The Peanut Butter Game (USA Day 2)
They call it the city that never sleeps, but I slept great!
Over a hotel breakfast that centred around cook-your-own-waffles (and I did), we played the cycle tourists’ favourite game, The Peanut Butter Game. The aim is to pocket as many sachets of the calorific paste as possible before the time runs out, or before you get caught. We changed one rule, replacing the words ‘peanut butter’ for ‘all available foods’ and walked out with breakfast enough for a few days. If you tell anyone, though, I’ll fill your pencil case with oatmeal. You know I have the means to do so.
I tottered off down 6th Avenue like a proper little American for a meeting and recording session at Simon and Schuster’s grand offices while Amy stayed at the hotel, devising an organised packing strategy that I’ve already contravened (to her burning ire) at least thrice.
On the way home it rained torrentially, a foul sewage smell wafting up from the Metro steam vents in response. This city is just more than London in each way it wants to be: it’s on the edge both at the bottom and top of society, but edgy also in fashion, in mood, in attitude. A heavily-muscled, heavily-tattoed, topless man strode a small circle, yelling an impassioned, furious tirade at the top of his lungs to two blokes on bikes. The security guard as I left my office had been yelling his conversation to another security guard at least twenty metres away like a game of full-force verbal tennis. I guess I’m used to people keeping themselves to themselves a little more. But I kinda love it.
Once we’d checked out from the hotel, we got permission from the manager to tinker with our bikes down in the basement in order to travel with our full packs to our first WarmShowers host, rather than lugging the whole lot by hand. It was hot down there, and because the only fan doubled as an air freshener, you’d get a cloying faceful of artificial summer breeze with each cooling breath of artificial summer breeze.
With our pre-existing pannier racks, saddles, bottle cages, phone mounts and handlebar bags to fit, amongst other things, we tinkered away merrily underground. Of course, nothing fit right, we didn’t have the exact tools and so on. Blood, sweat and tears later, we’d done it, and emerged like butterflies from our chrysalises into the hotel lobby, lugging bikes fit to cycle the length of America. Also, we probably smelled great having been bombarded with airborne patchouli for three and a half hours.
The ride up through central park was phenomenal. Amy went from tentative first few pedal strokes (accompanied by the occasional ‘ooorgh!’ as she contended with her first set of cleated pedals, her first drop handlebars, her first four-pannier array and her first end-of-handlebar-located gear levers) to confident outriding by the time we reached the lake, and from then on it was as if she’d ridden this beast for life.
Our Surly Disc Truckers, thirtieth birthday presents for us both, from pretty much everyone we know (including ourselves, because these things weren’t cheap) feel incredible – smooth, stable, totally capable on hills even with massive weight and very zippy downhill. The brakes squeak quite tunefully in the rain, though, and they’re much more gradual than Amy’s used to, even for disc brakes, because they’re not hydraulic. Nevertheless, they’re magnificent.
We now stay in Morningside, up near Columbia University, in a gorgeous Arts-and-Crafts movement apartment block that includes a roof terrace with views of, well, everything. We sat up there amongst the haze of a post-rain evening, eating multiple small fruit pots with yoghurt, then headed out for another circuit of Central Park to practise using the cleats, before heart-achingly-good sourdough pizza from ‘Mama’s Too’ as a fittingly-dramatic thunderstorm crashed down around our little red stools. Pizza twice in two days? Yeah, we have an excuse, but we’re not telling you.