Usually, around this time of year, I start to panic because I look back on my summer and realize that I spent a grand total of thirteen minutes outside. Subsequently, this is also the time of year that Jeff White starts to panic because the fury of excursion ideas I unleash on him are in such rapid succession, they tend to hit with the force of a three hundred foot tsunami. What can I say? That’s what he gets for having a girl as a best friend.
But ANYWAY, this year the outing I chose to make up for all the ones I didn’t do over the past three months was a bike ride, because not only would it be great exercise but we could stop for all kinds of fun things along the way. I wasn’t exactly sure where to go though, so I asked the internet but all the paths I got back were kinda lame and obvious. Like I never woulda thought to do the Hudson River Greenway on my own? Thanks a lot Gothamist.
Ultimately it turned out to be a good thing that no one in history had ever thought of a decent bike ride to go on though, because that left us to do it all on our own. In fact, we came up with the Best Brooklyn Bike Ride Ever! And I’ve decided to share it with you so that you can get one last summer day in, even if it’s the beginning of fall. Here’s how:
Meet Up On The Pulaski Bridge
I live in Astoria and Jeff lives in Williamsburg so for us, the actual middle of the bridge was the perfect rendezvous because it’s exactly where Queens intersects with Brooklyn. I mean, God forbid upon meeting, either of us goes one inch in the other person’s direction, even if we are ultimately about to embark on a thirteen mile bike ride. However, you do get a great view of the city from here and it’s right over Newtown Creek. A water plane even came and landed directly in front of us but you’ll just have to take my word for it because I couldn’t get my camera out in time.
Ride Along The Water On Kent Avenue
Kent Avenue has been built up so much over the last couple of years. I love it. It has one of my favorite concert venues and is home to lots of new bars, restaurants and on Sundays the Brooklyn Flea. I also love Jungle Design which is a big overgrown backyard type setup that sells all sorts of fun greenery (not that kind). But probably the coolest thing to do if you’re on your bike is stop by the Brooklyn Bike Park and take a free ride on their BMX course.
You can either ride your own bike or rent one of theirs for a small fee but whatever you do, make sure to bring a friend who won’t stop screaming at you that “You’re not going fast enough! Your gears are too low! You’re gonna bite it at that speed!” the whole time you’re trying to concentrate on not breaking a hip. That way you can feel like a champ when you start screaming back at him to “SHUT THE FUCK UP!” in front of a dozen seven-year-olds.
One of the things I love about New York is that you can feel like you’re in a number of different countries all within the span of a day. Ride along Kent, beyond the slick hipster coffee shops and trendy boutiques, and you’ll soon find yourself in a neighborhood with a very old world feel. Lots of the apartments have these boarded up balconies that we couldn’t quite figure out. Jeff thought the residents just wanted to have an extra room in their house so they built walls on the terrace, but I found an article that told me they were for religious purposes.
At any rate, Jeff proceeded to point out the various “inside/outside joints” all the way to Washington Avenue and then through every Jewish neighborhood on the way back as well. That was fun.
P.S. This area can be a little tricky during the summer time. I was nearly run off the road by a car once, whilst in shorts, on a hot day. No joke.
Prospect Park At Grand Army Plaza
As much as I’ve tried to get into the swing of Queens over the last two years, I get nostalgic every time I go back to where I lived in Brooklyn for fifteen years before. To me, Prospect Park and the surrounding neighborhoods, especially Park Slope, are some of the most beautiful in the country. We entered the park from Grand Army Plaza where you can take a spin around Bailey Fountain to cool off.
If you have time though you can stop at The Brooklyn Museum, The Botanic Gardens or ride west on any street from Union to 15th and see the kinds of brownstones The Cosbys used to live in. If you’re going to do that, 3rd street is my favorite.
Stop For A Drink At Farrell’s
All this riding is going to make you thirsty. It’s time for a beverage. You can exit the park at the southwest end and find the no-frills, no-food spot Farrell’s, which has been a Brooklyn establishment since 1933. The one thing that is awesome about this bar is that if you’re a girl, you will never have to wait in line for the ladies’ room. Most likely because you’ll be the only one in there. Farrell’s is home to mostly construction workers and firemen (which makes me wonder why I didn’t live at this place when I rented on Fifth Ave) and also one of these things:
Look kids! This is what your father used to call your mother with to tell her he wasn’t coming home!
Cut Through The Parade Ground
Next you can head back into the park and take the West Drive down to Machate Circle which drops you off at the Parade Ground. Take a left on Parkside Avenue and cut through the middle to have a look at any number of games going on.
When I first discovered Midwood I was like “What the hell is this place?” It’s so out of character for the Brooklyn I’m familiar with that when you’re there, you feel like you’ve been plucked out of the borough and deposited onto the street where Tom Hanks grew up in Big. The houses are huge and the lawns are all perfectly manicured. For the best views, meander up Argyle all the way to Foster Avenue and you can see stuff like this:
Can you believe this is Brooklyn??
Stop At DiFara’s For Pizza
So DiFara’s is one of those old school pizza places that New Yorkers love to know about because it shows how New Yorkey they are. I’ve only been once before, over a decade ago, when Jeff dragged me way the fuck out here to have one of their slices. I remember kind of thinking “Yup. That’s pizza.” in the sense that we could have had pizza in our neighborhood and it wouldn’t have cost us an hour on the train. However at the time I was in my early twenties and the kind of asshole who was rarely impressed by anything. People truly do love this place though, so I would say it’s worth checking out for sure. I wish I had an update on how I felt about the slices now but when we got there the guy inside said they would be open soon in an “I’ve been making pizzas for sixty years, I’m on a break” type tone.
Roll Down Brighton Beach Ave And Take A Picture Of A Russian Pharmacy
I wish I could tell you where in Brighton Beach to get some good borscht or cheese blintzes but it was getting dark out and I had an image in my head of me triumphantly running down the beach towards a glimmering ocean sunset, so I just stopped real quick for this photo along the way. However, in the two hours I was picturing this grand finale of my Brooklyn Bike Ride, it never once occurred to me that seeing as I live on the east coast, running off into the sunset (at least towards the water) would not be a possibility.
In fact, I once took an IQ test where I was asked “In what direction does the sun rise?” I looked at administrator like she was a complete idiot and said “Um..Up? Duh.”
Anyway. This is what I got:
You Made It To Coney Island!
And it’s closed.
Here’s a schedule of the remaining hours that they’re open for the season. Could have checked that before I left the house four hours ago. But ANYWAY, you can walk down to the beach or go get a beer at Ruby’s or visit Nathan’s or pick up a souvenir at Lola Star.