It was late afternoon and Lamar went out to "pick up a few things" while Alphonse was going to see if there were any running vehicles in the immediate area. Patty decided to grab an early dinner from the restaurant and find out any information about our situation from the hotel staff.
In the restaurant, Manuel, the busboy, was still on duty as was the cook. Patty asked about the rest of the staff and learned something that would be of great interest to Lamar and Alphonse.
"The manager on duty is still here but most of the front desk and other staff members have started walking to their home. A couple of people showed up on foot to work, but it is not enough people to run the hotel." he told her.
"Have many guests checked out, Manuel? The place seems emptier than this morning?"
"Yes, ma'am, many have. They checked out and were going to find a way to the airport and fly home. Some were going to walk until they got to the airport!" he exclaimed.
"That's over ten miles! Do they have any idea if any flights are even leaving? Even if the planes are flying, there is no electricity to run the airport. They are crazy." Patty said.
"By the way, How much longer are you working today, Manuel?" Patty asked.
"Oh, I ride my bike to work so I can get home anytime I want to. I will stay until the manager tells me to go home, but I am going to come back tomorrow to work, I need the money." he said with a smile.
"Well that's good to know, Manuel. So what's available to eat?" Patty asked.
"Hamburgers! The cook is going to make all the hamburgers while he can so they are on the house! Do you want one?"
"That sounds great, I will take one. Thank you," Patty replied.
Manuel went off to get Patty's order and then it struck her - a bike. Sure, it would probably take a while to get home, but pedal power was better than walking. After eating, Patty decided to look into getting a bike or at least finding where one might be sold.
At the front desk, Stan looked up bike shops in the phone book and said a store called Hammonds was just off the main street out front to the east, but was about ten blocks away. Patty thanked him for the information and decided that would be her first destination in the morning. In the mean time, she realized she would need a way to carry stuff on a bike.
Her options would be a trailer, which she might not have enough money for, panniers for the bike, which might be difficult to find or a good backpack. With this in mind, and before it got too late, Patty took a walk down the street looking for any type of store which might carry what she needed and she found something.
A block away she found a luggage store and inside, the owner was trying to secure his stock before leaving for the evening. He was happy to sell Patty a good sized backpack and while she was there, a fanny pack which Patty planned on using instead of her purse. She also picked up a set of bags which she would use to segregate her belongings making it easy to pack. Best of all, he was happy to take her credit card which meant she could hang on to her cash. Patty went back to the hotel and for the first time since this morning, was actully excited about her prospects.
The next morning, Patty woke up and checked the water pressure and found it even lower than before. During the night, Patty used wash cloths soaked in ice water and placed on her body to stay cool. She left the window open a crack to get some fresh air, but the night was long, hot and she slept fitfully.
Patty "bathed" using wash cloths, soap and finished by washing her hair over the sink with a bucket of water from the tub. she ran the tap in the tub for a few minutes to replace her precious water supply and then dressed for the day.
Her plan was to head to the bike shop she had directions for and hopefully secure one for an eventual ride home. If Alphonse was right, she would need to leave in the next few days before things got bad in Shreveport.
Patty repacked her wallet, a power bar and two bottles of water in her fanny pack for the trip. Downstairs in the lobby, she found another person was cooking and Manuel had showed up for work again. The manager on duty, Stan, was still at his post but looked like he had not slept much in the past day. He also needed a shave and most likely a bath thought Patty.
Manuel brought Patty hot tea, some day old muffins and a banana for breakfast. She ate it gratefully before making her ten block walk to this bike store Stan found.
Outside, it was a different world. Most of the cars were still in the street where they had been left, but the owners were long gone, having walked home or wherever. Many of the stores did not reopen, espicially those with little to sell or offer such as hair and nail salons, insurance or real estate offices. The CVS was open and appeared to be doing a brisk business selling convience items to people stuck downtown or unable to reach a normal grocery store. Patty was glad she had gone when she did.
People who were out and about were walking or standing around talking. Nobody seemed upset or agressive, but she did overhear people complaining about the government "not doing anything yet". Her heart dropped when she saw two people riding bikes her concern being that if others got the idea, there would not be one available for her to purchase.
