I recently got wind of a new beer garden that opened in Jersey City called Zeppelin Hall. That’s about 20 miles from the Manhattan apartment where I share space with my bike, a Specialized Tricross.
I bought it in 2006 for around $1,500 and figure I’ve logged thousands of miles exploring the tri-state area of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, including all five boroughs of New York City — mostly by myself. It has an aluminum frame with a carbon-fiber seat post and fork, and it weighs about 22 pounds.
I’ve been trying to get my girlfriend, Melissa, to tag along by promising to keep the ride way under my usual 40 or 50 miles. My hope is to make these expeditions a little more fun.
The solution? What I call the destination bike excursion. These goal-oriented tours come with the promise of a meal and some beverages.
To share with others, as well as for consistency and mileage calculations, I start the rides at 14th Street on the West Side Highway bike path and usually offer a subway or commuter-train alternative for getting home.
So how the heck do you get across the Hudson River to Jersey City on a bike?
The George Washington Bridge is bike-friendly, but far out of the way for these starting and end points, and it would run up significant miles, including a lung-collapsing hill climb to the bridge.
Take the Ferry
My solution: Take the Staten Island Ferry, ride south to the Bayonne Bridge and traverse it into New Jersey.
Simply keep the river on your right as you wind along the streets of Staten Island until you see the bridge, which looks a lot like the Hell Gate railroad bridge across Manhattan’s East River, with its sturdy steel arch.
There are beautiful vistas from the towering heights of the bridge, but don’t linger because it makes the authorities nervous in this post-9/11 world. Taking photos on any New York- area bridge is never a good idea either. (The Brooklyn Bridge is an exception to that rule.)
Bayonne is like a little peninsula that separates Upper New York Bay from Newark Bay and features fairly large multistory houses with front and back yards and manageable traffic on weekends.
Once off the bridge in Bayonne, work your way over to Broadway and head north to Liberty State Park in Jersey City which is right beside our destination.
Zeppelin Hall has gotten a lot of buzz since opening on June 26. A bike rack in front was a welcome sight and gave me peace of mind.
Manager and visionary John Argento partnered with Peter Mocco to offer a family-friendly beer garden in its traditional form. The first thing that strikes you when you walk into the place is the size. Occupying a whopping 22,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor space, Zeppelin Hall can accommodate as many as 800 thirsty imbibers with its 144 draft-beer lines.
On our Saturday-afternoon visit, the place was teeming with beer lovers, families with small children and double-wide strollers. Card games and baseball on the giant screen entertained the masses.
A grill in the back offers beer-hall standards like kielbasa, bratwurst and frankfurters. If burgers are more your speed, then try a cleverly named Hindenburger ($10.95).
Melissa had kept up with me quite easily on her Specialized Sirrus and was rewarded with a medley of bratwurst and kielbasa, (each $8.95 with fries) and a few mugs of Grolsch ($10).
Watch for an Oktoberfest extravaganza this fall, which will include live entertainment and probably some lederhosen.
Getting home was easy with the Grove Street PATH subway station just four wobbly blocks away. PATH trains are bike friendly, assuming you are strong enough to lift your mount over the turnstile.
The best way to navigate this journey is to plot your route on a mapping Web site like Google maps or Mapquest and print it out in various stages to take with you on your ride. A BlackBerry or iPhone with a mapping application can be handy as well.
Zeppelin Hall is located at 88 Liberty View Drive. Note though that it’s in the new community of Liberty Harbor, which isn’t yet listed on most GPS mapping systems. Go to 297 Grand St. in Jersey City and head south on Liberty View Drive. It’s right beside the NJ Light Rail tracks. Information: +1-201-721- 8888; http://www.zeppelinhall.com.
Average speed: 11.6 mph
Ride time: 1 hour 37 minutes (not including waiting for and riding the Staten Island Ferry)