It seems this new direction of (maybe) vlogging has paid off: The adventures are just rolling in now! I would have also vlogged about this, but I don't want to lose sight of my writing roots so quickly.
Last Monday was promising to be really, really nice; 70-75 degrees. I wasn't going to miss the chance to get out on the bike without being swaddled head to toe in cold weather cycling gear. I lived in dread of getting a call from MyFriendDeb, who always wants to take walks in nice weather. Walking is all well and good, but it's not terribly aerobic, you don't feel the wind in your hair, and I consider plodding along one step at a time to be a tedious chore when I could be flying. Plus I always harbor the tiniest resentment that Deb will never be motivated enough to accommodate my interests and join me on her bike (which needs a major tune-up but is not un-doable), it's always about fucking walking because that's what she wants to do.
But no call came and the park beckoned with sunshine, singing birds and warm breezes. I eagerly saddled up and rode out.
Glorious. Glorious, glorious. The first six miles were just fantastic. I felt like I could spend the entire day out there. The grin was permanently plastered on my face.
Then at mile 6-1/2 I noticed my back tire seemed a little mushy. It was soft before I left so I had just pumped it up. Odd. In the time it took me to stop the bike and dismount, it was indisputably deflating. Damn.
I took it off and immediately spotted the problem -- I had picked up a goathead, a vicious little thorn with the puncture power of a half-penny nail.
Guess how it got its name?
Fortunately I'm a seasoned rider and I'd have the flat changed in no time. A runner had stopped to check on me, asking if I had "everything I needed"; I told him I did, while examining him to see where he was hiding any tools or equipment if I had said no. Nowhere, evidently, but it was nice of him to offer anyway.
He took off running again, and I started pumping up the replacement tire. Tery had given me a bunch of CO2 cartridges as stocking stuffers, and this was my first time using one. It's the same cartridge that powers air guns, etc., inserted in a thingie that screws onto the valve and inflates the tire in a single powerful blast of air.
At first I was impressed -- I had a rock hard tire in seconds, something I could never achieve pumping by hand (oh dear, this sentence is chock full of double entendres). But when I put the wheel back on the bike, I noticed a wobble, traced to a spot where the tire wasn't seated in the rim and the tube was bulging through. I started to take it off again when suddenly it blew out right in my face (bright side: At least I wasn't on the bike when this happened).
I wasn't close enough to be harmed, don't worry, but it sounded exactly like a gunshot echoing across the park. I wondered if Mr. Runner With No Equipment thought I had just committed suicide.
Well, now this was a problem since I was fresh out of spare tubes. Crap, crap, crap. There was no point waiting for someone to happen by to help me -- the vast majority of bikers in that park are racers with skinny little tires. Mountain bikers are the silent oppressed minority, and mountain bikers that use road slicks, that run nearly half an inch narrower than knobby tubes? From what I've seen, that's just me.
There was no help for it: I would be walking. I set off in the direction I was already heading with Roja hoisted on my shoulder. But Roja is no lightweight carbon fiber machine; she's solid old school aluminum hard tail. I can manage her up three flights of stairs to get home, but walking four miles out of the park? Wasn't happening. If I could have pushed her it would be fine, but the rear tire was flat as flat gets, and I didn't want to risk damaging the wheel, which costs way, way more to replace than a tire.
Plan B was to hide her somewhere, hike home, get my car and come back for her. Bleah. Not terribly appealing, but I was drawing a blank on a plan C. (bright side: At least I wasn't in the mountains, where there'd be no coming back with a vehicle and I would have had to carry her the whole way down.) So I doubled back towards a parking area behind me where there was a large copse of tall reeds and trees. I laid her down flat as deep as I could in this thicket. I didn't think anyone would steal her, but you never know. I stuffed as many valuable things I could in my pockets (bright side: for some reason I had worn cargo shorts instead of biking shorts, which have no pockets), forgetting my $20 mini pump, my $20 speed bag, my rear blinking safety light, and the new Cannondale windbreaker Tery had just bought me (value unknown but probably not inconsiderable). Damn.
