Saturday, May 10, 2014

Number 48 - The Great Saunter, up the Westside

Last Saturday I did the 2014 Great Saunter, a 32 mile walk around the perimeter of Manhattan.  My most favorite walk.

This was the 29th annual Great Saunter  around the island of Manhattan.    It is hosted by a group called Shorewalkers.  1187 people signed up and started the Great Saunter this year.

The Great Saunter Map

5:04 AM
Alarm goes off, I’m on the third floor of Laura &Ted’s (sister, brother-in-law) 1890’s Victorian Farmhouse in Upper Montclair, NJ.  It is no doubt one of my favorite places to sleep in the entire world!  But, sleep is not the order of the day at this point.  As I lay in bed a few more minutes, from the bottom of the stars I hear my sister “Scotty, are you up”?  I am such a lucky guy – for her and Ted to wake up at a ridiculous hour on a Saturday morning, for me – to make sure I’m awake, to drive me into New York City, to make sure I have everything I need,...  I am overwhelmed at their hospitality.
Downstairs, some juice, couple espressos, water, some homemade lekvar roll, chit-chat, and just before 6:00 AM, out the door to Fraunces Tavern, on the lower East Side of Manhattan, the starting/ending point for the 2014 Great Saunter.

Very lucky for me as Ted & Laura are naturals in New York City, they know their way around.   And of course, Saturday morning, 6:00 AM, there should not be any traffic – HA! 

Road work/traffic at 6:10 AM Saturday going into NYC

Good thing Ted knows more ways to get into the city than I ever knew existed, so before long, we’re entering the Lincoln Tunnel.

7:00 AM
Arrive at Fraunces Tavern.  The line, for those who signed up beyond the mail out date, or were just signing up that day, was already around the block.

Fraunces Tavern
Now this Fraunces Tavern has some significant history to it.  The plaque on the side of the tavern explains how George Washington, after the American Revolutionary War, in 1783,  bade an emotional farewell to his officers on the 2nd floor of this tavern!  (Fraunces Tavern, a must see if you are ever in the Wall Street district of Manhattan – it will be worth the trip).

Luckily I did not have to stand in line as I signed up earlier enough to have everything I need mailed to me in advance.

Me & Laura
Laura & Ted wished me luck and headed back to NJ with the promise that they’d be there waiting for me when I finished! 

Next I was on the outlook for a guy I use to work with in Georgia who now lives in Brooklyn and his girlfriend.  Right around 7:30 or so we found each other.  Mason & Jen were not sure if they were going to do the entire 32 miles that day but decided to go as far as they could.

7:38 AM

We were off.  One of the great things about the Great Saunter - it is not a race, it is a saunter.  And since it is not a race, there is official start time.  Start when you want, start when you can.  Some started early and some got off to a late start.  It did not matter.  This is a low key, healthy, social event.  They actually have a late start up near 42nd Street if you just cannot make it downtown at 7:30 AM.

We started in the lower Eastside of Manhattan and went in a clockwise direction.  So it was not too long before we made out way through Battery Park and could see the Statue of Liberty.

Statue of Liberty
Making our way through Battery Park, some really nice parks, kids playing Little League baseball, this day turned out out to be a great day for the Saunter.

Battery Park, Lower Westside

Making our way up the Westside - just enjoying the the Saunter, the day, and New York City.

Mason & Jen with Freedom Tower in the background
Over 1,100 sauntering!
It was not super crowded at the start but on the Westside there were always plenty of other Saunterers around.  This is quite a contrast from the Eastside later in the day.

Ballerina on a Beam - a lot of  unique artwork on the Westside
Not sure what the bite out of the apple signifies?
George Washington Bridge ~ 5 miles ahead...

A lot of sharing pathways with cyclists, a lot pf people in NYC
Just a fun shot of FDNY - no fire...
Pleasant walk, things blooming...
Fishing in the Hudson River just south of the George Washington Bridge
Saunterers taking a break & stretching
The Little Red Light Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge
First hill :) at about mile 13
Manhattan just north of the George Washington Bridge

Almost at the half way point and a break for lunch.

