New York in November / Montana & Turkey Too

November 2nd-23rd

printer friendly
Nov 2, 2003
Life returns to normal, at least for us, after Hurricane Sandy.

Today is the last game of the regular season for NYU soccer, so we took the subway north to 238th Street in the Bronx. The train comes above ground and is an "el" for the last mile or two. It is not the end of the line -- but you can see it from here.

NYU (white) vs. Brandeis

Robin - #14
NYU's home field is Gaelic Park. The field was originally build by the Gaelic Athletic Association, so it can accommodate Hurling and Gaelic Football, both of which require of field of about 140 meters long. So the lines for soccer leave a large unused strip at one end where the NYU substitute players can keep in motion while the game is in progress.

NYU is playing Brandeis and early in the second half Brandeis scores the only point of the day. Towards the end of the game Robin got a few minutes of play time, but he wasn't playing his usual position, which made things a bit awkward. Robin also tells us that there was no practice this week, since the campus is without power due to the hurricane.

Being the last game it is also senior recognition and family day, and NYU puts on a picnic lunch afterwards.

It is the first really cold day I have felt, and while waiting for the coach to finish talking with the team Kristina and I were looking for sunny but windless corners of the park.

Back in Chelsea that evening we met with Rob and Marilla, two of Kristina's former students. We met at "Blossoms", a famous vegan restaurant near us. The food was incredible! Rob had come to New York to run the Marathon, planned for tomorrow. But that has been cancelled for this year because all public resources are needed for the storm victims and recovery.

Sunday, Nov 4
I ran down to Battery Park and watched a huge crane on a barge fishing things out of the water. Behind it was piled containers, possible some other those which had been blown into the harbor during the storm.

Tuesday, Nov 6
Central Park Track Club had its workout in the park this evening. With the days getting short and daylight saving turned off, it is dark long before I put my shoes on these days.

It is beautiful running in the park in the evening. The lights of midtown rise above us, but it is also getting colder.

Wednesday, Nov 7
A nor'easter is blowing into the region and many places are still reeling from Sandy. I get out for my run at about 4:00 and there is already an inch of snow. Today's run is a nine miler which I like because it is a loop. It starts out by crossing Manhattan on 20th Street. That means crossing about a dozen avenues and streets, but that all happens in the first dozen minutes and then the run is uninterrupted. Once on the East River I am again on the bike path/green way headed south. It is dark and the wind is howling. The weather keeps switching from snow to rain and back. I am pretty soaked soon into the run, but I am working hard and my body stays warm.

I passed the power plant on 14th Street which was flooded by the surge and led to the black out. Beyond that is the East River Park for about a mile. It is a strip of land 100 to 200 meters wide from the river to the FDR Expressway. This evening I have most of it to myself. A lot of the path is deep with water and slush, so I cross from the bike path by the expressway over to the Promenade by the river. It is a lot more exposed to the wind and the walkway itself is icy. I pass by a plaza which is encircled by a dozen grand sycamore trees, half of which have been uprooted by the hurricane. One other plaza, also a circle, has a set of stone sculptures of seals, some surfacing through the plaza, others perched on the "shore", among the seats at the edge of the circle. With an inch of water on the plaza, and the evening light fleeting, it is easy to imagine them coming up out of the sea. With the seals all also wearing wreaths of snow it feels very arctic.

I continue under the Willamsburg Bridge and then the expressway becomes elevated and the bike path moves under it, and for a mile out of the sleet. Under the Manhattan Bridge and soon under the Brooklyn bridge and past South Street Seaport. Here there is a section of the path where the paving stones have been washed away and I think part of the seawall breached.

I pass Wall Street and am soon at South Ferry, the Manhattan terminus of the Staten Island Ferry. Between here and Bowling Green I am weaving among commuters, between subway and ferry who are fighting the wind and their umbrellas.

I tried to run through the parkland of Battery Park City, but am stopped by a ranger. They are concerned that limbs weakened by Sandy may come down with the heavy snow of this nor'easter and so have closed the park. However he points out a sidewalk I had not seen before and lets me pass.

Up the Hudson River, the wind is hard and the snow thick. I only meet three people over the next two miles. A mother and daughter, the mother shivering and the daughter romping in the snow. Later I met another runner who slaps me a high-five and is practically dancing with excitement.

I finished at 22nd Street by Chelsea Pier and as I waited for the light to cross the highway I was joined by a man in heavy duty rain gear. He tells me that he is the harbor master at Chelsea Piers and he was just down to the docks to double check the moorings of the boats. They have only one boat there tonight, but he told me, "A walk down to the water is worth the piece of mind and a good night's sleep."

