This was my fifth and NosyNeighbour’s fourth time participating. Because of logistical problems last year, the organizers created a lottery system. Some online forums criticized this as a cash grab because you had to pay $6 whether you got a spot or not.  I didn’t have an issue with it. It’s a huge event and I’m sure Bike New York needs the revenue. The other big change was three waves at the start line. We’d drawn the early one.

Have I mentioned we’re cheap?  Not only did we pack a lunch for the drive down, we also brought food for breakfasts. My homemade  oatmeal maple muffins and some fruit and juice were our morning fuel. We also had latte from the machine in the lobby.  We put on our cycling gear and brought the folding bikes down to the lobby. We unfolded on the street, as cyclists passed along Albany being directed to the start line. I used tie wraps to put on our little boots to our pannier racks. These, along with the small teddybear cats on our helmets signified Team Wellington (named after our cat who was left home alone).

We got to the start line and barely had time to get the cycling pants off (it was warmer than expected). At 7:40 the crowd was moving again. We could see the keeners in the red bibs waiting at that start line behind us. I don’t think we stood for longer than five minutes before the flames were shooting up at the official start line. The ride down to Central Park was smooth sailing with lots of space between cyclists.

Central Park had a few bottlenecks around accidents, and it was a bit slow going over the bridges, but nothing like the last time. I’m not sure what  the later waves endured. We stopped at Astoria, where I realized that NosyNeighbour had lost his Wellington en route. We also met a few other teams, some with blow up fishes attached to their helmets, and saw a cowboy team too. After  eating a banana and energy bar, we topped up our water bottles and continued on.

The route had changed this year and didn’t follow the water to the Verrazano Bridge. This meant that the last rest stop in Brooklyn was about 12 miles from Staten Island. We decided to stop there since we were still making good time. I’m glad we did because it gave us a magnificent view of the Manhattan skyline, a chance to load up on snacks and to meet more cyclists. One group saw my boot and said they’d seen a matching one way back before Central Park. It really is a small world. We saw lots of folding bikes at this stop too: Bike Friday pocket rockets (I still want one!) , Bromptons and Dahons.

Because we were making such good time along the tour, our plan was to skip through the festival on Staten Island. But then I decided that I wanted to grab some of the free snack food for the drive home. So our loot bag included some granola bars, drinks, a face fan energy bars. Then I remembered that I wanted to have a photo with the Verrazano Bridge in the background. Our last tour was too rainy for any pics so we headed over to the field where we’d taken a photo before.

This year TD Bank had two stages set up for free photos. Yes, that’s right – free photos. They did come with the TD Bank Five Boro logo stamped on them, but they were still free. You could get on the stage as a team or as an individual. Because we were Team Wellington, we got up together. The guy behind us was egging on NosyNeighbour to hold his bike high above his head. He now had a pannier bag stuffed full of clothes, food and other swag and it was quite heavy. When it was our turn, the photographer told us to lift the bikes above our heads. It takes 10 seconds for the photo to be sent to the printer. He took four photos. So that’s 40 seconds, plus the 10 seconds he made us wait before he took the first one. He told NosyNeighbour he took extra because he was trying to make NosyNeighbour really work it.

After the festival, cyclists continue for another two miles to reach the ferry terminal. As the road approaches the water again, a beautiful view of the Manhattan skyline appears. We decided to stop for a photo op, but in my stunned amazement of the view, I completely forgot to unclip my left shoe. Over I went, with my bike now stopping me from unclipping. Cyclists were going by, some looking at the view. Apart from a scrape, I was unscathed. Okay, maybe my pride was injured. After exchanging the favour of taking photos in front of the skyline, we remounted our bikes and continued on.

The free ride back on the Staten Island Ferry is reserved only for cyclists. We were herded into the bowels where cars normally park. For some reason a coast guard boat followed us the whole way, with its machine gun manned the entire time. I got some amazing pics on the route back. We were back at the hotel by just after 1 p.m. with lots of time to continue to explore the Big Apple.

Note to self: wear sunscreen when doing the tour. I now have red arms from the bottom of my cycling jersey sleeve to the top of my gloves.

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