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Rt 44 was on the right and Rt 378 was on my left, I had no idea  which road I should choose.  I had been riding on a bike about two miles without realizing that I was all alone. I hated myself for not taking a map from Francis and I hated myself even more for not paying attention when Francis explained the direction of the trip.
I did not know where I supposed to go next, and I hardly remembered what Rts I had been riding on.  With only a bottle of water and $25 dollars in my pocket, I had an unpleasant feeling of coldness in my stomach.    Oh, Alan, only if you were here. All the sudden, I realized how good Alan was for all these years acting as a leader for our Club.
It was a beautiful Sunday morning, eleven of us riding on an open country road.  The sun was intensive and the breeze from the hot sun could make your body sweat constantly. Francis let us have a long break as soon as we finished one third of the trip.  I took out my sweet and juicy Asian pears which were peeled, cut and chilled so deliciously that Marjorie and Becky could not wait sharing a piece with me.  The juice from the pears made my hands so sticky and I had to ask Francis to pour me some of his water to clear my hands. As I dried my hand with my pretty little towel which I bought from Hongkong, Francis announced that we had to start going. 

I carelessly threw the towel to my backpack and it flew off from my bag after a short ride.  Becky called out my attention, and I had to stop my bike to pick it up. Johnny was behind me and he was being a gentleman to pick it up for me. By the time he returned, Francise and the rest had already vanished.  I was wondering how quickly they could disappear. As soon as Johnny handed me back the towel, I rode as fast as I could trying to catch up with them. I rode and rode, and after 10 minutes, there was still no sight of them.  I had some reservation as the way I was heading, so I slowed down and wanted to discuss with Johnny.  As I turned around, a chill struck me. "Where is Johnny! "
I parked my bicycle along the road and sit under the tree to wait for Johnny.  Ten minutes passed by and another ten minutes passed, Johnny did not show up.  It was 10 minutes to 11:00 am. I decided to ride back a mile or two to see whether I could find him.  A loud noise above me caught my attention, I realized that I was in the middle of a open road which surrounded by a huge landscape - an airport.  There were no Francis, no Marjorie, no Becky and definitely no Alan. I could feel my heart was pounding faster and faster. 

I dragged my bicycle along with me to a bar-looking restaurant.  Only one or two customers were sitting lazily at the corner. I took off my sun glass and the bartender was looking at me with his wide open eyes. (I must look so lost that he realized something was wrong with me) I could hear my own voice trembling like a lost child as I start explaining to him how I was lost.  His face changed to a sympathetic look as he was listening to my story.

"Do you remember where you started?", he asked. 
"Oh, yes, Friendly's Restaurant" I exclaimed

Suddenly, I remembered how I read the driving direction loudly to Lawrence while we were driving to the starting point. 
"Which Friendly's Restaurant, the one in Poughkeepsie or......."

The word Poughkeepsie sounded so familiar that without second thought, I responded quickly that it was the place I wanted to go.  He looked at me silently for a few second and said, "it is about 20 miles from here".  "Follow this road - 378 and it will lead you to Rt9, go north and the restaurant will be on your right.  Good luck, young lady!"
"Thank you very much, and please do tell my friends if they happen to stop by and look for me."

I was so relieved to be able to remember Friendly's Restaurant was my starting point and now became my destination. Although 20 miles sounded unreasonable far, I determined to get back there before the rest of my group and the thought that I could boast about it made me even happier.
I was on 378 for almost half an hour, but I did not see Rt9. I stopped by a house and asked a man for the direction. He said that I had missed the turn and Rt9 was 5 miles back.  I was so angry with myself that I thought I deserved to be punished to ride for an extra 10 miles.  Finally, the sign Rt 9 was on my right.

My mood changed to be better as I finally rode along Rt 9. The sun was hot and the traffic was busy.  I thought back a year ago when I just started riding a bike, I would get so scared when a car came near me. Today, hundreds of car passed me by and I did not notice them at all.  I smiled as I remembered this past year, how much I have grown out of fear. A noise from a far distant awoke me from my deep thought.  I could see a busy street lay ahead and the sign "Friendly's Restaurant" eventually emerged. 

