Waking up on Monday morning was far from the easiest thing I've had to do. I finally drifted off to sleep on the couch of the Glens Falls Inn around 4am, knowing (in my slightly intoxicated stupor) that, in the morning, I'd be waking up for the first time not knowing where I'd be resting my head in the evening. I was leaving Nick and Jenn's, ready to get on the road.
If only it were that easy. I woke up, sorry, was WOKEN up, by the sounds of Josh, Kelsey, and Kevin all moving around. I'd slept late, finally rolling off the couch around 9:30. I wanted few things more in life than to melt into that couch for a few hours, sleeping off last night's chaos and consequent hangover. But alas, there were places to go and people to see; particularly the post-wedding brunch at Jenn's parent's place in Queensbury. Josh drove over, while Kevin and I sat in the back seat, silently suffering and shielding our eyes from the clear morning sun.
Brunch was awesome, and I ate my fill of greasy bacon and many, many glasses of orange juice. Not super healthy, but desperate times call for, well, you know.
The great thing that came from brunch, other than more time spent with friends (new and old), was my being taken in by my first host on the road! Shortly after leaving, I opened my instagram to see a message from Emily, one of Jenn's bridesmaids:
"Hey! Andrew said you're thinking of being in our neck of the woods tonight?"
Indeed I was! I had been speaking with Emily's husband, Andrew, about my trip, and I'd mentioned that I'd likely be rolling through their area that evening, Saranac Lake. The conversation was casual, and I hadn't expected it to go anywhere, but I affirmed her question, and she responded:
"Come stay with us! We'd love to be part of your journey!"
I was thrilled. Three days into my trip, and I'm already being taken in by new friends. We ironed out the details, and after a brief afternoon nap back at Nick and Jenn's, I started north on the Adirondack Northway around 3 o'clock. My route was a rough idea - I knew I'd be going through the heart of the Adirondacks, but didn't have much of a set route. I tend to keep my routes that way, as that's when the adventures happen.
I rode along Route 28 from Warrensburg to Indian Lake, then on to Long Lake. As I rode along, I jammed out to the same playlist I'd listened to on the way up from Westchester: "Classic Road Trip Songs" on Spotify. My mood was high, and I was just enjoying life. At risk of using the classic cliche', it all just felt "right". I reveled in this new adventure, leaning into corners cautiously as I got more and more comfortable with the heavy load behind me.
The ride was going well until I turned onto Route 30 just south of Long Lake. I came around a corner, carefully observing the other side of the curve. On my left was "Adirondack Experience", a welcome center along the side of the rode that caught my attention. About two miles up the road, I looked in my rear view.
My camera bag was gone.
Fare-thee-well camera bag.
I'm almost certain that you could've heard me say "OH F***" over the sound of the engine, and my screeching tires, as I pulled over to the side of the road. It took everything in my power to not panic, cry, and feel sorry for myself. I've made mistakes like this before; big financial screw-ups that have the potential to really mess my life up. But in spite of the fact that I'd just lost thousands of dollars-worth of camera gear, I was calm. My mind shot back to reading "Jupiter's Travel's" by Ted Simon - particularly a scene in which Ted, the world-traveling motorcycle protagonist, loses his passport, his vaccination papers, his gloves, his wallet, and his credit cards while riding across the northern Sahara Desert. "Euphoria leads to Toughtlessness." Ted wrote. It looks like I was learning that lesson the hard way.
I resolved myself to the only thing I could do: despite my exhaustion, I had no choice but to turn around and scan the bike for the road. I had no choice. And it was here that I learned a lesson that I've carried with me to this day: when faced with problems on the road, you do what's required of you, and you do it without hesitation. Plain and Simple.
