Word of the day 1: Beacon
A guiding or warning signal by light or fire, especially one that is high up in the air
Word of the day 2: Palisades
Stakes, a line of steep cliffs along a river or ocean
The riders were very excited today to head across state lines to New Jersey! Our lesson started off by going over the word of the day “beacon”. We learned that beacon is relevant to today’s ride because of the Little Red Lighthouse right by the Manhattan side of the George Washington Bridge. The riders smartly remembered that we had passed the lighthouse on last week’s Inwood Hill Park Ride! JiaMei taught us that one similarity between the Manhattan and Jersey sides of the GWB is that both were home to forts during the American Revolution (Fort Lee in NJ and Fort Washington in NYC).
We also learned that across the Hudson River, on the NJ side of the GWB, is home to the Palisades. The Palisades is a line of steep cliff formations that stretch around 20 miles along the river. We had a great view of the cliffs when we were along the Hudson River Greenway on last week’s ride. Interestingly, Lenape Indians (who inhabited the Inwood area of NYC, as we also learned last week) used to call the Palisades, “Weehawken” which means “rocks that look like rows of trees.” Today, Weehawken is the name of a town right across the river from Midtown Manhattan.
After some history, it was time to move onto current events. We talked about a recent article in the New York Times that reported on how a GWB biker saved a man from committing suicide. It was a heartwarming story and taught the riders that
George Washington Bridge Ride:
Before biking, Cappy prepared the solar oven that would hopefully completely cook the raw egg on this ride. As we did throughout last week, the riders walked their bikes down from the Beacon school to 1st Avenue, where we rehearsed our biking hand signals and calls. Then, we proceeded to bike north until East 115th street where we made a left until we hit St. Nicholas Avenue. Continuing to ride north of Manhattan through Washington Heights, we ultimately made a left on West 179th Street onto the George Washington Bridge.
Once we were on the bridge, we made stopped on the side of the pedestrian path to take in the beautiful view looking south on Manhattan and the Eastern coastline, and the palisades, of New Jersey. We learned that the best way to remember “stalagmite” from “stalactite” is that “stalag-might-reach-the-ceiling”, meaning that stalagmites are formed from the ground up, with the opposite being true of stalactites. Cappy told us that New Jersey used to be completely submerged in water, and as a result, formed the beautiful NJ Palisades we now see today. Also, we noticed the similarities between the sites located on the NJ side and the NY side of the bridge, including Fort Lee on the NJ side, and Fort Washington on the NY side. Needless to say, the bridge spans across and important water channel (the Hudson River) used by both US and British troops. From our view, we could just make out our three Eureka! moments from our previous ride: The Pumpkin House, the Lighthouse, and the Greek Pavilion!
After crossing the bridge, which was relatively flat, we made a right onto Hudson Terrace where we rode north amidst the beautiful woods and tall cliffs all the way until reaching the Englewood Boat Basin. We ate our lunch here, and played in a small flowing stream by the dock where we found seeds that resembled boats that we used to race down the flowing water. While playing, we spotted two new and interesting insects. The first was a shiny blue-colored beetle-looking insect that we later discovered was called the Steel Blue Cricket Hunter, a species of wasp that does not particularly harm humans. The second insect was a dark-colored caterpillar with some orange spots, which feeds only on Pipevine and is thereby called the Pipevine Swallowtail. This species of butterfly feeds on the poisonous Pipevine plant that does not harm the butterfly itself but actually harms its predators that wish to eat the caterpillar. (See images below)
During this time, we also collected a water sample from the drinking water in the New Jersey Park. We predicted that New York drinking water would have a higher quality since, as we learned before, NY’s drinking water is tested thousands of times per week.
After frolicking around some more, we got back onto our bikes and headed back the way we came. We even stopped for a geocache, but we came up empty-handed since it looked like it was hidden somewhere on the clifftops. Although the ride back to the GW Bridge was long and mostly uphill, we made sure to rehydrate frequently and take in the last of the breath-taking palisades and forrest.
Re-crossing the GW Bridge back to Manhattan, we rode east back onto St. Nicholas Avenue. From there, we rode down Riverside Park where we passed by a second Greek Pavilion that looked like the one we saw on our Inwood Hill Park ride, except that this pavilion was a bit smaller and did not immediately overlook the water. We continued riding south until reaching West 100th street, where we made a left and crossed into Central Park before emerging on the opposite side of the park on East 102nd street. From then, it was an easy bike ride down 5th Avenue to East 96th Street. There, we made our usual left turn until reaching 3rd Avenue and the Beacon School! Although today was one of our longest rides, we had fun riding to a completely different state and seeing so much more of the ecology unique to the area.
Alberto Rivero, Cappy Collins, Akeem Williams, Lauren Lee, JiaMei Huang, Emera de los Santos, Celeste Matsui
Program time (hours): 7 hours
Ride time (hours): 4 hours
Calories burned*: 597
Water Quality Monitoring Results
Estimates based on 100lbs, 5′ 2″ ht, 13 yo, average between male and female.