The other day I finally got motivated to do a little work on my old Mongoose Alta. For a couple years she was my only bike and I put a lot of miles on her before I got the Schwinn from Coyote and rediscovered the beauty and the wonder of big skinny tires and gears and the sensation of flight that they impart. After that the Goose mostly sat in the corner collecting dust. I would ride her to the beer store once in a while just for old time's sake, but she felt sluggish and slow compared to the Schwinn. But the other day the Blonde found a bicycle carcass in the Park dumpster and pulled it out for my inspection.
It was a sad kind of thing. The frame was brand new. It was one of those low-end comfort bikes they sell at beachside bike shops for weekend riders to use to cruise the boardwalk. It was a single speed, of course, and thoroughly stripped of wheels and chain and seat. All that was left was the frame and fork and handlebars. I put it in the corner with the Mongoose and more or less forgot about it until one day I was straightening up the shop and there it was.
Its a stolen bike, said the Voice.
“No kidding, Voice. What of it?"
It's a stolen bike so you should give it to the cops. The serial number is right there on the bottom bracket.
“Voice, that is a noble intention but you forget: we live in the crappiest trailer park in town and those cops will wonder what happened to the wheels and tires and chain and so on and furthermore, O Noble Voice, perhaps you forgot that here in the Living Room Bike Shop there are many bicycle wheels, tires, used chains and various other parts that might cause suspicion to be cast my way. Duh.”
No, YOU duh. But you're probably right. So what will you do with it? I had not considered this question. In fact, it just occurred to me that I had a probably stolen and definitely stripped and serialized bicycle frame stashed in a room full of bike parts.
“Here, Voice. Take this thing and put it back into the dumpster. I don't want anything to do with it. It is a Tainted Thing. I have spoken.”
Have spoken all you want. I am only a voice and so if that poor derelict is to find its way to the trash heap it will be your problem to make it so. Thus speaks the Voice.
Ashes to Ashes
Stupid Voice. But as usual, the Voice was right. I guess. I pondered further about taking it to the Cop Shop but finally said to hell with it and threw it back from whence it had come. I was crafty; I waited until Wednesday morning to do the disposal. The dumpster guy comes on Wednesday so there would be minimal exposure. I didn't wipe off my fingerprints because it seemed ludicrous to do so...but you never know. I then went on about my day and forgot about the episode, pretty much. I did make note of the sound of the dumpster truck doing its job later that morning and I do remember thinking to myself, “That's that,” and then I went for a Town Ride.
When I came back to the trailer a couple hours later there was the same forlorn frame leaning up against my gate. It looked like it was scratching to get in the same way Toby the Trouble Puppy scratches to get out.
“What the hell,” I thought to myself. Then I knew. The Blonde. I stuck the frame under my front stairs then went next door to her trailer to have a Domestic Policy Conference (DPC). When I walked in she was standing at the counter whipping up a bowl of potato salad. There was something sizzling away on the stove and it sure smelled good and for a moment I forgot why I was there but then I remembered and cleared my throat dangerously in preparation for a stern lecture about stolen goods and social-economic levels and class-based police perception and other things that would come to me after I got started but I was still drawing in a powerful preparatory lungful of hot air when she beat me to the punch.
“Don't go clearing your throat and lecturing me, mister.” She didn't even look up from her work. “Jungle Jim came by here with that thing and said he found it in the dumpster first thing this morning. He said he knew you would be able to get the parts off and recycle the frame. It's aluminum.”
“Who said anything about a lecture? What smells so good?”
If You Can't Beat 'Em
So, setting aside my high moral integrity I took off the mediocre (but alloy) cranks and chain ring. I removed the handlebars (also alloy and the exact high rise bars I have been wanting for the Goose.) I tossed the frame into the Trailer Park recycle pile. Two days ago I put the new bars on the Goose and installed some fat street tires and went for a test ride.
