I had to be weird and ask at the counter. Lucky for me, the woman I talked to was the buyer. "I really like them," she said. "They're really nice and not corporate, y'know?"
Outside, we lounged about...
...and goofed around.
I'd routed us onto the closest pavement to the beach, a narrow strip of blacktop shared by pedestrians and sand. I got a little ahead of the guys and was on my own when a fellow on a hybrid bike with a walkie-talkie parked himself in front of me and told me that bikes were not permitted (his being the exception, naturally). Seconds later, Pete called. The guys had been kicked off too. We found each other back on the street and proceeded the few remaining blocks to the Manasquan Inlet.
There were rocks. I had to climb onto the rocks, even though it meant getting sand in my shoes.
I was emptying out my shoes when a guy parked his fat bike next to mine.
(This picture was an accident, but I like it anyway.)
I maneuvered my wheel next to his to show the world the difference.
Jack H came over and peered at the tire, trying to figure out the recommended psi. It was 30. I run my tires at 110. It probably takes him longer to fill his than for me to fill mine.
Winding our way out of Manasquan took some doing. We had three functioning GPS units, any two of which were in agreement at any given time, but we were always on course according to my trusty 3 x 5 card.
We were on open road again, on Easy Street (yes, and it's near Casino Drive). The $500 Piece of Shit lit up to tell me that our next turn would be in 2.5 miles. Then it lit up again. "Make a U-turn." Um, no? "Off course." Again, no. "Recalculating." Yeah, you go ahead and do that. "Off course." On course, you piece of shit. You just told me that a minute ago! "Recalculating. Continue to Princeton Pike." Well, yeah, in, like 35 miles. And that was the end of Charon, the $500 Piece of Shit.
We stopped at the Minit Stop in Jackson. Enticed by the sign for frozen lemonade, I ordered one, not knowing that the woman behind the counter was a novice at iced lemonade, at the end of her shift, and in some kind of leg pain. I'd have canceled the order, but she was too deep into it, cursing out the plastic cups and smiling at me. I went into the bathroom, where my water bottle, that I had just filled, fell out of my jersey pocked and splattered onto the floor. The lid was in two pieces. I cleaned things up and screwed the cap pieces on the best I could. I put the bottle in the seat tube cage so that it would at least face upright.
That didn't work out too well. Somewhere on Ely-Harmony Road, off to the side in the weeds, is half of the cap. Every time I hit a bump I took a bath. What I didn't drink I wore. It kept my thighs refreshingly cool anyway. Pete had a good time watching me try to drink from the rim of the bottle.
Jack and Pete smelled the barn on 526. Jim hung with them for a while but dropped back. He always dances with those what brung him. I could feel a cramp coming on and slowed down. I don't get cramps often. At a red light I swallowed a salt tablet. I took another one in the parking lot, finishing what was left of the water from the broken bottle. I still had a full one on the front cage and turned down both an offer for more water and a ride home from Pete ("The air conditioning sure feels cool in here," he sang at me as he pulled away).
I had 14.5 miles to go. The worst would be Mercer County Park's vortex. The wind had picked up and was coming straight at me. My leg started to cramp up again. Not only my hamstring or my calf. My whole damned leg. That was new. At the Hughes Drive park entrance I stopped and ate part of a bar even though I wasn't hungry. It helped a little, but I'd be damned if I was going to walk the last three miles or two miles or one mile. By the time I stepped inside, I felt like barfing.
Fifty centuries and I still don't have the nutrition thing down. I'm rarely hungry on a century. It's the one time I can ever eat freely, and the one time I ever forget to eat.
Looking back, I'm certain that I didn't drink enough the day before. We'd been to an outdoor party up in Jersey City. I hadn't been paying enough attention to hydration, and by the time I got hungry all the food was gone.
Anyway, after a shower, a long sit-down, and a meal, I felt better. I'd make it to Don Sprague's memorial service after all. I wasn't sure what to expect there. I hadn't seen Don in years. I didn't know his wife's name until he died. I figured I'd be standing around among strangers, awkwardly waiting my turn to offer condolences to someone I'd never met.
It wasn't like that at all. It was like that Lyle Lovett song, "Since the Last Time:"
In the end, six of us who used to ride together back in the day, plus Jack, went out to dinner. We ate outside in Princeton and had ice cream after.
Garmin is taking the $500 Piece of Shit back and giving me a new one to mess with. I have a cabinet full of water bottles. Deep in my biking backpack are two spare Kermits, and another one from eBay is on its way. For Don's widow, the Freewheelers have circled the wagons. "It's going to take time," she said, "but we'll be okay."