Friday, Nov 9th
I ran in Central Park this afternoon, in part to scout out locations for photography tonight. I also went by the mounds of logs, branches and wood chips from all the downed trees in the park. I am reminded of the "yard" or staging area of a logging operation I visited in New Hampshire.

In the evening I returned and photographed some of the lights of Manhattan reflected in the reservoir and ponds, as well as over the Sheep Meadow of Central Park. I was trying to capture what I see when I run there at night. But I never can find that clear view I think I see, I guess my brain sees around branches and limbs.

Saturday, Nov 10th

Queensboro Bidge
from Tramway

Passing the other
Tramway Car
I went exploring in the afternoon, taking the tramway to Roosevelt Island in the middle of the East River. This is the tramway where Spiderman fought the Green Goblin in the first Spiderman movie. I keep an eye out looking for flying or swinging super-villains or -heros, but didn't see any today.

The south end of the island is the new home to the Franklin Delano Roosevelt - Four Freedoms Park, which, after a forty year delay opened last month. I actually disagree with the architect on his design. The granite is very powerful, the design is a monument to power. But the Four Freedoms are very personal things. Then again those massive granite blocks, which didn't shift a millimeter in the hurricane, perhaps represents the resolution which protects those four freedoms; freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, freedom from fear.

FDR - Four Freedoms

The Marriage of
Money and Real Estate
At the other end of the island there is mainly low income housing. There is also a promenade and park land next to the river. I walked up the west side. In the river, sticking up on post, are a series of sculpture entitled, "The Marriage of Money and Real Estate". This artist has similar art throughout the city, often contrasting bank, bourgeois and labor. I've read that these particular sculpture take on new means as the tide rises.

When I returned down the east side of the island I was looking for the tidal turbine. I had interviewed Trey Taylor, the president of Verdant Power a year ago. This is the first commercial tidal power plant in the US. From the shore all you can see are a few buoys and a shed which contains the controlling electronics. The really interesting stuff is sunk deep in the river.

Tidal Power in the East River
I walked over the bridge into Queens and then took the subway back to Manhattan. I was looking for coffee and bagel on Madison Avenue in the Upper West Side. Very expensive jewelry and dresses where everywhere and common, but a newspaper and bagel were rare and precious and could not be found for love of money.

In the evening I received an email that my application to Central Park Track Club had been accepted and I should drop by the head coach's house to pick up my uniform. So I made my first trip to Harlem to pick up my uniform. CPTC wears orange, white and blue, which are the colors of the City of New York. The city's flag is based on the flag of the Netherlands, who first colonized this island.

Sunday, November 11
Today I continue my circumnavigation of this island. (circum-ambulatory? circum-run?) I guess I find this a simple way of exploring a neighborhood. So I took the subway up to Inwood, the same place I started my run down the Hudson three weeks ago. This time I headed east towards the Harlem River Drive. Although the greenway is next to a highway on one side, it is still pleasant parkland next to the river. Across the waters are the Bronx, with housing projects. But this strip I am on is grass and trees.

The Greenway
After about two miles the path leaves the river and heads into Harlem proper. For the next few miles I am running on sidewalks, most of the time on St. Nicholas Avenue or 120th Street.

St. Nicholas runs next to an escarpment, the same one Morningside Park is build on. Again, it is too hard to site buildings here, so there is a series of long, thin parks. Jacky Robinson Playground and Park, St. Nicholas Park and finally Morningside Park. When passing St. Nicholas I got on the park's path for a while, but that meant a lot of up and down and stairs. I also passed the apartment where I picked up my CPTC uniform last night.

Then east on 120th Street past Marcus Garvey Park. Harlem has a reputation as a poor and tough neighborhood but that is not what I see. I see a lot of very nice brownstones on this street. I expect that there is been a lot of "gentrification".

As I approach the east river it is again through housing authority projects and then out onto a real bike path by the river. Like many other places on this circumtour of this island, there is a strip of park land, 20 to 30 meters wide between water and the highway. Sometimes there is a separate bike lane , if space allows, sometimes bikers, walkers and runners share a narrow passage. Across the river is Randall Island.

Carl Schurz Park
(FDR is underground)
At one point the path is blocked off and I can see that the seawall has been washed away and the path undercut. I stopped, uncertain what to do. Here there was no space between the path and the highway. Ahead of me, about 30 meters, was another barrier which I couldn't see beyond, because of the curve. A runner, northbound was stopped there in a similar quandary. We called to each other. Backtracking and going around would add a mile. Just then a elderly, small man with a dog jogged up, lifted his dog over the barrier, walked between, lifted his dog over the second barrier and continued. We followed his example.

This brought me into Carl Schurz Park. The highway runs under us here, and this is also where Gracie Mansion, official residence of the mayor is. It is a very pleasant park I must visit again.

