Tuesday, June 30, 2020


I don't just live alone (and have for a very long time). I do a lot of things by myself that most other people don't. For example, I almost always go on bicycle excursions and hikes without a companion. Mind you, I'm not self-conscious about this. It's just that I like to do everything off peak. And that means that most of the few people who might be receptive to joining up with me aren't available. So just by chance, I actually pursued two of these activities with a partner recently and found that the results left a little to be desired.

While volunteering two Saturdays ago (yes, I didn't get paid - this isn't my job I'm talking about here), I innocently suggested a group of us go hiking the next day and to my surprise, got one taker. And the next day, we were on Metro North headed up the river to Cold Spring to climb Mt. Taurus, a fairly steep 1200' elevation. It's rated 7 on the 10 scale for difficulty. And not having done the hike for over a year and a half, I figured it would be challenging - though not out of my league.

I was right. And at a very leisurely pace, the experience would have been fine. But I partnered with a physically fit 36 year-old. And his rate of ascension was greater than mine. I have to admit my wind was for shit. Plus it was a hot day. So I needed to rest a lot - way more than did Mark. 

He was fine with all that. But we had another area in which we weren't necessarily compatible. Once I reach the overlooks, I like to linger. It's all part of the satisfaction of hiking. You work your ass off to get there - and then drink in the world below. That wasn't Mark. He mostly looked at his phone when we arrived at overlooks.

On this particular hike, there's a spot in a stream where it's just deep enough that you (or I) can dunk my entire body as freezing cold water rushes by. And here I can stay for an hour or two dunking in and out and simply listening to the sound of running water.  Nobody else on the trail ever does this! I'm alone in this pursuit. Which makes it that much more attractive. There's never any competition for the spot. And on weekdays (which are off limits to me now that I have a stupid job), there's rarely anybody around. 

Despite a fair amount of weekend foot traffic, I still did my thing. But way before I wanted to leave, Mark got antsy and I gave in to his desire to move on because he'd given in to mine when we were climbing. Seemed like the right thing to do. 

As a result, we were down from the mountain and almost back to town with 4 hours of daylight left. Not my usual schedule. And then Mark hit me with the news that he wanted to take the 4:15 train back. Personally, I don't get the point of that. If you get up, voyage to Grand Central, ride an hour and a half to your destination (which is a bucolic country setting), I generally stay until dusk. At that point, I told Mark he was a big boy and should head home solo as I wanted to stay 3 or 4 more hours. In fairness to myself, I'd made that suggestion back at the watering hole. But when Mark seemed unreceptive, I tore myself way from the stream and continued back with him.

So the question is...overall, was the companionship worth it? I'd say for a normal person who doesn't like to do things alone, the answer would be yes. But I'm not a normal person. And if I'd had that hike to do over again, I'd have flown solo.

The very following Sunday, I once again, took a "trip" - this one a bicycle ride - with a partner. The idea was to cross Manhattan and ride up the Hudson River bikeway to the George Washington Bridge. This is not a difficult ride (at least for me). There are virtually no hills. And the round trip is about 20 miles. My partner was a girl in my building who'd been wanting to do a bike ride with me for a while. 

For starters, her bicycle was a total piece of shit that hadn't been ridden for long enough for the tires to go completely flat. Not a good sign. So I pumped up her tires and after a quick inspection ascertained that her wheels were a mess. So untrue were they that the back wheel rubbed on the brake pads badly enough to make the vehicle very inefficient. I disconnected the back brake and told her there wouldn't be any situations (like steep downhills) where she'd need both brakes. She was better off without it.

Right out of the gate, we hit a snag. Her chain disengaged. I hadn't ridden 40 feet before I heard the plaintiff cries of "Billy." And of course it was my job to get my hands greasy so she could ride. I got her set up whereupon she immediately rode on the sidewalk a couple of hundred yards to Second Avenue. If I ride on the sidewalk, it's with extreme caution and courtesy. For obvious reasons. She rode with reckless abandon and no regard for anybody who might be walking in her way. This I find extremely rude. I wasn't impressed. 

But what she had in sidewalk chutzpah and presumption, my partner lacked in any kind of stamina. I rode especially slowly and still, had to pause on multiple occasions for her to catch up. Plus, she complained about me disassembling the back brake and wanted it put back in operation. Which was ridiculous because the girl never got past 5 miles per hour. No matter. I did what she requested.

By Chelsea Piers (20th Street on the Hudson), she tapped out. Exhausted by the ride, she could go no further. It would have taken her days to get to the GWB. With respect to Mark and my hike, yes, I slowed us down. But we got to the top and did the entire hike. My bike partner was not the storm trooper I am I'm afraid. 

It wasn't that big of a deal. I've done the GWB ride - and even continued across the bridge and up to the Tappan Zee (a much more serious voyage). We simply hung out at Chelsea and then came back home. Twice more, my partner rode on the sidewalk for no apparent reason except to insult and endanger pedestrian traffic. Oh well.

In summation, neither partnership turned out to be a disaster. They were simple experiments in companionship on trips I usually do alone. The bottom line was that given the chance to do them both again, I'd do them alone. I guess I'm just that solo-flying type of guy.

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