After a forty five minute walk to the edge of downtown and near the river, she came to Hammonds. It was a tidy shop and clearly not part of any national chain. When she went in, a bell over the door rang and she was relieved to see several bikes on display.
A man in his mid-thirties and handsome in an outdoorsy way stood behind the counter and greeted her with a weary voice,
"Unless your bike is outside I have a feeling you are looking to purchase one today. Am I right?"
Patty smiled, "You are very intuitive, yes, I would like to buy a bike, if you have what I am looking for and the price is right."
"Good, but we have a qualifying question for you which will determine everything - cash or charge?" he asked.
"I have both. Naturally, I would like to hang on to my cash, but I can go either way." she replied.
"That's also good to hear because I am not taking any credit cards or checks, cash only. The way things are going, we are not going to see electronic money for some time, that is, as long as the power stays off.
So, what are you looking for? Something to tool around town on?" the clerk asked.
"Well first up, my name is Patty and you are...?"
"Oh sorry, David, David Hammond. It is nice to meet you." David said.
"You too, David. I wish it were under better circumstances, but we have to take things as they are. Yes, I need a bike but for a longer distance. You see, I am on a trip from Fort Worth and I need to get back there as soon as possible."
"I see. Well, that's about two hundred miles so the first question is do you ride now or have you ridden before?" David responded.
"Yes, I have a bike back home, a Schwinn, but I am afraid my riding has been limited to Sunday rides with my daughter." Patty admitted.
"Well, due to the circumstances, I would avoid getting a lightweight racing bike like this and instead get something that is more for all types of terrain." he said putting his hand on an expensive looking bike with thin tires.
"Here is a Trek which is good for road use or light off road terrain. Very popular brand Trek and it's a good value."
"I see, how much is it?" aske Patty looking it over.
"I have it on special for three hundred twenty before taxes." david said.
Patty felt deflated. She was hoping to find something for less than two hundred dollars which would leave her some money for supplies and travel.
"I think that is too much David. It's a nice bike, but I don't have that much with me. I was hoping to get something for under two hundred dollars." Patty said forlornly.
"Patty, I can understand that. Let me tell you a couple of things before we go any further. First, you are going to need more than a bike. You are going to need an air pump, at least one spare tube, a patch kit, a bike tool, probably a few spare spokes, a chain tool, spare chain, a spare brake line and a couple of wrenches designed for bike use. You might want to get a different seat because, ahem, your backside is not used to riding for long distances.
You also will definately need a helmet, a water carrier and might want to get panniers for gear since you are going so far. Now, I can help you with most of that stuff, but its going to cost more than you have budgeted."
"You are right, I had not considered that. Oh well, I have some thinking to do and I am sorry for wasting your time." Patty said straightening her shoulders out and turning to the door.
"Hold on, Patty. I was not finished yet. I can tell this is important to you and I want to help you out. Now, we don't have to get a new bike and I might have something that will work for you.
Here is a bike one of my customers left with me to repair, but then he skipped out of town and I have not heard from him since. It's also a Trek, but as you can tell, it's seen better days.
I completely overhauled the bike and it has new breaks, gear shifts, lines and tubes. Now I can sell you this bike and put together a kit with most of the rest of the other stuff which will get you started for only three hundred out the door. How does that sound?" asked David.
Patty's face immediately brightened. She had the two hundred from the hotel and her emergency two hundred left as well as thirty or forty spare dollars in her purse. It would be a stretch, but she might make it work.
"David, that is very generous and what can I say? I'll take it!" said Patty sticking out her hand.
David quickly gathered a helmet, the tools, patch kit, the spare tube and spokes and put them on the counter. He then checked the tires on the bike and gave it a once over before taking Patty's money.
"Let me show you how to fix a bike tire and then we will go over the chain and ..." said David. He then spent the next hour giving Patty a crash course on bike maitenance and service. He also picked up a paperback book on the subject from the counter and tossed it in her bag.
"I can't throw in the panniers for this much, but there is a sporting goods store near here which may have some of the stuff you need and may be still willing to take credit cards. Here's the address and a map to get there." added David.
"David thank you so much. There is a seven year old girl who is waiting for her mommy to get home and I feel much better about my chances." said a grateful Patty.
