Last year, Jane Sasso contacted me about her son getting involved in the sport of triathlon. I suggested that she have him attend one of the CNY Triathlon Club’s Wednesday Night Triathlon Training events at Gillie Lake and I would show him a few things so he could get started on his new road bike.
I must admit, a year later, when Jane sent me Grainger’s high school AP English essay, as I read it, I was quickly reminded why I volunteer for this sport. I couldn’t have expressed my love of the bike in a better way…and my affection for the ‘diamond in the rough’ that we know so well as Gillie Lake, Gillie Brook Road and the surrounding areas. Grainger, despite being in high school, you are very wise my friend. Jane, thanks for sharing Grainger Sasso’s story!
Gillie Brook Road By: Grainger Sasso
It was yet another humid and hot day on Long Island. The foggy lens through which we typically look back on childhood memories was only amplified by that oppressive, Long Island heat. My family and I were visiting relatives in the dog days of summer; times that were only doused by popsicles and watermelon slices. On one of the less occupied days, a thought dawned on me: I have not learned how to ride a bike yet. I promptly cleared my agenda and I devoted all of my efforts toward learning how to ride a bike. A few hours of attempts on my cousin Samantha’s bike and I was as stable on her pink Huffy as I was on my own two feet.
A series of different bikes made up the later part of my childhood and early teen years, but it wasn’t until this past summer that I got the real deal, the creme de la creme, the epitome of two-wheeled ingenuity and design…a REAL road bike. The first ride on it was somewhat surreal as I cruised easily over vast expanses of road. Throughout the rest of the summer, my bike became a therapeutic escape from my stress. As the rides became longer and more frequent, I learned to let my mind go in an almost hypnotic fashion: just keep pedaling, pedaling, pedaling…only allowing my mind to resurface to admire the beauty of a countryside or the smell of a grove.
During that summer, my cycling brought me to new places. One place in particular truly stunned me by its peaceful nature, and I had lived within two miles of this place for fifteen years before ever appreciating its beauty.
Gillie Brook Lane is a two-lane, rather unkempt, stretch of road that leads to a relatively unknown, man-made pond called Gillie Lake. One would only have to follow Gillie Brook Lane for a short while before discovering the entrance to a parking lot, where a short walk would bring you to the sandy beach at the edge of Gillie Lake. To most people, the remainder of Gillie Brook Lane is unknown and rather insignificant, as it only leads to a few houses and another back woods road. Essentially, this road only exists for most, as the entrance to a picturesque public park; there are only a handful of people who know that this road continues on. Shortly after passing the parking lot entrance, a determined motorist or cyclist (me being the latter) would continue forward on Gillie Brook Lane; cruising a gradual decline and bend, sliding over soft downhills and fighting acute uphills, bending around a panoramic of farmland, then tunneling through a canopy of oak and birch that effervesces placid motivation to shoot onward through this shaded dream land and on to the rest of the ride.
To be apart of the exclusive club that knows all of the intimate curves, smells, sounds, and inertia one experiences on this underappreciated stretch of road brings feelings of pride and nostalgia, but also a wince of pain. A pain in the knowledge that such quaintly archaic pleasures are almost entirely dead in a society so focused on figures and statistics and deadlines and taxes and credit cards and getting to the weekend. In a fast paced world that has conditioned us to stress over such insignificant pursuits, it is rare to take pleasure in the day-to-day operations that make living worthwhile.
This bike slowly became a part who I am today. And as it did so, it impressed upon me several lessons: to let go, to appreciate the view, to keep pedaling through the tough times, and to focus on what really matters. When we choose to gripe about rather insignificant facets of our lives, we choose to skip over the meat and bones of the human experience. If anything, riding has shown me that it is the small details that make up our existences: an embrace, a simple conversation, enjoying a sunset, time spent with loved ones, or even a bike ride.