The day is sunny and warm. I had started early. Inwood was asleep, Harlem just waking, but I think most families of the Upper Eastside have brought coffee, bagels and muffins to this park. Happy children and dogs swamp the paths and slow me down, but I am an hour into the run, so that is okay with me.

The next section is called the "Bobby Wagner Walk", named after a mayor of New York. It is a concrete strip between the FDR Expressway and the river. It extends a bit over a mile from Carl Schurtz Park to under the 59th Street Bridge. I guess this bridge is really called the Queensboro Bridge, or even more officially, the "Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge", but since Simon and Garfunkel called it "The 59th Street Bridge", and they are New Yorkers, that name can not be wrong, can it?

At this point the greenway ends, and I've ran between eleven and twelve miles, and am ready to take the subway home.

Tuesday, Nov 13
I went to a lunchtime concert at "The Little Church around the Corner". Viola and flute -- very nice.

Nov 14-20
Part of Kristina's plan for this sabbatical is to visit other university research groups which do similar projects to what her group does, and see how they operate. Bozeman, Montana and the Montana State University group is the first such trip. At first she was hesitant to bring me. But she was also invited to spend the weekend in the mountains and reasoned that if our gender roles were reversed no one would question bringing a wife. So why not bring a husband on this trip?

Wednesday, Nov 14
We were up at 5:00 and on the the E-train subway to Queens by 6:00, then the AirTrain connection to JFK. A seamless flight to Minneapolis/St. Paul and then on to Bozeman. I drop Kristina off on campus and checked into our B&B, the Voss Inn, at 2:00. The Voss is a solid Victorian brick house. It is neither summer nor ski season, not even a weekend, and so we have the whole inn to ourselves.

Later in the afternoon I went running. They had a snow storm a week ago and the ground is still icy. Once out of the city the "Big Sky Country" opens up. The older part of the city is filled with trees, but here the horizon opens up and I can see that we are ringed by mountains. This valley is sometimes called "Flower Valley", it has more rain then most of Montana, which is why the state's ag-school was started here. The mountains around it are the Bridger Range, the Tobacco Root Range, the Gallatin Range and others. Yellowstone is less then a hundred miles south of here.

I spooked a deer as I turned for home, and then a second one spooked me. The second one somehow seemed different and then I realized that it may have been a mule deer, I am now in the Rockies.

Thursday, Nov 15 - Bozeman, Montana
Since I had the front of the inn to myself I spent the morning with a thermos of coffee writing in the very Victorian parlor. In the afternoon I walked into town and settled to write at the Bozeman Public Library. Bozeman has a population of 37,000 whereas Chelsea has a population of 42,000, but the Bozeman library is about ten times larger!

Jeannette Rankin
of Montana

Again I ran out of town and across the frozen prairie in the late afternoon.

In the evening the senior engineer at the lab Kristina's visiting invited us and the rest of the lab to his house for dinner. Coincidentally it was near the turn-around-point on my run. He is a hunter and so Elk steaks were on the menu.

The stars were burning bright when we headed home.

Friday, Nov 16 - Bozeman to Georgetown Lake, Montana
I planted myself in front of the big windows in the library which looked north towards peaks of the Bridger Range; Baldy, Saddle, Ross, Sacagawea and more. There is only a thin glaze of snow on the lower slopes which tend to accentuate the ravines and gullies. Mid day I met Kristina and we head west. Dave and Serene Klumpar, our host, have a little cabin on a lake at the edge of the mountains, not too far from Bozeman. Or so we are told.

We head across the prairie. The trip west has its own type of beauty. It is truly "Big Sky" country. I wonder if these are wheat fields since I can see stubble poking up through the snow. Later the land has not been harvested, perhaps pasture land?

The Tobacco Root Range are just big rocky hills and so we pass into the valley of the Three Forks, which is the headwaters of the Missouri River. Beyond this valley we really start to climb up to Homestake Pass and then drop to Butte. Across one more valley floor, past the gigantic smoke stack of the old Anaconda Copper company and up into the mountains and Georgetown Lake region.

It is not a little cabin. It maybe it not quite a "Great Lodge", but I think it would qualify as a "Pretty Good Lodge". There is a great room with a cathedral ceiling, windows on the lake, stone fireplace, and open kitchen, porches, guest room and a golden retriever named Odin who was happy to rest his head on my knee for hours while I stared into the fire.

Saturday, Nov 17 - Georgetown Lake, Montana
A lazy morning. Dave, Kristina, Odin and I walk along the shore of the lake. There is just enough ice for Odin to venture out, but the rest of us don't try it.

