Day 27: Fill up on the hotel’s continental breakfast and take a bagel for the road. Do the tire pressure check and adjustment dance. Schlep all the bags downstairs and load the bike. Set up my jams and gps. Turn on my bluetooth. Gear up. Take off!
About 200 miles of beauty: treed hills, streams, lakes, curvy roads without tolls. Then 25 miles of terror. The worst part: Manhattan at rush hour.
Lanes do not exist. No use in being polite. Just cram myself into any available space ahead. My rig isn’t svelte with those Pelican cases. Braking with the additional weight requires more space and time. Those are not available. Cars are trying to edge me out to get ahead. Bicycles and mopeds are zigging and zagging through any space available. I cut off delivery trucks, tour busses, cabs, luxury convertibles and compact sedans because I am in a Roadcrafter in what feels like 90° city air, barely moving. The pollution coats my lungs. I sucked my Camelbak dry to prevent heatstroke.
As luck would have it, a very dear friend from Portland would be staying in Brooklyn on a business trip. He invited me to join him at his hotel in Brooklyn. They have gated parking where I can leave my bike for $20 a day. Sounds perfect! He informed the front desk of my eventual arrival and need for parking before he left for meetings.
I admit, I fucked up by not taking a picture of my loaded moto in front of this boutique hotel, but my ‘stich was saturated with sweat and I just wanted to guzzle water and take a shower. The fellow working the front desk looked at me as if I was a madwoman.
He had no note about my impending arrival. Couldn’t find a reservation under my friend’s name. My friend’s phone was dead, so no answer when I called. The desk guy did not want to help. “Are you sure you’re at the right place?” I stated the address my friend provided. I was there. I described Matt J (there are a LOT of Matt’s in my life), named his business partner, an employee, his wife. I must have sounded more legit. He said the reservation was made under a different name. I recognized the mispronounciation and called Erika. She was able to provide the final details I needed to finally secure my motorcycle and hose myself off.
The desk guy must have felt a little shitty for not remembering that he himself had a conversation with Matt J about a gal with a motorcycle arriving, so he requested that I write a glowing review in exchange for free parking until Sunday. Whatever. Deal.
I won’t provide the name of the hotel, but I’ll admit that it’s on the edge of Williamsburg and Bed-Stuy. Rosh Hashana had just been observed by the Hassidic locals, and today they would be preparing chickens for slaughter. At least, this is what was explained to me as I could hear screams which sounded like “No! No! No!” as the scantily feathered hens were swung over the heads of men with curls and women in wigs. I had to pass the spectacle after parking my motorcycle on the lot. It’s another thing I didn’t photograph, but mostly out of respect.
That night, I enjoyed dinner with Matt J, his team and friends from his days in Lancaster, PA. We ate all the pizza, took a walk, dropped by a bar and made it back to the hotel for the best sleep of my life. Maybe 10+ hours. I missed the hotel’s breakfast, but more than made up for it over lunch with another friend I made in Portland, now living in Brooklyn.
We talked for hours and walked to a waterfront park. We walked to a subway stop and parted ways. She was off to work. I met up with a couple of friends I’ve vacationed with and their friends in another part of Brooklyn. Rooftop beers and Dominican food and talking and dog snuggling and their friends. All good things.
I returned to the hotel again, caught up on the day’s events with Matt J and got another quality night of sleep. This time, waking up early enough for breakfast and a walk around the neighborhood to watch the local kids getting onto the busses going to specific schools, parents driving minivans, and older sisters crossing streets and holding the hands of their younger siblings.
Matt J has all the meetings today. I’ve got to decide to go to either Coney Island or Rockaway Beach. Another Matt (C) I met on a trip to Oakland is staying at the Playland Motel at Rockaway Beach, so we met up near there for Russian dumplings and salad at Uma’s, then hit the beach.
We dropped by the bar at the hotel for drinks, the chef let me taste-test his desert creation for the night: ice cream fried in a cinnamon chex coating, fried pita triangles, chocolate sauce and a dash of cinnamon. I suggested he sprinkle a pinch of cayenne on it and go with chocolate ice cream. He liked the idea and went with it.
Matt C and I went back to the beach to catch the golden hour as we clambored on the jetty, took pictures of the sunset and dicovered huge seashells.
We stumbled around town to a taco joint for another drink and fish tacos, then back to the hotel bar. Our earlier bartender’s mother just lost her sister to cancer today and was now mourning at the bar. I got a little choked up thinking about my own mother, her cancer and her sisters. Folks took turns buying Ma Dukes drinks and getting her stoned. She told us stories about growing up in the neighborhood. “We were gangsters here! Before any hipsters showed up! I got mugged with a gun to my head across the street!”
After a while, it was time to take another walk for a smoke, and then sleep. I woke up in Punky Brewster’s bedroom.