Day 114 – The Big Apple Zero
Alarms went off at 5:30 and we were up and packing. Breakfast could wait, we had places to be. The Big Apple, The City That Never Sleeps, Gotham, The Empire City, The Great Bam-Bin-O! New York City to be exact. There was mist rising from the pond while we secured our things and set off.
We stopped at the gas station on the way to the train. Snacks in hand, tickets on our phones, we boarded and were off. If only it were that easy. Rabbit lit up a cigarette and while waiting for the train, a disembodied, pre-recorded voice (as if on cue) said “Just a reminder, there is no smoking allowed on train terminal platforms.” Some would call that a sign to quit.
We found a place on board next to an outlet to charge our devices for the 2ish hour ride into the city. Im a fan of all modes of locomotion. Better yet we had Chiquita as our own personal tour guide. Chiquita used to live in Manhattan which took the confusion out of navigating train and subway stops away. We deferred all route planning to him.
We arrived at Grand Central Station before 9AM. First order of business, coffee. Second order of business, bathrooms. Third order of business, breakfast. The first two were accomplished at starbucks (more because they have public restrooms, than for the coffee to be honest). In fact, I worked as a barista (although I identify as a baristi) for 5 years in college and have a strong distaste for most things starbucks. So much so that I refuse to capitalize it.
Breakfast was had at Zucker’s Bagels and Smoked Fish, it’s one of Chiquitas favorites. I’m a sucker for lox so the everything bagel with cream cheese and smoky goodness was everything I wanted and more.
We stopped at a bodega for more snacks. Also how could I not pass up an apple from this joint? We jaunted westward after that towards Time Square.
Chiquita had to save us from the tourist traps of Minnie Mouse, a Buddhist Monk, and countless other characters designed to depart us from our money.
Onward we strolled by Radio City Music Hall, and back over to 5th Avenue, and up to Central Park. Along the way Rabbit had to say hi to the Donald.
Once in Central Park, we strategically picked an open field with the most dogs running around. The hopes were that they might come close enough to give some pets to. We’re feeling deprived of pet therapy with Hatcher and Stanley a few days ahead. We layed down and snacked and napped for an hour or two in the shade. We laughed when we discovered Chiquitas smart water bottle was growing a tiny colony of mold or bacteria.
The day was not all fun and games though. We did have a trip to REI planned. I needed a replacement bug net for the one I lost last week. Rabbit out ahead, turned around just in time to see the character you see in the background (Welcome to NYC).We rode the subway as close as it would take us. Being underground I had expected it to be cooler, I was wrong and it was not. It was uncomfortably warm as we waited for the subway. The inside of car was air conditioned and gave us a brief break from the heat.
Back above ground “WE’RE WALKING HERE!” (Northeast accent in full effect). Also in full effect, sweat. In profuse and self- conscious amounts. En route to REI, a detour was made for 1$ pizza. A detour was made down a daytime street bazaar. By the time we got to REI I was all detoured and sweated out. I got my bug net and found 30% DEET spray conveniently located along the neverending checkout line of people.
Once out of the store and back on the street again I was “DONE!” (as we say, it’s an inside joke, I’ll tell you about it when you’re older). Rabbit and Chiquita were making plans for the next stop but all I wanted was to lay in another “green space.” It was clear Rabbit and I both selected the red “ME TIME” card from yesterday. There where times where our respective ven diagrams of “me time” overlapped, and those when it didn’t. This was one where it didn’t. They acquiesced to my demands and I got us an Uber to Little Island.
Little Island is located at pier 55 and is a 2.4 acre park. It’s unique because it’s both park and architectural marvel at the same time. To give homage to the pier that used to stand there, the park is elevated above the water on undulating platforms. Those platforms have been filled with dirt and now trees, plants, and walkways meander the grounds. After a break and more snacks we all agreed to split up and meet again later in the day around 6PM. Still not ready to leave I found a shady spot and plopped down.
Sitting on Little Island, in the biggest city in the US, on my own little patch of grass, I watched person after person play piano in a plaza. Young, old, girls, boys, all shapes, sizes, and colors. Some playing very good, other less so. But even those just punching keys to mess around sounded pleasant, as their tunes drifted up the grass in my direction. One young boy had an excellent rendition of Queens “Don’t Stop Me Now” that left me super impressed. It was a really peaceful reprieve amongst the hustle and bustle.
Not that I minded the hustle and bustle either. From the train ride in to Grand Central Station, to Times Square, to Central Park. Each hustle and bustle along in their own way. Really I think what I’m trying to say is, what I enjoyed most were the times spent not walking. I’ve spent so much time walking through New York as a state (and on this thru-hike in general) it’s nice to sit down and appreciate the immediate surroundings. To really press pause and dissect what’s around you. That was my favorite part of NYC.
There was also a ton of walking, don’t get me wrong. We joked about how many miles we were going to do today. We had maybe 1/2 our daily average by 3PM. But like walking on the trail, it was hot, and I was a sweaty mess. That’s fine on the trail, but I’m on vacation (if only for a day). Today I wanted to see sights but I also want to relax when I get there. I like to leave work at work.
After getting mild to moderately lost on the subway, I eventually met Rabbit and Chiquita in Bryant Park near Grand Central Station. Before departing back towards the trail we had some excellent tacos from Los Tacos no. 1. They were #1 indeed, best I’ve had since leaving Texas.
Our trip back to the trail was very eventful. Eventful in that we missed our stop at the train station and had to ride to the end of the line (3 more stops) and back to get off. It added roughly an hour to our return time. To be fair, the doors opened and closed very quickly and we were not ready in time with our packs. Again I stress the doors opened and closed very quickly, quicker than other stops. I can come to no other conclusion than they hate hikers.
Rabbit was incensed. He almost threw down in fisticuffs with a conductor. Alas an hour later, after some sulking and waiting we arrived back in Pawling. We decided to road walk the 2 miles up to a deli (shocker) that allows tenting on the way back to the trail. We’ll pick up where we left off the trail tomorrow. For now this ends a long day at the ripe hour of 11:30PM, just before we turn pumpkin for the evening. It was a long one, but a good one. Ultimately I was unable to convince anyone that a homeless looking Rabbit was Aaron Rodgers. Back to work in the morning. Good night Cinderella’s.
Stow away in my pack for day 115 of the Appalachian Trail.
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