17 Sep 2009 9:00 am   //   Filed under: Bicycles, Holga

Holga photos from a New Jersey bike ride

Note: I’m riding in the Bike MS ride on October 4 (info) and so every post this week is about biking!


I had to break the law to get these pictures. I’ll explain in a moment…

Meadowlands Xanadu, East Rutherford

Meadowlands Xanadu, East Rutherford

I’ve written before about Meadowlands Xanadu, the ginormous mall under construction in New Jersey. I’m fascinated by this brash, misbegotten project. It’s shockingly ugly, it has absolutely no interaction with the space surrounding it, and it has an indoor ski slope.

On Labor Day, I decided to see if it was possible to ride my bike from Brooklyn to Xanadu. According to Google Maps, it was 27 miles each way via the back roads. Totally doable. Off I went.

Meadowlands Xanadu, East Rutherford

Meadowlands Xanadu, East Rutherford

My route took me across the George Washington bridge and down from the north, on a road from Moonachie, which looked on the map like a back entrance to the Meadowlands stadium complex. As soon as I hit that road, I could see Xanadu and the stadiums looming in the distance. But as I pedaled along, this nice little road went from two lanes to four, then four to six, then separated into a divided highway. And then, with about 1/4 of a mile to go, it passed through an interchange. It was Labor Day and the highway was deserted (as you can see in the first picture), so I decided to keep biking on it. Not the smartest decision I’ve ever made. But I was so close to my goal, how could I turn back?

Giants Stadium

The old Giants Stadium, East Rutherford

Destination achieved, I rode across the salt-flat-like parking lots on the stadium side of the complex. I crossed the highway on a pedestrian bridge that emptied into a parking garage. I did a lap around Xanadu, a silent and deserted fortress, resembling nothing more than a giant distribution warehouse with colorful exterior walls.

Then I got stopped by the cops. I kind of anticipated this—nobody bikes around a mall construction site without expecting to meet somebody in uniform.

The New Jersey state trooper asked me how I got there, and I told him. He asked me if I rode on the Interstate, and I said no. “There’s no way to get here except the Interstate,” he said. His point was that it’s illegal to ride a bike on a highway, which clearly I had done. At this point I figured, if it came to it, I could beat a traffic ticket for a bicycle violation the officer had not actually witnessed. But my real concern was ending the encounter as quickly as possible. By this time a second police car had arrived.

“Well, here I am,” I said. “All I can tell you is I’ll bike safely on the way out.” The officer said something about how it was their job to keep the roads safe. “I’ll let you go,” he said, “Since it’s Labor Day and there’s not much traffic.” I left the same way I rode in.

Thinking about it now, this is the perfect detail to explain why I’m fascinated by Xanadu. You cannot legally bike to it! Homogenized, corporate, free of history or context, built for the internal combustion engine. It’s the anti-Brooklyn. I can imagine them posting signs: “Welcome to Xanadu – Bicycling prohibited by law. Strictly enforced.”

When the mall finally opens, I want to go see it. Even though I’ll probably have to take a bus from Port Authority. Even though I probably won’t enjoy being there.

Here are a few pictures I shot in New Jersey on the ride home:

George Washington Bridge seen from Fort Lee

GW Bridge seen from Fort Lee

Abandoned furniture store, Ridgefield Park

Abandoned furniture store, Ridgefield Park

Where is the true birth certificate sign, Ridgefield Park

“Where is the true birth certificate,” Ridgefield Park