This Bike Ride’s a Beach

Written by Joshua M. Bernstein on . Posted in Posts.


I’m a simple man who likesbiking and getting wet. To sate these summertime urges, I often hop on my 10-speed and pedal to aquatic pleasure at Rockaway Beach. I follow a circa 12-mile route so safe and hill-free that, if Columbus didn’t sail the ocean blue, you’d swear the earth was as flat as my sis at age 11.

“Twelve miles?” you moan. “That seems so far.”

Don’t be a wuss. Running 12 miles is a chore; biking a relatively flat 12 miles means you’ll barely perspire. But sweating in buckets makes dunking oneself in the ocean doubly rewarding.

“Swim? In the Atlantic Ocean? That’s so dirty,” you complain.

Please. Licking a subway pole is unhygienic. Downing Taco Bell Gorditas is downright rat-tastic. Swimming in the ocean is comparatively safe, provided you’re not swept underwater by riptides or ripped asunder by sharks. It’s less hazardous to your health than living in oil-spilled Williamsburg.

To start your get-wet trek:
Take the 2, 3 or 4 train to Franklin Avenue (or from the Manhattan Bridge, bike down busy Flatbush Avenue to Eastern Parkway, then turn east to Bedford). At the corner of Bedford Avenue and Eastern Parkway, zoom down the hill and flick on auto-pilot: The road dead-ends into Sheepshead Bay, no turns needed.

But screw straight and simple: At Church Avenue, detour to Veggie Castle (2242 Church Ave., 718-703-1275). In another life, this florescent-lit hub with rigid booths was a White Castle slinging greasy sliders. Now it’s a pan-Caribbean veggie paradise atoning for meaty sins by serving rich wheels of fake oxtail, fall-apart pumpkin and flaky, Sunkist-color jerk-tofu patties. Accompanying the eats are 40-plus specially formulated juice drinks claiming miracles such as reducing hemorrhoids, alleviating menstrual cramps and, ahem, curing impotence.

“I’ll come back in 10 years,” my roommate Cory told me one uncomfortable afternoon. “What—it’s cheaper than Viagra. And it probably tastes better too.”

Forget he said that, backtrack to Bedford Avenue and continue ocean-ward. You’ll soon cross hectic Flatbush Avenue, which means traffic will calm and stately abodes will appear. Meet mega-Jewish Midwood, home to Brooklyn College.

“Where are all the cars? And why is everybody walking?” a friend sweetly ignorant of Jewish traditions asked one Saturday.

For once, antiquated religious proscriptions are useful. Observant Jews, remember, refrain from operating electrified contraptions on the Sabbath. Saturdays, cruising through Midwood is as safe as a Crunch stationary bike. The easy life ends when Bedford terminates at Sheepshead Bay’s fishing ships. Ignore salty seamen and head left. A few blocks later you’ll pit stop at tasty ’70s relic Roll-n-Roaster (2901 Emmons Ave., 718-769-6000). It’s hued in browns and has a healthy disregard for health food. The junky treasures are stupendous roast-beef sandwiches, cheap bottled Bud, cheesy fries—and the option to slather fake queso on anything your artery-clogged heart desires.

“Can you squirt some cheese into my mouth?” a friend once asked. “I like cheese. A lot.”
The young cashier recoiled, as if my friend was a hissing snake. His mouth remained filled with inappropriate words, not gooey cheese.

After eating:
Continue down Emmons and enter the Shore Parkway Greenway (it begins right before the highway), where I once had a Ripley’s Believe It or Not moment. As we motored past sandy grass and Plumb Beach, a grizzled one-legged man hobbled out from the bushes, like a frontiersman emerging from the Smoky Mountains, and crossed our path.

“Is a single-legged man crossing your path as bad as a black cat? Or is that good luck?” one biker friend asked.

That’s a question to ponder as you speed past Floyd Bennett Field, New York City’s first municipal airport, then traverse the Marine Parkway Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge. It’s better known as “Sweet Jesus, Is This How I’ll Die?” The bike path is Kate Moss–wide, barely big enough for one bicycle, much less two crisscrossing in opposite directions—while a nipple-hardening wind pushes you around like you’re Mike Tyson’s girlfriend.

When you bottom out at bridge end, rewards await: Either jog right to barren, beautiful Fort Tilden State Park (where sunbathers favor going al fresco) or follow the bike path to Jacob Riis Park, where the desolate east end is a noted gay cruising spot. End here? Bah. Not when you’ve come this far. Cruise down the Riis boardwalk, then glide down Rockaway Beach Boulevard for a couple miles until you hit Beach 116th Street. This is Rockaway Beach proper, and the proper ending point. Celebrate with a chilled-glass, three-buck beer at Rogers Irish Tavern (203 Beach 116 St., 718-634-5308), where AARP drinkers provide boisterous company.

“Throw the peanut shells on the floor,” the sun-seasoned waitress will insist, providing a basket of shelled goobers.
Do as she says, then do as I say: Lock up your two-wheeled steed and leap, headfirst into Rockaway Beach’s high, choppy surf. You deserve it. Just like you deserve to take the A train home.

Grab a bike map at your local bike store, or download the map online at nypress.com.
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