Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Terrace Bridge - Central Park














Terrace Bridge - Central Park, April 7, 2010
Rob Hickman, Keith Nelson

We arranged to meet at Columbus Circle at 11. With minutes to spare, as is custom, Keith ran to the deli and grabbed and egg sandwich and coffee. The park was swarming with people, due in part to the unusually warm early April weather NYC was experiencing. The park was filled with baby carriages, dog walkers, foreign tourists, senior citizens, cyclists, runners, roller bladers, sunbathers, leisurely class folks, and youngsters unable to cope with the first day back to school after spring break.

The day was expected to reach into the high 80's. Riders showed up in shorts, t-shirts, and sunglasses. Gone were winter's heavy gloves and ski masks. That being said, none of the riders thought to remember sun cream, which resulted in some blistery burns the following day. Rob had learned from his shortcomings the week before, and was armed this trip with an air pump and patch kit. He was also breaking in a new water bottle rack rig, that he had co-designed up in Hudson with Jim Owen. The water bottle proved too small. Under the day's hot sun, Central Park's many pools, lakes, and streams would become tempting.

The smallest wheels on today's ride were 26 inches. The majority were riding on 29 inches. John Wyffels rode a gargantuan 36 inch wheel.  Sometimes size does matter. The three regular riders, Keith, Rob, and Kyle were joined by second time rider John Wyffels and first timers Andrew "Slamminin'" Peterson and John "Crash" Jessmon. Slammin' and Crash were able to join us to help create an unofficial launch for the 2010 NYC Juggle This Festival.

For the Unicycle NYC Bridge Tour it was a day of firsts and record breaking moments. We spanned an epic number of bridge and arches today, with a grand total of 44, almost equaling the number or bridges crossed over the previous 6 months.  It was also the largest pedaling crew to date. A half dozen one wheelers road into the park at 11 am. It was the first time a 36" wheel rolled in the ranks. John's ride was also equipped with brakes and handlebars, something that many bystanders observed and commented on. 

Within moments of the start the two wheeled cyclists showed signs of annoyance at having to share the road with the mono wheels.  It took a few moments for the regular riders of the tour to become accustomed to the chaotic patterns that bicyclists, roller bladers, runners, and darting dogs on invisible leashes take when in motion.

At least one passer by made note of the fact that he had seen us in the NY Post on Monday.  

Discussions amongst the riders delved into the past couple of days' media coverage:  NY Post, Gothamist, Village Voice, etc.  Reacting to others opinions on line and in print media, certain riders voiced their like and dislikes for Yes and ELP Kyle asked who? Keith reminded us that ELP had done 'Brain Salad Surgery'.

Unlike journeys of the past, the 44 bridge day forced a level of focus and dedicated documentation that had never been undertaken in the name of one wheel. The ride was overwrought with destinations. Past rides had 1 or perhaps 3 bridges as the day's tally. Prospect Park clocked in with the then record breaking 13. And thus the somewhat intact short term memory of visuals and detail sufficed. We expected 31 bridges, making maps and checklists essential. We discovered an additional 13 bridges and traverses that had received little attention or were completely overlooked in our preparation source materials.

The first warm weather ride of the season brought to light the need for better hydration systems for the upcoming 5 borough bike tour. The main valve for the Central Park drinking fountain system hadn't yet been opened. Luckily Central Park is adorned with rolling carts providing all of the essentials for sustenance: gatorade, hot dogs, pretzels, ice cream and water.  We appreciated the fact that even the food carts in central park are  required to list the calorie count of every item. No remorse was felt in the calorie counts devoured.

Keith and Rob had the lists of bridges with photographs, descriptions, and locations on their iPhones.  First time rider Slammin' Andy arrived with 5 pages of maps and diagrams. And through a bastardized version of consensus a general route was planned. We agreed to travel in a counter-clockwise direction around the park drives to appease the two-wheeled spandex types. From the main drive we would take smaller circuits into the many fabled regions of the park to cross it's many bridges and arches. Most of the sites are located in the bottom half of the park.

Central Park is littered with "Don't Bycycle" signs, but we saw no anti mono cycle signs anywhere on the journey. The group comfortably pedaled the small narrow paths alongside park rangers in their SUVs, comfortable knowing that if we were ticketed (which we weren't), we would surely get out of having to pay the fine. The question remained though, why do park rangers drive cars on narrow park paths and lanes, and why do police vans and parks employee vehicles speed around the main park drives, which during the course of our tour was devoid of other automobile traffic?

We pedaled through the zoo, teaming with school children. Rob wondered if the small arch in the sea lion exhibit constituted as official New York City bridge, and if it did- how would we ever get permission to cross it? We rode by the carousel. Fortunately Daryll Johns wasn't with us or he would have gotten us into trouble. We rode through Strawberry Fields where musicians were strumming YES and ELP songs. We rolled by the Alice lost in Wonderland sculpture, where Rob had promised to meet his friend Roy 5 hours earlier. We rode by Tavern on the Green, because we couldn't afford to stop and go in for a beer. And we rode by Bethesda Fountain and barely resisted jumping into it's cool water. We stopped only to document the spans. It was a long and grueling day.

As we finished the last bridge on the North side of the park, having just completed the 8th mile of the ride, we lost the capacity to chart the ride. Let it be noted that although the Cyclemeter application for iPhone has been quite beneficial to providing statistics and maps of each ride, the Central Park ride was a reminder that Apple's iPhone is unable to provide the battery life for a single day of work, much less a 6 hour unicycle ride.

As we came to the final dozen bridges, we started losing riders.  With around 10 miles covered so far, all but the three most constant bridge tour riders headed to the subway.  A few bridges later Kyle opted to return home to feed and care for his canine companion, leaving only Keith and Rob to finish the spans of Central Park.

And so they rolled.

The last two standing rolled into the Subway Inn, one of the east side's only remaining dive bars. That being said, the $5 pints weren't affordable by Brighton Beach or Bayonne standards.

Forty four bridges and arches crossed, bringing our total to 93. Afterwards it was unfortunately realized that we had missed a very short wooden bridge up in the northwest corner of the park just west of Glen Span and just east of The Pool. A return expedition is being planned.


















Started: Apr 7, 2010 11:18:09 AM
Ride Time: 5:58:15
Distance: 15.37 miles
Average: 2.82 miles/hr
Fastest Speed: 26.70 miles/hr
Climb: 551 feet


More on the Terrace Bridge:

Calvert Vaux was, according to legend, inspired by the Orangerie at the Palace of Versailles in Paris because the designs of both spaces are similar. Hidden under the arches are colorful tiles on the ceiling made by the Minton Company of Stoke-on-Trent, England. Many of them have been removed for restoration. By the 1970s, Bethesda Terrace was severely deteriorated but careful work is gradually restoring it to its old glory. Though Versailles may have been its inspiration, the real genius of the Terrace Bridge lies in its detail work, executed by Jacob Wrey Mould. A flamboyant personage, he was disliked by many of his contemporaries, but he brought a whimsical personality to much of his work. Nowhere is this whimsicality more in evidence in Central Park than in the stone carvings that line the grand staircases that descend to the fountain.

Location: north end of the Mall in front of Bethesda Fountain and Central Park Lake, carries Terrace Drive connecting East and West Drives. Built: 1859 -1863 by Vaux and Mould. Made mostly of sandstone and granite.

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