The Block Island Times

A bikeabout

By J. V. Houlihan, Jr. | Nov 30, 2013

Fifteen years ago, a guy and a girl came tearing into the Block Island ferry parking lot in Point Judith on bicycles ― heavily laden with gear. “Hey mate, I guess we missed the boat, eh,” said the guy. “Yes you did, and uh, it’s the last ferry,” said I. The guy Tom, and his fiancée, Jodi, had been riding hard; they took a wrong turn at the end of the Escape Road. As a result they were a few minutes late, and by the looks of Jodi, she was ready to beat Tom senseless with her helmet. To put a band aid on this scrape that was about to bleed in a big way, I suggested that they go over to the Sunflower (where a new building now stands), have a drink, eat something and relax ― I had a plan.

Later over at the Sunflower, I joined the bronzed Aussies. These people looked like poster people for perfect health. Tom simply had movie star good looks; the hair, the teeth, yada, yada, yada. Jodi was drop dead pretty. I told them that since I was staying on my sailboat on my days off, they could flop at my condo up on Point Judith Road, leave their bikes there, and hit the island the next day. “Well, we appreciate that mate,” said Tom. “Thanks, so much!” said Jodi. Tom knew I saved him from a cold shoulder and a hot tongue.

Next day they hit Block Island, walked over to The Oar, and ran into some fellow Aussies who were racing boats out of Newport. They drank a brace of Foster Lagers, cooked shrimp on the barbi, and raised some good Aussie hell. After they came back to Point Judith, I said they could stay another night, and then I offered to take them for a sail around Prudence Island the next day. Tom thought it was a great idea. Jodi was all done with biking for the moment, too. Next morning, I picked them up at my place and we went sailing.

So who were these bike riding Aussies and where were they going; we want to know, right? Here it is: In mid-May, Tom had landed in Miami with his tricked-out traveling rig (gear loaded fore and aft), rides his bike to New York City. Jodi lands at Kennedy in mid-June, and then they proceed to points north. Their goal was to ride their bikes along the coast, hit Block Island, take a ferry from New Bedford to Martha’s Vineyard, hit the Cape, P-Town, and then take the ferry over to Boston. This would take until the end of July.

Jodi would then fly back to Oz and plan a wedding. Tom would continue on, and pedal up to Quebec, bang a left, and ride through the Canadian Rockies into Vancouver, and then continue down the coast to L.A., by mid-December. Then go home.

As we sailed around Prudence, these two characters told me of a surf trip they were on in Indonesia, where they saw a guy get attacked by a shark in a surf break in front of them. The guy died. “Did you go surfing again that day,” I asked. “Yeah, mate, ya only live a short time,” said Tom. Jodi whispered to me, “He’s rather odd and a little crazy.” Tom was one of the most adventurous people I’ve ever met.

Tom was a tri-athlete and a swimming instructor. Jodi worked for an airline in Australia. He did one race in Oz, which involved a 30 mile sail along the coast with a crew of 10 other guys, a 70 mile bike ride, and then it ended with a 15 mile marathon. Jodi remarked that, “Tom gets kind of crazy getting ready for his races.” Additionally, Tom had logged over 5,000 miles cycling through Europe and the United Kingdom ― kind of a bike riding version of a “Walkabout.”

Doing this bike trip around the United States seemed like a very natural thing to do. We had a great sail that day, and both bikers seemed to be rested. The next day, I stopped by my condo on the way to the ferry to say good-by to my guests. Their plan was to bike to the Pell Bridge, hitchhike across; you can’t walk or ride a bike on the bridge. From there they would do a coastal ride to New Bedford, grab a ferry, and then hang on the Vineyard for the Fourth of July. I wished good on them and their marriage. They thanked me for the hospitality, and told me to come and visit them in Adelaide.

Tom emailed me from the middle of the Canadian Rockies in early November. He met some fellow Aussies who flew him to Nashville to play rugby in some tournament for a week. He needed a break, as he was riding through snow in the mountains at that time. In December, this guy who I had met at the Block Island ferry dock finally did make it to L.A., as planned. Then Tom hopped on a jet and left for the biggest adventure of his life: to marry Jodi.

Note Bene: Tom let me ride his 30-speed, and heavily loaded bike. I could barely keep it balanced while peddling.

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