A visit to NYC
I've never really had a chance to travel much, which makes this year pretty unusual. Believe it or not, I had only ever flown once in my life! I've done vacations travelling on bike, or crashing on friend's couches, but those were a lot different. This whole world of hotel rooms and real luggage is completely new.
There are a lot of big things coming up at work, and so it was pretty important to get everyone on our team together. So, for the first time in my life, I was travelling for work. I didn't really know what to expect, and it was all pretty last minute. Actually got the plane ticket two days before leaving. The hotel room in midtown Manhatten was reserved, but hadn't been processed properly so I had to put it on my own credit card temporarily. Which was pretty scary, because the week's worth of staying there was over 5 times my monthly rent in Minneapolis.
To be fair, it was a sweet ass place, 21st floor, big windows looking out over the city... Right next to Madison Square Garden and Penn Station...
But that's a ton of money for me.
Of Course I'm Going to Ride
Ever since I first saw Lucas Brunelle's videos of alleycats in NYC, I've wanted to test my skills there. The stories of how crazy it is are legendary. I'm not a huge risk taker or anything, but I wanted to know if I could hack it.
First thing I did when I got there was to put my bike back together. There was no way I could ride it that night, but I didn't want to miss any chance to ride because she was still sitting in a box. Had to be super careful about it, since there was a very real chance of getting grease on the carpet or marking up the walls. There wasn't much space to actually work, either. In fact, the box that I brought the Bianchi in was barely able to lie flat in one spot so that I could take things apart.
Compared to how rough I was taking her out to Montana this summer, she was totally babied this time. Traded a bottle of scotch for use of a hard shell case to make sure nothing happened on the plane trip.
It was imperitive that I bring my own bike. It was a bit risky, since it's a pretty sweet ride and there's a lot of theft out there. People suggested the Citi Bike program, or using Spinlister, or just trying to find someone to borrow from. But the more I thought about it, the Bianchi seemed like it would be the best choice for riding. Citi Bikes are basically Nice Rides, which suck. A borrowed bike wouldn't fit well, I wouldn't know how it's going to react in traffic, yada yada yada. Thought about bringing my Pacer, which isn't as expensive and I would care less about if it was lost. But that one has kind of 'gooshy' road brakes, and the Zurigo had the disk brakes and beefier wheels to handle any potholes.
Shouldn't Have Been Worried
It was only Tuesday that I was really able to get out and experience it, and this for sure isn't anything to determine what riding out there is like at all times. Mid afternoon, probably not as busy as it would be at other times. Still, I ended up almost getting squished at one point. If you look around the 3 minute mark, I try slipping through two UPS trucks. Honestly, I stopped for a second, decided maybe it wasn't a good idea, then went "Fuck it, I can make that" and went. Without hesitating, no problem. Waiting another 30 seconds, would have been fine. But I was so pumped up off of the earlier riding, and annoyed by getting stuck behind the white truck earlier for so long.
Overall, it didn't feel that outrageous. Even the next night heading to a new space over in Brooklyn in a huge rainstorm late at night, I wasn't worried. Though part of that might have been that I was able to get to the Brooklyn Bridge by taking a bike path most of the way. And this is really only about the bits of Manhattan I got to see.
I was asked for some overall impressions about riding there. I didn't get to check out everything, but here are the broad strokes.
- People I talked to were saying I'd need a mountain bike to get around. Totally not necessary, at least where I was. There were some rough patches of pavement, but nothing major as far as potholes. Minneapolis every spring puts the potholes to shame.
- You want a bell or a whistle. A LOUD one. It kind of surprised me, but I was even able to get a cab to stop and just kind of sigh and wave me past when they started to move into my path at one point. Really usefull for the pedestrians, too.
- Traffic is typically only dangerous when it's either too tight to get around or there's an open space that lets cars start moving again. If you can read traffic patterns reasonably well, neither is much of an issue.
- North <-> South is a lot different than East <-> West.
- Heading up and down the island it seemed like most of the roads were a lot wider and had more traffic. Some had protected lanes, some were 3 lanes each direction, with a parking lane. Really, the only streets that I noticed being two directions were N/S. Having to weave around cars, peds, and bikes that had enough space to maneuver really only happened there.
- East to West, most of the roads I ended up on were a single lane with two parking lanes. Often with either a sharrow or a supposed bike lane. Automobile traffic could be either stopped or moving at max 15 miles an hour. Getting around it was only a matter of space, not speed. Almost nowhere that they could move, either. Dooring could certainly be an issue, but if you're passing on the left it's unlikely that a doors going to open from the passenger side of the car, and cars in the driving lane (even cabs) didn't seem prone to throwing open doors and letting people out without pulling over.
- I think I only saw one or two "messengers" and hundreds of "delivery riders." They terrified me. No concern over where they were riding, often with electric bikes, cutting off anyone and everyone. Don't think I saw a single one stopped. When I was on the way to our AirBnb in Carroll Gardens there was actually a delivery guy that was riding the wrong way, in the bike lane, at 9:30pm, in a rainstorm, with no lights... ON A FUCKING FULL SIZED VESPA STYLE SCOOTER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It honestly made me hate cyclists a bit. That's kind of hard to do.
- Pedestrians are also completely oblivious. Don't think I can count the number I saw walking right out into traffic watching their phone instead of what the lights were. Thankfully, that made them kind of easy to deal with. They didn't look up, they had predictable speeds walking, weaving through them was pretty simple. Then again, I've ridden through closed off streets with thousands of people almost shoulder to shoulder, almost track standing as I slip through but having to track a lot of different closer vectors. If you can do the Stone Arch Bridge on a summer Sunday afternoon, they're not too crazy, either.
I really wish there was more time to hang out and ride while I was there. Seems like a bit more time would make moving through pretty easy. Certainly not to the point that you'd be able to stop paying attention, but to the point it would be kind of second nature.
And completely exhilarating.
The Work Stuffs
Yeah, it was work. Kind of crazy to be in an actual office again, and awesome to actually get to meet my coworkers in person. And to also meet some of our more important vendors. I feel a lot more part of the team now. It's hard to really connect with people you've only ever met online. There are a lot of great things coming up, and while on the one hand it's nice to be kind of on the outside and not deal with the corporate meetings, it's also nice to get to sit at the table and recognize more than just the voices on the phone.
The City In General
Yeah, not really a fan. I was really missing Minneapolis the whole time. So depressing, looking at all the people around and not see a single person smiling or making eye contact. Piles of garbage on the streets. Rents through the roof. No parks. No trees. Bars that are super expensive and don't have a single decent beer. One bartender tried to serve me a Redbreast 'neat' in a tiny bubble shaped glass. I didn't care that it was in a rocks glass, but it was an "Irish" bar. Dude didn't know where the Redbreast was (it was their only top shelf Irish whiskey) and didn't know how to serve it.
If I had to pick one word for the city, it would be "uncouth."
I read an article while I was out there talking about the 'conservative case against the suburbs' and some of the comments rang pretty true to what I saw there. People see either the extreme of millions of people stacked on each other, or rural / suburban McMansions as the only two options. Well, maybe a ranch or farm, too.
What we have here in Minneapolis seems to be a beautiful balance. It made me appreciate life here even more. Sure, we may have 40 below in winter, but that's totally worth it for the summers and the closeness of nature.