Something did not seem right.  The "Friendly's " I remembered this morning looked different. It was a much smaller and older style restaurant.  I felt a chill go down my stomach. THIS IS NOT THE FRIENDLY RESTAURANT THAT FRANCIS TOOK US THIS MORNING !  I almost burst into tears and I was so angry with myself for making such a foolish mistake. As I slowly took off my sun glass, I noticed my eyes was hurting.  I looked at my watch, it was about 2:00 pm.  I had been riding on my bike nearly 3 hours and hardly did I give my eyes and legs a chance to rest. A young waiter approached me.  He must notice my appearance and the redness of my eyes, he listened to my story patiently.

"There is a Friendly's in Wappingers Falls, and there is another one in Fishkill.  Do you remember which one?"

I recalled this morning when Francis showed me the map, "Fishkill" was one of the word appeared in the map. I explained to the waiter that my group drove from New York City. Although I didn't remember which highway we took, I did remember the exit was 13.  After 4 traffic lights, Friendly's Restaurant was on the left.

"Does the town - Fishkill near a major highway?" I asked. 

The waiter nodded with a smile and started drawing a map for me on a piece of paper.
"Go back to Rt9, head south and about 15-20 miles, make a right at 52W, Friendly's is about 2 blocks away"

I thanked him and left the restaurant. I just came from Rt9 north, another 20 miles, Oh God. So far I already rode on my bicycle for almost 40 miles. I was so frustrated and I hesitated a moment to go on. My mind was blank and my instinct told me that I need to rest and think it over carefully.  As I poured some water into my throat, I seriously asked myself what should I do. Continue or give it up.  Now, I was very depressed. As I passed a gas station, I decided to go in and call for help.

Again, I told my story, but the stupid foreigner did not understand a word I said (for a moment I forgot I was a foreign too, so sorry) Eventually, I asked him to call 911 or state police.  He looked at me as I was crazy. "What do you want me to tell them?"  I was a bit embarrassed as I looked at myself. There was really no reasons to call a police since I am not a little kid and it was still too soon to say that I was completely helpless. I bit my bottom lip, fixed my helmet and left the gas station without looking back at the confused foreigner.  But at the corner of my eyes, there was a little tears.

I felt the afternoon sun burning my shoulders and the road in front of me seemed a bit blur.  The traffic was no mercy. There was no shoulder road along Rt 9. Drivers yielded out sometime to me as they passed me.  At one point I was so exhausted and dizzy that I didn't feel and hear any thing around me.  It seemed an endless ride on Rt9.  After nearly two hours on the road, finally a sign pointing to Fishkill emerged - six more miles.  On my way, I silently pray to God to lead me back to where I started.  In exchange, I would be good to Francis, Alan, and all the others that I yielded at before. God indeed watched over me. After I took a right at 52W, I recognized the familiar country road. My heart was beating faster than ever as I was approaching the restaurant.  Without stopping, I rode all the way back to the parking lot.  As soon as I saw Francis's car with a broken door, I knew I had made it. The rest of them had not yet arrived.  Now I had a moment to relax, I started to think about what shouldI said to Johnny. How should I tell my story and particularly how should I lied about my fear.  

As I was waiting for them, a lot of thought went through my mind.  Within five hours, my emotion had gone from happy to depressed, fear to desperate, hopeless to relieve. But aside from those feeling, I had a sense of pride.  Despite all the hardship, I found my way back.  I should be proud of myself.  William Shakespeare said once, "Our doubts are traitor, and make us lose the good we often might win, by fearing to attempt."  When we believe in ourselves, nothing can hold us back.  With determination and courage, I can do anything.  When Francis finally appeared at the end of the road, I was ready to tell my adventure.

August 10, 1997

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