3 National Parks sites on a bike

A bike ride with a bit of history thrown in — a great combination. Happy 100th birthday, National Parks Service!

nps ridersSaturday I helped out with the East Coast Greenway’s ride in New York City to mark the centennial of the National Parks Service. We hit three sites over about 26 miles. Bet you never heard of one of them!

We started out at Castle Clinton, at the southern tip of Manhattan, where we dodged tourists getting their tickets to visit Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. Castle Clinton was conceived as part of a series of forts built before the War of 1812 to keep the British from taking New York, as they did in the Revolution. It worked.

But the fort didn’t last long as a fort — it then became a party place (once trashed by Andrew Jackson and friends), a rather casual immigration station (before Ellis Island) and finally an aquarium. Thank you, Ranger Derrick Hand, for the quick history lesson!

Then we headed up the wonderful Hudson River Greenway to Grant’s Tomb. No ranger talk there, unfortunately. But I learned that Grant is the president who preserved Yellowstone — and yet we think of Theodore Roosevelt as the man behind the national parks.

I spotted a series of mosaic benches just outside, made, apparently, in the 1970s:

grants tomb mosaic

Is that Grant, Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt on the right? The second from the left looks like Shakespeare, doesn’t it? But that makes no sense…

We crossed the High Bridge into the Bronx and new territory for me. Several greenways took us across the borough, and we had some glimpses of the Long Island Sound before we reached Westchester County. Finally some proper East Coast Greenway signs!

ecg westchester

Pelham Manor has some gorgeous mini-manors. If you saw the prices for water and a red fruit punch (fancy Kool-Aid?) from these budding entrepreneurs, you’d know we are talking money.

pelham manor drinks stand

We were only a few miles from our final stop — St. Paul’s Church in Mount Vernon. Told you you wouldn’t have heard of it!

This site¬†isn’t open much on weekends, and Saturday was picked for the bike ride because they were marking Colonial Day. (A rather small celebration, I have to say. So the dozen-plus cyclists in our group were definitely noticeable.) The church¬†dates back to before the Revolution. The Hessians used it as a field hospital during a minor battle ahead of the Battle of White Plains in 1776 (part of Washington’s retreat from New York, across New Jersey and into Pennsylvania before that Christmas crossing that led to the Battle of Trenton followed by the Battle of Princeton.) Alexander Hamilton came up here for a few legal matters — even once faced off against Aaron Burr, in 1786 (That’s the man who killed him in a duel). Bet they didn’t like each other then either.

And this is the grave of the doctor who was at Ford’s Theater the night Abraham Lincoln was shot and attended him until he died:

st pauls grave

It’s amazing what you see and learn on a bike — this is the kind of ride I enjoy!

The train ride home, though, was the train ride from hell. First my train is cancelled. (I later learn it’s because one woman pepper-sprayed(!) another woman in the train while still at Penn Station, and the police were called.) I’m grateful I didn’t get kicked off the next train (they could have claimed weekend rush-hour restrictions for bikes, since it was after 5 p.m.). It broke down in New Brunswick. Lots of to-ing and fro-ing before the train gets pulled away and we finally get on another one. I could have biked home had I known we’d be there for two hours! In the end, what my rush-hour express train does in 35 minutes took four hours.

Author: alliumstozinnias

A gardener (along with the Brit) who has discovered there is more than hybrid tomatoes. And a cyclist.

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