SUNSCREEN. Don’t knock it.
If Micro Tour 2 was lush wonderland with green canopy providing cover from the harsh sun, Micro Tour 3 was its opposite: a beautiful ride under an unobstructed blanket of UV rays penetrating the Earth’s surface, and the breeze the only reprieve from the unceasing heat of the sun. The end result? Getting sun-baked as fuck and suffering varying degrees of sun burns and sun rashes.
But I digress. This isn’t about how badly sunburned we were. This is about Micro Tour 3 to Floyd Bennett Field!
Dog Heaven at Prospect Park
We met up at Lafayette Memorial on Prospect Park West and 9th Street. Unlike the previous two rides, I “warmed up” for the ride by biking to the meeting point from my apartment in Borough Park. Nothing like a leisurely Saturday morning ride through an empty neighborhood to get you pumped (the strange perks of living in a Hasidim community on Saturdays — you don’t have to worry about car traffic much).
I don’t know if it’s because I’ve got two of these rides under my belt or by some miracle, I’m getting used to the weight of camping gear on my bike, but this warm-up ride passed like a breeze. I arrived at the monument just after 8:30 a.m. and I was in dog heaven.
Fact: There are a lot of dogs in Brooklyn. Double Fact: Many of them live near Prospect Park. (Don’t quote me on these facts though. They weren’t vetted.)
There was a steady stream of dogs coming in and out of the park that morning. I was giddy inside, wanting to pet every single one of the fur balls but denying such pleasures to avoid coming across as a weirdo. There was one particular beagle I would’ve been happy to scoop up just for an instant.
Rolling Out with the Usual Suspects
No two rides are ever the alike, and no two groups have the same people except maybe a small handful like Dan and either of the Colins. Seeing familiar faces is always a happy moment that makes the whole ride a bit more comfortable. Of course, I can’t forget about Chombo but he’s with the shop so unless something happens, I assume he’s always on these rides.
We rolled out just after 9 a.m. We sped downhill through Prospect Park to the southern end and connected with Bedford Avenue. There’s a bike lane that goes south to the ends of Brooklyn through Flatbush, Midwood, and Sheepshead Bay (hello, Suburbia!). It was unreal seeing lusciously green lawns with water sprinklers. That’s the kind of shit you see in Calvert County, Maryland.
At the end of Bedford Avenue, we hooked left onto Emmons Avenue — or what I like to call the parking lot road no one knows how to drive. I don’t know what it is but something about parking lots make people terrible drivers.
We made our first pit stop at Plum Beach and took a group photo. It’s not Rockaway Beach but if you’re looking for an escape that isn’t too crowded, I guess this is the place to go.
Turn Left for Scenic Route
The door-to-door mileage from 718 Cyclery in Gowanus to the campsite itself is only about 12-13 miles but it wouldn’t be a ‘tour’ if we didn’t double the mileage and take the scenic route. After crossing the first bridge over Plum Beach Channel, we arrived at the fork. The campsite from that point was literally a right turn down Flatbush Avenue to the park entrance. But no, no. We waved hello to the park and made a left turn towards Mill Basin and Canarsie Pier, where we had our second break while a few flats were taken care of. Broken seashells and glass particles do not go well with bike tires, just FYI.
After we regrouped, we continued along Bay Parkway towards Broad Channel and the Jamaica Wildlife Refuge. I wish we could’ve gone to the Refuge and spend a few minutes there but we kept going, across the channel. The only other time I’ve crossed the channel was on the A train to Rockaway Beach last year. It was fun biking down in in the open air and watching the A train rumble by in the distance.
A Whole Different Vibe
Depending on who you ask, Rockaway Beach may or may not be part of New York City. I can definitely say the people here are very much different from even the folks out in Bensonhurst or Borough Park. We made our third stop at the grocery store here, and while we waited for everyone to stock up on camp provisions, a portly, jolly fellow came over with a baggie can and chatted us up. I didn’t hear exactly what he was saying but it was probably something about the camping trip, bikes, and bike adventuring in general. Very… not the city but wouldn’t be surprised if you saw something like in the city.
Sun Baked on the Boardwalk
Did I mention the lack of shade on this ride? No? Well, let me tell you about the lack of shade on this ride. There was no shade on this ride. The complete opposite of riding to Croton Point on the North-South County trails. Always bring sunscreen. Always be reapplying.
