Find out where that term comes from in this post. I also tackle places 33 and 34 on my list, Haverstraw and Hackensack, and finish up my time in NYC.
Tuesday, October 10th (cont.)
Mitch took me to a restaurant/bar called Spiegel where there was a bike meet up. It is a regular Tuesday night event. The ride into Manhattan was a bit of an education. Mitch is a selective lane splitter (riding on the lines), but I have no experience with the technique. He had to pull over and wait for me a few times. 🙂
This is where the term Brooklyn Dodger comes from:
If you look really closely, you can see that I still signaled my lane change while dodging. Like a boss.
There were probably 40-50 bikes in attendance, spanning the full gamut of types.
Cruisers, sport bikes, dual-sports…and this mammoth contraption with a car tire that pulled up next to Annie:
That bike was cool and all, I’m just not sure where he puts his tent. 🙂
I met lots of nice people, including the bar owner, Shmuel. He was busy most of the evening directing traffic or parking bikes himself, trying to stay on the NYPD’s good side.
Mitch was wearing a shirt of “Hillel’s Angels” a Jewish bike club.
We got word that some actual Hell’s Angels were at a bar up the street and were coming our way to check things out. Rather than risk offending them with the play on words, Shmuel grabbed Mitch a Spiegel shirt to put on. He gave me one too.
(good thing it doesn’t say “type less”)
One of the most interesting people I met was a gentleman named John Flores. He is a writer for the motorcycle magazine, RoadRunner. He took some great photos and wrote a nice post about me on instagram.
(though Sonic was slightly offended that he used “wildly” to describe the meticulous technique of his running style)
He actually gets paid for doing crazy motorcycle trips, his most recent adventure being riding an electric one from coast to coast. It sounded like it required lots of patience!
We didn’t leave until around 11pm, which made the ride back much more enjoyable.
Wednesday, October 11th
Haverstraw and Hackensack day! A double play!
I was up fairly early and got on the road before sunrise. I wanted to try to avoid the worst of the morning commute congestion. I did detour a bit, in order to take a ride through Manhattan and Time’s Square.
We’re a long way from Ombabika, folks.
Exiting the city was relatively painless and it was just a 30 minute drive up the Hudson River to Haverstraw, place 33 of 92.
Haverstraw was once known as the “Brick Capital of the World.” Many of the bricks that are still a part of New York City were made here.
I had breakfast at a nice little place and met some locals. I began riding around town and snapping a few photos.
Home to three medal of honor recepients:
I wanted to visit the Brick Museum, but it was closed while I was there. I should have researched my visit more thoroughly.
The city has suffered multiple setbacks. The most serious of which was a landslide in 1906 that took the lives of 19 people and swallowed 6 blocks of the city. Less devastating was the gradual, inevitable decline of the brick industry.
Once this happened, many residents left town. This “buyers market” led to many Hispanic people relocating to Haverstraw. I didn’t do an exact count, but I’m pretty sure there were more signs written in Spanish than English. Good practice for me!
There is a beautiful park along the Hudson River with all sorts of activities. The Hudson River is the one which flows north to Albany and connects with the Erie Canal. Haverstraw is at the Hudson’s widest point. There was a road marked “Authorized Access Only,” but the security person let me pass. We actually had a really nice chat.
I got some pictures from the ruins of the brickmaking engine house looking back towards the town.
I maybe should have done more in Haverstraw, but I felt reasonable satisfied with my effort. I decided to head south and cross into New Jersey to visit my second place of the day, Hackensack.
I began with some aimless wandering (don’t doubt my methods!) but found some nice views. The Bergen County Courthouse is an incredible building.
I pulled into a parking stall and two young guys got out to look at my bike. They thought my trip was not just cool, but legendary.
A couple of other guys came over and I was soon doing an impromptu presentation about my trip. I enjoyed talking to them about the differences between stereotypical Nebraskans and stereotypical New Jerseyans. I think we decided that all of the stereotypes are true on both ends.
One of the guys happened to be working at the Straphanger Saloon adjacent to where I parked. He offered to buy me a beer. I said, “No. I’m a good person. Good people don’t drink.” (Yeah, right) 🙂 I graciously accepted his offer.
OK, there’s about to be some profane language coming. When you see Barney, you’ll know it is all over. Dad, we’ll see you on the other side.
The tavern was almost empty, given that it was still before noon on a weekday. This made it really easy to continue conversing with Gabe. we didn’t talk a ton about Hackensack specifically, but more generally about New Jersey culture. Seeking the best descriptive term, I’m going to define this as “Asshole Culture.” (Gabe used that term as a descriptor and I would be highly surprised if anybody in New Jersey would be offended by it.)
When the group had been gathered out by Annie, one New Jerseyan asked another where he was going for lunch. When the other one responded that he had eaten already, the first one snapped, “Yeah? Well fuck you!”
