Corey’s Stories — The Cheesesteak
I was born in a hospital a short distance from the original Tastykake bakery in Philadelphia. The varieties of yummy cakes, pies and other baked dessert treats is inferior to none. The other great culinary treat for which my hometown is better known, regionally and abroad, is the cheesesteak.
Fast forward beyond many gluttonous years, I currently reside in New York. New York is home to many great sports teams and the Mets. New York while geographically close to Philly, is unable, like many others, to accurately duplicate the greasy meat sandwich loved by so many.
I, being hungrily homesick for regional cuisine recently, decided to ride a double century in a quest to eat a genuine cheesesteak. If the word “Philadelphia” is on the menu in front of cheesesteak, it will probably fall short of my discerning standards.
The ride to the land of cheesesteaks and Tastykakes is approximately 100 miles between NYC and Philly. I wanted to do the ride down, eat with a few friends and ride back in one day. A friend in New York asked if I would take the bus or train back after eating my sandwich. I gave him a stern look, “no,” because that would involve a whole lot of boring.
I began my quest at the reasonable hour of 7 am. The ride entailed cruising along office parks, refineries and strip malls situated among newly blooming trees. The scent of spring was a delight after leaving the concrete jungle of NYC. The sight of man made sprawl, not so much. Being near race season, the ride also consisted of settling into churning the big ring.
I arrived midday, perfect for lunch. There are several really good places to get a cheesesteak in Philly. You’ll have to go yourself to find them. But as it was Philly, the standard is higher at every local eatery than one can find anywhere else. I got my sandwich with bacon because everything really is better with bacon. I took my sandwich, fries and drink to the park near Independence mall, home of the Liberty Bell and the US Constitution. It was a beautiful sunny day. I sat in the shade of a large tree.
While eating I noticed I was covered in salt after several hours of riding. I felt slightly nervous about the return trip as bonking in New Jersey wasn’t a part of my plan. Riding slowly was not an option either because I did not bring lights and needed to be home before sundown.
I finished my meal and began the second of the day’s centuries as the bells bonged 2 o’clock near Independence Hall. It was odd rolling back through neighborhoods and landmarks I longed to see so soon after arriving.
There were a few times during the trip where motorists drifted close to me. The worst was outside of Philly where a man driving a clunker narrowly missed hitting me. A few hundred yards up the road he sloppily tried to make a right turn. His speed and steering weren’t aligned for the task. He drove into someone’s fence. He corrected himself after I passed. He drove away along the side road. I was too surprised by the chain of events to think of getting his license plate number. I hope the next time I see motor vehicle chaos I can think faster, but then I don’t want to have a “next time” close call.
As I continued to ride the wind became an issue. The gentle spring breeze on the way down became a cross headwind during the return. The giant glob of greasy meat in my stomach didn’t make the task easier. Pushing up inclines, the sensation of vomiting told me to back off the pace a bit. The sun began to drop from its earlier zenith.
I made it home safely by 8 pm. When I finally stopped, I burped. The queasy feeling had passed because I metabolized all of the calories from lunch. The only thing left to do was shower. Sleep followed immediately afterward. I had to wake up for work as a bike messenger the next day.