As long as conditions permit, I try to bike to work. From my apartment to my workplace in lower Manhattan I use one of three routes – each one around 10 miles in length (give or take a mile) and each one causing varying amounts of stress. The first route, which I take when I’m pressed for time, runs down 2nd avenue and is pretty unmemorable. The second route, which I take when I want a little extra fresh air and a fair dose of verbal/physical abuse, goes along the west edge of Manhattan alongside the Hudson River. Despite it having the longest stretch of uninterrupted bike-way, it’s one I largely avoid because of the chaotic crosstown section in midtown. The third, and by far my favorite, route is the longest but also the most relaxing of the bunch. It bypasses all the craziness of midtown Manhattan, cuts through Queens and Brooklyn, and eventually dumps you on southern tip of Manhattan. It’s on these rides that I bring along my backup/daily driver, the A6000.
Despite the addition of an extra mile and a half and an additional bridge to climb, the variety of neighborhoods that I pass make it worth the extra effort. The distinct cultures that create these neighborhoods also provide endless visual opportunities. I’m constantly tempted to pull over to snap photos but I almost always end up finding an excuse not to.
“Oh, that’ll be there next week.”
“I should hurry and get to work.”
“It’s too cold- I gotta keep moving.”
“That man is wearing a bikini and he’s brandishing a charred 2×4. I think I should keep going.”
But there’s one particular stretch, tucked between the Manhattan Bridge and the Brooklyn bridge, where the temptation was constant. Every morning, in the aptly named Two Bridges section, I pass by a group of octogenarian Asian women performing their daily Tai Chi. Even when the mercury dips below freezing they’re out there (some forgoing coats or any outer layer) smoothly lunging from side to side in relative synchronicity. One particularly frigid morning, I spotted the group in their usual spot. But this time they had come with accessories: bright red fans. They caught my eye as soon as they pulled them out of a black duffel bag and after weeks of observing them, I finally decided to pull over.
I took off my gloves, pulled my balaclava down to my chin, and grabbed my camera from my trunk bag.
As my digits began to feel the bite of the late November air, I frantically scanned the area for the best vantage point. I found a perch out of the way of oncoming cyclists and joggers behind a concrete barrier, did my best to compose shots with my numb fingers and hoped for the best. With the Manhattan Bridge and the morning sky slicing between the shadows of the FDR overhead and the park, I snapped a dozen or so shots before my quads began to tighten up.
I shoved my camera in my trunk bag, waved goodbye, and hurried to work. A month later, I began submitting my photos to National Geographic’s Your Shot and in my first submission made sure to include my favorite capture from that morning. A few weeks later, out of the blue, I received an unexpected email saying my shot was chosen for their Nat Geo Daily Dozen. I squealed like a little girl. I was ecstatic. I was also grateful. Grateful that I had successfully battled the urge to continue on to work that day. Grateful that the sun was out and that I wasn’t running late to work. But most of all grateful to the determined old ladies, who braved the sub-freezing temperatures to get their daily exercise.