paddlers, while I’m in town. When Steve offered up a speaker’s fee for doing the talk I politely asked if I could trade that for a place to stay while I was in town. Steve accepted, and a plan was hatched.
After sleeping in on a delightfully comfortable bed I found the fixings and made pancakes for breakfast. The night before Steve had mentioned the need for new kayak racks in their garage, desperate to give something back for all the hospitality they’re showing me, I offered to help him out with that project. So after breakfast we measured up for the racks and headed to the community center boat house of which Steve and Kristen are members. The boat house is actually an amazing timber frame building stuffed to the gills with every sort of woodworking tool you might need to build a boat. Building boats, after all, is exactly what the members of the boathouse do there. I was thoroughly impressed by the building and the organization itself, I’d love to see something like that back home in Wausau. While Steve and Kristen worked on the paddles they’re building, I set about fabricating the parts for the kayak rack.
When we were done playing carpenters, we had lunch in a funky sandwich shop in town then ran a few more errands before heading home. One of the stops was at a deli to order sandwiches for the upcoming kayak club picnic this Saturday. Steve joked that they should order an extra three feet of sandwich for me…he joked… but that does sound about right.
After another amazing meal prepared by Kristen, we pulled out a bunch of New York City guides and planned my run into the city tomorrow and Friday. There is simply too much to see.
At 8:05 AM this morning I paddled under the Verrazano bridge thus completing the Atlantic leg of this trip and beginning the New York canals and rivers portion. It was a day I've been looking forward to for quite a while and one I will never forget. When I stopped by the Statue of Liberty to take pictures I couldn't get over the feeling like it was a dream. I had to say it out loud, "That is really the Statue of Liberty, and I really paddled all the way here."
What a feeling!
Start: 6:00 AM - Sandy Hook, NJ
Finish: 11:00 AM - Pier 40, NYC
Time: 5:00 hours
Daily dist: 16 miles
Total dist: 3600+ miles
Weather: Partly cloudy and windy with SW at 10-15+ temp in 70’s
Notes: The end of the Atlantic leg of the trip and beginning of the NY canals and rivers
Today was an incredible day. Like a kid that cant wait for Christmas morning to come, I was more excited about getting into my boat and paddling across the bay to New York than I’ve been in quite a while. I’m not sure why I was so excited, I guess it was a combination of completing the longest leg of my trip combined with starting a new phase of the trip which will take me through a topography and climate very similar to where I grew up. Most of all, even though I never really cared for big cities, I am excited to be in New York City and to see all of the iconic places I’ve only ever seen on the TV or read about in magazines. This is my very first visit to the city and so far it’s grander than I ever imagined it would be in person… and I just landed.
After spending the night on Ron’s comfortable couch which (with my excitement combined with worry about my boat sitting alone on the point) only allowed me a couple hours of sleep. Ron got himself up extra early and gave me a ride to the park just as it opened at 5:00 AM. After bidding him farewell and much thanks for getting me out of the rain I jogged the beach back to my kayak where I found it safe and sound tucked up in the dunes. Amazingly, even though the weather predictions had called for clouds, rain, wind, and patchy fog, the skies were partly cloudy and all I had to deal with for the eight mile crossing to the Verrazano bridge was a 10-15 mile per hour tail wind from the southwest (not bad at all).
My original plan for crossing the bay was to head northeast to Coney island then follow the eastern shore up the Hudson into downtown. However, there was a lot of ship traffic on the main channel the original route would have crossed, so I opted to run toward the west side of the Verrazano bridge and come in on the west shore of the Hudson. This route was great because it would not only avoid the shipping lane it would also take me past the Statue of Liberty on my way in. Of course I didn’t realize that it would also take me across several ferry routes which where running full out as rush hour neared which was a bit exciting.
By 8:05 after leap frogging across the bay I arrived under the Verrazano Bridge and officially completed the Atlantic leg of this trip which began when I passed under the US 1 bridge way down in Key Largo Florida late last February. At the bridge I called my mom to let her know I’d made it then set my sights on… I could hardly believe it… the Statue of Liberty!
Along the way I was sharing the choppy Upper Bay (Hudson River) waters with numerous tug boats and even more numerous, and much faster moving, passenger ferries. It was an exciting paddle to say the least and even had the opportunity to have to stop to allow the famous Staten Island Ferry pass in front of me.
Even though it was a short day of paddling my excitement of finally reaching all of the famous places made the time on the water seem to last forever. When I “finally” reached the Statue of Liberty it felt surreal. I took a bunch of pictures and a bit of video just like I have at so many other places along the way. It was when I turned to start paddling on that it hit me… that this was really the Statue of Liberty and that I had really paddled all the way here. What an amazing feeling.
From the statue I paddled a bit further north past Ellis Island remarking that I wasn’t the first person to arrive there, along way from home, by boat. Then it was across the busy Hudson river to southern tip of Manhattan Island. There, atop the six foot high sea wall, were walking paths through beautiful gardens and trees back dropped by the towering and glimmering sky scrapers that make up Manhattans sky line. While I paddled along I attracted lots of attention from the people above as I bounced around in the 2-3 foot waves that were being created from the non stop boat wake colliding with waves ricocheting off the sea wall. It was a bouncy ride weaving around ferries and ferry docks but I made it safe and sound to Pier 40 and the New York Kayak Company docks that were my final destination for the day. After checking in and giving my host, Steve, a call (who was stuck in traffic). I emptied my boat out on the low dock while I bounced and jerked in the increasingly choppy waves that the building wind was blowing in. I’d made it across the bay just in time.
Just as I finished emptying the boat, Steve arrived along with his wife Kirsten and friend Paul. The four of us visited with John in the kayak store for a while where I purchased a new gel seat pad that will hopefully do the trick to relieve my constantly sore rear end. After our visit we made tracks out of the city before rush hour traffic caught us inside. The quick drive through town up to the highway was like driving through a movie set. Along the way we passed by everything you ever see of New York in the movies. Hot dog vendors, China Town, Loads of people standing outside loads of store fronts selling everything under the sun, the Empire State Building…
After a nice lunch with Paul, Steve and Kirsten took me home to their place on Long Island where I’ll be staying for the next week or so. In that time I’ll be planning my run across New York state and the Great Lakes as well as making a few runs into the city on the train to see all the sights close up. My list is growing as we speak; the Googenheim, Central Park, Broadway, a Hot Dog (ok.. a few hot dogs) from a vendors stand, Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, Little Italy, Times Square… I’m not sure I’ll have time to see it all.