I started off on city streets, walking down the upper west side. The upper west side was never all that interesting, walking through it is not exploring, it's not discovering cool new things, it's not an experience. It's just ... drudgery. The walking outside equivalent of being on a treadmill. Still, it's on the way to where i'm going, and I want to go the whole way, so I have to pass through it, right?
I cut over a block to go to the bank, and then cut back over to the edge of central park. I haven't been out in the park much lately, and so this was somewhat interesting; green lawns, green trees, the sense of being in an oasis in the middle of the city. Of being away from the people, even though there are people everywhere. Sadly, not enough shirtless men; but it was only the upper 80s by the time I passed by columbus circle, shortly before noon.
I veered south at 6th Avenue. For fifteen long blocks, the road was closed to street traffic, and there was some sort of street fair. I don't know what for; I wasn't hungry, and the merchandise didn't interest me, so I didn't stop. I walked through, and continued down through midtown. I hate midtown; it's got too many people, too many of whom don't know where they're going.
Eventually I made my way over to 1st; I don't remember where I turned, but I do remember stopping on a block and watching another street fair, where a bunch of BMXers had set up ramps in the middle of the road to do tricks, and where there were bicycle activist booths and valet bicycle parking. This was interesting, so I stopped and watched for a while, but it was not what I had come to see, so eventually I moved on.
It was about 2 when i got to the base of the Manhattan Bridge. I'd never been on it before, and I slightly fucked up the approach, getting mildly lost on the edge of Chinatown until I figured it out (I needed to have been on 2d, rather than on 1st; an easy error in a part of town you don't know very well). I'm always impressed by just how high up off the ground these bridges are; they rise up to the level of towers, so that the big ships of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries could pass under them. And so the pedestrian/bicycle approaches are set well inland, and the bridges let you look down into the neighboring parts of the city like nothing else short of a helicopter ride. :) Plus, the actual distance on the bridge is impressively long; on the Manhattan Bridge, it's about a mile and a half from the embarcation point to the disembarcation point.
I also got a little bit lost disembarking the bridge on the other side. The signage wasn't clear, and the assumptions i'd drawn from the map were wrong. But after a little bit of confusion I found myself on Jay street, walking through downtown Brooklyn - an impressively busy commercial district, way busier than the area where I live, almost as busy as midtown. A district in which I was the only white person on the street, something which for some reason I always notice when it's true, and something which - even in Harlem, or Washington Heights - is rarely true anywhere in Manhattan.
I kept going. I veered over to Flatbush avenue, a relatively major street in the region, which took me to the north end of prospect park. The wealth of the neighborhood declined, as did the quality of building maintenance, but then as I got closer to the park it picked up again; the area just to the northwest of the park seems to be filled with (mostly white) yuppies, and their wealth shows in the type of restaurant and shops that line the streets.
It wass about 3.15 by the time I got to Prospect Park. I've been there ocne before, but I walked through a different part of the park this time. To be honest, my driving force was the search for a bathroom; it was hot, and I was sweaty, and I had been drinking a fucktonne of water, and I needed to piss. So I found one on the map and made a beeline for it. After, I had a pleasant stroll of a half mile or so, walking by broad open lawns with people sunning themselves, playing frisbee, kids running around and chasing each other, families having a bbq picnic; all the joy and beauty of a large urban park where there were both enormous hordes of people and a feeling of being outside of the city, of being surrounded by nature.
I got to the end of the park, turned left, and started off towards the south, along the west end of the park. I was on the parkside; across the street were old, stately rowhouses. Not the super tall buildings of Manhattan, but 3-4 story condo buildings that looked like (a) they were reasonably old, (b) they were all built at the same time, and (c) they were all impeccably well maintained. To someone who lives in Manhattan, this area feels like the suburbs; to someone from outside the city, though, i'm sure this would feel like city.
I passed out of the southern end of the park, where Prospect Park Southwest turns into Coney Island Avenue. Coney Island Avenue, in that neighborhood, is a commercial district, but it's a run down commercial district; somewhat more prosperous than downtown Newark, to be sure, but an area that nonetheless felt as if it was bypassed by the boom of the 90s and the aughts. Expecting that the commercial district on the road where the subway ran would be better - and cognizant that I had a time limit because I needed to be home when my husband got home from NOLA, and the subway would be my ace in the hole in that case - I cut over to McDonald Avenue. On the way, I walked down Ocean Parkway for a bit.
Ocean Parkway is a broad street with a bike lane / pedestrian walkway on either side of it. (it actually functions as three streets: a bidirectional center street, with unidirectional feeder streets on either side; the walkway/bike path is between the feeder street and the center street). It's heavily treed, and the 2-3 story buildings on either side are nice and well maintained. But: I wanted more water, so I went to a place I thought would be commercial.
I was wrong.
The subway through this part of Brooklyn isn't a subway; it's elevated. The road on either side of it has quasi-industrial buildings: auto repair shops, painting shops, and the like. I may have seen a print shop. There are no bodegas, no places where one could buy food; that's not what this road is for. And it's not clear that the density is high enough to call for them - the roads on either side of McDonald seem to have primarily single-family homes (an oddity, at least in the New York i've experienced).
The road dragged on. I dragged myself along it. Around 4.30, I got to the 'Avenue P' subway stop and seriously considered just getting on the train and going home. I sat on the steps for ten minutes - the first time i'd sat down in 6 hours - pondering. But it was important to me to finish. And it couldn't be more than like an hour more, right?
So I dragged myself up, and started stumbling down the road again. The walk had heretofore been good, but now I was tired, and hungry, and thirsty, and this part of the city is FUCKING BORING ... but after a few blocks I found a bodega, the first i'd seen since i'd entered prospect park 90 minutes before, and I popped in to buy (a) water and (b) two small bags of pretzels. I devoured them quickly, and felt my energy return (before starting out, i'd had ~500 calories of yogurt and a few cookies. My husband hates it when I do this). So I kept going.
At Avenue Y, I crossed back over to Ocean Parkway, because my perusal of the map before I left had enabled me to understand what Ocean Parkway would do when I continued south, but I had no clue what McDonald would do as I continued south. I stopped and sat on a park bench (next to the bike path) for a bit, but then continued along my way. I walked by a hospital and under a highway; on the other side of the highway I found gigantic block apartment buildings. It felt like I was back in Manhattan.
About 5.30, I arrived at the beach.
I was, of course, too tired to enjoy the beach, and had only about half an hour anyway before I had to catch the train back so I could get home on time. And, worse, both of my feet had acquired blisters on the ball of my feet, so walking was difficult and painful. (This had been true since at least 4, to be honest). So I sat on the boardwalk for a while, and watched people walk by.
It had been sunny when I left my house, 7 hours ago; it was now overcast, with streaming high clouds that turned the sky gray. It was not, however, cold; this is high summer, after all, and we're having a heat wave.
I sat for about 20 minutes and then stumbled home to take the train back. Tired, sunburned, sore, and happy; it was a good walk, and a good day. :)
Gmap-pedometer tells me that when I combine this with the 12 block walk home from the subway and the short local walks I'd taken early in the morning to buy fans to try and make the heat more comfortable, I walked 23 miles on Saturday. I had a blast. But my feet still hurt. :)
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