Wednesday, May 24th, 2006 – Distance Travelled 396 Miles

Although I did not feel too bad when I woke up, I think it is fair to say that I almost always have felt better. Alcohol gives you a different sort of sleep entirely. I still woke early, I cannot do anything about that, but my head was definitely a little bit heavy. Tim was nowhere to be seen, but Ned was sparked out in the bedroom next to mine. It was sunny and a bit breezy and the air held that moistness that threatens rain. I hoped this was down to the proximity of the ocean. I took a turn around the very pleasant, leafy, neighbourhood, wondering what they thought of their resident “Hillbilly” and, by the time I got back to the house, both Tim and Ned were in the kitchen where, inevitably, Tim was frying up a breakfast for ten. Tea (he had got in some English Breakfast Tea specially for me), bacon, eggs and toast will set you up for the whole day, let me tell you that. Even the “Boston Tea Party” jokes were friendly. There was no sign of Tim’s wife and I discovered that she had spent a similar evening to the one that we had enjoyed, in company with Ned’s wife and some other girlies. She was either at Ned’s house, or face down in the harbour, he did not know, (it was the former !) Ned left to do a couple of things before work and Tim and I took a few “pickup” shots before we shook hands and he went to his office and I set off south.

I relocated the I-93 and travelled on it all the way through central Boston and out into the southern suburbs. Not long after I joined it, I could see, in the middle distance to my left, the spire of yet another Colonial war monument, this time on Bunker Hill, where in 1775 the British did gain a victory, albeit a slightly Pyrrhic one. At Braintree, which caused a wry smile because of its embarrassing association with a previous night out in Boston with Tim and Ned, I turned towards the sea on Route 3, prominently dubbed “The Pilgrims Highway”. In increasingly gloomy weather, I followed the 3 all the way to the Sagamore Bridge where I entered Cape Cod on Route 6 which I then followed to Chatham. The headland at Chatham is NOT the most easterly point in the United States, that honour lies somewhere to the north, in Maine, but it was as far east as I could possibly go on this trip, so it would have to do. Unfortunately, the weather on the Cape was grim. It began pelting with rain, the worst downpour I had seen since my second day on the trip and visibility was soon close to zero. By the time I got to Chatham, I was pretty wet and, up on the cliffs, the wind was sufficient to make just standing there taxing. I could hear, rather than see, the waves crashing down below. I do all this stupidity because I cannot seem to help it, so I stood there a minute, then I turned around again and headed west.

I recrossed the bridge at Sagamore but, this time, stayed on Route 6 heading around the coast. In the increasingly dreadful conditions, I opted for bigger, wider roads and this led me away from the sea and onto first Route 25 and then I-195 which I took all the way to Providence. Just before entering that city, I crossed the State Line and into Rhode Island and inadvertently entered another song, “The Last Resort“, by the Eagles. It looked like quite a quaint little town, at least from the highway, but the wet weather did not make an excursion into the surface streets an attractive proposition, so I passed straight through. I left town on Route 6, with New York now appearing for the first time on the signposts and following those same directions took me seamlessly first onto Route 101 and shortly after that across yet another State Line, this time into Connecticut.

Route 101 merged into Route 44 and then the signs led me to Route 74 and then the I-84 which took me all the way to Hartford. After crossing (or recrossing as I had passed over it in the opposite direction and far to the north the day before) the Connecticut River, the signage directed me south on the I-91 all the way to New Haven on the coast. If that last bit sounds boring, believe me, it was. The rain, the wind, the traffic were all so bad that I did not see anything at all, I just plodded on westwards, hoping fervently that it would stop raining.

In Newhaven, the I-91 became my old and trusted friend, the I-95. The rain did begin to slacken a little, but to keep up the pressure there was now mile after mile after mile of roadworks. Most of the time, this just narrowed the lanes, but sometimes it became a single lane which caused both a complete cessation of progress and innumerable “fender-benders”. Given the erratic positioning of slow and stopped vehicles and the fact that most American drivers would not notice a motorcycle on their passenger seat, let alone somewhere outside of their air-conditioned bubble, my anxiety levels were through the roof. I think that, most of the time, I could have pushed the Harley faster than I was able to ride it. At least, in the slightly improving condition, I did get the occasional vista of the Long Island Sound.

After what seemed considerably longer than an eternity and in rapidly falling darkness, I came to the exit for the I-678 or Hutchinson River Parkway which I had been informed by my friend in Brooklyn would lead me close to her door. This ran above the Bronx and upper Manhattan and across the East River into Queens. A brightly floodlit spot, visible in the gloom to my right as I ran over the bridge, was the notorious Riker’s Island Prison you hear about in all the New York police dramas.

The I-678 merged with and became the I-495 at the tennis haven of Flushing Meadows and then completed the same process with the I-278 as I made the turn south instead of crossing over into Manhattan proper. I have to say that this part of New York City was spectacularly depressing on a dull and damp evening. My instructions were to stay on the I-278 until the exit immediately prior to the Verrazzano Narrows Bridge. Unfortunately, at this point I made my second mistake of the day (the first being getting up …) and, with the bridge looming, I went off an exit too soon. This rendered my “post bridge” instructions a little moot and it was quite a while before I realised this, re-oriented myself and found my friend’s building. It was after ten o’clock at night when I rang her bell !

As is ever the case, I was welcomed warmly. For the record, my friend is what I have heard described as a “Jewish American Princess“, who chose to marry not just a christian, but a Lebanese christian. They are a perfect, complementary, match and under their brash New York exteriors, they are amongst the kindest people I know. They are very fortunate in having a rent-controlled apartment which actually overlooks the Verrazzano Narrows and the bridge over them. The view was lovely.

Despite the lateness of the hour, my jacket went on the radiator, the cooker went on and food appeared and then the beers came out. We chatted easily until about three in the morning as if it had not been nearly three years since we had seen each other. In the end, I could stay awake no longer and fell asleep on the couch. I know this because, when I woke up in the morning, that is where I still was, covered with a quilt.