Happy 2016 to everyone! I was out on my first ride of the year and passed a location that brought back a tragically humorous occurrence:
“Sometimes life is a basket of cherries……”
A few years back, I had to order a replacement rear wheel (bad bearings) and I’d just received the warrantied unit after waiting for over 3 frustrating months. The cycling season was well under way and I’d signed up for the upcoming Sequoia Century months ago. While out marking the Sequoia routes the day before, with RouteArrows!, I’d bought a big basket of ripe red cherries at a roadside fruit stand. Due to my self-control issues, none of them made it home. Early the next morning I set off, with a twinge of trepidation, to ride the challenging 100 km route with perfect weather and more hills looming than I should’ve undertaken given my dearth of riding so far that spring. Right out of the gate my untested new wheel had issues. Every 5th or 6th time I stopped pedaling my rear cluster would briefly keep turning, causing the chain to loudly slap the frame. “…must be the new hub getting worked in” I optimistically thought as I rolled with the pack. I knew this could be a real problem, but I was going for it anyway.
Crossing under an overpass just a few miles later, my fresh new Continental Gatorskin flatted in seconds so I pulled over and leaned my bike against the guardrail. There was no obvious culprit protruding from the tire but I was prepared, as always. I had the wheel off, tire irons in hand, a new tube and my pump set out very quickly. Speaking of quickly…. the first peristaltic wave washed over without warning, leaving me in a cold clammy sweat. I quickly deduced the cherries were the culprit, but you never know for sure. The second more powerful wave followed close behind as I waddled over to find viable concealment as quickly as possible, hindered by my tightly pinched gluteus. Sadly, I didn’t make it. But thanks to the sorry state of the Caltrans highway litter removal program, I had plenty of options scattered in the roadside brush for the “tidying up” phase.
As you might expect, the sequence repeated itself as my hobbled bike waited patiently against the guardrail and lines of eager cyclists passed, unaware of my lonely plight. When I finally made it back over the guardrail, I set to work, my intestines still unsettled and my water bottles empty. With the new tube in and the wheel reinstalled, I latched the pump hose onto the stem and began pumping. It had literally been years since I’d used that trusty pump but the valve end chose that moment in time to burst apart, sending the rubber washer, the spring, the tip, the lock lever and the threaded retainer cap out into the busy roadway. After retrieving all the parts, I focused on the tasks before me so I wouldn’t tear up from the onerous exasperation I felt, Sigh….
I did manage to get it together and roll out, now over an hour behind the initial wave of riders. That was probably a good thing, as I was not very good company, for obvious reasons. I struggled on past Stevens Creek Reservoir, then up the steep but beautiful Redwood Gulch Rd where I dismounted, mostly alone on the route, feeling more than a bit dejected. My guts were churning and my head was spinning with the conflicting needs and my diminished abilities, but I continued to move slowly up the road towards the first rest stop. Once there, the sliced muffins, fruit and cookies didn’t hold any of their usual appeal. But I managed a few bites and sipped some juice too. After a protracted blue room visit, I washed up and refilled both water bottles and tried to stay downwind from the few riders still milling around.
Gritting my teeth, I struggled to find the motivation to continue on, to get some miles, to “get back on the wagon”. But I had to be honest with myself; I felt like crap, I had an unpleasant bouquet, I had no legs and my chain still slapped every 6th time. I rolled north out of the rest stop vowing that if I didn’t feel any better before the route turned down West Alpine, I’d turn east down Page Mill Rd. My energy didn’t return, but the cool coastal air was refreshing and the beautiful views brought solace. With my figurative tail between my legs, but mostly relieved, I turned east to abandon the route and I enjoyed the few miles of high speed descending and twisting turns before rolling into the start/finish. Once again I was about the only rider there and the post ride meal wouldn’t be served for some time, even if I did want it. So I loaded my bike into my truck, waved meekly to a few of the friendly workers and headed for home with about a third of the intended miles and climbing that day. I did eventually succeed at retrieving my seasonal legs and get my wheel issues fixed (a poorly assembled freewheel) and enjoy the wonderful tours and centuries I’d scheduled that year. I suppose I did reinforce a few useful tidbits from that interlude; don’t get any more Aerospoke Wheels, keep my tools in working order, carry hand sanitizer and, most importantly, to seek out and relish the beauty that is all around us. Because sometimes, life is a basket of cherries and sometimes it can be the pits!