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Fairy Tale Ride, Part 1

December 19, 2011

A Fairy Tale RideInspired by my most recent read, RIDE: Short fiction about bicycles (review coming this Friday), I’ve decided to craft my very own bike story.  Now, before you start questioning my imaginative potential let me first make you aware of this fact. When I was in middle school, I was bestowed the honor of “Writer of the Month” for my short story investigating the child cannibalistic tendencies of certain teachers (I read a lot of Goosebumps now when I was young). I want to assure you the criteria of this award was in keeping with the high standards of a Pulitzer or the Twain Award (I assume).  So without further ado I present to you Part 1 of A Fairy Tale Ride.

Part 1:

Bug glanced over at Grimm resting his head on the car window.  He knew he shouldn’t be upset.  Not now.  Not with such little time left.

“You still pissed?” Grimm asked peeking through the little slits in his tired eyes.

“No, not really.” Bug responded half-heartily.  He was angry with his friend but would never admit it.  Bug was fully aware it was the Firm, not Grimm, dictating this last minute change.  Yet, it didn’t seem to matter.  The two had painstakingly been planning every detail of an eight-night bike tour for the past six months.  And now, because of Grimm’s new departure date the trip had to be

cut in half.  Rather than travel the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal from the trailhead in Washington the full length up to Cumberland, Maryland and then return back along the 184-mile path they would instead be taking a one-way rental car to Cumberland and then bike back to DC.

Grimm broke the silence with a reference to their time together in the Air Force.  “Hey, you know what they say?  Flexibility is the key to airpower.  Plans go to hell and we just need to deal with it.  Bug, they’ll be other times, other trips.”

Bug nodded.  He wasn’t sure if it was true.  The Firm was relocating Grimm cross country to start a new project – just as they did with the others.  The others, who now only spoke through the occasional email, were once part of the Weekend Velo’ers.  Bug loved those Sunday morning ritual rides ending at a local donut and coffee shop.  Grimm and Bug were all that remained.  Even though they had been the closet of the Weekend Velo’ers, Bug realized long ago that between Grimm’s family obligations and Bug’s soon-t0-be family, the distance between them would be too much to keep the friendship together.  He knew this trip would be the last.

They pulled the rental car into the Cumberland Hertz lot shortly after noon.  Already behind schedule.  After unloading the bikes and configuring their gear they began the short 1-mile ride to the Cumberland trailhead.  Grimm rode a Surly LHT with 700c tires.  The bike was configured for long distance touring on hard surfaces but the two appreciated the extra storage accommodated by the front fork panniers.  Bug, on the other hand, was riding his Trek 4300 hard-tail mountain bike he used for work commuting.  Bug was aware that the large knobby tires might have been slightly overkill for the loose gravel they would be encountering.  If it gets me where I’m going then it’s the right tool for the job, he always rationalized to himself.

They followed signs directing them to the C&O Canal and entered a dirt parking lot.  On the left there was a small bike shop offering day rentals.

“Hold up,” Grimm said.  “I want to reposition some gear before we get started.”

Great, more delays, Bug thought.  “You know at this rate you might as well postpone your trip for another week.”  Grimm pretended not to hear as he shuffled through his panniers.

Over by the bike shop, a little girl was being fitted for a bicycle.  “No, mommy, this bike is too small!  I want the pink one!” She whined.

“But Goldie, that bike was much too big for you,” her mother pleaded.

“No! No! No! I want the PINK ONE!”

“Well, I’m sorry, sweetie.”

“I want to go home.  I hate bicycles!  I hate…” Her gaze caught something coming out of the shop.

A gangly teenager exited the store pushing a pink bicycle.  “Ma’am, I think I found one that may be just right.”

“Yah!” shouted the little girl with golden locks.

“Ready?  Ready?  Bug, you there?” Bug shook his head and looked over at Grimm already mounted on his bike.

“Yeh. Lets get out of here quick so we don’t have to deal with that little brat.”

Their tires crunched over the loose gravel as they entered the old tow trail.  Their journey was finally beginning.

As the miles passed and the high summer sun promising long days for riding, the irritation and angst consuming Bug began to fade.  Each bump, ever push up hill, and coast down a slope dislodged all that was bothering him.  They were hoping to reach the Sorrel Ridge Campsite at mile marker 154.  A relatively short day, they knew, but with the late start they had no choice but to make it up later in the trip.

“About ten more miles.  We’ll hit Paw-Paw tunnel and then only another mile or two.”  Bug said has he tried to slide his Moleskine notebook back into his handlebar bag.  His upper jaw ached and he realized for the first time in a while he was smiling.  And why shouldn’t he be happy.  Things were good.  No, things were great.  No, things were…


Grimm’s tires skidded to an abrupt stop.  Without having to turn around, Bug knew exactly what that sound meant.  A broken tire spoke.  His heart sank.  Despite all they managed to stuff in their bags, spare spokes were not included.

“Guess you’re going back to that bike shop,” Grimm said matter-of-factly.

“Are you kidding me?  That’s like 20 miles!”  The sun made a hasty retreat.  Twilight came quickly cloaking the woods in an eerie red glow.  Bug composed himself, “Might as well walk the bikes to the next camp site and settle in for the night.  I’ll huff it to the shop at first light.  We’ll have a lot of distance to make-up though.”

“Let’s just hope the shop’s open tomorrow.”

Of course, they had no way of knowing this particular detail would be the least of their worries during the tour.

End of Part 1.

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