Lunch break just around the corner at Inwood Hill Park

Part Two of the Great Saunter - Zig-zagging through Harlem

Part Three of the Great Saunter - Down the Eastside

The Great Saunter - Zig-Zagging Through Harlem

The Great Saunter route, in my mind can be divided into three sections: up the Westside of Manhattan, crossing over to the Eastside, and down the Eastside of Manhattan.  Each section is very unique, different, experience.  There is an incredible amount of contrast in each section.  The crossing over to the Eastside was not a direct route and it did take us through many city blocks as we zig-zagged through Upper Manhattan and Harlem.  This post is the second of three posts of the 2014 Great Saunter as I made my way through Upper Manhattan and Harlem.

We were up around 207th Street when the crossover began.  The first thing  I noticed, no defined paths and many city streets to cross.

Really had to pay attention to the walk/don't walk signals
Guys actively doing a little graffiti work
a little more graffiti art going on...
Quite a contrast to coming up the Westside
West 202nd Street
Next we reached the Harlem River.  Although the route did get us back to the "shoreline" (remember the Great Saunter is put on by Shorewalkers), this was actually temporary as we still had much more "city" walking in store until we actually made it to the East River for the down the Eastside section of the saunter.

Rowing in the Harlem River
Saunterers becoming more spreadout
Saw a lot of people fishing
At times, the path was a bit tight.
This guy was telling us "you're at 19 mile"  :)
Little League game @ Jackie Robinson Park in Harlem
Adam Clayton Powell Jr Blvd. in Harlem
It was around this time when I ran into Mort.  Mort is a guy that I met the last time I did the Great Saunter in 2012.  Mort really knew his way around town and for awhile, I did not have to refer to the directions provided for us - I just followed Mort.

Mort in front of Miss Maude's Spoonbread Too in Harlem
East 125th Street & Lexington Ave.
 This section really was the most "city" part of the Saunter as for the most part we were on city blocks instead of walkways near the shoreline.  I did enjoy my walk through Harlem!

It was not too long after this when we arrived at the East River to continue on to the third section - down the Eastside.

Part One of the Great Saunter - Up the Westside

Part Three of the Great Saunter- Down the Eastside

The Great Saunter - Down the Eastside

This section of the Great Saunter is part three of three - going down the Eastside of Manhattan.  One of the challenges I had at this point was low battery in the camera.  Besides taking about 250 pictures, I captured a lot of video.  The video capture really consumed a lot of the battery.  Therefore, fewer pictures were taken on section three.  So, note self for the next time I do the Sautner, extra battery!  Also, truth be told, exhaustion was really starting to settle, I was tired.  My motivation waned from trying to capture the Saunter in pictures to just finishing it!

The Eastside, although much of it was near shoreline, was also very different from the Westside.

Heading south on the East River Greenway
The East River
Back down to Midtown, East 53rd Street
United Nations Building - where are the flags???
East 38th Street - one of these days I need to take one of these bus trips...
Williamsburg Bridge, seeing fewer and fewer saunterers now...

It was about this time when two women, Great Saunterers (you could tell as they had their bib attached to their backpack), were jogging pass me and I playfully called out "Hey, that's cheating".  They looked back, smiling, and said "Yeah, but we just want to get this over with".  Actually I was amazed that they had enough left in them to run at this point.

Manhattan Bridge & Brooklyn Bridge, storm clouds rolling in
Pier 36 - expo for TD Five Boro Bike Tour - 32,000 cyclists!
Brooklyn Bridge and more fishing...
Almost there, almost done.  Totally exhausted at this point - very little camera battery left and very little desire to take pictures at this point anyway.  Really really just want to stop walking and sit down.  About a mile or two to go...

Very lucky for me, the rain started in the last 10 minutes of the this just over 10 hour walk.  I'm a lucky guy.

As I approached the South Street Seaport area, where the Great Saunter started and finished two years, I was saddened to see how it was all under construction.  The area was devastated by Hurricane Sandy in 2012.  It was just sad to see.

And finally after 10 hours and 15 minutes - Fraunces Tavern!!!  And, as promised, my sister was waiting for me!  I am a lucky guy!

Made our way into Fraunces Tavern to sit down and have a beer!

Ted & me

It was a great day!

Part One of the Great Saunter- Up the Westside

Part Two of the Great Saunter - Zig-zagging through Harlem