Yesterday, April 22, I joined the 5BBC for a ride out to my old stomping grounds at Sunken Meadow State Park which is listed as a 75 mile round-trip. We started from Cunningham Park in Queens shortly after 8:30 AM. The trip out was lots of fun though we had an extended stop in Kings Park to fix a flat on one rider's bike (as it turned out, she had *two* punctures in the same section of inner tube though of course the second was far enough from the first that it wasn't covered by the first patch). That was when I became acquainted with the wondefully kind Richie, who not only dragged along a couple of patch kits but an impressive and -- for bicycling -- relatively heavy array of tools for repairing bicycles. Richie's not so much anticipating trouble with his own bicycle but that perhaps one of the other cyclists will need his assistance. Indeed, not only did Richie fix a flat he pulled a small tool from his large collection and made a minor repair to the front wheel of another cyclist as well. Richie's goal is just to help keep his fellow cyclists rolling. Truly, a wonderful example of chesed and with a humble manner to accompany it.
After eating our lunch on the easternmost end of the boardwalk, we headed back toward NYC with some rather tough hills. Things got somewhat confusing when we came to Round Swamp Road. Since the reality of day rides is that not everyone can keep the same pace and ride as a pack at all times, the 5BBC day rides use a "point-drop-sweep" system to supplement the directions ("cue sheet") handed out at the start of the ride. One leader rides point and another rides in the back as sweep. At turns, an experienced rider is left to give direction to those following. At Round Swamp Road, the "drop" told me to turn left and I thought I heard "turn right at the [first] [traffic] light". I rode along for a while with no traffic light in sight until after going through the Northern State Parkway underpass. At that point, I stopped to check the cue sheet which indicated a right turn on Manetto Hill Road. Since I grew up on Long Island and lived and drove there for many years (and my 2nd job was located in a Plainview industrial park off Old Country Road and I used to take the Round Swamp Road exit from the LIE and go south to the office so this area was familiar from 25 years ago), this sounded familiar but I couldn't quite recall where Manetto Hill Road was, it didn't seem to me that I remembered it crossing Round Swamp Road. I saw nobody else from the group as I kept going to the LIE. I didn't have a map with me (arrogance, relying on memory of where I used to live and work) and this seemed too far. I went back up to the Northern State underpass and still saw noone. I called my Mom who checked a map for me and after I reviewed the cue sheet with her I came up with an alternate plan.
I headed back down Round Swamp past where it joins Old Country Road. Eventually I found Manetto Hill Road, made my right turn and then found Washington. Suspiciously, the cue sheet says left on Washington but Washington was on the right. I went up Washington and found the Executive Drive intersection marked on the cue sheet. I looked at the very steep hill and decided to follow my Mom's recommendation: skip Washington, take Manetto Hill to Sunnyside instead. After stopping for refreshment and a map at a gas station on Manetto Hill, I realized that in fact Manetto Hill ends at Woodbury Road so I skipped Sunnyside, hoping to catch up to the group at the rest stop, I continued on, picked up the route at Angel Way and made my way onto the LIE North Service Road. Now I could pick up speed the route was more level with gently rolling hills and I got my pace up to 15-17 mph. I eventually got to the rest stop, where the counter clerk told me that the group of cyclists had left about an hour or hour-and-a-half before. I headed out again.
As I passed Old Westbury Road, it was getting late and I had no bike lights with me to ride at night. After pulling off the road, I checked my new Nassau County map and the cue sheet. I decided to head for the Alberton LIRR station and take the train to Penn Station. I turned down Glen Cove Road then IU Willets and soon found the LIRR station where someone waiting in his car told me the NYC train was due at 7:04. I tried to buy a ticket from the ticket vending machine with 3 different credit cards and my ATM debit card. None of them worked and I hadn't enough cash. So much for bailing and taking the LIRR.
The brief respite at the LIRR station helped me recover a bit and I was able to cycle a bit quicker as I headed west following the cue sheeet back to Cunningham Park. As I crossed New Hyde Park Road headed West on Union Turnpike, the Sun dipped below the horizon but I felt that -- though they weren't on yet -- the street lights would provide some margin of safety as it got darker. It stayed light for quite a while and I made it past Cunnigham Park and back to the F train before it really got dark.
The F train wouldn't take me home easily so I switched to the E and after changing again at 42nd St/Times Square made it to my apartment building at about 9:30 PM. A long exhausting day. But, overall, fun. Losing the group was not good though, and in the future I'll make sure to get cell phone #s so I can rejoin the group if I get separated.
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