Day 155 • Aug 3, 2012 • Middletown, NJ to New York, NY • 32 miles
For our last day of riding we let the Belford Ferry do most of the work. We rode a few miles to the dock in New Jersey, sat on the ferry for nearly thirty miles, rode about ten blocks to our hotel, and we were done. On the way by we could barely pick out the Statue of Liberty through the fog. Lisa beat us to our hotel by maybe an hour and was waiting with some of the bags I needed to pack up the trikes. She had shipped a box to the hotel and it was also waiting for us. Lisa and Zoe did a little sightseeing while I began packing up the trikes. There was a nice clear spot on the sidewalk that was out of the flow of people; tearing down right here would avoid having to negotiate doors, elevators, and crowds with our unwieldy contraptions. We couldn’t check in to our room yet anyway and it was a nice day. I might have been quite a spectacle as a strange man strewing strange parts about a bustling city sidewalk but no one seemed to take much notice. In the universe of odd things happening on the streets of Manhattan I don’t think I registered much bigger than cosmic dust.
One person appreciated the spectacle and treated us to one final brush with authority. While I was tearing down a man in a big suit and an even bigger Bronx accent walked up to me and said, “whaddaya doooin’ heeya?” He wasn’t smiling so I figured something was up. While I thought I’d cleverly found the perfect spot to tear down, patrons of Lindy’s restaurant behind me were apparently not happy. The man told me to move along. I told him I’d be out of there in an hour. That seemed to satisfy him but a few minutes later the manager of Lindy’s came out to weigh in. I was ruining his business. Ouch. If only Zoe were here to give him the look. I hurried as fast as I could to avoid a visit by NYPD.
For all of my angst about riding the trikes through mid-town Manhattan, it turned out to be rather enjoyable. Certainly better than our experience in eastern Kentucky. On the surface, the mass of people and traffic seemed chaotic but once on the road there was a certain order to it all. It didn’t hurt that with this much humanity crammed into such a small space, no one was moving very quickly. A nice, big, and heavily used bike path got us part of the way there and a bike route most of the rest of the way. I rarely ride on sidewalks but I made an exception when we reached 7th avenue, a one-way street going in the wrong direction. Our hotel was a block or two up this street so I chose to ride among a sea of people on the sidewalk instead of the bigger sea of cars I’d have to negotiate if I rode around the block. I felt like Moses as the sea of people parted to let us slowly pass.
Our hotel. To put it as succinctly as possible, our room at the Hotel Pennsylvania was worse than the worst Budget Inn we’d experienced our entire trip and cost three times more. It was tiny, in poor repair, and dirty. The sink was falling off the wall, the carpet looked like it hadn’t been replaced since the hotel’s opening in 1919. Checking in was agonizingly and inexplicably slow, hotel staff was generally indifferent. We thought we were being strategic by picking a hotel across the street from the train station, but when the time came to move all of our gear both the hotel bell-hops and the “red hats” at Penn Station laughed at the prospect of their luggage carts crossing the street. They wouldn’t do it for us and we couldn’t use the carts. Too much liability. We would have done better to pick a hotel further away from the station and hire as many taxis as necessary to move all our stuff.
On the other hand, the hotel was living history. The lobby is grand and ornate, very much in contrast to the rooms themselves. The phone number is still 212-736-5000, or Pennsylvania 6-5000, inspiration for the famous song from the big-band era. It was central to some of the most famous and iconic landmarks in the world. My mom arrived later in the day and we spent the evening and the following several days using Hotel Penn as our New York hub.