Into the caldron, the belly of the beast, to join the maddening crowd. We rode along 42 Street to Times Square. Cycling in New York, you quickly realise that traffic signals are aspirational; lights and pedestrian crossings are not to be trusted. We mix it with the hardened throng of commuter cyclists, couriers, tourists, rollerbladers, skateboarders, distracted pedestrians and parked cars in the afterthought that is a makeshift bike lane. Out past the Chrysler building to the impressive United Nations Centre along the bank of the East River, reminding me, in case I’d forgotten, that New York is home to The Masters of the Universe.
Further out past the Projects and Alphabet City we take FDR drive with its actual genuine bike path running the length of the East River Park all the way to the Brooklyn Bridge past groups of hopeful fisherman, with erect rods and a film crew making Pee wee Herman’s new Movie: Pee Wee’s Holiday. Like many other pilgrims we take the opportunity to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge to Dumbo.
Music is everywhere today. Blaring from bicycles, spilling from cars, oozing off the street. Boom boxes are back kids! Cycling into Union Square we joined the crowd enjoying the street hip hop rap dance performance: energetic, loud, theatrical and just a little scary.
The difficulty with cycle touring is that your clothing options are somewhat limited. Lycra doesn’t lie, there’s nowhere to hide. If you don’t want to frighten dogs and scare small children you need to have alternative clothing besides we wanted to walk the streets of New York in something other than bicycle cleats. My lightly coloured finely textured and stylish blue check Gucci jacket fitted me like a glove. Who knows it may even have been an original but at $8.00 from the Goodwill shop who cares. Topped off with a $5.00 Calvin Klein shirt and a nifty pair of $2.00 black oxfords I almost looked presentable.
It all started to go wrong at Metro Diner. Sharing a plate of spaghetti and meatballs with Therese, I noticed my shoes felt weird. Investigating further, I realised they were literally melting. While humorous at one level, it got worse as we took an after dinner stroll along the riverside. It was as if the soles had been soaked in some corrosive liquid. Limping home along Broadway alone in my own private wardrobe malfunction the heals dissolved completely. Hobbling past a closed shoe repair shop I could only laugh at the irony. Melting into the hotel lobby, I just managed to make it to my room before I began to spontaneously combust.