Circumnavigating Manhattan: This Actor’s Quest to Exercise her Stubbornness

When last we met, our heroine had managed to drag herself out of her funk through sheer willpower and a gradual aversion to her own B.O. How ladylike. Ahem.

Returning to some semblance of a routine – nutritious meals, waking up before noon, exercising again, doing the NYT crossword puzzle every morning, heck just stepping foot outside the apartment! – helped so much more than I thought it would. But do you know what helped the most? Throwing myself into another project and rediscovering just how stubborn I really am.

On September 17, I read this ARTICLE in the New York Times. In it, the journalist, David G. Allan, chronicles how he walked the perimeter of Manhattan with Cy A. Adler’s book, Walking Manhattan’s Rim: The Great Saunter, as his guide. Exactly how long is this “walk?”

31.7 MILES.

I decided on the spot that I wanted – needed – to walk the walk, too. And, of course, I looked to Eric for company. Ever the indulgent boyfriend, he agreed- as long as he didn’t have to do any of the pre-trip work 🙂 So I began planning for our Urban Adventure.

We set the date (Saturday, October 9, 2010), the time (630am) and the starting location (we live on the East Side, so it seemed logical to start near our apartment, on 1st Avenue and 66th Street). I charted our course using a simple block map and my limited knowledge of where Manhattan’s River Walks are located. I then researched restaurants near Manhattan’s rim, the locations of public restrooms and drinking fountains, and picked a few scenic spots we simply could not miss. I even decided that we should walk clockwise around the island, to minimize the amount of time we’d be in direct sunlight.

Since Eric and I agreed to keep our phones off for the duration of the journey (GPS was to be used only if we were seriously questioning our location), this was our guide:

We also took along my trusty hiking backpack (it’s been with me since I took my first backpacking trip, through Alaska when I was 12) and filled it with Cy A. Adler’s recommendations and some additions of our own. Here’s our packing list:

  • 2 bottles of water (that can be refilled at many public drinking fountains in NYC’s parks)
  • high protein/high carb snacks- our own G.O.R.P. (almonds, cashews, peanuts, dried pineapple, banana chips, yogurt covered raisins), apples, and some Clif bars
  • extra socks (which definitely came in handy halfway through the trip)
  • small first aid kit with mole skin (turned out to be our best friend)
  • vaseline (decreases the pain of chafing in…areas you never thought it was possible to chafe)
  • sunscreen and chapstick (givens- we used these non-stop)
  • knee brace and an ace bandage (precautions- but Eric did end up needing the knee brace)
  • camera (how could we not?!)
  • 2 light jackets (just in case- but it turned out to be a beautiful day so there was no need)
  • small notebook and pencil (…you’ll see why)

At 720am, when we actually got started (someone needed “just ten more minutes” of sleep), Eric thought he’d carry the backpack the whole way, but he quickly realized that I was uhm…a bit on the excited side…and he needed a way to slow me down. As evidenced by this picture, I don’t think it worked 🙂

Since we weren’t using phones – and because Eric and I are not part of community Tweet – I honed my writing-while-walking skills in the small notebook. Read on for a look into our mental states during our long, fruitful journey, transcribed word for word from my chicken scratch:

720am: It begins! Got a later start than we wanted, but we’ve started. I woke up at 615 waaaaay more excited than a sane person would be, but I waited semi-patiently for Eric to gain consciousness. We’re gonna head south on 1st Ave till we reach 35th Street- that’s when the East River Bikeway begins.

756am: Passing the U.N. now. Would have been here sooner, but we needed FOOD! Stopped at the Orchard House Cafe for breakfast sandwiches and coffee (for guess who? ;-p) E is being a great sport…coffee in one hand, sandwich in the other, all while wearing the backpack, but it is definitely funny to see him trying to keep up haha. “Peek! Stop walking to fast, I’m trying to eat here!” I tried so hard to listen but I was excited! 5 minutes later…”Peek! What did I say about the eating!”

822am: Been walking an hour! We’re on the East River Bikeway somewhere in the East Village, and there are a TON of kids’ soccer games going on! Pretty cool. I also didn’t know there was an outdoor track here. E’s foot is starting to feel sad…uh oh because we’ve got like 11 more hours to go! He wants to say that we have been “battling intermittent waves of sewage smell” as we walk.

909am: We’re at Pier 17, just past the Brooklyn Bridge. Desperately needed a stretching break. E still feeling quite sleepy! Our hip sockets are starting to get very sore, which is unexpected – thought our feet would go first.

