Location: Oxford, Massachusetts
Sitting here in a Dunkin’ Donuts in Oxford, Mass. waiting for the ominously gray skies to dump rain. When riding I use the “one drop rule”.. which is if I feel one drop of rain I head for cover. I’ve covered about 30 miles today and initially predicted this morning that today might be a stellar mileage day. The sky was crystal clear last night and this morning, then thunder clouds started forming around noon.
I was called over to the other side of the road today by a man on a racing bicycle who had a flat front tire. He had no pump or inner-tube. He also didn’t have much experience changing bicycle tires. So for about thirty minutes, we sat on the side of the road as I changed his tire and showed him how to fix a flat. He told me he was retired from his own insurance selling business. He sold it a few years back to a couple of men who recently earned million for the company. He didn’t seem too happy for them. “I thought they were my friends, but I never see the guys”, he said. “I once had a big house, but we sold it and now live in a condo. We are trying to keep life simple”, he said. “Yeah, that is cool, I imagine the property taxes are a lot cheaper now”, I said. “Doesn’t Massachusetts have some pretty high taxes?” I asked. I knew what was coming when he then said. “Yeah, they call the state “Taxachusetts”. “Yep, heard that one before”.
I tried getting the patch to stick on the very narrow racing inner-tube of his bike but the glue wouldn’t stick. I gave up and pulled out some black electrical tape I found on the side of the road in New Hampshire. I wrapped the tape around the tube a few times and thought I had patched the hole. I remounted the tube and tire and pumped up the tire with my bike pump. It held air for about five minutes and went flat again. I offered to try again but the man just thanked me and said he would call his mother who lived in the town we were in. “You need to get going”, he said. The man said he lived about seven miles away and that he would get home somehow. I left disappointed that I didn’t fix the flat. But felt a bit satisfied that I showed him how to change a flat if needed to again. I told him “just do a better job of wrapping the tube with tape”.
Later in the day…
I’m now in the great state of Connecticut. I’ve stopped at a campground where I was greeted by a gaunt man with a wild look in his eyes while setting up my tent. He walked over and introduced himself, “Hello, I’m George, good to meet ya”.
“I’m Forrest, you live here?”
“No I just camp here, been out on the lake all day fishing, been coming here for twelve years”, he said. “Got me a little trailer set up over there. I’m just curious.. how far you biking?” he asked. I said I started in Maine about a week ago and that I was headed home to Washington, DC. “Wow man! and you are camping out every night?”
“Yep,” He offered me a frozen Slurpee stick. I gladly accepted. I could smell alcohol on him as he handed me the treat.
He told me he wished he could do a bike trip like I was doing. I told him he could… just take it easy and you can do it, it really isn’t all that hard. “Ahh, maybe one day man I’ll do something like that, maybe on a motorcycle.” “You just go from town to town and camp wherever you find a place?” he asked. I told him I tried to camp at campgrounds but occasionally I had to “guerilla camp” which means just heading off into the woods making sure no one saw me. “I camped a lot back in Vietnam just like that.. but that was thirty years ago.” That statement explained a lot to me about the guy. He really was interested in what I was doing, I’d do a chore, go to the bathroom, he would disappear and then come right back to talk again. I thought he was a bit psychotic.. if not just a bit drunk. I’ve met lots of Vietnam vets and most of them have lead very productive happy lives, in fact, you would never guess they were veterans unless they told you so. But this guy seemed like damaged goods. I wanted to talk more with him but he said he was off to go back home. “Hey man, have a great trip, I just wanted to share that little bit of info with you”, he said. I said thanks and wondered exactly what info he was leaving me with. I rested in my tent guessing that he wanted to share that he was in Vietnam, perhaps something I was doing reminded him of that experience he had thirty years ago.
Off to New York state.