I wrestled the bike off the shoulder and did a U-Turn. I turned my music off, stood up on the foot pegs, and slowly limped along through the mountains. The air kept getting colder and colder, especially as the initial shock wore off. I'd resolved myself to the fact that, for better or worse, I was going to have to potentially backtrack the last 30+ miles of riding, with absolutely zero guarantee of finding anything. At best, my stuff was scattered across the roadway in a mess of destroyed camera bodies, shattered lenses, and Canon logos. At worst, it was all sitting in a puddle somewhere on the side of the road, where I'd never find it. Sure, it would probably get found by some highway worker, and he'd probably get a laugh out of it with his buddy driving the truck, but that would be long after I'd resigned myself to a total loss.
As I'm having these thoughts, a golden minivan rounded the corner ahead of me. In retrospect, I'm almost certain there was an aura of good energy around that car. Having seen me scanning the horizon, they started honking their horn, flashing their headlights, and waving me over. I slowed, and as I passed them, the young girl in the back seat started waving my camera bag out the window. I was shocked. The amount of luck involved in that moment... I'm pretty sure it exhausted my allotted luck for the next decade.
I pulled over, turned the bike around, and rode up to the front of the car to meet the daughter. She gave me the bag, and I surveyed the damage. To my shock, everything inside the main camera compartment - my second camera body, multiple lenses, my external hard drive, etc. - was all in perfect condition. Heck, the BAG was in pretty great condition, all things considered. Just some torn fabric on the corners. All in all, the most damage from that tumble was a destroyed MacBook. Lesson to you all: MacBooks are INCREDIBLE machines, but they are NOT designed to impact the pavement at 60mph.
While the entire incident lasted a lifetime in my brain, I rewatched the video a few days later; the entire incident, from losing the bag, to realizing it, to having it returned, all took less than four minutes. It happened so fast, in fact, that in my haste of surveying the damage and thanking them profusely, I couldn't even think to give them any reward for their help. I was even more shocked at how incredible these total strangers were - the bag could've easily been found by someone less-than-honest, who would've gone home to enjoy their new toy bag. But this family, as they told me, checked the bag for a wallet or and ID in there, felt terrible for my lost gear, and were on the way to drop it at a police station nearby. I promised myself I'd pay it forward, and that's a promise not forgotten.
I got back on the road, making my way to Saranac Lake. The ride was incredible, but it was hard to ignore the chilled sunset air - fall weather was approaching, and fast. 45 minutes later, I was standing in the foyer of Emily and Andrew's beautiful Adirondack home. Emily greeted me at the door, while Andrew was getting the barbecue ready outside. I told them about my computer, and we all mulled over the silver linings. After exchanging pleasantries, I excused myself to call my Dad and fill him in about the weekend. I told him everything, and asked what he was up to. The conversation was awesome. We laughed. Joked about the weekend. Very light hearted and jovial. I asked him what his plan was for the evening;
"Not much, Kid. About to head out for a ride, actually. Need to get out for a quick one." Dad said.
"Nice. Where are you headed?" I asked.
"Not sure. Somewhere local. Probably just a quit trip up the highway - there's not too many routes around here." He replied.
"Cool, Pop. I'm gonna get running for Dinner. Stay safe out there. Love you!" I said.
"Love you too. Always am!" He said.
I hung up, and went upstairs to change for dinner. The three of us ate, laughed, watched some movies. Two of my favorites: Chef with Jon Favreau, and Major Payne, a CLASSIC 90's comedy that I grew up with. Everything felt great; I thought to myself halfway through Chef:
You're living your dream, man. We've come so far, and you're finally doing it. Be proud of yourself!
And proud of myself I was. After Major Payne ended, we all decided it was time to turn in. I was bringing my dishes into the kitchen, when my phone rang: it was Mom. My heart sunk a bit - I'd just spoken to her before dinner, and right before talking to dad, so it was unexpected. I told her about the computer, about the weekend, about leaving, etc. She was getting ready for bed as she had a spinal surgery scheduled for the following morning. I answered,
"Hey ma, what's up?"
"Hey. So everything's okay, and he's okay, but Daddy got into a motorcycle accident."
And that's when everything went white.