…and then they both grinned and laughed. There was nothing untoward about this interaction.
Furthermore, there is a real forthright quality to the way they communicate. In Nebraska, there are multiple steps to take before a conversation begins: First pleasantries are exchange, then a brief discussion of Husker happenings ensues, finally one must divulge the number of hundreths collected in ones’ rain gauge the previous evening. Only then can the conversation truly begin.
That doesn’t fly in New Jersey. I don’t know if I ever heard a “hello” during my time there. 🙂
But there is a deep genuine quality too; an aversion to hide even the less favorable facts.
“We’re number one in pollution, number one in corruption; but we invented the light bulb and the telephone so, dammit, we at least deserve some respect.”
I really enjoyed talking to Gabe. We laughed and goaded. He felt like an old friend. I asked if I could take his picture and told him to do whatever New Jerseyan’s normally do in pictures.
I tried to leave him a $5 bill as a tip, but was instructed, “Keep your money.” Unsure of the best way to end our time together, I closed with this remark: “Well I can’t imagine meeting a nicer asshole.” He seemed to take it as a compliment.
Welcome back, Dad!
I should probably comment that New Jerseyans are in no way monolithic. I would imagine that many try to dispel this sort of stereotypical charicature, but others just embrace it. Maybe there’s truly nothing more New Jerseyan than being yourself.
Gabe had strongly recommended that I close my time in Hackensack with a meal at White Manna. It is a little burger joint that serves sliders, fries and….well I didn’t see anything else. 🙂
I ordered 4 sliders and watched as the lady working the grill in front of me went to town. At one point she had 42 patties cooking at the same time. It was fun to watch. I met some more great people here: A couple from California who invited me to stay with them, a guy from Chicago who offered to pay for me meal (after I had already paid, unfortunately), and some other people from the area.
With my insides full of beer and grease, I decided I could safely leave The Garden State.
I made a mistake on my way back in and went over a toll bridge into Manhattan. A $15 error. Ouch!
Back at Mitch’s place, it was time to give Annie some attention. First, I replaced the turn signal lens that had broken in Maine. I checked my order multiple times, but still ended up with the one for the other side. A little filing made the one I got usable.
Next, it was time to replace the airfilter. I think I was in Schefferville when I realized that I had not replaced this on my trip so far. It doesn’t show up on my Annie spreadsheet for some reason, so I can’t recall when it was last done. I wasn’t too worried about it. On the last change, my old one still looked almost new.
It is around an hour long job, since the filter sits up in front of the frunk and my custom electronics have to be disconnected.
Once I got it removed and opened it up. I was suddenly filled with a mix of terror/guilt.
I have no idea what all of this is. Did I go riding through some cotton fields? I have never seen an air filter like this before. My poor Annie! Other than the wheel bearing in The Yukon, this is the most significant mechanical mistake of the trip. It’s on my spreadsheet now so it shouldn’t happen again.
Mitch brought some “real” pizza and I had another relaxing evening.
Thursday, October 12th
I was sort of hanging around Brooklyn like a bad rash, but I still felt very welcome in their home. I used this day pretty much solely for work. I was behind from my experiences the previous days. The good food kept coming:
Zandra spoiled me rotten. 🙂
Mitch owns a car that I have never seen before, a VAM Lerma. VAM was the Mexican license partner to American Motors, maker of the Pacer.
He thinks there are only two in the United States. A rare find!
(still has a Mexican license plate) 🙂
We had talked about it previously, but Mitch and I spent a number of hours together talking through his route to Argentina. He was able to advise about good hostels, bad roads, places to avoid, which border crossings were more favorable, etc. I have met others on my trip who have ridden to Argentina, but Mitch was the first one that I had ample time to interrogate. He was so patient and helpful.
As we chatted, I realized something about the Central and South America portions of my trip: I was not looking forward to it. This may sound crazy (crazy is what you’re here for, right?), but I think it was true. I had been so focused on all of the preparation and safety considerations that my view of this portion had become almost defensive, like how you feel right before getting stuck with a needle.
Mitch has been through Central America numerous times and has not really had a bad experience. No muggings, no run-ins with drug cartels, no bribes to police; none of the negative things that we always seem to hear about that part of the world. He raved about how kind and helpful the people were in so many places he had been.
After our time together, I feel like my perspective has been clarified. I am starting to look forward to the southern part of my journey. I will continue to plan thoroughly and take all necessary precautions of course, but I refuse to cross the border thinking that negative experiences are inevitable. That’s no way to live and even less of a way to travel!
How thankful I am for these wonderful people! I never guessed that this trip would include four nights spent in Brooklyn. In a strange way, it almost began to feel like home. I can’t imagine trying to dodge Brooklyn on my next trip through.
Stay agile, everybody.