The weather here in NJ hasn’t been the best for motorcyclists this spring. It’s made planning rides an iffy thing, at best. Pam’s been making it her business to fill the calendar with good rides and events now that my Dyna’s configured for passenger comfort. So I was glad when I woke to clear skies and reasonable temperatures for the Freedom Run to Ground Zero. Pam’s was really looking forward to this event.
We planned to meet some folks from bikerornot.com up at Bergen H-D. (We’re riding a charity run with them later in the month.) It meant leaving the house kind of early for a high-speed blast up the New Jersey Turnpike. The Freedom Run turned out to be a huge event – maybe bigger than the organizers anticipated. I heard estimates between 4,000 and 6,000 bikes and I believe it. Staging and registration were chaotic and eventually they shut registration down completely. There was a definite advantage to being there earlier rather than later!
Even as close to the front as we were it took the better part of a half hour before we wheeled out of the parking lot. (Later, talking to others further back, I learned it took more than another hour to empty the lot.)
The route was to be a simple one: Route 80, across the George Washington Bridge, down the east side of Manhattan, across the Financial District to loop around the Ground Zero site, slightly north to the Holland Tunnel, then through the tube to Liberty State Park back in Jersey for the after-party. Now, how do you think they move that many bikes along that simple but well-traveled route? Why they close the roads, of course!
Have you ever experienced George Washington Bridge traffic? Even at best it’s awful, certainly NOT biker friendly. It’s very, very different when the police block traffic to let thousands of bikes pass. As for those that needed to stop and wait – probably for more than an hour – well, it sucked to be them.
The Holland Tunnel was interesting, too. Loud pipes are, well, loud in tunnels. Riding with a dozen or two is awesome. When the tunnel is filled with bikes it’s simply beyond description.
And that’s the way it was: roads closed to auto traffic, open to a rather large number of bikes. The entire route was, for the most part, non-stop – at least for those of us in the front. I heard that toward the back things were different. Drivers, after being trapped for a long time watching an uncountable number of bikes go by, were not pleased. The results of that were, well, predictable. I heard some less-experienced riders commenting that this Freedom Run was to be their last.
Ground Zero? As it happened we stopped briefly as we worked our way through traffic. But there wasn’t much to see – a chain link fence draped with opaque plastic blocked vision from the street. Pam, less familiar with the area from ground-level, didn’t even realize we were there until we had already passed the site! Still, it was an emotional moment.
We got plenty of pictures from the road. If you’ve got a few minutes then why not go and check ’em out.
The after-party was kind of a non-event. We ate a little lunch (no beer!) and wandered the vendors while listening to the band. Nothing we haven’t seen a million times before. We bought some helmet stickers (mine was fairly empty, having been replaced earlier this year) and found some excellent silver jewelry to follow up later. (edit: I’d give ’em a link – tildeath925.com – but the site’s dead. Jason’s a nice guy, I hope his business hasn’t gone tits up.) Must be the economy, the vendor turnout was pretty small, so we left. The Turnpike extension on the way back was jammed up solid with traffic. But we tagged along with a contingent of bikes using the shoulder, led by a couple of Hackensack Police bikes. That had to have saved at least an hour. It was much appreciated, thanks boys!
All in all it was a very good day!