Surf and Turf

A select few of my already select readership will be pleased to know that the newly-paved Putnam Trail through Van Cortlandt Park is officially open:

This simplifies my own riding life considerably, but more importantly it provides me with an ideal place to turn the kids loose on their bikes–though my younger son isn’t quite ready to descend the steep hill and cross the busy street to get to the park yet, so I still have to do a little portaging to get him there:

One of the most challenging aspect of cycling with children is working out what to do when they can’t or won’t continue on under their own power, be it due to traffic, or hills, or exhaustion, or some combination thereof. With a bakfiets-type bike (and remember, you can now make your own bakfiets thanks to esteemed blog sponsor Argo!), when your little one gives up like a broken rider abandoning the Tour de France all you’ve got to do is throw both kid and bike unceremoniously in the cargo hold and get on with it. It’s a bit more challenging on the WorkCycles, but I’ve pulled it off numerous times thanks to the sturdy front rack, and I’m proud to say that over the years I’ve only dumped both child and bike in the middle of a busy street once:

Yes, behold the WorkCycles rearing its cockpit like a mighty Pegasus of Smugness with saddlebag wings:

Speaking of hooved animals, yesterday morning I also encountered a parcel of deer hauling ass down the path, so they seem to be getting good use out of it too:

I live in a bucolic wonderland.

Even so, sometimes I feel compelled to trade all this woodland beauty for some sand and surf, so yesterday I piled the kids into THE CAR THAT I OWN OUTRIGHT BECAUSE I FINISHED PAYING BACK THOSE FASCIST BULLYBOYS AT THE BANK and made for the beach.

It was already late when we left, and traffic was heavy, but it was worth it because we got there before the sun punched out for the day and got to watch it clocking out:

Deer and other furry mammals are okay, I guess, but there’s nothing quite as amazing and otherworldly as the primordial life forms that emerge from the ocean:

Now that’s bulletproof engineering. Did you know horseshoe crabs have been around for 450 million years? It’s basically just a helmet with legs, and every creature that’s come since is pretentious by comparison.

Then you have the jellyfish, which is even older, despite having taken the exact opposite approach to existence:

One’s hard and spiky, the other’s soft and squishy, but they’re both simple as fuck, and I think there’s a lesson in there for all of us.

Of course there are the creatures that live in the ocean, and then there are the creatures that live around the ocean. Of the latter, one of the more entertaining to watch is the sandpiper:

These are the birds that feed at the water’s edge:

Until a wave comes, at which point they all run their asses off:

Then when the wave recedes they go back to where they were feeding, only to repeat the process when the next one inevitably comes rolling in.

Neither my crappy photography nor my lousy prose adequately capture the comic absurdity of how these birds feed themselves, but fortunately we have GIFs:

Interestingly, this same approach also applies to New York City’s Pando response (“We’re open!” “We’re closed again!” Etc.), and in that sense the sandpiper is very much 2020’s spirit animal.

Still, when it comes to creatures that live around the ocean, none can rival the comic absurdity of human beings. At the beach, it’s hard not to see the ocean as a giant metaphor for the vast, roiling, unknowable mystery of life, and to consider the many different ways each of us choose to relate to it at any given moment. Some people are content simply to lie beside it, while some do futile battle with the surf, squealing with delight as the waves knock them down over and over again. Then there are the people floating otter-like on their backs, or bobbing like buoys astride surfboards boards as they wait patiently for the one perfect wave they can ride gracefully back to shore. Some people are even willing to stand by the ocean day in and day out, watching a line in the hope that before the sun goes down they’ll be able to pull something edible out of it.

On this day, for us, the ocean served as the backdrop for general merriment, and we returned home both sandier and happier for it. Certainly we could have entertained ourselves closer to home, but sometimes even a simple performance deserves a world-class venue.

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