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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Dreaming of bicycling adventures

I loved my bicycle. It was a lightweight, aluminum-frame French road bike, a steel-blue Motobecane Jubilee Sport that I bought for $350 in 1982, when I was 15. I caught the riding bug watching “Breaking Away” as a kid, first the movie and then the series. I saved my allowance and took on all manner of odd jobs to buy that bike.

I rode for miles and miles from my home in Yaphank, in Suffolk County, north up the William Floyd Parkway to Sound Avenue, and from there east past Baiting Hollow toward Mattituck, and back again, with strawberry and sod farms filling the horizon as I went.

Then I grew up, and like many adults, I had less and less time to ride. My prized bike sat in storage for more than two decades, until last year, when I degreased, oiled and rode it from my Merrick home to the Heralds’ Garden City office last August for our series on alterative transportation, “The Road Less Traveled.” Total distance: nearly 20 miles.

I had long forgotten the visceral experience of riding, the sense of calm you feel with the sun and wind in your face and birds chattering in the trees above you. Traversing central Nassau County’s congested thoroughfares, I found riding to work cumbersome and time-consuming. Still, I loved the experience, and so I began to ride once a week, 10 miles through my immediate neighborhood, tooling around the quieter, lightly trafficked streets –– no longer moving as fast as I did when I was 15 or 20, but moving nonetheless.

Hurricane Sandy destroyed my bike. I had left it in the garage, and saltwater covered it in the Great Flood. For three months I left it chained to a bench in my backyard, covered by a plastic tarp, giving it little to no thought as a crew raced to gut and restore my family room, garage and crawl space.

In February, I finally tended to my bike. Salt had sealed every moving part, making it unsalvageable. So I left it on the curb for the metal recyclers to take and sell, and in this way, I felt, it might be reborn.

I forgot about the bike as my wife and I bought new furniture, and I started to redo our devastated yard –– which I’m still working on. I had no time to think about buying a new bike.

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