The Big Kid's Bike
Not bad! I had a really cheap big Bell brand saddle from who knows where. I put this on the Goose as well and the upright and soft ride was sweet and it was like a new bicycle and I have been riding it all over the place, kid style. I needed some new handlebar grips and the only place in town for that is the new Super Walmart that opened last month way out on the far side of I-95.
Stranger In A Strange Land
No one we know has been out there yet. To venture beyond I-95 is to go to a Far Country. We get all our needs at the Winn-Dixie and the Dollar General. Well, sometimes one of My Needs requires a trip to Big Bob's Liquors. But these places are a five minute drive and a fifteen minute bike ride so to go much farther than five miles from the Whispering Pines is not necessary. Until now.
So enamored was I with the novelty of my new Kid's Bike I decided to ride it the twelve miles out to the new Super Store and see what this place was all about. Plus, the only other option was the motorsports hunting and bicycle shop boutique that is the closest thing to an LBS in our little town and I was tired of their avarice. When they charged me eight dollars for a tube a couple weeks ago I took a vow and so far have stuck to it. So, child-like and full of wonder, I pedaled off to Oz.
As many of you may remember, I had some kind of rather severe bronchial infection last week. I still do, but it has improved enough over the last few days that I felt strong enough to venture forth. As I pedaled vigorously towards the Interstate I had second thoughts. I was coughing again and not feeling strong at all. But cycling is about nothing if not suffering and perseverance. No pain no gain! And I really wanted those grips!
Here There Be Monsters
The shoulder and the sidewalk both gave out about a mile from the Walmart, and I had to traverse the four way cloverleaf at the Interstate. These things are nightmarish for a cyclist. Cars are hurtling around in high-g turns, tires are screeching and whining, the shoulders are strewn with glass and steel-belt wires and some unidentified but gritty substance seen no where else. There is no clear cut way to get through the thing with anything resembling decorum or dignity. If you attempt to use “vehicular cycling” you will be rapidly reminded that as a vehicle, a bicycle is a paltry conveyance when an eighteen wheeler is thundering down the Off Ramp while some bastard who didn't leave on time for the airport is blasting through a yellow light and taking the On Ramp on two wheels while he screams at someone on his cell phone. Even the safe traffic ain't safe in the vicinity of one of these hell holes and there it was and there was the new Super Walmart just on the other side.
But I am, after all, the Trailer Park Cyclist. I pulled off the filthy shoulder onto the grass. I went a few yards up the side of the On Ramp, waited for a lull and dashed across the On Ramp over to the relative safety of the underside of the overpass. I did some cocky bank shots off the concrete slope under the overpass, paused on the other side to determine that there was no threat of four or eighteen wheeled doom waiting for me and dashed across. I was through! There it was! Good Lord, look at the size of this place. It's like a little city!
America the Bounteous
Walking inside I didn't know whether to weep with pride, shame or bewilderment at the absolute huge cleanness of the place. It was vast and immaculate. That is the only way to describe it. I once saw the Grand Canyon and I remember thinking that it was so large that you could see it, but the brain could not process the vision. It was so alien and strange that there was some kind of disconnect taking place. This Super Walmart is aptly named. Six Whispering Pines Trailer Parks would fit inside.
And yet, for all its vastness and glory, there were only three different handlebar grips to choose from and all three sucked. But I didn't tarry. I grabbed the least suckiest of the three, paid my eight (!) dollars and got out.
The Rest of the Story
Outside, I spit on the handlebars, carefully spread the spit around and slipped on the new grips. Yep. They sucked. But I wasn't riding twelve miles home on bare bars. 'Oh well,” I thought, “they'll do until I get up another order for Tree Fort Bikes or Jensen.” I wait until I have enough money for a hundred dollar plus order so that I get free shipping. It doesn't take long to spend a hundred dollars on bike parts, but it takes me quite a long time to accumulate that one hundred dollars.
