New York City Diary

Words and pictures from my interesting life in New York.

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Location: Brooklyn, New York, United States

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Hudson River Kayak Adventure

Today Jenn and I did something we've wanted to do for a long time: we went kayaking on the Hudson River from a pier in downtown Manhattan. It was great.

There are several kayak outfitters on the river, but the New York City Downtown Boathouse offers free walk-up kayaking. Yes, absolutely free, though if you're cool you'll put some money in their donation box. This volunteer organization wants to get people involved with ecologically-friendly river activities such as kayaking, so they allow people to borrow kayaks and paddle around in an area between two large piers. The catch is, you can only go out for 20 minutes, and you have to stay within the defined area. But there's plenty of room to paddle around comfortably if you're a novice, and, unless there's somebody waiting to go after you, they'll usually let you stay out on the water longer.

If you really enjoy your introductory kayak adventure, you can sign up for longer trips, included guided kayak tours to Coney Island, the Tappan Zee Bridge (a 50-mile round trip), and the famous Manhattan Circumnavigation.

So this morning I strapped Zach into the baby carrier and Jenn, Zach, and I took the subway to Houston Street, then walked west to Pier 40, on the Hudson River. The kayak place is on the south side of the pier, about half way out.

We initially weren't going to do it this weekend, since we couldn't get a babysitter, or rather, today wasn't the day to shell out the dough for a sitter. But we figured one of us could watch Zachary while the other went out in a kayak and then do a baby hand-off, and it worked out just fine. Zach was very well-behaved and happy to be out with his parents on a nice day.

Jenn went first for about a half-hour in total, and then I got to go out for about the same amount of time. It was fantastic. The weather was beautiful, and the water was just a little wavy, enough to give that feeling of the motion of the ocean that stays with you throughout the day. I can still kind of feel the waves as I sit here at my desk. Up and down, up and down.

The views of lower Manhattan and even Jersey City from the water were great. Neither of us came close to capsizing, though one guy did it on purpose to practice capsize recovery techniques. As you can see from the photos (click to make them big), these are open-top ocean kayaks, so it's not like you'd get stuck upside down if you didn't know how to right yourself, you'd just get dumped out.

Anyway, it's been written about before, and I've even blogged about it for another site, but now I've actually done it and can say definitively that New York kayaking is one of the coolest and cheapest things you can do on a summer weekend.

Pizza Slice = Subway Fare

I've lived in New York City a dozen years now, and in that time I've noticed a few things. One of the things I've noticed, being a big pizza eater and subway rider, is that the price of a slice of plain, cheese pizza from your standard neighborhood pizzeria is almost always the same price as a single ride on the subway.

When I first moved to New York in November 1994 one subway token was $1.25, and so was a slice of pizza. Then, in 1995, the fare went to $1.50, and within weeks, pizza did the same. Now we use MetroCards, which do offer volume discounts, but the price of a single ride is $2, and a standard slice of pizza is also $2. As the New York kids say, "Yo, let me get a slice."

Well, get ready for another subway fare increase. My local pizza shop, Sal's Pizza on Lorimer Street in Brooklyn, recently raised the price of a plain slice to $2.25. I wonder how long it will take for the subway fare to catch up. The funny thing is, the very next morning after I found out about Sal's pizza price increase, I heard on the radio some news story about how the MTA is starting to make noise about another fare hike. I smiled.

Has anybody else noticed the pizza/subway parity? How far do you think it goes back?