New England Bike Trip

Getting to Know Long Island

Mike at a rest stop

Saturday we left our Garden City, New York hotel, under tornado watches and warnings, and we knew we were in for a drenching at the very least and perhaps worse. In fact we were feeling a bit jinxed. Yesterday it was man-made catastrophes chasing us, today it would be mother nature’s turn. Our spirits were further dimmed an hour later when my daughter Jennifer texted that a tornado had just touched down in Brooklyn.

And the biking itself was difficult. At least the wind was not on our nose, but it was blowing from our right side and was strong enough to make controlling our bikes challenging. With our panniers (saddle bags hung on a rack) and a backpack strapped on top, we became “high profile” vehicles. Cross winds, with gusts coming without warning, would make our heavily loaded bikes temporarily unstable. Cliché, but oh what fools we mortals be.

Sunday was as nice as Saturday was bad, and dispelled one of my many misconceptions. My impression of Long Island, New York was a landmass containing two city boroughs: Brooklyn and Queens, two big airports: Kennedy and LaGuardia, dozens of strip malls and tall housing projects, and post-war Levittown-type subdivisions. The island’s spine was the Long Island Expressway (locally dubbed the LIE), and their limbs had little ascetic value. I had a lot to learn.

After exiting New York City and it’s suburbs, we entered semi-rural Long Island. It was a part of New York State that I didn’t know existed, and one that I presume is broadly called the exurbs. Never have I seen such a long stretch of economically uniform civilization. Each enclave of housing, regardless of cost, seemed to have well-tended landscaping, tree-shaded streets, with each property appearing to be equally well maintained. It was monotonous but in a most pleasant way.

Most homes seemed to be middle class range, although there were a few gated communities, but the shock was that few of any of the neighborhoods had any “dogs” or eye sores. And this went on for mile after mile. In between was lush greenery, an X-generation forest that broke the outposts of civilization beautifully. Our trek from the East River to the eastern tip of the island at Orient would be an even 100 miles. What I am describing went on for at least 30 to 40 of those miles, almost a full day at bike speed.

My education ended at our day’s destination Riverhead, NY, a smallish city at the crotch of the islands eastern forks. The south fork is money (aka the Hamptons), while the north fork is mostly unpopulated beauty. The town of Orient is at the end of the north fork, and it’s there there we’ll catch the ferry to Connecticut. But that’s tomorrow.

To be continued

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