So how did I get here? Well, I traveled just like a drop of sweet, delicious, life-giving water, for you see back in the 19th century this very spot was the site of the Croton Distributing Reservoir, which watered the growing yet fetid city:
Furthermore, the water traveled to this reservoir by means of an aqueduct, the source of which was 41 miles north--right around here:
The path of this aqueduct is now a state park, and while the Old Croton Aqueduct was one of the great engineering feats of its time, these days it is far better known as part of the BSNYC Gran Fondon't course:
(There will be a statue in my honor right around here somewhere.)
Anyway, perhaps the most impressive feature of the aqueduct was the "High Bridge," which carried the water from what is now The Bronx, over the Harlem River, and into Manhattan. Here's what it looked like in 1883:
This was the country back then, and people used to head up to the High Bridge to marvel at the structure, take in the views, and generally bask in the rural ambience:
The High Bridge is still very much there. In fact it's the oldest bridge in New York City, and it's something like 35 years older than the Brooklyn Bridge. Since then they've knocked out a bunch of the stone arches in order to make more room for ships, but it's still pretty damn impressive:
For the past 40 years, the High Bridge has been closed, but in recent years they've been refurbishing it, and this week it has reopened to bicycles and pedestrians amidst much fanfare:
I'd been eagerly awaiting this day, for the reopening of the High Bridge is perhaps the most auspicious development for New York City cyclists since the advent of the safety bicycle:
So this morning I straddled my own safety bicycle and hit the greenway through the park:
Then I rounded the Jerome Park Reservoir:
See that, California?
That's what water looks like.
We're so spoiled here that we even flush our toilets after we urinate.
Incidentally I also passed by a motorcycle riding class:
I myself am a proud graduate of the Motorcycle Safety School and have the endorsement on my driver's license to prove it--though I haven't ridden in years, since it turns out that riding motorcycles really cuts into your bicycling time.
North of the city the Old Croton Aqueduct may be the proving ground for the legendarily gruelling BSNYC Gran Fondon't, but in The Bronx it lives on as Aqueduct Avenue:
And specifically as a strip of greenery called "Aqueduct Walk:"
As well as these swanky manhole covers:
I continued on:
As I rode I became aware of the sound of rushing water. At first I thought it was the history of the aqueduct speaking to me, but it turned out to be this fire hydrant.
Resisting the urge to kick off my shoes, crack open a beer, and spend the rest of the day standing there, I pressed on, and I soon reached one of the best-named streets in the city:
Nobody's sure where the name "Featherbed Lane" comes from, but there are some good stories:
There are four differing stories as to how Featherbed Lane, which runs adjacent to, and is the namesake of this triangle, came to obtain its name. One says that during the Revolutionary War, locals covered the street with feather beds so soldiers fighting the British could move quietly through the area. Another declares the road to have been so rough that those who traveled on it padded their carriage seats with featherbeds to keep it from being too uncomfortable. A third story, partly contradicting the first two, suggests that the road’s muddy composition provided a similar effect to that of a featherbed and made for a very smooth ride. The last story has nothing to do with the road itself, but suggests that the name dates from the 1840s, when the area was home, and office, to a large number of prostitutes.
Regardless, the name is still fitting today, because The Bronx is bisected by the Cross Bronx Expressway, which is a real pain in the ass, especially when you're on a bike. If you continue straight you have to contend with all the traffic merging onto the expressway, but if you detour onto Featherbed Lane you enjoy a gentle curving descent and avoid most of the clusterfuck:
Here's the Cross Bronx:
Many people blame the building of the Cross Bronx for a lot of the decay the borough experienced in the latter part of the previous century, and while it's probably a bit more complicated than that it certainly couldn't have helped.
After the Cross Bronx I was almost at the High Bridge, and clearly the city has been busy getting ready because there was a bike lane in progress:
Guess what? It's going to be green:
Don't ask me how I know.
As I got closer there was more bike lane-painting activity in evidence:
Which means there's now only one question on the minds of everyone in the neighborhood:
"Shit, are we about to get gentrified?"
I dunno, but you're now a five-minute bike ride away from Manhattan, and if what they're digging here is one of those protected bike lanes then you guys are pretty much screwed:
Finally, I could see the High Bridge over the iron fence:
And I was relieved to find I wasn't the only person totally dorking off over it:
There it was, stretched out before me in all its refurbished old-timey glory:
Not too shabby:
Here's the view looking south:
And here's the view looking north:
Just wait 'til they develop the waterfront...
After gawking for awhile I reached the Manhattan side:
Gave a parting glance over my shoulder:
And steered on to this delightful bike path:
Eventually I made it to Central Park, where it looks like the NYPD is taking advantage of the delightful weather by ticketing cyclists:
In the end, like the waters of yesteryear, I wound up in Bryant Park, where a street vendor tried to charge me $2 for a small bottle of Poland Spring.
Oh, the irony.