Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Postcard: A Great Day in Harlem,or Some Days The Bike Rides You

After all the hassle surrounding my attempt to purchase a headset locally, the one I ended up with still didn't fit (the fork crown race had a too-small inner diameter for my fork) so there was no chance I was going to have the Trek together in time for Saturday morning. By Friday evening, I was tired and disappointed. My plans for the day had pretty much fallen apart.

The Blessing of the Bikes was not only held on the first anniversary of Dad's passing but a mere three blocks south of St. Luke's Hospital, where he spent most of his last days. The coincidence of all these things was too great for me to pass up. Besides that, I needed a day away from home and the weather was supposed to be fantastic. I decided I was going to New York no matter what, and the bike was coming with me.

Time for a contingency plan. As it happened, Schleppi was bound for Newton, Mass on Saturday, so I walked over to her house with the Trek fork and a note for the good folks at Harris Cyclery. I relaxed, confident that this matter would now be in competent hands. I grabbed the day pack I use for backcountry snowboarding and attached the bare bike frame in seconds. It couldn't have worked much more smoothly-- or looked much more ridiculous.

I caught a pre-dawn lift to New Haven from friends en route to catch a morning flight to Guatemala. I took Metro North to the 125th St station. Harlem's main drag was still sleepy and quiet as I strolled westward through Morningside Park to the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. A steady stream of bikes were arriving at 9 AM and being carried up the Cathedral's massive front stoop. A charmingly stubborn older woman refused my offer to help carry her ungainly vintage Triumph 3-speed up the stairs. Her friend rolled her eyes and chuckled. The overall mood was warm and good.

The ceremony was fairly short, the perfect blend of lighthearted and solemn. Words were said, holy water sprinkled, dead cyclists memorialized, bagpipes played, many pictures taken. The ceremony concluded with a procession around the enormous Gothic cathedral, with much lingering and milling about afterward, both inside and out. I chatted with a bunch of people as I made my way to a bench to enjoy a bagel and a coffee in the late-morning sun. There were at least two other unrideable and incomplete bikes in attendance, so the yoke of ridiculousness was shouldered by more than just me.

I wandered the area for the next few hours, walking around Columbia University, Morningside and Marcus Garvey Parks, and savoring the food, culture and architecture that abound across 110th St. The chromoly frame strapped to my back was virtually unnoticeable to me as I walked, though I was asked nicely to leave it in the coat check at the Studio Museum. I made my way back to Hartford by late afternoon, but not before getting a bike permit for the Metro North train. It's not needed for a bare frame or a folding bike, but I will need it to ride the train with a full-sized bike. I ponied up the $5 fee as both an incentive and a promise to be back again soon.

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