Wednesday, May 03, 2006

WeWeWr: Trail of Tears

Hey there blog fans.

Spring is the busy time in the world of the professional bike commuter so a few other things are getting some of the attention that could be going to this blog. But fear not, you'll be seeing more stuff up here in due time and I'm lucky enough to have eloquent friends who send me neat stories which I shamelessly steal to fill this space. This morning I had a great note in my inbox from my friend Brad Hawkins. He's generously given me permission to reproduce it here.

Brad Hawkins with his John Deere bike and cello


Dear Friends of the Wheel,

It was a sad day in Kristina/Brad land today. The Westbrook Weekly Wramble kicked off today with the usual suspects: Karl, Claire, Kristina, and the non-alliterated Brad. The sun was out, the wind, constant at 20-25 out of the northwest. We chit-chatted by the clock and looked wistfully around for all the rest of you bozos who never come but still want to be invited.... every damn week. I digress......

Where was I, oh yes, we met down at 3rd and University, Karl on his "rain" bike, which consists of a Cannondale CAAD 5 with full Dura Ace, $1500 wheels, of course no fenders (remember, "rain" bike), and handlebars rotated so far forward and down that the shifters actually point forward like some charging bull. The drops in full Modolo style point back up towards the rider just begging for some sort of header where the rider will be blissfully impaled upon impact. Claire, riding the best bike ever made by the Trek/LeMond/GaryFisher/you'renext juggernaut, the Big Sky, which was inexplicably discontinued for lack of interest by Greg LeMond himself probably. I showed up bobtailing (riding without my trailer) the John Deere which feels like a veritable cheetah, ready to pounce despite weighing more that two of Karl's "rain" bikes. Kristina, having just chided Michael at the last ride about his complete inattention to all things mechanical, shows up with her regular steed which looks more and more like the retarded child at the supermarket wearing the football helmet yelling for soda pop. I'll get to that part later.

So we start down third but not before swinging our bikes around and mine so hard into Karl's nifty wheel that I'm sure I've put it out of true (bent it). No such misfortune. Bikers race down 3rd like bats on the hunt for their meal, darting among the buses and laughing at the poor saps stopped by police for the simple offense of driving a car down Third. Hey, I don't write the rules, I just rub them in others' faces, especially that Hummer 2 with the spinners, yeah, you were my favorite "victim" of all. We fall in with some other bikers and wend our way down to Alaskan for our search for the perfect hill-less ride. Yes, we are here for the flats. Save the Alps for another day; today we ride in Flanders, in the Netherlands, across the Cossack Plain. Today we ride the wind, we search for the perfect flat land ride, the one we are sure our dilletante friends who want to ride, who say they will be out, who brag about their bike, who brag about mythical epic rides of yesteryear, but are too afraid to ride up Pike Street, let alone some of the more challenging hills of our fair land. This ride was for you, suckers!

We get onto Alaskan and are heading with the wind at a comfortable 20 mph clip. This is only possible because the wind smiles on our exploits, Yea, the great God above wants us out there and I'm just sure that when we turn around and head back, by golly, that same God will smile on us and turn that wind around with us just for good measure. It's that kind of ride. The cars are a delight and each one smiles as I pull out through the obstacles and block their path home. Everyone understands. Everyone is smiling. Good will is all around us. The Gods are smiling.

Not so fast! Karl flats out. Remember those $1500 wheels? well, they are protected by a thin band of rubber pumped up to 500 atmospheres of pressure and and these have been done in by the detritus of some drunken fratboy who wanted to pretend to be wild while the trust funds are still paying by throwing his bottles out of a moving car. We bikers love this. This is our favorite thing in the whole world. Nothing makes our day like broken bottle glass on the road way. Automotive safety glass? no problem, you can chew on and swallow that stuff, but somehow the beer companies prefer crap glass that splinters into millions of tire shredding pieces. Karl likes thin tires. Karl has been known to go very fast on thin tires. Glass likes thin tires. Karl doesn't go fast when glass likes thin tires. Karl doesn't like glass.

Kristina offered up a bandaid to patch the hole in the side of Karl's tire. I wasn't so sure and offered the tried and true method of a dollar bill. Karl took the bandaid. It worked just as you would expect and bulged out, nearly ruining a new tube. Karl, deflated, deflated the tire and inserted my now folded dollar bill. Works like magic. We were off and running in no time and with my mental calculations, we could still have a good ride and let me make it back to SU for a rehearsal.

We cruised down to West Marginal Way and then into South Park. South Park and South Seattle are my favorite places to ride because this is where the kids get to play in parks. In north Seattle where all the white people live, it's too dangerous and white kids run the risk of getting kidnapped or raped or whatever. In the south end, kids play in the parks, ride their bikes around the neighborhood, get icecream at the local market, sit around and just kill time. The kids are happy here. I like the south end. We ride from Cloverdale onto south 14th Ave and then stop for a regroup. Kristina's bike (remember the football helmet) has decided not to shift anymore. She's cussing up a storm and demands that one of us looks at it. The shifter isn't working and we soon figure out that the cable has broken at the derailer. No sweat, I start to thread the frayed cable through the adjuster and discover that it won't go in. Time is slipping away and I have 40 minutes until I have to play a downbeat with cello in hand. It's a paying gig.

I cut bait and start to adjust the limit stop on the derailer so Kristina won't have to ride a 42:12 all the way home into the wind on 92 gear inches. Kristina howls in protest. "Don't touch my derailer!" she wails. A street fight nearly breaks out between us. Claire comes to the rescue and cooler heads explain that this will give her 2 gears to play with (one in back and two in front) so she can limp home. Karl wonders why only two since she has three sprokets up front and I chuckle while telling him that that part of the bike hasn't worked in a while and Kristina hasn't used the big gear reliably since the first W. Bush administration. The bike comes with 27 gears, Kristina has let that dwindle 18 and now through neglect and bad luck, she has two. Kristina is a civil/mechanical engineer. Kristina's bike IS that retarded kid right now. You feel love, you feel empathy, but you just can't stop looking and pointing. Somewhere in Redmond, while you read this, Michael Tromsdorff is on the floor laughing his ass off.

It's now 6:25 PM and I have to play at 7. We are in deep South Park and I scope out a new, fast route back to civilization. We cross over the 16th street bridge and onto East Marginal Way past the Air Museum. Ryan, eat your heart out. We then hobble over to Airport road for the fast, wind in the face sprint (thanks a lot, God!) back through Georgetown. We climb up and over the train bridge, hurtle ourselves down the other side, and Karl flats again. It's 6:42. At this point, I can't wait around so I kiss my darling Claire on the cheek and high tail it out of Dodge. I climbed up into Chinatown, right onto Jackson, left onto 12th, huffing and puffing, running every red, and make it to rehearsal at 7:01 where the director is nonplussed.

Claire or one of the others will let you know how it all ended. As for me, this should be a cautionary tale. Get your bike fixed regularly, get some tough tires, and don't try to get 20 miles in when you have a time limit. Oh yes, and explain very clearly what you are about to do before you wrench on someone else's $90 derailer on the sidewalk next to a busy intersection where you are the only person not lost...... so you don't get your ears boxed.

Brad Hawkins
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