I’m not sure how New York City ended up on my route map – probably because at some point in my planning and map-studying I determined that it’s wrong to be so close to the city that never sleeps and not stop… right?!
Regardless of how it happened, it did happen – and it was a wild ride from start to finish.
Wild places are my favorite – places where man-built is minimal and overshadowed by nature, where you can feel like the only person in a vast wilderness of Earth, swallowed up by mountain and wind-blown brush and trees that sing a siren’s song.
In New York City, I was swallowed up by an ocean of people with a rip current that shoved and prodded and moved massive throngs as if they were one. It is definitely a wild place, just in a different kind of way.
My first night, after making dinner on my little stove in a Trader Joe’s parking lot, I parked outside of a Starbucks in Staten Island to “borrow” their internet. I got in a writing zone, as often happens, and looked up a couple of hours later to a huge, deserted parking lot, with all of the surrounding shops closed… and a dead car battery. (I’m still getting used to having a car that doesn’t turn its lights off automatically… and apparently if you don’t get out of the car, it doesn’t ding at you when you shut it off and the lights are still on.)
I got out and turned in a circle in that parking lot, looking up at all of the lights that stretched so high in the sky they almost looked like stars, somehow isolated in a city where it is impossible to be isolated.
I hardly had a chance to wonder how I was going to sort it out before a beat-up SUV came careening into the parking lot, screeching to a crooked stop beside my car. A man jumped out and ran toward Starbucks, pulling on the doors even though it was very obviously closed.
He didn’t get his coffee, but I got a jump.
Relying on the kindness of strangers is a necessity of life on the road, I’m discovering. It’s a beautiful aspect of this lifestyle.
I “hiked” 35 miles through the streets of NYC, got lost in a world of art at the Frick Museum (which, by the way, has two hours of a pay-what-you-can entrance rate on Sundays,) played yoga in Central Park, and, in general, was in awe of the sheer size of humanity at every turn.
Getting out of the city proved to be the biggest challenge of my trip thus far, thanks to a dead phone (translation: no map,) and my determination to avoid tolls. Manhattan is an island, after all, and I discovered that NYC in general likes to put tolls on their bridges.