It was early Sunday morning, October 18, at an hour when young boys are normally in their beds recuperating from a late Saturday night of playing X-Box 360 with their friends. But a group of scouts from Boy Scout Troop 164, sponsored by Holy Rosary Church, were exceptional. They were up early, ready to embark upon a trip full of excitement and risk. They were all overly anxious to take on the challenge ahead – thinking not of danger, but with joy and anticipation. There were five boys and two adult leaders: Sheldon Payne, Nikolas Williams, Tyler Dussuau, Kyle Dussuau and Neil McClymont, with scoutmaster Wilbert Gillman and troop committee member Hepburn Williams. They were headed for Camp Pouch, a Greater New York Councils scout camp in Staten Island, from the northeast Bronx, a forty four mile round trip excursion… by bicycle.
After ensuring that all the boys were properly dressed with the appropriate safety equipment and for the weather, the scoutmaster exuberantly jumped onto his bicycle and instructed the boys to follow suit with the other adult leader at the rear of the convoy to ensure the impossible – a straight line on a crooked path. It was not too long after departure that the men realized that the boys were in this for fun – real fun. The scoutmaster dexterously hopped on and off the bicycle trail due to double-parked vehicles, with the boys following with equal dexterity. The leader in the rear tried to catch up, but was only successful when the light turned red. Unlike other cyclists passing on the street, the scouts made sure to stop at all red lights. Safety first.
Navigating their way along public roads, they eventually reached the West Side Highway bicycle path. After riding several miles on the West Side Highway bicycle path, stopping for a lunch break and to rest, they eventually reached the Staten Island Ferry Terminal where bikes were loaded and secured onto a ferry. This ended the first major leg of the trip. The boys went to the front of the boat, while their very tired leaders tried to get some rest. The scoutmaster was not feeling too well, but being as committed a leader as he is, he refused to cancel the trip as long as boys turned up for the venture. Whereas the boys were anxious to start the second leg of the journey, the scoutmaster wished this was the end of the trip. He was tired, but the boys had just warmed up.
Concealing the hurt under his enthusiasm, the scoutmaster jumped onto his bicycle as if this was the beginning of the trip. He rode through the busy streets of Staten Island – no bike trails or considerate drivers. When they finally reached a steep hill, the scoutmaster gears kept switching, as he tried to find nonexistent gears. Finally, he gave up and dismounted his bicycle. The boys sped passed him up the hill with such ease that would envy the most perfect cyclist. The other leader also disembarked, so happy that the scoutmaster had stopped, because otherwise he would have been the only one. The boys kept on going, with energy far surpassing their leaders. With Sheldon in the lead, they had no fear. After reaching the top of the hill, they decided to mount their bicycles and sped down the hill reminiscent of Lance Armstrong, causing their leaders to only shake their heads and try to remember when they themselves had such youthful vigor.
The group reached their Staten Island campsite at about 3:45pm. When everyone at the camp learned that the scouts had biked all the way from the Bronx and were planning on riding back as well, they were astonished.
The trip back to the Bronx on Sunday morning was even more exciting than the trip to Staten Island on Saturday. Everyone made it back without any incidents. The only predicament was the one scout who ate his bag lunch meant for the return trip on his way to Staten Island. He was given an apple by one of the leaders, resulting in his first smile of the return. This was an important lesson for the future.
One week later the scoutmaster was still recuperating from the trip. This was true leadership on his part not to disappoint the boys. Two other troop leaders, assistant scoutmaster Joan Gillman and troop committee member David Malatzky were so considerate to transport the boys camping gear to the campsite prior to our arrival. The boys appreciated greatly appreciated their efforts. This was a great trip and a great job by all.