April 12, 2007

My Trip to Hilton Head, Part I

I was recently on vacation with my family in Hilton Head. Since it was a last minute decision and the fact that we were in South Jersey for my daughter’s swim meet on Saturday and Sunday, we decided to drive the 800+ miles. And since it was the middle of IM training, I just had to bring my bike. The winter has been cold (spring has been too!) so riding in 60 degree weather was appealing.

We arrived at our hotel on Friday in Mount Laurel, NJ. The bike was on the back of the Suburban attached to a Yakima rack that goes into the trailer hitch. It was late when we arrived and everyone was tired. I didn’t have the energy to bring the bike into the hotel room so I left it locked on the rack. It was my old bike so in some strange way, I was almost wishing someone would try to take it. Maybe I could claim it on my insurance and buy a new bike! A man can dream can’t he? Plus, the family gets a little cranky when I wheel the bike into a small, cramped hotel room. It makes everybody that more claustrophobic.

The next morning the alarm went off at 5:30. The plan was for me to drive my daughter, the swimmer, to the meet for her warm-up. I would come back and pick up my wife and our other two daughters later. Everything went according to plan: we awoke, got out of bed, dressed, and headed out to the car. The bike was still there. Good….I guess. The drive to the swim meet was about 20 minutes and all was going well. As we merged onto another highway, some guy in a sedan started to speed up next to me with his window down. What the heck is this? Does he need directions? Did I cut him off? I put my window down, going 50 MPH, and shouted out to him: “What’s up?” I’m sure my expression was puzzling as well. Then the words came at me like a bullet in slow motion. I could see it as it got closer and closer but no matter what I did, I couldn’t stop it. His words sounded muffled as if he were talking in slow motion:

“You’re dragging your bike.”

My eyebrows rose. My mouth hung open. For a brief second I was suspended in mid-air. Finally, a word emerged, “What!!???” He sped off. Did I thank him? I couldn’t remember. I pulled over and got out of the car like I was rushing to save a life. The top arm of the rack was down and there was the bike barely breathing. The left peddle was sheared about 1/3 off, the left drop was sheared and all the tape was gone, there was a hole in the back tire, and the tube was popped. I just couldn’t believe it. Did I forget to fasten the clasp last night because I was too tired? There was really no time to mourn as my daughter needed to get to the pool. I re-fastened the bike, got in the truck and sped away. My daughter asked something like, “What happened?” But I was too dazed to answer. Why didn’t we hear it? Or feel it even? Did this really happen?

After I dropped my daughter off, I found a Wa-Wa convenience store to buy some food for her for her swim meet. I drank my coffee and inspected the bike. I would have to get it repaired if I was going to ride it in Hilton Head. My gut ached. I mean it’s my back up bike but it’s a bike for crying out loud. No bike should have to go through the pain that my Cannondale R300 just went through. Sadly, I got in my truck, and went back to the hotel. When I walked in the room, I looked at my wife and in a whisper said there words: “There’s been an accident.” To be continued.

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