28th Annual Peter Odell Memorial Ride to NYC

Since 1995, the Bicycle Club of Philadelphia has hosted a fully supported ride to New York City. Their route offered plenty of fun surprises and it's always fun to ride into another city, but the highlight for me was being able to share this experience with my family.

28th Annual Peter Odell Memorial Ride to NYC
Bicycle Club of Philadelphia riders wait to cross Broadway after riding into New York City.
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The Bicycle Club of Philadelphia (BCP) has for decades been the region's premier cycling club, currently boasting over 600 members, over 400 routes in its Ride With GPS library, dozens of recurring weekly and ad hoc rides hosted by trained leaders, numerous special events and fundraising rides throughout the year, and a vast wealth of accumulated knowledge and resources. That's just the tip of the iceberg.

On September 3, BCP hosted its 28th annual Peter Odell Memorial Ride, which features three ride options between Philly and NYC. SAG supported A/B/C level rides departed with routes from 30th Street Station (130 mile option), New Hope (90 mile option), and Basking Ridge, NJ (50 mile option) all culminating in Brooklyn, NY. Registration reached capacity across the three events and, at the end of the day, riders could return home via motorcoach or spend the night at accommodations secured thanks to the hard work of BCP.

This was a long-anticipated and special ride for me because I got to share it with both my wife and my mom. My mom, 70 years old, has been a member of BCP for years at this point and is on track to log 1,000 miles on Strava for 2023. My wife, Steph, learned the pleasures of cycling with me as we used bikes to explore and get around during our time living together in Pensacola, FL.

The three of us have totally different relationships with bicycles, but the opportunity to share that bond and build new memories while pedaling together into New York City would be absolutely priceless. We registered for, trained a bit together, and waited all summer for the 50 mile ride from Basking Ridge to Brooklyn.

A jovial group of thirteen riders rolled out at 9am with perfect temps under sunny September skies. Longtime BCP leaders George Yarnell and Chuck Herbert would lead us from the rural New Jersey piedmont through Union County and the Cities that make up New York's 'suburbs.'

Warming up, we progressed through the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, a massive and invaluable wilderness area resting in the footprint of a prehistoric glacial lake. Nestled amidst the nation's densest metropolitans, the refuge was preserved on land that in the 1950s was slated to become NYC's fourth international airport.

The Great Swamp gave way to the Watchung Reservation, a wooded park nestled in the valley between two namesake ridges. This section contained the bulk of the day's climbing, which the group wound up steadily and with a smile.

Do you like climbing? I can tell you that my wife doesn't. lol. At the end of the day when she told me that the climbs in the Watchung were her favorite part, my heart skipped a beat <3. She'd finally cracked the code. Whatever's the source of that visceral joy found in conquering something painful, Steph unexpectedly discovered it in the hills of New Jersey.

George and Chuck led us onto a multi-use path through Lenape Park while telling tales of an Italian deli just a few more miles up the road. Stopping for lunch at Massimo Deli in Kenilworth has become a tradition on the Odell ride. The servers there sliced meat fresh for every sandwich order and by the time I was finishing my sandwich my eyes were popping out of my skull and I had to save my dessert for later. Satisfied and reenergized, the group rolled on.

Rolling hills and wooded vistas faded into memory as we inched closer to The Big Apple through Elizabeth. Anticipation was building as we approached the Goethals Bridge, whose wide and separated path would carry us over the tidal straits of Arthur Kill and into Staten Island, NYC. The mile-long crossing offers early glimpses of the city's iconic and never ending skyline.

Traversing Staten Island's north shore isn't necessarily one of the ride's highlights, but it is a super convenient route toward the center of the universe. The Staten Island Ferry, which is free to ride and departs every 15 minutes, is one of the ride's highlights and can carry thousands of passengers at a time past Lady Liberty's gaze toward Lower Manhattan.

We embarked on the Empire State Trail where mom was positively dazzled by the quality of the bike path and the awe-inspiring stature of the World Trade Center. Two short miles in Manhattan brought us to the Brooklyn Bridge, which took us to the home stretch to Nu Hotel in Brooklyn Heights where snacks, beers, and showers awaited.

After a well-deserved dinner and digestif walk along waterfront Brooklyn Bridge Park with Steph, my mom, and her friend Terry, we enjoyed libations with riders from all three events before boarding the shuttle back to 30th Street.

BCP unsurprisingly knocked it out of the park on this one. Their years of planning and perfecting the route provided a safe and epic family adventure that we'll always remember and definitely try again.

I asked a BCP Director if there's anything else they'd like me to share with The Trellis's audience and they mentioned simply that the club is looking for younger members. As an all-volunteer, non-profit organization with decades of excellence and a $10,000 budget for charitable donations to other Philly area bicycle initiatives, you'd be hard pressed to find a better way to spend $20 than registering for an annual membership with BCP and tagging along for the ride.