Nothing went well on this trip so far, and that’s an understatement. But let’s start at the beginning.
After a frantic last-day-at-work-before-a-long-holiday, I was ready to leave London. My extensive traveling in the last couple of months had taught me how to pack quickly and efficiently, without leaving anything important behind. So I was calm and prepared when I arrived at Heathrow last Thursday, little bit before 7am.
After the humble on-board services of my previous intercontinental flights in my life, I was impressed by the wide variety of films and TV shows British Airways was offering and since I had chosen seat with ample legroom, the actual flight was almost perfect. The landing went well and we were waiting for our cases in no time. Up until this point, everything went well, my only concern was that my throat ached more and more.
Finding the right tube line to central New York wasn’t as easy as I thought but, eventually, I was on the right train, en route to Penn Station. Then a funny thing happened: I bumped into two fellow photographers, Jan and Michal from mtbs.cz. They were about head out to do some sightseeing, so we rode the same train for a while and chatted about New York.
Getting to my hotel took me longer than I expected so it was about 3pm when I was able to head into the center of New York to do some proper sight seeing. I took my camera with me and snapped a couple of pictures. Prior to my journey, I’d bumped into a blogpost that advertised an event at Rapha’s NYC store, so I built my afternoon around that, making sure that I got there at 6:30pm to see who’s the fastest mechanic in NYC.
Arriving at the store, it looked like a US version of Look Mum No Hands on Old Street, with the difference that this one had small bike shop as well. It was already pretty crowded and as my throat ache was getting worse, I asked for a cup of tea, which was an unusual choice – the majority chose beers, quite understandably.
The competition started a bit late and had four contestants, for guys from different bike shops from all around NYC. Their task was to assemble a bike from scratch, then they had to take it out for a spin and if it felt ok, then could they ring the bell and claim a winner.
This probably isn’t a mass-produced frame.
Clearly, John Britton had the most dedicated and most attractive supporting crew.
Though Mr Britton had the loudest fans, Joe, the mechanic at the adjacent workstand seemed to be faster.
The competition lasted longer than expected, but eventually Joe emerged as the winner, took the bike out for a quick spin and then rang the might bell at the entrance. I was struggling with the sore throat and the tiredness, combined with jetlag, so decided to call it a day.
The ticketing system on the train kept puzzling me. The conductor took my ticket and put this little slip of paper in the seat in front of me to indicate that I had had a proper ticket – but why not just leave the ticket with me, thus reducing the amount of paper used?
And then things started to fall apart. Next morning I litterally wasn’t able to swallow. No amount of tea or throat cleaner helped so I decided to go see a doctor – A&E was my only option. Though most wouldn’t consider this as interesting and it wasn’t my first choice either, but I did find it amusing to see how an American hospital works. Also, the hospital crew was very friendly and helpful, though not too fast. The nurse who took care of me loved my accent and kept talking me, my attempts to explain her how much talking hurts hadn’t really succeeded.
After a good 3 hours later, I was back at my hotel and even though I was knackered, I had to buy some photo gear so I headed back to Manhattan to check out the renowned B&H store. Well, that was the plan but on Friday, they close shop at 2pm. Brilliant. So I spent some time snapping shots and then headed back to the hotel to prepare for the next day – I would drive up to Windham for the last mountain bike World Cup race.
A funny, absurd little scene: a women in her mid fifties dancing on a rollerskate, in the setting sun on the riverbank, listening to music on a mid-90’s Walkman.
This is what I would call a bicycle superhighway.
A ghost bike, quite like the flowers around the frame.
I headed back to my hotel, but the day still wasn’t over, not that I did know that at the time. As I got off the train, I spotted that the local baseball team’s stadium was all lit up, so I thought I might as well check it out.
At the entrance, an older woman stood guard and since the attendance was far from full, after a brief chat, she whisked me in. I have never been to a baseball game before, and even though my host told me, that we all should be grateful, that God created baseball, after an hour, I wasn’t entirely convinced. On the other hand, the spectators were great, all sorts of characters, from all age, sex and status, enjoying their favourite game together on a quiet Friday evening.
Ok, this one was weird. The two girls had to spin around the baseball bats for a minute or something and the one with the most spins won. WTF? It seemed to be popular, though.
And then came the Saturday morning. My throat was about to explode and so was my head, I could hardly drink a cup of tea and then, seconds before I would have left to pick up the rental car, I realized that I had left my driver’s licence in London. After five seconds of quiet but deep despair, I started to look for an alternative solution, but secretly I didn’t mind, as I probably wasn’t fit to drive that morning. Eventually, I took the train to Albany and then took a taxi to Windham. The taxi driver was lovely but she had no idea where Windham was and she was too proud to use a satnav – until we were hopelessly lost. So the trip, that should have taken less than 90 minutes was prolonged to almost three hours. So arrived to Windham finally. More to come about the weekend soon.