This area has been hit badly with the mountain pine bark beetles which have killed great swaths of the lodge pole pine. Dave has recently had about half the trees on his property taken down because the bark beetles had killed them. When I look at the hills across the lake there are whole sweeps which are a dark rusty red, like oak trees in New England in the autumn. But these are conifers, and those trees are dead.

Later I go for a run down one of the forest service roads and eventually up to a high meadow. Slipping in the snow with every step added to the climb, as well as approaching 7,000 feet in elevation. But the sight was worth it! To the west is the Sapphire Range, massive and spreading. To the south is the Anaconda Range which rises abruptly. The top of Fish Peak due south of me is at 10,197 and West Goat, at 10,784 feet. They are in a completely different weather system then where I am. There is a blizzard up there today!

In the afternoon we go into Phillipsburg. A video was shot in Dave's lab which is going to be shown at the Montana State University - University of Montana football game halftime today. We hoped to see it at a local brew house. We arrived as halftime started but didn't see it. Apparently it was shown in the stadium but not broadcasted. (Later we saw it on you tube). Still, Phillipsburg is a nice cowboy town with a lot of old buildings sporting new paint and a good lunch.

Back by the lake, long evening hours by the fire and with a dog.

Sunday, Nov 18, 2012 - Georgetown Lake - Manhattan
The only real adventure of the day took place in the first ten meters.

Montana from the air
terrain accented by snow
We have 120 miles to go to meet our 9:00 flight, so we are up early. About an inch or two of snow has fallen. But the driveway was already snowpacked and it slopes in the wrong direction, and the rental car just didn't want to go uphill (sideways - yes). Eventually Dave found a bit of gravel and with that under the wheels we were on our way.

Visibility was limited and I was following tail lights through the snow. But as we dropped in elevation it turned over to rain, and the rest of the trip, Butte, Homestake Pass, Three Forks to Bozeman was eventless. We then flew to Salt Lake City and back to JFK.

On that last leg I sat between two young women athletes. One was a volleyball player for New Jersey Institute of Technology. She was just coming from the conference championships. Her team had been knocked out in semi-finals, and she was a bit bummed.

On my left was a high school girl who was on her first trip to Manhattan. A friend and club-teammate of hers had made the olympic team and there is a recognition dinner, called the "Golden Goggles", near Time Square tomorrow. All the US olympic swimmers had been invited and each can bring one guest, all expenses paid. So she was going, and giddy with the idea of being in New York, AND meeting Michael Phelps. She asked the volleyball player and myself what to do in the city. I recommended Central Park, the volleyball player suggested the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Wednesday, Nov 21, 2012
I texted Robin and Kristina and suggested that we see them fill the balloons for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. They are assembled on some of the streets near the Museum of Natural History, around 81st Street and Central Park West. It was a brilliant idea which I think I shared with most of the other eight million people who live in New York City. It took ten minutes just to get up the stairs of the subway station. It was shoulder to shoulder for several blocks around the museum. It took me about half an hour to get out of the crowd and find the other two. Then we retreated to Chelsea for supper, and Easton, Connecticut for the night.

Thursday, Nov 22 - Thanksgiving - Easton, Connecticut
I ran a 5K Turkey Trot early in the morning. I have been stiff and sore since slipping on snow in Montana. Therefore I got to the race early so I could do a long warm up. I ran the whole course, stretched and tried to stay warm. The sun is barely up and the temperature is near freezing.

Finish of
Turkey Trot
The race starts at a nice pace, 5:56 at the mile mark. But I have already lost the leaders by then, and the group I am with fades, so I run the next mile and a half by myself. With a half mile to go I am challenged. I almost let him pass me, but then think to myself, he may be my age group -- and I really do have a lot of untapped energy. So I kick in the last 500 meters. Coming down the last hundred meters the sun is on my back, and shadows are very long in front of me. I am tempted to look and see where he is, but since I can not see his shadow I know he is more then 8 meters back, which is enough. I finish with a time of 19:21. I had hoped to break 19, but I did win my age group. Also that challenger was in my age group so I am glad I worked that last little bit.

Back in Easton, at Kristina's parents' home, the house is slow waking up. Eventually we have a whole crew. Our host Kris and Charlie, our family: Will, Linnea (Will's girlfriend), Robin, Kristina and myself. From New Cannan, Kristina's brother's family: Kristen, Charlie and Owen. Finally from Shelter Island: Kathleen and Billy.

It is a classic Thanksgiving, food and talking and walks around the neighborhood. The neighbors stop by and we eat far too much.

Friday, Nov 23
In the morning we all pack up. Will and Linnea head north to Bard College. Kristina, Robin and I drive to White Plains where we leave our car at a garage and take the train to Grand Central and then home to Chelsea.