Wednesday, April 29, 2009

My Lucky Day

Budget: ~$160

Around 6 AM, I hugged Dan goodbye in front of the Atlantic

and took off. Despite traffic, potholes, closed bridges, and having to pull over and walk back every now and then to retrieve a fallen pannier, I zipped through the most densely populated area of the state without any trouble, and was in Waltham by 9 AM. I couldn't believe what good time I was making. My friend Heather drove down to Waltham to intercept me, and we sat around and had tea. For three hours. I felt I could easily get to Worcester by the afternoon.

Until I biked out of Waltham. It wasn't morning anymore. It was 90 degrees out. I biked into Weston. Road construction. The kind that makes the wheels skid sideways and wipe out. I tried the sidewalk, but it was covered with sand and blocked off by "road construction" signs.

I biked into Wayland. I've mostly biked either loops or coastlines, and they've spoiled me. For every uphill on those, there's a corresponding downhill. Not when I'm biking steadily away from the ocean. It was just up, up, up, and the heat wasn't helping.

By the time I got to Sudbury, I was really not feeling well, and drinking water wasn't making it better. I pulled into a Comfort Inn and asked the concierge if I could just stand in the lobby for a bit.

"Sure, have a seat on the couch. Not a good day for biking today."

I sat on the couch, chatting with him and drinking every drop in all four of my water bottles. I refilled them at the water fountain and drank more. For some reason now that I was in the air conditioned lobby, I had started to sweat—profusely—and felt much, much better. Four miles to Marlborough, 20 to Worcester. I got back on the bike and started pedaling.

Up, up, up. The road just kept going. It felt like I had done more than the 25 miles to Waltham, and yet I hadn't completed the 4 miles to Marlborough.

I felt like I was dying again. Stupid heat. I'm going to look into better ways to stay cool. (Drinking gallons of water had always done the trick, but not this time, and I don't know why.) I saw a Chinese buffet. Brilliant. With the calories I was burning and would need to replenish, buffet was the way to go.

Every time I stop, I have to take all my gear off the bike (since I can't lock it). With the backpack on my back, a double pannier in one arm, a tent and sleeping bag in another, and a pump and water bottles distributed among my hands—effectively carrying my whole current life on my person—I walk into places.

I didn't see myself in a mirror when I walked into the buffet, but I wish I had, because a girl who saw me ran to get me some ice water. Then I got a plate of just chicken and beef. And another plate. And another plate. And another. And then a plate of rice. And another. And so on and so forth.

I asked for the check. "Aren't you going to have any fruit?" the waitress asked. Not a bad idea. I got two plates of fruit and tipped her 30%. Then I ate my fortune cookie and read my fortune: "Today is your lucky day."

Wondering what luck awaited me, I walked out with all my stuff, loaded the bike, and did a routine tire pressure test. The back tire was flat. I pumped it up. It went soft again. A real, bona fide flat.


The heat started getting to me again. I wasn't going to fix this flat on the black pavement in the heat. I walked the bike. Walking it uphill was a real pain. Lucky day, all right.

Eventually, I made it to Marlborough. I clearly wasn't going to make it to Worcester. A woman with a bike pulled up next to me at an intersection, waiting for the cars. Bingo.

"What's up with the heat?" I asked.


"It's like there's no such thing as spring anymore. Weren't we freezing just last week?"

She laughed. "Yeah, you're right!"

"Did you have to go a long way?"

And so I got my segue into topics that will generally result in being offered lodging. Too bad she was visiting someone herself and had already overstayed her welcome.

I did a search on my phone for hotels in Marlborough. NONE. The closest ones were miles away, and I couldn't ride on a flat. I tried a rooming house. They sent me to a different rooming house.

I walked into that one behind a man, and asked him if he knows how to get a room for a night. He sent me to a door in the hallway that looked just like the rest of the doors. I knocked.

It was opened by an old man. He was completely naked. Every inch of his body was covered with tattoos.

"What do you want?"

"Just a room for the night."

"Don't have any."

"I really need one. Do you know any place that does?"

"Lincoln Inn, up around the corner."

"Which corner?"

He just stared at me.

"Do you know the address?"

"I told you. Around the corner."

"So do I go left or right when I come out of here?"

He slammed the door.

I took out my phone. According to Google and 411, the Lincoln Inn didn't exist.

I tried going around the corner. There was nothing there. I asked a guy, first in English, then in Spanish, if he knew where the Lincoln Inn was. He said there wasn't anything like that around there. I asked him where I could spend the night.

"If you go up this street past the second light, there will be a Mexican restaurant on your left. A few houses down, there will be a church. One, two, three.....five houses down from that, there will be a red and white house. You can try there."

I walked down there. I nodded to a man who looked about 60, smoking on his porch at the fourth house down. The next house over, red and white, was covered with "PRIVATE PROPERTY / NO TRESPASSING" signs. Lucky day, all right.

I walked over to the guy smoking on his porch. "You think they'll give me a room for the night there?"

He looked at me for a second. "That's a sober house."

"I take it that's a no."

He shook his head.

"Man, this flat tire killed me. Now I'm stuck here and there's nowhere to even stay."

He just looked at me. Come on, man, I thought, you know what I'm aiming at here. I had to break the tension.

"You think it's OK to pitch a tent on the rail trail?"

He still just looked. I let about ten seconds pass, and finally, a smile crept on his face.

"How much are you looking to spend?"

I smiled too. Finally! "What are you suggesting?"

"You can stay here for...." He thought about it for a bit. "$40."

"$40? You got it."

I walked over to a 7-11, got $40, and brought it to him. The sight of the cash clearly excited him.

His name was Donald. We sat up that night and he told me his story, from the 16-year-old daughter who overdosed on drugs two years ago to how he works for the landlord and is trying to paint the house to his girlfriend who was in the hospital.

"I'm sorry the house is such a mess. Do you want some chicken? I'm sorry I don't have much."

He made me crispy chicken. I practically inhaled it.

"I need to call my girlfriend." He picked up the phone and dialed the hospital. The phone was so loud I could hear the other end of the conversation.

"I started drinking again."


"The landlord just had me so pissed off, I couldn't take it anymore." He sipped on his beer.

"Well, be careful."

"OK. I got a guy here. I'm letting him spend the night."


He moved the phone away from his ear. "Here, you talk to her."

I wasn't going to fight him.

"Hello, ma'am."


"I was passing by on my bike and got a flat tire. Tomorrow I'll fix the flat and be gone."


I gave the phone back to him. He pretty quickly hung up.

"You're not some serial killer, are you?"

"I was going to ask you the same thing."


The next morning, I fixed my flat. It was a tear near the valve, so I couldn't patch it. I threw out the tube and put in a new one.

"You hungry? You want to open the Trix?"

I hadn't had Trix in probably something like 15 years. I opened it.

"Here, take the whole box with you."

"I have nowhere to fit it."

"You want me to go to the store and get you something?"

"No, I'm all good."

"The 40 bucks would more than cover it. I can help you out."

"You've already helped me out."

"You've helped me out too. I really needed that money."


I got on my bike and pulled away. The new tube and cooler weather made an enormous difference. I zipped along at speeds up to 50 miles per hour on downhills (though I walked some uphills), and arrived in Worcester in no time.

1 comment:

  1. Man you're meeting some...."unique" people. Keep safe Greg.