Planning for the trip, I'd read a number of books, and some internet reports of cross-country bikists. I noticed that most complained of knee or other lower limb joint pain during the first 5-10 days, which resolved with some rest. (Then there was the guy who took off from WA state, promptly rode off the edge of the pavement when a semi scared him, and broke his collar bone. Set him back several days, until he could figure out how to ride with one arm!) So, I decided to gradually increase the mileage over the first five days, hoping that would prevent body and/or bike breakdowns during the initial week. So far, that's worked for the bodies, but an unfortunate accident with Will's bike has impeded our start time for tomorrow.
Today brought our first brush with wet weather. Rain last night soaked the boys' tent, but at least it dampened the mosquitos at Wells St. Park, outside of Sturbridge. Thunderstorms were predicted for the afternoon, and hit as scheduled about 6 PM, but our riding was done by then. We did encounter a few drizzles on the way, however. None of us was accustomed to rain and temps in the 70's, so the idea of riding with only shorts and a gore-text jacket was somewhat novel. It's the old dilemma, would you rather be warm and wet from sweat, or cold and wet from rain? Cheryl and I chose the former, Will the latter. We all got equally dirty.
Dropping down from Amherst into Hadley, I pointed out a bike shop to Will, who'd thought of buying some road pedals earlier. "Nah", he said. The spot was at a corner in a major suburban shopping district, across the street from the enclosed Hampshire Mall, at SR 9 and 116 in MA. We were watching carefully for traffic, especially dealing with the frequent left turners in front of us, the turners from stores in front of us, and the right turn only lanes we'd cross. All successful, until Cheryl (on the back of the tandem) heard Will go "Oh s---!!!" and sort of grunt simultaneously. We turned back (basically across a freeway), and found Will inspecting his wheel, which would no longer rotate between the brake pads.
"What happened?" I asked.
"I hit a horizontal grate and rammed my tire; now it looks sorta like Shaine's". (Shaines tire had needed major truing earlier in the trip; Will had inadvertantly gone across a storm drain with grates parallel, not perpendicular, to his line of travel). His wheel was definitely a bit out of true. We trucked into the providentially placed "Competitive Edge" ski and bike shop, and started talking about the problem. The bike shop guy showed us the wheel, and said, "Truing's not gonna help you; you need a new wheel". Will had slammed down on the rim, putting a 5 mm dent into it. Holding a tire on the rim, or not hopping would be impossible.
Cheryl and I left Will to charm the bike shop guys, hoping the story of our trip would induce them to build the wheel today. We rode on another 2 miles to the agreed-upon end-of-day meeting place, and found Cody waiting with the girls. We loaded up the tandem, and drove back. The plan had been for this night only, to go to a motel, as campgrounds are sparse in this section of MA, and were all booked months earlier for one nighters this week, due to 4th of July weekend. Again, we noticed several motels by the bike shop, so cancelled our reservations over in Holyoke, and stayed across the road at Howard Johnson's.
I made the reservations at a little sports bar/restaurant type place, and induced Cheryl to come in and have a beer while the kids checked into HoJo's. The waitperson, who's tag appeared to have only her last name, "Sutton", noticed the RV, and asked what we were doing. We gave her the story, and she just lit up. She was from "Out West" (Denver), but had come back East with her family some years ago. We talked about sights to see in Utah and Arizona, how to keep peace with a family of six, and what a great thing it is (would be) to bike across the country. We gave her a business card with the web address and Bikrutz logo, and appeared to have made her day on that slow pre-holiday Thursday afternoon at Applebee's.
Our three beers (between the two of us), and potato skins mellowed us out, and made me remember that most of the time on a bike trip, we won't actually be biking.
Later, Shaine, Ann, and Cheryl got to see "Hercules" at the cut-price "twilight" show (the boys arrived twenty minutes before show time, and thus missed out on "Men in Black").
Tomorrow, we've got to figure out a way to get Will's wheel before 1:30 PM, so he can ride to Bennington (about 70 miles away) by 7 PM, so we can make our campsite up in the mountains at Woodford St Park in VT (the only place that would take us for 4th of July when I called two months ago - and I had to reserve 2 nights, at that). Let you know how that turns out.
As I close, the thunder is rattling walls, the kids are fascinated, the laundry is done, and we're all ready to sleep.
Miles: Al and Cheryl (on Tandem): 46; Will: 43.
Total miles: 144
**Next Day's Journal**