So I hiked (and what do you know? I might as well have invited MyFriendDeb after all). And at this point I'm going to use some visual aids to show you how I took the stupidest, least efficient route to reach my destination.
It had become almost uncomfortably warm (bright side: better than 40 degrees) and I was wearing my new $20 hiking shoes, which had only ever touched bike pedals so technically weren't broken in yet for actual walking.
Thirty minutes that felt like two hours later, I staggered into the park office and explained my situation. They said it was a courtesy service, but for safety reasons I would have to be accompanied by a police officer (park ranger with a gun). I thought to myself at that point I would go with one of Darth Vader's stormtroopers if it meant I didn't have to walk anymore.
I was paired up with a young attractive guy who smiled a lot. They explained my situation to him and he grinned at me and said, "It's all good!" I snorted. "Easy for you to say!" But we got into his big park patrol truck and were off.
Halfway back to where I prayed Roja waited, he slowed down to assess an SUV parked off to the side in what wasn't a parking place, by what turned out to be some guy walking his dogs, five of them, off leash. Officer Allen wasn't having that nonsense in his park and he stopped to investigate, apologizing to me. I assured him I didn't mind if he needed to enforce some laws.
The problem was he had left his ticket book in the office to take care of me, so he radioed to another officer to take over. Meanwhile he stepped out to talk to the guy. I sat there listening to the police radio. It was like having a front row seat to an episode of "Cops"! Only less exciting because no one was being chased and everyone was appropriately attired.
An interminable amount of time later, the second officer finally showed up. He of course needed to be debriefed. While the two of them chatted, Mr. Illegal Dogman came over to me and apologized for the delay. I said I was sorry he got caught (really I wasn't), and he chuckled and said as long as he didn't go to jail he didn't mind. Well then.
A second interminable amount of time later, the second policeman got in and we were off. My relief driver was older, less chatty and not as smiley as Officer Allen, but it wasn't as if I had a choice. We made some awkward small talk until reaching Roja. He cleared a spot in the bed while I went to retrieve her.
She was undisturbed, but for some reason getting her out of the thicket was a lot trickier than getting her in. I felt a little self-conscious ripping through the reeds and single-handedly destroying the little patch of wetlands with a park ranger staring at me the whole time, but he didn't say anything.
We tossed her in the truck and again were off, this time all the way to my house, which I thought was damn nice. But looking back, I'll bet all the park employees grab any excuse to get out once in awhile -- as magical as it is to me, I'm sure the wonder wears off quickly when it becomes your work place.
Still, I didn't want to tie up a policeman in case he was needed elsewhere, so I instructed him to drop me off in the strip mall across the street from our complex.
It was as I was getting out that I noticed something that filled me with horror (gentlemen, I warn you to look away now if you can't handle the bodily functions of ladies): It was, let's say, not the best time of the month for such an active lifestyle. And yes, I had left behind evidence of this on the truck's new cloth seat. Holy HELL.
What was I supposed to do? There was no way to clean it surreptitiously barehanded in the few seconds before I was expected at the back to get my bike, so I just closed the door and prayed he would think it was dirt or something. I thanked him and started the (much shorter and manageable) hike home.
I closed the door and tried to shrivel into a little ball in the corner. When that didn't work, I went to the bathroom. My underwear looked like a crime scene. I felt enormously embarrassed and impossibly guilty. So to soothe these totally alien feelings I did what I do best and transferred blame onto the officers; if they hadn't wasted so much time faffing around with their leisurely, authoritative posturing I would have been in and out long before this happened. Yeah, that sounds good.
So, I am apparently not through learning lessons when it comes to biking. On this trip I learned:
Pack two spare tubes. I bought the largest frame pack I could find for adding/removing layers in the cold, so it's not like I don't have the space.
When it's "that time of month," I should just take to my bed with a hot water bottle and the blinds drawn.
If I HAVE to bike in that condition and this happens again, for the love of God I'll just walk all the way home.
Lastly, wild exagerration makes for a much more entertaining anecdote.
P.S.: I've been back to the park since, and passed ranger trucks parked alongside the road. Tery joked that when they spot me, they murmur, "There she goes. Bloody Mary." >:(