Thursday, April 15, 2010

Routine Commuting

Just another day. Pedaling along in sunshine, fog, rain or snow, the commute is just a matter of getting from here to there.

No day is exactly the same as another, of course. A couple of weeks ago I stopped to do traffic control for a confused, angry beaver that had decided to try to cross Route 28 during the morning commute. That was a cloudy morning, so there were no tree shadows. On a sunny day the animal would have been almost impossible to see in the black and bright stripes cast over that section of road by the rising sun.

Spring marks the beginning of road kill season. Animals that have been asleep or much less active during the winter come out and travel around. At first you see mammal carcasses. On warmer rainy nights, frogs start to take risks, too. Later come the turtles, snakes and salamanders. I like having a chance to help one succeed for a change.

I paid some dues to the flat tire gods on a rainy evening last week (or was it the week before?). I'd hit a stone on a fast descent out on Route 28.

"That can't turn out well," I thought, but the bike continued to feel normal. I didn't get that sinking feeling. Not right away, anyway. I was about a mile into Elm Street, twisty two-lane country road, when I felt the telltale bump bump bump of the valve stem hitting the pavement. I hate that feeling. Does anyone love it?

I found a place to pull safely clear of any passing vehicles. The repair presented no problems until the pressure I was putting into the tube started blowing back into my old Silca frame pump. I never ever had that problem until someone else told me he'd had it. I couldn't get more than about 20 psi into the tire. I had to ride home leaning way over the front of the bike to take as much weight as possible off the rear tire. Dusk had gotten deep, so I had all my lights on. The blinky tail lights acted like four-way flashers as I limped home at a humble pace.

A lot of people are finding sharp debris in the sand and detritus left from winter.

My ski-season colleague, George, has become the new mechanic trainee. We built him a Cross Check last summer. He lives farther from work than I do, but he's trying to work the bike into the commute. Last Saturday he started out on the homeward leg with me, but discovered a soft tire. Because the sun was getting low, he opted to call for the choppers rather than put in a tube and definitely finish the ride in the dark. Night riding on a hilly rural highway with no shoulders isn't for everyone.

I continued on alone. A couple of miles from home, the zipper slider on my faithful Sugoi Stealth jacket exploded, so I don't have that until I can get a new slider and graft it on.

This morning I was enjoying the last nice day we're supposed to have before a three-day storm moves in. I had just noticed that I was hammering along like July in the peloton. Storming down a grade, in good shape to arrive at work on time for a change, I suddenly heard an alarming metallic whacking noise. A piece of debris I hadn't noticed had gotten entangled in my rear wheel in a way I had yet to determine. First I had to stop from 30+ miles per hour before whatever it was started carrying away important parts of the drive train.

I got the bike stopped and tossed it and myself over the guard rail from the narrow shoulder. I would never choose to stop here under normal circumstances. I could not see what was making the noise. By this I knew it had to be stuck in my tire, not just tangled in the spokes. But the offending item was up inside the fender. I had to turn the wheel to bring it out.

A piece of wire about the size of a 15-gauge spoke was stuck to the tread face of my tire by the short spike that had been sticking up vertically from the rest of its few inches of curving length. It was perfectly designed to pierce a tire. I knew as soon as I pulled it out the air would quickly follow. And it did.

Across the road I saw a nice sunny driveway where I could make repairs. The cell phone signal was lousy, so I didn't manage to get through to my employers. It was funny. When I called him, I could hear him but he couldn't hear me. When he called me, I couldn't hear him. I hoped he'd guess from the caller ID who it was and generally what it must be about.

I got the tube in and pumped it up to thumb pressure. It didn't feel too squishy. I just wanted to get the rest of the way to work.

When I got to the shop, I was only about as late as I usually am. The power had been out for half an hour anyway, so we couldn't really do business. The power remained out for another two hours. I made sure my bike was ready for the evening commute and then groped around on customer repairs until the lights came back. I did pretty well by feel.

So that's it. Just another day, day after day. Each one is unique in its own way, even if it's just a little twist on the same old same old. And it's usually weirder than that.


RCMC467 said...

Haven't really seen much road kill on my commutes and rides around Phoenix but, on the ride to Denver I saw enough to feed a family of four for six months. The saddest of course were the four deer. Not exactly sure why, but a dead deer at the side of the road is more traumatic than a dog or cat. Must be the uniqueness of it. First time seeing deer as road kill. Not a pretty sight.

The good thing is, of course, that I did not join them on my first ever tour. For that, at least, I'm thankfull.

cafiend said...

Riding down from Canada one time, I saw a bear that had probably been hit by a logging truck. That was sad. It was not long after I had learned of the untimely death of an important friend.

All road kill is melancholy.

cafiend said...

Oh, good news on your tour, though!

RCMC467 said... was probably the most difficult thing I've ever done. Tough but enjoyable, you know?

Steve A said...

No bigger road kill around my parts than a beaver. The bigger animals seem to stay clear of the cars.

RANTWICK said...

I really like the way you write, man. Kind of conversational, story-teller-y keep it up.


Anonymous said...

Remember to take a can of spray paint with you. You paint a ring around the road kill (when you're going) and when you're coming back...the stuff that doesn't have a ring is fresh and safe to eat.

cafiend said...

@ Anonymous: I would have to have a color code agreement with any other scavengers using my route.