Return to Central Park

I like my routines and left to my own devices I’d live what most would consider a pretty boring life. Work, exercise, gardening, eat, sleep and in the winter, ski. Even crazier, I’m not fond of travel. I love being in amazing places, I just don’t like getting there.

10 Columbus Circle

Last week I traveled by train to New York City for a conference and to meet new clients. Easy travel for sure, unless you compare it to my daily commute, two blocks on foot.

My travel itinerary was pretty simple. Northeast Corridor Rail to NY Penn Station, The 7th Avenue “1” train to 59th street and into the complex at 10 Columbus Circle. It’s a modern shopping center with a theater that is used for musical performances and meetings.

The conference was two full days of industry leaders presenting their market insights, sprinkled with sales pitch for their companies. At the end of the long first day, I wanted to check out Central Park, which was only two blocks from my hotel.

I’d been to Central Park years before when I was in college. Back then, in the summer, Pepsi sponsored a 24-hour bike race. The loop ridden in the park was exactly 5 miles and every time you completed a lap they stamped your paper jersey. At the end of the day your stamps were counted and you were awarded prizes based on the distance you rode.

rat rock in central park
Rat Rock

It was quite an experience. The day started at noon, and it was sunny, and crowded with thousands of people. Pepsi made it fun and a lot of people came out. Most quit before sunset. After dark there were only a handful of hardcore pros and a few hundred wannabees, like me, shooting for 200 miles.

It soon became evident that a group of ten riders was working together, to push one rider beyond 400 miles to win it. They rode in five rows of two with the “chosen one” on the inside in row two. A variety of guys rotated into the “pin” as they called it, in the first row doing the hard work. The true pin, on riders left, actually sat up a little to protect the favored rider.

The most amazing thing was that they allowed wannabees in their formation as long as we could keep up and most importantly “stay straight.” They repeated the phrase dozens of times overnight.  Stay straight! Stay straight! Stay straight!

I rode with the pack for eighty miles and for most of that I was in row three behind the champion. The guy who was pin during most of that run was animal. He probably exerted more effort over 80 miles than the leader did the whole day. It was an experience I remember clearly forty years later.

As you might imagine until now, Central Park was an awesome and mysterious place to me. What I saw this week was different and likely more in line with reality.

This beautiful park was imagined in 1850s on 800 acres in the center of one of the most densely populated parts of the world. The land for this National Historic Landmark was set aside for the future and the return on that investment is off the charts.

I was in the park on a beautiful, sunny, late afternoon and hundreds of people were enjoying the park.  Running, biking, playing baseball, climbing, reading, sleeping, talking and more all in harmony. It was something to see.  Once again, I find myself grateful for the thoughtfulness of our forefathers in New York.

5 comments on “Return to Central Park

  1. Thanks for posting this story and wish you had called us! We are in the city you know ;). Central Park, Riverside Park and Prospect Park (to name three of the many parks in NYC), truly save NYC from all of its concrete. The South loop you were on is probably one of the most desired areas to be in NYC, and it a great destination to escape the madness of NYC, without really leaving it.

    Great story and as always, great shots.

  2. The only things I miss about NYC are the endless options for food and Central Park. For most of the ’90s I skated in the park nearly every night from the time I got out of work until about 10pm. Behind Sheep Meadow guys would bring in PA systems on hand trucks running off car batteries and it was a huge party Tue-Sat. Mamacitas pushed shopping carts with meals of chicken, rice and beans and guys with other carts would sell beer.

    When the pedestrians and stroller people exited as darkness fell, we would take to the sideways and roadways. Exhilarating downhill runs from improbable locations: Belvedere Castle, MOMA, The Ramble. I’ve never found another place with as vibrant a skater community or as many places to seek adventure.

  3. I have fond memories of biking in Central Park on weekends with my father, older brother, and a classmate and his father. My family had folding bikes that we took on the bus to get to my friend’s apartment, which was a block from Central Park. Great times! Also learned to ice skate at the round outdoor skating rink. Back then I hated the cold but worth it for skating.

    We lived walking distance to Riverside Park. That’s actually become better in recent years than it used to be.

  4. I like walking across Central Park on my way to the Metropolitan Museum. Most recently roller skied there about 5 years ago. In the early 90s when inline skating was all the rage, I roller skied Central Park a few times with Manhattan friends and all I heard from inline skaters was, “watch the sticks!”

    Great piece harv.

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