Escape to New York
As previously mentioned, I’ve been stuck at my family’s house in the Buffalo, NY for days, and as the snow kept piling up, I was starting to get more and more nervous about actually making a flight to New York City in time for our Saturday night departure to Bangkok. Normally when you’re stuck in a place due to inclement weather, it’s because flights aren’t taking off or landing. The mystical meteorological vagaries of Lake Effect snow mean that while the Buffalo airport got a very manageable 3-5 inches, during that same period towns just 5-10 miles away were getting pummeled with 5 feet of snow. Unfortunately this included East Aurora, where my parents and grandparents live.
So as Tuesday moved into Wednesday into Thursday, all I could do was watch online as flight after flight I was booked on took off without incident while the snow cover on our driveway and street meant that we couldn’t make it out to the grocery (or liquor) store, much less the airport.
The governor was in town, the National Guard was called, driving bans were in effect in many towns (including East Aurora, incidentally…) And the snow kept falling. I’d long since given up on shoveling the driveway by hand, and all our hopes of clearing the 3-4 feet of snow lay on a guy with a truck and a plow that my parents hired to come by now and again. He came through. Very early on Friday morning, the main road had been plowed and a reasonable tunnel had been burrowed by the truck guy. I was going to make my move. I nudged the trusty Subaru through a deep trench in the snow and set out on the deserted streets. (Possibly in violation of some local travel bans that were still in effect.) The time was 5:30AM. Aside from some snow plows rumbling in the distance, I had the entire town of East Aurora to myself. Slowly and carefully, taking only local streets, I inched past giant snow piles, snowed-under houses, even a building whose roof had collapsed under the weight of the snow. Fortunately I made it to the airport without incident.
Now, I love my parents and grandparents, but seeing a new human face after 4 days of being cooped up together was a surprisingly cathartic moment. And probably the first and only moment in my life I wanted to hug a TSA agent. Speaking of which, I now had to deal with taking the Brompton folding bike through security and on board a small regional jet.
People are often intimidated by the logistics of flying with a Brompton – Will the airline charge a bike fee? Can I bring it on board? These fears aren’t unfounded – some airlines love charging a ridiculous “bike fee” when you’re checking a folding bike into luggage, even though the Brompton, when folded up, is physically smaller than many items that go through for free. Fortunately the TSA generally don’t really care what you bring with you. If it fits through the xray and doesn’t pose a perceived threat, they’re generally OK with it. In fact they usually very intrigued by the weird object on the X-ray and full of questions. “That’s a BIKE? That is really cool!” Bromptons make friends all over.
“Well THAT’S interesting,” remarked the agent as the skeletal image of the folded-up bike appeared on her screen. That was about the extent of her scrutiny. Once through security, the last task was getting the bike on board the plane. This time around it was the CRJ900 regional jet- one I’m very familiar with. Small overhead bins, not big enough to fit a standard carry-on rollerboard. (Any overhead bin that fits a regular rollerboard wheels-out should also fit a Brompton bike.) Today I would have to gate check the bike.
The gate was pretty far, so I rolled the bike all the way there, folded up, and stuck the Brompton into the IKEA Dimpa bag, which is great for gate checking. It affords some protection; it’s translucent, so the handlers can see that there’s a bike inside; and it’s got handles so the workers know exactly how to pick it up. I stuck around on the jet bridge waiting for the handler and when he showed up, I told him about the bike and asked him to please put it in last so that bags don’t get piled on top of it. And that was that!
One hour later I was on the ground at LGA, bike back in my possession. It was a sunny though freezing day. I was so happy to see pavement without snow on it, I elected to ride from the airport to Greenpoint, Brooklyn. The only tricky part is finding the way out of the airport (look for a pedestrian overpass with a bike rack at the end), and then it’s just a matter of riding about 40 minutes through residential Queens and into Brooklyn. Huge relief. We were starting to cut it pretty close there. But I was finally back in New York with one day left to run the rest of our errands before hopping on the plane to Taipei.