Column: A man and his bike find a path, together, in Calverton

10/26/2013 12:00 PM |

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They say you never forget how to ride a bike, but I kinda did. At least the gear-shifting part and the keeping air in the tires part.

A few months ago, I dropped my car off at an auto repair shop, intending to use my brother’s bike — built sometime in the early 1980s — to get back home. As it turned out, the bike’s tires were flat and I found it didn’t fit in the car’s trunk, so that idea went nowhere.

Instead, I walked home from the repair shop … seven miles. That was enough walking for me. The next day, I bought a bike.

It’s a used bike, with a little switch that enables me to easily take off the front tire so the bike will fit in my car. This way, I can drive the bike to places more conducive to riding than where I live. Now that I had the bike, I figured the Tour de France couldn’t be far off — so long as I could drive there.

For the first week or so, I drove my bike to a lot of different places. Sure, I didn’t get out and actually sit on the bike and pedal, but it was there if I wanted it — or needed it.

Then one day, I decided I would bike over the Brooklyn Bridge, which I’ve been told has a bike lane running across it. So the bike and I went on a ride to Brooklyn, in my car. We took a few wrong turns, but eventually found the bridge (which, I suppose, isn’t that hard to find). Then we went looking for a place to park the car. I looked all over Brooklyn, reluctantly went into a parking garage that had only valet parking, backed into something, panicked and quickly exited the parking lot. I then spent time looking for a roadside parking space with no success. After a while, I just gave up and went home.

But I hadn’t given up entirely on being a biker.

On the last day before my next vacation, in September, I had to write a story on the completion of federally funded $3.2 million bike path from Calverton to Jamesport. As part of the story, I tried to call some local bike enthusiasts for comment. None of the bikers I contacted seemed too excited about this bike path, which basically consists of some widened roads and signage indicating that bikes go on the side of the road and the cars stay in the middle. Duh!

What the bikers were excited about was the bike path that runs around the Enterprise Park at Calverton. The bike enthusiasts see this as a potential major draw to the area, since there aren’t many places on Long Island, apparently, where people can ride around a nine-mile path. I had noticed a lot of people using it one Saturday, so on my next vacation, I packed the bike in the car, drove it to Calverton and tried out the EPCAL bike path.

Turns out, it’s pretty cool. Unlike riding on the road, it’s all inside the fence, so you can’t get hit by a car, unless you have really, really bad luck and get hit by one crossing the entrance road off Route 25. And, you can go as fast as you want, because it’s a relative straight path and has some long, but not steep, hills.

It’s also pretty scenic. You start at the dog park and ballfields area, then you get to ride around the back of the two fighter jets on display at the Grumman Memorial Park and then you go all the way around the Calverton Industries sand mine, which is a lot bigger than it appears from the road. Eventually the path disappears into woods and the paved part of the trail stops. That’s where I turned around and went back. My tally? EPCAL bike path: 1, Brooklyn Bridge bike path: 0.

The Town Board has applied for a grant to finish the EPCAL path so it goes completely around the EPCAL site, but that was a split vote, with three in support and two against. It remains to be seen if the town will get the grant or otherwise finish paving the path.

In the meantime, my bike and I drove to some other places, like the Country Fair, where I parked at Town Hall and rode to the fair, since it was tough finding parking.

That’s technically using the bike to avoid exercise rather than to get exercise, but it’s a start. I now figure I should be in the Tour de France in a year or so.

Tim Gannon is a longtime reporter for the Riverhead News-Review.

He can be reached at (631) 293-3200, ext. 242, or tgannon@timesreview.com.