Dan Heldridge’s neighbors on Birch Lane in Larchmont Village are from Finland, and they love to go on long walks. “I mean LONG walks,” he stressed. On Saturday, April 17, he joined them on a 20-mile walk from the gazebo in Larchmont Manor Park to Grand Central Station.
Amazingly, the journey required only three roads: the Boston Post Road to the South Bronx, then Third Avenue to Manhattan, and then Park Avenue to Grand Central Station.
“Timo Karpinnen is the CFO of Nokia and he comes from a family of athletes — hockey players and olympic medalists in cross country skiing,” said Mr. Heldridge, as he anticipated the adventure. “I’m sure he’ll finish the journey and want to walk back again!”
The three Larchmonters DID make it all the way to Grand Central, with Mr. Heldridge snapping digital photos and taking notes. The following is his recap:
We had a great walk today. The diversity of the Boston Post Road never ceased to amaze us—it took us through beautiful woods and along vast stretches of auto repair and custom rim shops. It led us over soaring bridges, and past dozens of McDonalds restaurants and hair extension salons — it even took us to a camel paddock.
We heard English, Spanish, Patua, Chinese and Arabic, and virtually everyone we met on our journey was polite and helpful. Having been warned repeatedly about the dangers of the South Bronx, we found that the people there were the most warm and friendly of all.
It took us about eight hours to complete the walk, but this included three stops for meals and rest. The time passed quickly, and we were thoroughly entertained from start to finish. Here’s a synopsis of our journey:
7:30 am We begin to walk from the gazebo at Manor Park; weather is cool and good for walking; we think about going home for gloves, but decide against it; we hike down Pryer Manor Road and end up on the Boston Post Road, our route for the next few hours.
8:25 am We reach the Welcome to New Rochelle sign on the Pelham-New Rochelle border, near the I-95 overpass by Home Depot.
A Pelham police officer is laying traffic cones; we tell him we are walking to Grand Central Station — he says we are crazy and warns us about passing through the 3rd Avenue area of the South Bronx. Sari tells him we’ll call him if we get in trouble. Off we go, following Sari’s pace of 6Km per hour.
Entering the Bronx now—there are more auto repair shops here than there are automobiles.
Timo develops pain in hip; Sari’s hands are a bit swollen and painful from not having gloves; Dan’s legs are stiffening; we need to make our first stop so we are looking for a suitable place.
Some older men are chatting on a street corner in the Bronx; we ask if they know of a good place for breakfast. The tall man says, “There’s a good diner down the Post Road on the left, just past Gun Hill Road.”
“It’s the best diner in the Bronx,”another says, and they all chuckle.
10:30am We arrive at the Royal Coach Diner, with its sign boasting “Best Diner in the Bronx.” After several hours of walking, it is the best diner in the world!
Now entering the Bronx Zoo area — excellent area for walking. Didn’t know that the Boston Post Road is actually called “JungleWorld Road” for about a mile. We get lost when Jungle World Road seems to dead-end in the Asia Parking Lot. We divert to the side and try to re-connect with the Post Road, but find ourselves in front of a paddock full of camels. Eventually we find the park exit that rejoins us with the Post Road and we continue heading south.
At 166th Street we see a gargantuan Gothic building. An older woman passing by tells us it is Morris High School, where Colin Powell went to school. She is amazed that we started our walk in Larchmont in the morning and she wishes us well.
After 163rd Street, our Post Road finally disappears and we are on 3rd Avenue in the South Bronx. Hard to believe we received so many warnings about this area — it is a vibrant shopping district and the walking is good.
Now we’re getting genuinely tired and we need another stop before the assault on Manhattan. We find a small diner on 3rd Avenue and treat ourselves to pancakes and French toast to get back some energy. The waiter recommends that we avoid the 3rd Avenue bridge — the Willis Avenue bridge is more pedestrian-friendly. Timo has been glued to his Nokia phone — it has been navigating for us well, and it was recommending the 3rd Avenue bridge, but we elect to go with the local advice. We divert to Willis Avenue, and a female police officer shows us how to cross a footbridge over the Major Deegan. She poses for a picture. We climb a stairwell to the Willis Avenue Bridge. It seems like these stairs haven’t been used in years — the iron has rusted through and there are gaping holes in the steps, but we climb safely to the bridge.
1:30pm Six hours after beginning our journey we have crossed the Harlem River and we’re in Manhattan!
Our legs are really getting stiff now, and our pace slows to about 4Km per hour, according to Timo’s phone. We stop on Lexington and 107th Street at the Saint-Germain Bistro for some homemade mint tea. The owner is a real gentleman and he encourages us onward. Timo tells him to get the album of the St Germain jazz band — it would be perfect background music for a hip little bistro. We’re ready to face the last leg of our journey.
3:15pm Grand Central is a couple of blocks away, but we stop for a quick meal on 52nd Street. Our legs are really stiff after sitting.
3:55pm We finally arrive at Grand Central Station; we head straight to the bar at Michael Jordan’s for celebratory martinis! After an hour of relaxation we head for the Metro North train. The train is smooth, fast and comfortable — I vow never to complain about it again!