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Shakedown Street

I pride myself on being independent.  However, I also pride myself on knowing my limitations, i.e. basically anything mechanical.  This leaves me in the awkward position of having to ask for help with many aspects of daily life (usually from a man) .  I am very lucky to have some really good friends who regularly come to my rescue.  I found though, on a recent trip I took, there are a lot of nice strangers out there that are willing to help, even before you ask.

Like I mentioned, I am pretty independent (read~strong willed).  I decided since I had my kids for Memorial Day I was going to make it into a memorable, fun-filled weekend of camping, bike riding and hiking. I took great pains to secure the time off of work, which was not easy, seeing how it was at the end of our biggest sale of the year; but a little begging and bargaining can go a long way.  My hope was to travel with some friends too, but unfortunately they either couldn’t get the time off or were not able to commit.  I was not going to let this stop me, no way!  I’d do it on my own and dammit and it would be sweet.

We were off to a pretty good start, only an hour and a half behind schedule.  If you have ever traveled with kids you know this is not so bad.  I loaded up the car with our gear and with my daughter Lilly’s help hoisted the bikes up onto my rack.

We were two hours into the trip when a irregular shadow on the dashboard caught my eye.  I looked up through the glass of my sunroof and saw my daughter’s bike teetering and shaking in a bad way.  “Oh my God,”  I said, “the bike’s gonna fall!”  I eased off the gas and tried to will it to be stable enough to make it to the exit that was barely a 1/4 away,  but no amount of romancing would do; thankfully there didn’t seem to be any cars near us. Suddenly, in one quick motion the bike swung over and around the roof of the car and was out of sight.

“It’s ok, mom!  It didn’t fall off,” my daughter told me.  “It’s still on.”  And it was.  Thankfully.  It was hanging by the rear plastic and metal buckle I had fastened tight enough (whew).  I pulled over and liberated the bike from the clamp and set out to reinstall it.  “Do you want me to help you mom?”  my daughter asked.

“No!”  I said, “You stay in the car sweetie, I will do this.”  And I did.  But it was still no good.  It was still shaking like a hula dancer so I coasted off onto the next exit and pulled over into a parking lot in front of a vacant building.  I decided I would put this bike into the trunk and put my son’s on the roof.  I figured it was the 700 cc tires that were the problem.  My bike, with 26″ inch tires was golden, totally secure in the sidearm.  After emptying out my trunk of all of our camping gear I figured I’d loosened up the toggle bolts that go through the wheel, take off the wheel, shove that baby in the trunk and be on my way.

I tried to take the wheel off of the fork by loosening the bolts,  why wasn’t the wheel releasing?  I took the bolt completely out of the chamber, maybe it was just stuck.  But no, nothing.  Great.  I thought.  Now what?  After a few minutes a man who was just leaving the propane distributor he worked for located behind the building I was parked at, stopped his truck and asked me if I needed any help.  At first I said no, it was my stubbornness, but he wasn’t buying it.  He asked me if I was sure and I hesitated and said “Well, maybe, if you know how to take a wheel off a bike.”  He jumped down from his truck and told me he used to ride aChase with Lilly's bike lot 20 years ago and set to work in no time.  I watched what he did.  After doing what I did with the bolts he released two metal rings and then unhooked the brake line.  Ok, my other bike didn’t have those metal parts and I never had to release the brake line.  Now I got it.  I thanked him over and over and he went on his way, but not without telling me he would have been long gone but there was leak and he was working overtime.  Lucky for me.

We finally made it to our destination but I knew Lilly’s bike had to inspected before she could safely ride it.  I didn’t know if any damage had been done.  Using my GPS I found 3 local bike stores.  The first one I called was closing in a hour.  No good, I was about 45 minutes away.  The next 2 I called both had busy phone lines.  I proceeded to redial each number alternately, seeing who would pick up first.  Athens Bicycle was the winner.  I asked if there was a bike tech in the shop that day and briefly told the person what the problem was.  He told me his name was Chase and he was a tech.  We went right over.

Walking into Athens Bicycle was like being a kid in a candy store.  There were so many bikes and bike accessories!  But, as I was carrying a bike minus the front wheel so I stuck to the matter at hand.  I was greeted by two men, one of them turned out to be Chase and he took the bike from me right away and placed it on the mount to do the diagnostic.  The workshop was up on a platform on the right side of the store in full view of the customer.  The shop had a really friendly vibe to it.  There were other customers shopping and getting work done on their bikes.  I took a minute to look around at what was for sale.  Treks and Garry Fishers, sweet.

After only a few minutes Chase told me the rim was somewhat bent but he was able to bend it back.  The wheel would eventually need to  be replaced because some of the spokes were now loose, but it wasn’t dire at the moment.  The tube went flat and had to be replaced and he suggested replacing the tire which was pretty worn in the process.  I agreed.  Afterward he came out to my car and looked at my rack.  He moved the mount back slightly so the tire was resting on more of the wheel tray.  This was definitely above and beyond the scope of fixing the bike and I was really grateful.

Maybe it is my 2 kids that are the trump card, maybe we looked vulnerable and in need of help.  But I think otherwise.  I think maybe the world is full is full of nice people.  It makes me think of a line from an old dead tune  “Don’t tell me this town ain’t got no heart, you just gotta poke around.”

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Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Scott F.
    June 2, 2010 at 3:29 pm

    Sounds eventful!

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