"I didn't hear you mention a husband or boyfriend. Too bad this is not during normal circumstances because I would probably ask if we could go riding sometime. There are some great trails around here." said David.
Patty blushed and said, "Maybe another time, if this all works out. Thank you again, David."
Patty rolled her new bike out of the store, adjusted the seat, put on her helmet and headed to the sporting goods store David suggested.
With her new bike, the scenary flew by on the trip to the sporting goods store. But there was still enough time for Patty to think more about what she needed to get and what her plans would be once she was ready.
David made her realize that a bike would not be enough, she needed accessories for the bike to travel safely. If she traveled by bike, she would need to carry enough food and water for a trip which might take a week or two. There was no way she carry enough water at that rate, so she would need the ability to get more.
The same went for food. Because she would be traveling by "people power" she would need to replenish calories and that meant greater food intake. So the solution was more food which weighed less. She thought she was getting a headache trying to figure this all out.
Ever the optimist, she knew one thing - she was doing something rather than sitting in the hotel waiting for someone else to do the thinking for her. Ever since she realized years ago that her ex-husband was not the man she thought he was she knew she and she alone had to be responsible for her life and Elena's.
The sporting goods store was right where David said it was and when she pulled up, she realized she did not have a way to secure the bike outside. With no other choices, she rolled it through the open door into the store.
The clerk standing by the closest register looked surprised, but then shrugged and went back to the dealing with a man at the counter. Patty wandered through the dim store rolling her bike along trying to get some ideas for what she needed. Food, water and shelter came to mind first.
She had already started collecting food from the CVS and assumed she could augment it with supplies from the hotel if she could manage it. All the same, she went to the camping section and found an assortment of freeze dried camp food that was light weight, but also expensive.
She went to the counter and asked the clerk what type of payments they took,
"We are accepting in town checks, credit cards and cash only. There is a two hundred dollar limit on checks and credit cards until the power is restored however." the clerk reported.
Thanking the clerk, Patty nearly skipped to the camping section she was so thrilled at the news. She quickly, but carefully selected several of the freeze dried meals but kept her total purchase for the time being under one hundred dollars. Next up, water. Patty was well aware she would be unable to carry more than a couple of days worth of water so a filter and storage containers were mandatory. She found a Katadyn portable filter for under forty dollars which she added to her purchases. She also picked up a number of one liter containers on sale for ninety nine cents each.
Shelter was next, but Patty was struck by the prices of the tents knowing that she was limited as to what she could purchase. So she instead picked up a tarp and decided to make some sort of shelter instead if she had to. She also found an inexpensive set of weather gear consisting of a jacket and pants.
The last items Patty picked up were a single burner stove and one compact can of gas. Added up in her accounting wired brain she was just under two hundred dollars and hoped the taxes would be waived as they had been at the other retail stores she visited.
She was about to check out when she passed the gun section and watched as the clerk behind the counter was carefully taking down a rifle and putting it on the counter.
"May I help you ma'am?" he asked when he noticed her.
"No, I am just looking. It doesn't look like you have much left in the way of rifles." she said and indeed, there were only a few pieces left.
"Yep, we sold a fair number yesterday including all the semi-autos, most of the shotguns and some of the more common hunting calibers. All we have left out here are some of the oddball calibers like this .300 Weatherbee and the more expensive guns."
"Why the rush on guns?" patty asked.
"Well ma'am, the phones, 911 and cars aren't working and the police are only going to be able to stop the crime they see. Some folks wised up and realized they have to protect themselves." he replied.
"I had not thought about that but I can see their point. Well, I can't do anything about myself as I can't afford anything right now. Thank you for the information and have a good day." said Patty.
Patty went to the counter feeling more disconcerted now than she did only a few minutes earlier. She was no stranger to firearms and being a single mother, kept a handgun, a Ruger .38, in a safe, but nearby location at home should she need it. But she had never considered getting her concealed carry permit as she had confidence in the rules and order of society. Now she felt naked.
The clerk rang up her purchase and she was relieved to see she fell under her allowed limit. Her card was imprinted and saved for later, if there was a later and she carried her bags and rolled her bike outside. The bags would have to hang on the handle bars and she hoped her ride back to the hotel would be uneventful. Especially now.
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