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American Past Time
A novel by Len Joy

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Monday, October 26, 2009

Day 6: Springville, NY to Avon, NY

Day 6

Springville, NY to Avon, NY

67 miles – 6 hours 38 minutes

I pull out of the Microtel parking lot at 5:30, determined to get to Avon before the heat becomes unbearable. The road is quiet and peaceful - the truck drivers must be having their morning coffee. I hear a clicking sound. I look around hoping it is not my bike, because my wife was sort of right about my repair skills, which are pretty much limited to changing a tire, and I am not very good at that. The sound is coming from the bike. I dismount and stare at the tire – sort of like I do when there’s a problem with my car and I lift the hood and stare at the engine, hoping it will tell me what’s wrong.

I remount and ride slowly through the parking lot of McDonalds looking down at the tire. The sun has not risen, so there’s not much light. Click……click……click. I see something. I dismount. The magnet that is attached to one of the spokes, which is how the speedometer works (every revolution it engages another magnet on the wheel frame) has twisted slightly so it’s hitting the frame on each revolution. I twist it back into place. The clicking goes away.

I start again and try to shift into a higher gear. The gears clang and rattle and the chain refuses to shift. I keep pedaling, out of the McDonalds parking lot into the Pizza Hut parking lot. I shift the front wheel gears from the small cog to the big cog and back. I don’t know what that is supposed to do, but it works. The bike shifts into gear. I have made two repairs in less than five minutes. I am a bike repair genius.

There are many hills leaving Springville, but they are modest. As I approach Geneseo, I spot the signs for the state university. I remember in grade school all of our student teachers were from Geneseo State Teacher’s college. The school is still there, but now it’s SUNY-Geneseo. When I was in the fourth grade, we started the year with Miss Donna, who I remember as being very tall and very pretty – light brown hair, wrapped up in some fancy tuck and a warm, friendly smile. Some of the boys and girls in our class would stay after school and she would play her records and show us how to dance. She smelled really good.

As I ride by the college I work out the math. I was in fourth grade in 1960, and Miss Donna was a senior in college, I figure her to be twenty-one, so today she would be sixty-six. Probably a retired grandmother.

One mile before Geneseo, as I start down a long hill that leads into the town, I hear, “pffft”, which sounds sort of like air escaping from a tire. I dismount and sure enough my rear tire is flat. There’s a convenient triangle of grass about twenty yards ahead of me where three roads intersect. I wheel my bike to the grass patch and unpack.

I actually thought to buy a spare tire before I left. It’s not quite eleven A.M. and I’m only eight miles from Avon. I take my time and an hour later I’ve successfully replaced the tire, repacked my gear and gotten back on the road.

At noon I arrive at US 20, a major highway that runs through New York State parallel to the New York State Thruway, from Buffalo to Albany. New York must be using some of those high taxes my dad is always complaining about on their highways, because it seems like every road I have been on since entering the state has been recently resurfaced.

I turn east and drive through Avon to the venerable Avon Inn. The Inn, built in 1820, has seen better days. A huge colonial mansion, it has a long, steep stairway leading to a covered porch. I park my bike and walk through a deserted and hot hallway to the reception desk. There’s no one around. Finally a woman returns to the desk. She explains there are not many visitors and that she will be leaving at 9 P.M. She gives me a key to my room and the front door, and tells me if I’m out after nine I will need to use that key to get in the front door. I have the feeling I’m the only guest.

The room has a window air conditioner which is not turned on. The room temperature is about eighty degrees. The room is huge, with a large four poster bed. The carpeting was probably new in the seventies – a royal blue shag, like we had in our college dorm rooms. In fact the room looks a lot like a fraternity room, but it doesn’t smell of a beer. There is a small portable television with rabbit ears antennae. I half expect it to be black and white, but it has color on all three channels.

I have one clean white golf shirt which I have saved for my final night, I guess figuring Avon would be a big party spot. I take a long shower hoping the room will have cooled off by the time I’m done. It hasn’t. I put on my clean shirt and head out looking to have a late lunch. There’s a park west of the Inn and some boys have set up a grill and are selling hot dogs and soda and chips. I buy a couple of hot dogs and a soda and sit down in the park. I take one bite of the hot dog and the mustard squirts on to my shirt.

After a short nap, I call my sister Kendra. I’m worried about getting through Auburn tomorrow. If I leave early I’m still going to end up hitting Auburn at the noon rush hour. The downtown section is not bike-friendly, so I want to see if there is a route I can take around the city. After conferring with her husband, we conclude there’s no easy way to avoid the city.

“Be careful,” she says, “I’ll see you tomorrow night.”

At six P.M. I head back out looking for a restaurant. There are three bordering the park, but they are all out of business. Downtown Avon is struggling. I go into a bar, but they don’t sell food. The bartender recommends an Irish sports bar at the bottom of the hill.

I walk down the hill and sit at the bar. I order a bottle of Genesee Cream Ale, the beer I drank in college at Rochester, and the burger basket with Irish fries - very similar to french fries, but with vinegar. I’m back at the room by eight. I pack my bike and go to bed. Tomorrow I’ll be home.

1 comment:

Ray Nayler said...


An interesting read. You bring your fiction writer's eye for detail to this, and it works very well.