History, Exercise and a Cycling Adventure along the 1908 Vanderbilt Motor Parkway

Many New Yorkers cycle or walk Greenway Trails to include the first 3 miles of the converted 1908 Vanderbilt Motor Parkway from Cunningham to Alley Pond Parks.

And while posts and sections of the original motorway are still visible, for the curious and adventurous, this forgotten history of the first concrete road built for automobiles and racing, requires further investigation.

Parkway Marker
Parkway Marker

Original concrete posts
Original concrete posts along motorway

On Columbus Day, I satisfied a quest to cycle the Vanderbilt Motor Parkway, a 55 Mile Bicycle adventure from Ronkonkoma and back home to Middle Village.

After a train ride from the Woodside LIRR station to Ronkonkoma, I cycled the reverse 4 1/2 hour journey back along much of the original route with a high temperature of 66 degrees, misty-drizzle raw, “stop peddling and freeze” morning.

A hot chocolate at the onset of the ride proved pivotal. Despite a few tough hills and a-bit-too-close landscape truck or two, the trip still brought many smiles as I peddled past historic locations and even a traffic monitor that registered me at 21 mph. (OK, I was on a bit of a down-slope.)

Deepdale Gate Lodge
Deepdale Gate Lodge
(Next to church)

I used google maps with a maximum of ten locations to create a route on or near the original. With many variations, you can create your own personal trip to make stops along the way. I tried to pick out the best worthwhile remnants.

There are a few other locations that may be worth checking out on a bike trip, especially southeast of Bethpage Park, but it may be a bit more out of the way or less bike accessible. Also, traffic and getting to the start and end points of the route are a factor.

Lake Ronkonkoma
Lake Ronkonkoma (End of motorway)

I split the map links. There is a short cut (saves a mile or two), onto a walking path (20 yards walk bike), at the end of “Schoolhouse Road” where it meets Bethpage Park to get onto the Bike Lane.”

Also, the “Toll Lodge” (Now the Garden City Chamber of Commerce), is not exactly on the map and a mile backtrack to add it to a trip.

“Unlike the first roads built for commerce and horses, the Long Island Motor Parkway was conceived from a sporting contest; the colorful, exciting and often dangerous Vanderbilt Cup Races. At the turn of the 20th century the superiority of European automotive craftsmanship cast a long shadow over America’s fledgling car industry.”

“To encourage American automobile manufacturers to challenge European quality, 26-year old William K. Vanderbilt Jr., heir to a railroad fortune and a pioneer race car driver, sponsored America’s first international road race modeled after those in Europe.”

Toll Lodge
Toll Lodge (5 cents to have the attendant lift the gate)

For a complete history of the Motorway:

http://www.vanderbiltcupraces.com/motor_pkwy

Here is the entire original route I worked from which was 45 miles.

Here is the route I created:

Part I: via Motor Pkwy and Vanderbilt Pkwy

Part II: via Bagatelle Rd

1908 Vanderbilt Motor Parkway Photos

Rutland Road Bridge
Rutland Road Bridge was here.
Jacob Conklin Marker
Jacob Conklin Marker (along route)
Clinton Road Bridge
Clinton Road Bridge was here.
Managers House
Managers House
Brick house
Brick-faced house still exits from former Raceway
Courthouse Road Bridge
Old Courthouse Road Bridge (Intact)

David Pambianchi is a New York writer, who loves to tell stories about the city, the people, the entertainment, the sport and the businesses that catch his attention.