Why I Ride...
"I don't know art, but I know what I like." It's the first thing that came to mind when I read the why I ride section. I don't know if I can put into words my reasons for riding.
I have a deep love for the town I grew up in, and it's colorful history. Riding around town, I take small trips in time. Originally, it was named Pennataquit after the native American tribe that had settled there. I pedaled past Pennataquit Avenue. It changed names to Mechanicsville sometime in the late 1800's and I ride back in time down Mechanicsville Road to Fourth Avenue. On Fourth Avenue, there is a three-story building called the Keystone building. It is an old building covered in ivy and is now for sale, however it was once known as Vitagraph Studios. The first 20 shorts of the Krazy Keystone Kops were filmed there.
Next, it's down Main Street, and sepia images come to mind of dirt roads, general stores, and horse drawn carriages. If only those people, who'd frequently traveled by horse or bicycle could only see the recumbent rig I ride now. The looks on their faces would be priceless. The old town firehouse is now a bar, the original one room library is now a lawyer's office, and the old horses stables are a new office building. I can see them for what they really are, though. I turn right, and ride behind the stores until I come to Maple Street, and I stop pedaling at the old Dr. Kings Hospital. I look for a moment and think of the book he had written describing the town around the turn of the century. It was called "Doctor on a Bicycle". Yes, he made his house calls on a bicycle. His house is still attached to the hospital, which is now a room-for-rent apartment building. I give a halfhearted smile to appreciate what it once was, and a shrug to wonder how it had become what it is. This building had housed the first X-ray machine on Long Island.
I pedal again, and roll past the historical homes along maple. I rode past the home where Oliver Hardy had once lived, and spent many a wild night entertaining. His most frequent guest was none other than Charlie Chaplain himself. I roll down to the docks where the ferries have been carrying passengers to the barrier beaches of Fire Island for almost one hundred years. I look across the waterway to Benjamin Beach and Marina, where there are dozens of boats, lots of pavement, a boat launch, and a small strip of sand that is what is left of the beach. Other than that small strip of sand, the entire marina is manmade. Before air-conditioning, many of the townsfolk would ride down Clinton Avenue, dismount their horse and carriages and go for a swim.
Headed north, I pass where the old taverns, bars, and hotels used to be and make a left back on to Main Street. I pass the field where the old state police barracks used to be. Making a right, I pedal around the lakes where many a canoe used to paddle, and around it an artist colony once thrived amidst the clay Spanish roof tiles and stucco archways. Many vaudeville acts got their start right here. I head west along Main yet again, passing the houses where many of the town's famous natives live or lived. I pass the house where the Gouldens, heirs to the Goulden's mustard fortune once lived. I pedal my way past the home where Mario Puzo, author of The Godfather once lived.
On my way back home, I cruise past Sagtikos Manor, where George Washington once stayed. I used to chuckle to myself thinking about how there are thousands of locations that make that very same claim, until one day I found out that it was true and in President Washington's memoirs. The alleged shot fired at him however was false, though. It had simply been fired by a British soldier who had been easily startled while alone in the manor. As I ride back home, I often think about the rich history of this island, and better yet, of my town.I'll bet you didn't know that my bike was a time machine, did you?