Sunday, July 22, 2007

Thank God for Joe Micheals

So one of the things I miss the most about living in San Diego is my weekly skate around Mission Bay. Starting about 18 months before I left, every Sunday evening I would drive down to De Anza Cove, strap on my roller blades and skate the 8 (crossing at Ingram) or 12 (along the inside of Mission Beach) mile loop around the bay, listening to whatever new, kinetic music I had added to my skating play list that week.

I would almost always start just before sunset and generally end just as it was getting a bit too dark to be skating. Of course this would depend on the "season", not that San Diego really has seasons. In the time that is normally called winter would get dark earlier, and in the summer months it would stay light a bit later ... Regardless, it was heaven; an hour or two of peaceful exertion to put me in the right frame of mind to get into the next week of work. While I was writing my thesis I think that these weekly jaunts saved my sanity.

I knew it wouldn't be the same in New York, that the snow and ice would keep me from skating in the winter. But I did not realize that the leaves and branches falling in the fall and the incessant rain in the spring would make it hard to skate at any time. Nevertheless, I have gotten out and skated a couple times in Central Park, and its glorious. Nice, clean pavement, even in the fall, on a 6 mile loop with nice down hills and good uphills around 72nd on the East Side and 110th on the West Side. And all the people you see outside exercising, it really makes you smile, what a great place.

Couldn't ask for better, except that it takes me 2 hours of transit to skate for an hour and a half. And, though I pretend not to notice, I get a lot stares on the way back up to the Bronx because my exertions do not leave me smelling like a rose. Could drive, but parking is so difficult that it actually takes longer.

So what to do?

Well, whenever I drive out to Long Beach to visit my Aunt & Uncle, I notice a nice flat path along the side of the Cross Island Parkway, right along Little Neck Bay, with people walking, biking and skating. So last night I decided that despite the ridiculous 8 dollars it would cost me to get there and back over the Throggs Neck Bridge, I would check it out. So I speed over the bridge, thanks to my newly acquired EZ pass that basically eliminates waiting at the toll boothes.

Although there is a turnout on the Cross Island going north, I wanted to skate the full length of the path, so I got off the parkway at Northern Boulevard, where the path seemed to end, made the first right and parked in a nearby neighborhood. I think of my father because this community, Bayside, is where he grew up.

Strapped on my skates, prepped my nano and over the parkway ... and I was back in bliss. The path is long, flat and straight, with excellent pavement and wide lanes going either direction. Its a bit uphill towards going north, but that just adds to the exertion. I fly past other skaters and bikers, feeling my legs work under me and lost in my own world. The path is beautiful, offering sparse greenery and excellent views of Little Neck Bay as I speed along.

A sign at the entrance tells me
that the path, at least the first mile of it, is called Joe Michaels Mile. Its named after a long time Queens resident who suffered from serious heart problems but overcame them to run numerous marathons and ultra-marathons, including a 202-mile trek across Long Island starting in Montauk and ending on the ice at Nassau Coliseum during the intermission of a New York Islanders Game. Thanks Joe, the park is fantastic and a wonderful memorial to someone who obviously loved this kind of place.

I finish too quickly, skating up past Fort Totten, skipping the loop inside the Fort because I did not know it was there. I move up through Little Bay Park, admiring the clean pavement and the views of the Long Island Sound and the Throggs Neck Bridge. Just past the end of the park the pavement gets bad so I turned around, a tad disappointed at the length, (a straight 2.4 miles along Little Neck Bay from Northern Boulevard to Little Bay Park, about 3 miles total each way) but still thrilled, and flew back down to Northern Boulevard.

The whole ride was less than an hour, but truly needed and I felt better than I had all week. I was also really excited because I had learned from another sign that this path was only a small part of the Greenways system, a series of walking and bike pathways that meander through out the five boroughs. Fantastic, a whole new set of adventures waiting to be had ... there's even a connected set of paths from Coney Island to Fort Totten, should I ever feel ambitious enough to try to skate 45.4 miles in one day!

Well, 45 miles is a long way, and I am not sure if I will ever do the whole thing straight through, but I do know that thanks to Joe Michaels, I will be riding the Greenways a lot from this time forward.

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