I had been looking forward to this part of the trip since the first day of our planning. We were approaching the end of Long Island and headed for the ferry terminal in Orient, New York. And the anticipation was not only for the ferry ride across Long Island Sound, but also the town itself. A friend and writing associate had written effusively about the community at landâ€™s end, on the north fork of the island, and I couldnâ€™t wait to see it. Then life got in the way.
While stocking up on Gatorade at a market before heading off, my bike fell over from the post it was propped up against. Having 30 or 40 extra pounds of weight didnâ€™t help its stability, but the fall broke the lever on one hand brake. Okay, I had another brake, the island is relatively flat, and Iâ€™d worry about tomorrow morning in Connecticut. It had happened once before and the fix was minor.
About half way to Orient, Mike saw a sandwich-board sign proclaiming, â€œbikes repaired.â€ Big mistake! I honestly donâ€™t think the young guy had ever seen a set of hydraulic disk brakes, let alone worked on one, but he gamely, and foolishly, saw fit to try. The short version: hydraulic line punctured, fluid everywhere, no brake, and now a major ($$$$$) issue.
I desperately needed a professional bike shop, preferably one that carried my line of bikes. Such a shop existed, across the Sound in New London, Connecticut, but it closed at 6 pm. It was now just after two and we were fifteen miles from the terminal. To reach the bike store in time we needed to get the 3 pm boat for the hour and a half crossing. As luck would have it, only one of us made it, and it was the one with the broken bike. But I missed my meandering visit through Orient. Going through town at close to 20 mph (the speed limit was 30) it looked lovely, but frankly all I really cared about was getting on that boat.
After storing my bike at the front of the automobile deck for a fast getaway, I went topside to enjoy the view and let my 158 BPM heart rate subside. The voyage was magnificent. The day was classic fall in New England. Absolutely lawless, low humidity, good breeze, visibility unlimited, just enough LPFâ€™s (clouds) to make the sky interesting, temperature perfect. After I called the bike shop to confirm that I was on the way, and to determine that Mike would be on the 4 pm sailing, I just sat there soaking it in. A full hour of doing nothing but trying to enjoy the sun on my body, the ocean air in my lungs, and the rich, salty perfume of a day on the water.
Docking in New London, the bike shop brought information, but no luck. The entire brake had to be replaced, none were in stock, a two day delay for delivery, and we had prepaid reservations 15 miles north in Norwich. And I had a one-armed bike.
At nearly six, we pedaled north out of New London in the late afternoon sun. It was glorious, but the elephant in the view (yeah, the metaphor thing again) was getting a sophisticated bike shop in a beautiful, but remote section of Connecticut. Our preoccupation, plus the gathering darkness, caused us to miss several Google-directed GPS turns, unable to read street signs with our feeble bike lights. Finally after 9 hours, of which almost five was spent in the bike seat, we arrived at our hotel.
Sunrise had me on the computer Goggling various bike shops, trying to cross-correlate proximity with all the other requirements I needed. Finally, the only shop that had my brake in stock anywhere near our intended route was 30 miles down the road, not far from Worcester, Massachusetts.
By now, my rear brake was showing signs of wear after all the PUDS (pointless ups and downs) of Connecticutâ€™s rolling terrain, so we caved. About noon we rented a truck, and drove the damn thing to the shop, got it fixed at 4:30 pm, and then drove on to Worcester, MA for the night. Okay, weâ€™d have a 40-mile gap in our ride, but my one armed bike was restored to full mobility. Tomorrow would bring New Hampshire.
For those interested in seeing what our 50 mile ride and ferry trip looks like on a map with speeds, heart rates, etc., hereâ€™s the link: http://app.strava.com/rides/21567390
To be continued