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Using Citibike as a Tourist (USS Intrepid Trip)

After our exceptional experience as Capital Bikeshare tourists in Washington, DC, my wife and I decided that we wanted to be “Citi Bike tourists for a day” in our own City.

It was another absolutely gorgeous fall day today, so today seemed the perfect day to do that. It’d been on my bucket list for the longest time to visit the USS Intrepid. I’ve visited the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC, the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City, the D-Day Museum in New Orleans, and the Museum of Flight in Seattle, but for some reason after 45 years of living in New York have never visited the Intrepid. Until today.

Now this was totally a spur-of-the-moment thing with no planning. I figured I’d use my annual pass to get a bike, while my wife would use a 24-hour pass (actually, I had taken advantage of a Groupon offer a few months ago that sold 24-hour passes 3 for $15).

We took the LIRR to Penn Station. Happily there were plenty of bikes outside of Penn, so we both grabbed a bike.

bike dock at penn

 

The Citi Bike system for 24-hour passes is pretty much the same as it was in Washington. You need to spend what seems like an eternity at the bike station answering question after questions.

In my case, I selected “Get a Bike” and then the 24-hour option. Only after that did it give me the opportunity to fill in the gift certificate number from my Groupon, which I did, zeroing out the $9.95 charge. I then had to read the scary language about how a $101 hold would be put on my credit card; read a screen reminding me to Yield to pedestrians, Stay off the sidewalk, Obey traffic lights, and Ride with traffic; and then presumably have me read 28 pages of terms and conditions. But finally, we had both bikes unlocked.

bike dock at Penn, ready to go

Now usually I’ll bike east, but this time I was biking west to the bike station at 11th and 46th. I biked up the bike path on Eighth for a while. On weekends there seemed to be more pedestrians than ever just straying into the green bike lane. Worse, there was a tour bus parked right in the bike lane at one point with a dozen tourists’ suitcases taking up the whole lane, forcing me to bike into the flow of traffic. I’m used to that, but my poor wife was having a hard time following me.

Having enough of people using the bike lane and not wanting to deal with Port Authority, I turned onto 39th to head West. I ran smack dab into a flea market, but they were prepared for bikers.

flea market in the city

I dismounted and we walked through the flea market of really, really crappy looking old stuff. Finally, we got to Tenth where there is no bike lane, so we carefully rode north to 45th, rode on 11th to 46th, and docked. I only saw four bikes there which made me nervous–yes, we were able to get from Penn to here, but would we end up having to walk all the way back to Penn?

bike dock near intrepid

The Intrepid was only a block away from the Citi Bike dock.

intrepid a block away

We walked the block to the museum, which I absolutely loved. I got a great deal by downloading a 20% off coupon, and since my wife is a student at Colombia she got in for free. I figured we’d saved money on a taxi and on the tickets, so I’d splurge and get the guided tour to the Concorde, which goes for $20 apiece.

The tour starts out on the USS Growler, a Grayback-class submarine with a payload of four nuclear cruise missiles.

growler submarine

It’s a self-guided tour where you actually go below the water line and view the submarine as it was when it was in service. Out of curiosity, I checked the Citi Bike app while we were on line, and our bikes were already taken.

bikes all gone!

It was amazing seeing things like the torpedo bays, instruments, and control rooms, but also seeing mundane things like where the crew slept and ate.

missile room in the growler

We then did the Concorde tour. I’ve seen the Concorde before in Washington, but the Intrepid is different in that only those who go on the guided tour can not only board the plane…

boarding the concorde

 

…but also actually sit in the seats.

concorde seats

We sat in Row 2, seats A and B.

seat assignment in concorde

Even though the seats were covered with plastic protectors, you could feel how wide and comfortable they were back in the day. The windows were smaller than normal airplane windows.

Our tour guide was excellent and told us stories of what it was like to be a Concorde passenger. For $8000 for a one-way ticket, you enjoyed amazing service and practically became part of a family. There was even a seat in the cockpit that passengers could sit in to talk to the crew about their lives and their families. You were served top notch food, of course. And you got to experience “the closest thing to being on a rocket” when the Concorde cleared the airspace over residential areas, tilted up, and blasted its afterburners to go supersonic.

We then got to go into the cockpit, which was also impressive.

concorde cockpit

We then walked through the Intrepid itself. They give you an amazing amount of access to the ship; you can have lunch at the Au Bon Pain on the same deck of the ship where the galley and mess halls were (both of which have been restored much to what they looked like).

galley in intrepid

As you walk up and down the decks, you can see where the crew slept (there’s a separate part of the museum where you can lie in an actual bunk).

bunks in the intrepid

 

You can also watch a movie about the Intrepid in the area where the elevator to lift planes from the Hanger to the Flight Deck was, see the gigantic chains and ropes that controlled the anchor, and visit the Bridge where Admirals controlled entire fleets–and had a great view to boot.

flight deck of intrepid on beautiful day

One of my favorite parts of the tour was this model constructed out of 250,000 Legos. They did a great job of making the museum interesting for kids–there are hands-on exhibits where kids can feel what it’s like to sit in a helicopter or to sleep on a bunk or to send Morse code.

There was also the relatively new pavilion that housed the Space Shuttle Enterprise (which was actually never a shuttle but a test vehicle that made the other shuttles possible)

enterprise space shuttle

We finished with quick tour of the flight deck to view different planes on display.

Overall, it was an excellent day. And what made it more excellent was that by the time we were done, I saw there were three bikes at the dock again. We hightailed it to the bike station, and there were in fact about five bikes there, with a woman returning a bike just as we got there. I’m pretty sure it was mostly the luck of the draw and timing–I’ll take it, but it could just as easily have been empty, in which case we would have had to walk 6 blocks down to 12th and 40th and failing that, probably walking all the way back to Penn. But today turned out to be a great day.

I wanted to bike down the beautiful bike path that goes up and down the West Side, but it was getting late. Perhaps for another day.

As for the deal, for me it was a great one as it just made my per-ride cost of my annual membership that much lower. But for my wife, had we paid full price for the 24 hour pass, we would actually have LOST money–a cab ride would have probably been about the same price and a bus ticket would have been cheaper. But with the Groupon deal, we pretty much broke even on the cost ($5 for a Citi Bike vs. two $2.50 fares).

We do have more Citi Bike passes to use, so I’ll be doing another “tourist for a day” in the coming weeks and will have a ride report on that. I’ll call today’s biking a success, though.

  • Cost per ride: $95/48=$1.98 per ride
  • Stress: 2 of 10
  • Aggravation: 2 of 10

 

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