Biking to Plumb Beach, Dead Horse Bay, and Breezy Point

Yesterday might have been the most beautiful day of the year: high seventies and lacking the humidity that has plagued us for much of the summer. Having bought a bike on Tuesday, I was excited to take it out to the beaches of southeast Brooklyn.

I took the Bedford Avenue bike lane for most of the nine miles to Plumb Beach. As Brooklyn’s longest road, Bedford Avenue is a diverse route, plunging from the former industrial fields of Greenpoint to the shore of Sheepshead Bay. I had never seen the quad of Brooklyn College, which separates the commercialized streets of Flatbush and the suburban Midwood. It feels a bit like that of Columbia.

My aim was to reach Plumb Beach around low tide, but I was about half an hour late.

There were a few, mostly older, beachgoers enjoying the day. Out on the tidal flats, a young couple played in the muddy sand.

I figured I’d take advantage of the low tide at Dead Horse Bay to see if I could find any cool trash. One problem: I had forgotten the location of the entrance. I biked over the Gerritsen Beach Inlet alongside the Shore Parkway, watching the Marine Parkway-Gil Hodges Bridge growing larger in the distance each time it appeared through the brush. Eventually I reached it at the end of Flatbush Avenue, and at this point there was no way I wasn’t going over.

On the other side of the bridge is Breezy Point, home of a new ferry service to Manhattan. I loved the way these old railroad tracks just disappear, since they no longer have anywhere to go.

I went to the other side of the peninsula, to Jacob Riis Park and its large beach. I went under escort of several emergency vehicles on their way to help with a troubled swimmer. (I didn’t see any of the action.) For the last Thursday of the summer, the beach was empty.

I locked up my bike and dipped my feet in the cool Atlantic water. Nearby, a seagull kept watch from the end of one of the many former piers.

Heading back now. The nice thing about not driving is you avoid the $3.25 toll to cross the bridge.

As I re-entered my home borough, I spotted an opening in the woods to the left. A man in his early twenties, Justin, was emerging. On his last day on a trip from his hometown of Vancouver, he was squeezing in a visit to Dead Horse Bay, having just heard about it. Amazing.

I found a rack across the street and saw him to the Q35, the only bus that serves the area. (He was heading to Coney Island next.) The path to Dead Horse Bay is wooded for a while,

then splits in three. I was fortunate that I had learned the trick: take the rightmost branch. (Thanks, Justin!) Soon after, the path looks more beach-like.

My assumption was that I’d have to look hard to find some 19th-century refuse at Dead Horse Bay. Boy, was I wrong.

There were a few brilliant pieces,

and a few complete specimens.

On the east side of Flatbush Avenue is Floyd Bennett Field, which I intend to give some thorough research at some point. Funny to think that this was once New York’s premier airport, and that the city wanted to connect it to the LIRR.

The field is now home to Aviator Sports, which constructed a few athletic fields on the site and has a large indoor space. It also hosts special events, including Rugged Maniac (one of those mud-run-type races) and last weekend’s Color Run, which, from the accounts of my friends, was a blast (no pun intended).

Farther north is the Brooklyn Golf Center, which has a large driving range and a mini-golf course. I like mini-golf, so I stopped in. It was empty with the exception of two families with small children. The course is challenging in a “if you go for it and miss by half an inch, you’re screwed” sort of way – not really my scene. (This includes one of those holes situated on top of a volcano, meaning if you miss, you slide back to the bottom.)

I headed back to Plumb Beach after my round. Two hours had elapsed, and the water was slowly overtaking the land.

The tidal flats were gone. I hope that couple got off in time!

Riding for 19 miles burns a fair number of calories, so to refuel, I went to Jimmy’s Famous Heros on Sheepshead Bay Road, which we had skipped over the weekend. As I rode in, the employees were pulling the metal over the windows. “What time do you close?” “6:00.” It was 5:15. Phew!

Jimmy’s will celebrate its 75th anniversary on February 1, according to the propietor, Victor, who has worked there for 27 years. Victor showed me a black-and-white picture of Jimmy and some guys with fantastic mustaches holding cups. He pointed to the clock in the background: “8:10 a.m.,” he said, “and that’s not coffee in those cups.”

Victor had seen me pull in – he had answered my original question – and commented that the number of cyclists had exploded over the summer. This observation doesn’t surprise me in light of gas prices.

I got a mild Italian hero; Victor was nice enough to throw in a sour pickle. I can see why Michael’s family would grab sandwiches here on the way to the beach when he was a kid.

Instead of fighting gravity on the way home, I hopped on the B. It was great to finally sit down with my whole butt.

Funny that Google Maps shows the three paths at Dead Horse Bay.

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