He boarded the eastbound Long Island Rail Road train in Hampton Bays, with his Specialized bicycle, and his tent in a pack strapped onto the back. His destination was the county park at Third House. It was Wednesday morning, August 15. Robert Barber had left his home in Tremont in the Bronx that Monday afternoon.
In years past, he would have not boarded the train. But this year he has not been biking as much. “They have some monster hills on the South Shore. I just knew with all the weight that I had that I wasn’t going to be able to make it. I was going to have to walk up those hills,” he said. “You have to know your limitations.”
He rode across the Triborough Bridge Monday, then biked his way east along State Route 25. He particularly loves riding at night. “I like night riding. It’s cooler in the summer. You have to have the right lighting on your bike, on front and especially on back.” Barber has made modifications to the bike, with the addition of the racks for his things, and, of course, lights for safety.
At about 4 AM Tuesday, he found himself in Middle Island. It was still dark. Barber took a nap. He did not break out the tent. “I just wrapped myself in my poncho,” he related. When he awoke, the sun was out. He continued east to Calverton. There, he made special stop that is part of his routine when he bikes to Montauk: he visited his wife’s grave.
After that, it was back on the Specialized, and onto Riverhead, then south along Flanders Road to Hampton Bays. He waited a few hours for the train and the final leg of his eastward journey. “Third House is a beautiful place. Nice and quiet,” he said. They know Barber there.
He is a Vietnam-era veteran, having served eight years, mostly stationed in Germany. Biking abroad is something he loves. He recently visited Montreal. He was stunned by how well set up the city is for bikers. There were so many people on bikes, he thought perhaps there was a triathlon taking place. Then he realized it was Monday. The bikers were just commuters going to work.
Biking in New York City, even with its bike lanes, is quite different. “It is every man for himself. There are no rules,” Barber said.
When he reached Montauk, he loaded his gear on his bike and headed for Third House. There was no sense of rush, no timetable, no need to get anywhere in particular. “I’m on a pension. As long as the bills get paid . . .” He shrugged. Time is on his side.