Would you buy a used vehicle from someone in New York City? What comes to mind? A slick seller with the vehicle gussied up to look good? After all, this is a city with roads known for destroying the suspension on Humvees, and potholes rumored to swallow compact cars whole. The cars are often recovered by fishermen in the Long Island Sound. The Humvees go on to the global military theater where it is less demanding. But I digress. It stands to reason then that any vehicle for sale in such an environment would have been thrashed within an inch of its life, and would generally be a treasure chest of hidden disasters. And then there are the people. I mean, how could you trust anyone who has successfully survived in such an environment? Well, as a former resident of one of the five boroughs, and a fan of New York City, I’m here to dispel some myths. The people are good, and there are good deals to be had. The roads and traffic, however, are crap. Always have been.

The last time I bought a vehicle from New York, it was a BMW 2002 on Long Island and I tow roped it back to Pennsylvania at night after it died somewhere in Nassau County. Ahhhh, the good old days. This time it was a BMW motorcycle, and it was located right in the city. Pictures, description, and conversations with the seller, all indicated that this was a genuinely solid and well cared for machine. The location just seemed inconsistent with that. Who buys a BMW GS, to keep in NYC? The seller, that’s who. Anyway, I am getting ahead of myself.

Due to a complex set of circumstances, I needed to get to the motorcycles location with a trailer. This involves bridges and tunnels which have generally been a complex maze to navigate since 9/11. The only safe that into the city is the George Washington Bridge and the Cross Bronx Expressway. That particular combination has been covered in this blog before (see 7 Miles of Misery). The only thing that could make that journey worse would be to then have to find your way via the Triborough Bridge and the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway into Queens. Calling these roads Expressways is some kind of extreme oxymoron. If there were any doubts about really wanting this motorcycle, the journey to get it would be a formidable test. As traffic slowed to a crawl approaching the GWB, I resolved to defeat my opponent.

Running the Gauntlet

It was Sunday. The traffic was terrible due to an accident. Surprise, surprise. You have no idea how nerve-racking it is to try and move a truck and trailer out of the way with only a few inches to spare so that an emergency vehicle can make its way through a long line of jammed traffic on top of a bridge. Not fun. 45 minutes later, traveling an average of 0.6 mph, I finally got onto the BQE. I ran a gauntlet of steel plates, potholes, metal expansion joints, cabs, sport bikes, and a floral covered sofa which had apparently been separated from its transport. The I got to negotiate some of NYC’s famed streets with elevated trains. These streets have two lanes down the center which are in between steel girders holding up the elevated train tracks, and two lanes on either side outside the elevated train tracks in which people generally double park. You don’t see very many trailers down in these parts for very good reason. Delivery vehicles are box trucks. You have to be able to get in and out of the girders and the double parked cars and make left and right turns onto one-way streets with more double-parked cars. It’s not a fun time with a trailer.

I double parked at my destination, and the seller rolled out the motorcycle from between two apartment buildings. We had a good conversation. He was a genuine BMW aficionado, with several machines, and was buying a new one. The machine was in very good shape as advertised with full documentation. We completed the transaction, and then I was on my way to rerun the gauntlet. I stop twice just to make sure that the bike remains secure given the pounding the trailer is taking at some points. More close quarters, more exorbitant tolls, more traffic, and a potential jumper on the bridge.

The round trip from GWB to GWB is only 40 miles, but in human miles it is more like 400. On the other side of the GW bridge, there’s a strange sense of having escaped unharmed from a perilous environment. I won, but it is the same kind of win at the end of an Iron Butt ride. You just want a shower and a bed.

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