I don’t think any of one of us got out of this ride unscathed from some degree of sun-related burn, rash, or blistering. In my case, I caught all three and a funky tan to continue my collection of awkward tans. Either I totally missed this part of my leg, or the sweat was running off funny, or I had a rash and scratched the sunscreen off, or some bizarre combination of all of that and more. It’s a mystery that will likely never be solved but that and the pinkish hue on both my arms and face sent me scrutinizing my sunscreen. EXPIRED?! By a year! No wonder. Got new sunscreen that week.
So remember children: Always wear sunscreen, always bring sunscreen, and always reapply sunscreen.
But enough about the weird tan lines of cyclists. We made a quick lunch stop at one of the food court stands before finishing off the ride to Floyd Bennett Field. I bought Poke and hibiscus tea. It was pretty good for beach-side poke but damn. I don’t know why I got sticker shock but I did. I had to remind myself that I was in tourism-ville so prices were a bit higher. Once we all stuffed our faces and experienced the stiff breeze of the ocean, we saddled up and rode the length of Rockaway Beach. It was a brilliant, care-free few miles.
Once we got to the end of the Boardwalk, we hooked around Jacob Riis Park and snaked our away across Marine Parkway Bridge. This was a narrow bridge, barely wide enough for two bikes to pass each other comfortably without gear. The wind on this bridge was intense and made us wobble a little. Some folks got off their bikes and walked the bridge. Eventually we arrived on the other side in front of good ol’ Floyd Bennett Field.
Of course, it wasn’t as simple as just going into the park because this isn’t a regular ol’ park the way Croton Point is. You had to cross a few miles of pot-holed tarmac, then connect with the camp trail. It was a monotonous, windy crossing but once we got to the campsite all was well. You can feel the collective sigh of relief once we threw our bikes onto the ground and started pitching tents.
Camping… in the city
When you think about the ride itself, it seems ridiculous that we purposefully doubled the mileage but it’s actually quite brilliant. By extending the on-road mileage, we essentially got to see more greenery that’s lacking in the city core. Once you get to Broad Channel, you’ve passed about six different parks and reserves. It’s a portal of sorts that allows you to escape the city without physically having to leave the city. And camping at Floyd Bennett was no exception.
Once the sun set, Dan, Chombo and I walked across the roadway to a paved section that houses an old hangar and an awkward RV area. Dan wanted to get some night shots of the airplanes going in and out of JFK Airport. Yes. We were that close but like all New Yorkers, the droning of the planes become background noise and you forget about it.
In all of this, it’s just crazy to think you can camp in the city.
More sunbathing, kites, and a quick jaunt for found glass
After we pitched our tents we sat around, ate snacks, and some of us continued to sunbathe. There was a rogue wheel spoke that broke that was temporarily fixed, and Joe even sent his drone into the sky. There was kite flying, and my favorite, exploring Dead Horse Bay— a literal trash beach.
I’ve only read about Dead Horse Bay and was somewhat familiar of its notoriety of being the “glass beach.” I don’t know what I was expecting but my breath left me when we came upon a beach that appeared to be more glass than sand.
For as far as the eye can see, glass laid every where. Blue, green, brown, clear, dirty, clean, broken, submerged, and on and on. I found old Coke bottles, old ketchup bottles, various designs of salt and pepper shakers, tincture bottles, porcelain and ceramic cosmetic cups, and very old liquor bottles. There were also soles from shoes lying around, and old equipment that’s been rusted from long exposure to the salt water. Someone even found a statue of the Virgin Mary.
We crunched our way around, looking for glass bottles to take home with us, all the while exclaiming how we’re literally going through trash. It was surreal and weird. I took home two small glass vials — one green and one brown — as a memento.
As usual, Sundays are more of a “do what you will” in terms of getting back home. The only difference was that home was closer and most of us lived in Brooklyn. The question of the day was more about whether to go to the beach before heading home. I was wiped so after I packed my tent, ate some brekkie, and enjoyed everyone’s company for a bit, I said my goodbyes and headed home.
I took a leisurely pace towards Plum Beach and rode up Ocean Parkway. On the previous rides, it generally took us over three or four hours to get home. I got home in an hour, before noon. I slept from 1:30 p.m. until 9:30 p.m., ate dinner and watched some TV, and went back to sleep around 3 a.m. to wake up for work the next day.
If it wasn’t the riding that did me in so hard, it was definitely the sun.
Gina’s note: I’d like to thank the folks who read my ride reports and said they’ve enjoyed them. Makes my heart warm but more importantly, it’s a reminder that, however small my audience is online, I do have an audience. Here’s to more ride reports and other musings.