940am: At South Ferry! Made it to the bottom tip of Manhattan, which means we’re almost 1/4 done with this trek. Watching tourists gawk at the Statue of Liberty is actually very entertaining haha – wait…we just saw one of those fishermen reel in an 8-inch fish! I’ve never seen them catch something before! Go you, dude! It is not so yummy looking though…

1038am: Curved around the bottom of Manhattan and now we’re on the west side. Needed another stretching break so we found a dog-poop free grassy area. Hips, ankles, and quads are starting to cry a bit! We’ve passed a bunch of awesome sculpture gardens – must come back and explore them sometime.

1111am: Just past Chelsea Piers and we need to stop again – E realizes he forgot to cut his toenails (gross, I know, but also ouch!) A quick fix with mole skin (the long-distance traveler’s manna) and we’re on our way again.

1146am: Time for a potty break. You know you’re working hard when you sweat out all you drink…then we reached West 66th street- we’ve made a U!

1218pm: Lunch time! We decided to stop at the 79th Street Boat Basin Cafe for a high protein meal – we’re gonna need energy for the haul up to the top of Manhattan. We wolfed down some mahi mahi tacos, potato leek soup, and black bread. Oktoberfest is in full swing…E really wants a beer (me too!) but that’s probably a bad idea so no Oktoberfest for us 🙁 Eyes on the prize, right? We’ll get beer when we get home. The stop kind of did more harm than good…our feet are starting to hurt! My dogs aren’t barking yet, but they’re definitely looking at me in disdain; E’s are growling under their breath. But we’re 15 blocks from being halfway done!!

123pm: Less than 100 blocks till the top of the West Side! And I made a mistake…I pointed out that if we were on the East Side, we’d be at the top by now…Eric said we could also have just walked crosstown from the Boathouse and been home by now. Maybe he’s getting grumpy? (He says no haha)

158pm: Another stretch break. The GW Bridge is within our sights – when we get there, that’s when we’ll be leaving the Hudson River Greenway for the mean streets. I’m also super surprised – I lived on 125th Street a few years ago, and I had NO idea this whole trail system existed beyond Riverside Park! So pretty. We also found “the beach.”

234pm: We just realized that we have less than one hour to get to the restaurant on 218th Street that we’ve been looking forward to eating in all day before it closes (the Indian Road Cafe- it was founded by 2 guys who worked on production for The Sopranos and the restaurant is filled with furniture from the show!) We really must eat there. MUST. We’re at 165th Street, and it’s tacitly agreed…time to double down. One problem: this is where all the hills start. *deep breath*

318pm: We made it to Indian Road with 10 minutes to spare! Asked the waitress if we could eat if we ordered before 330 and she said of course – the whole place doesn’t close at 330, just the kitchen, to prep for dinner. WOOT! Then again, maybe she just pitied our sweaty, dirt-stained selves…don’t care. Indian Road is a charming establishment, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. They use organic, natural ingredients, cage free eggs, free range chicken, and have a slew of vegetarian/vegan menu options. We shared some vegan biscuits with “sausage” gravy and baked eggs with spinach and fontina. Who knew there was something like this in the middle of Inwood? We’re both just so excited we don’t have to jog/sprint/speed walk any more because our feet are SCREAMING. Hopefully, the break will do us good so the rest of the journey won’t be too bad. As long as we can make it back before dark, we’ll be okay.

404pm: Done eating (E is comatose haha) so we walk the short distance to Inwood Hill Park, then through a gate to the tippy top of the island. Ta da!! We don’t have to rush back, but we’d like to get back asap so we can pamper ourselves! Also time for a bit of TLC on our feet…more mole skin and the changing of the socks. My feet feel like new! Ready for the home stretch.

518pm: Made it to East Harlem, West 155th Street is where the Riverwalk ends. Time to zig zag our way east and south till we get to the next entrance on 120th Street. Time to buckle down…it’s almost dusk.

611pm: We’re almost at the Riverwalk entrance. NOW we’re feeling the pain. Everything hurts. I mean, before, I knew I had overall aches and pains, but now it’s all concentrated…in my feet. E agrees, we’re both limping a bit. These last 3 miles are going to hurt like hell but, comparatively speaking, we’re SO close. Mental lockdown, focused, blinders…we can do this.

748pm: WE MADE ITTTTTT!!! WE’RE ALIIIIIVE!!!!!! I mean barely (the last 60 blocks were torturous and there was pain in every step so we had to play trivia games to distract ourselves) but we did it!! Time to pamper our poor pods. And ourselves 🙂

Walk Start Time: 720am
Walk End Time: 748pm
TOTAL WALKING TIME: 9 hours, 48 minutes

Mind over matter – anything is possible. Please excuse me while I bathe in Tiger Balm.

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