John Colasanti is avid cyclist. On road, off road, he loves it all.
But for all the workouts he gets riding with his two cycling clubs, every spring this Westfield father looks forward to bicycling with his son on the annual Tour de Elizabeth, a 15-mile ride that winds its way through the city, from the waterfront to the mall to the parks.
Now in its sixth year, the theme for this year’s May 17th Tour is Elizabeth in the movies and television.
The bike route will pass the Elizabeth Avenue clothing store where scenes from The Wrestler were filmed, along with a number of other lesser known films. Cyclists will also ride by Trinitas Hospital where scenes for The Sopranos were filmed after Tony was shot. The first leg of the ride will even pass Manolo’s Restaurant, which became Vesuvio in the popular HBO series.
While the movie/television theme will be something new, Colasanti said he just likes the Sunday morning ride’s city atmosphere.
“I like the history of the city, the look of the different neighborhoods, the waterfront. Elizabeth is just so rich in history. It’s had its trials and tribulations, but it’s always held its own. Elizabeth is a very resilient city,” he said.
Last year, Colasanti and his son Jason were among nearly 375 cyclists who turned out for the Tour, many of them families and nearly two-thirds from outside the city.
“I didn’t realize there was a waterfront in Elizabeth. I thought it was a really pleasant, fun bike ride,” said New Providence resident Kathleen Fontana, who rode the tour for the first time last year with her husband, Thomas.
“I saw parts of Elizabeth I’d never seen before,” said Cranford resident Charlie Baumann, who rode last year with his daughter, Erika.
“We saw some nice neighborhoods, but it really wasn’t so much the scenery as the community spirit and the atmosphere—just shooting the breeze with folks,” Baumann said.
Tour organizer Jonathan Phillips said the annual ride has grown every year and an estimated 500 cyclists are expected May 17, rain or shine.
“Last year, riders rode along the newly paved waterfront path at the Elizabeth Seaport and were treated to a fireboat spraying colored streams of water as they rode by,” said Bob Varady, board president of Groundwork Elizabeth, a prime sponsor of the tour.
The fireboat was such a hit that it will be back again this year, Varady said.
Throughout the ride there are police escorts who see to it that cross streets remain closed for the safety of all the riders. There is even a “sag wagon” for those who need an unexpected lift to the finish, Phillips said.
For the tour, riders are broken into three basic groups, with those going for speed sent out first. Recreational riders then move out, followed by families with young children or others who cannot do the entire route. There is a cut-off that enables riders to eliminate half the route if they are getting tired, Phillips said, noting that all riders are required to wear helmets.
Advance registration is possible by going online to download the necessary forms (www.groundworkelizabeth.com) or by calling (908)-289-0262 to have a form mailed or faxed. Registration is $15, with registration also possible the morning of the event, starting at 7:30 a.m. at Union Square, 804 1st Avenue, Elizabeth.
Participants will also receive a tour guide noting the locations where various movies and TV shows were filmed. Among the films shot in Elizabeth were:
- The Messenger, 2009, starring Woody Harrelson and Jena Malone
- The Perfect Holiday, 2007, starring Morris Chestnut and Gabrielle Union, with Queen Latifah as Mrs. Christmas
- Far From Heaven, 2002, starring Dennis Quaid and Julianne Moore
- Tarantella, 1996, starring Mira Sorvino and Matthew Lillard
- Sorcerer, 1977, with Roy Scheider
While a portion of the War of the Worlds remake with Tom Cruise was shot in the Bayway section of the city, the area was just too remote to tie into the rest of the bike route, Phillips said.
Bicyclists in last year’s Tour de Elizabeth get going for the morning ride. (Photo provided by Groundwork Elizabeth)