I jumped on board and before I even hit the first pedal stroke I realized the new front tire I had mounted yesterday was flat. Real flat, not sorta flat. New tube, serviceable (and fat) tire, careful installation, proper pressure, FLAT.
Sometimes that ol' Karmic Wheel spins pretty quick, said the Voice.
“What?! Cough Cough. Argh!” More coughing. No tools, no pump, no spare tube...looking across the vast plain of the Walmart parking lot, I wondered if that gas station way over there would have an air pump. I decided to push the Goose over and find out. It was a long push, but yes, there was a pump. It would require four quarters and I had twelve bucks left after my shopping spree.
Trailer Park Manifesto
When you are really poor you learn to do without things that some people cannot imagine living without. As for myself, I am sort of poor on purpose. I have learned through brief periods of poverty that I can certainly do without almost everything I can't eat, drink, or wear. If I wanted to do some carpentry work around town, which I would not mind doing, I will need a truck, which in turn will require insurance and gasoline, as well as periodic service. These days things are so bad that carpenters make much less money per hour than they did five or six years ago. But gasoline prices have become drastically higher. Also, the encroaching gentrification of our little surfing/fishing town means that various local government agencies are taking themselves a lot more seriously these days and once that happens, permits and licenses and insurance requirements go up. So, for me to get back in action at the age of fifty six I would have to work significantly harder and longer to make less money to help feed these oil companies and government agencies and car dealers. So for now I fix trailers and ride bicycles.
Where was I?
But manifestos don't fix flat tires. That requires pressurized air, not hot air. So I put four quarters into the machine, apply the nozzle and squeeze. The tire makes a feeble effort to inflate but then quivers and dies in my arms like a tragic heroine in a bad Western.
There must be a hole in the tube, said the Voice.
“Cough! Hack! Ya think?! Really?!”
Attitude: the Difference Between Ordeal and Adventure
(quote courtesy of Bob Bitchin)
Alright, then. I got eleven dollars and there's a Walmart right there. I'll lock up the bike here at the pump and walk back over and get a tube, put it in and be on my way. I walk briskly back across the prairie/parking lot. While inside the store my head starts pounding and those little cold beads of sweat are popping out on my forehead. But I'm way out here in the Florida Outback and this tube is four dollars after tax. OK. When I get back to the bike I notice I ain't feeling so great but there is nothing to do but get this tube on and get out of there. Bending over to take off the wheel I also realize that this 36 spoke rim I decided to put on yesterday is not a quick release. It is two acorn nuts and I need a wrench and now I'm starting to get a little downtrodden. I stand and gaze across the wasteland/parking lot. It's a long way. A shadow darkens the sky and I look up and there it is: one of those fat juicy pregnant-looking Florida cloudburst thunderstorm clouds that were promised for this afternoon. This cloud is quite obviously looking right at me and laughing. Staring at the bike I briefly consider trying to loosen those nuts with my teeth but this gas station is busy and I don't know how these Walmart shoppers will react to the sight of a fifty-something homeless guy thrashing around on the ground in a torrential downpour trying to eat a bicycle.
There's nothing to do but hike the hundred miles back across the parking lot and back into this god-forsaken Cathedral of Crap and buy the cheapest adjustable wrench I can find and then once more cross that parking lot and if this trip don't Get 'er done it will be a fortunate thing that I am so close to the Interstate because I am going to go over to it and throw my bike into the path of an eighteen wheeler and then jump in after it.
A couple of hours later I'm sitting in my trailer drinking my third Budweiser and wondering about my day. The rain never happened and on the way home it took only about fifteen minutes of pedaling before the ordeal was nothing more than another Tim Joe story and Blog. I found a slow and steady cadence on my Big Kid Bike and my breathing and pulse regulated and that was it. The coughing let up and my head quit pounding. Pretty soon I was singing the refrain from that old Journey song, “Wheel In the Sky.”
Not a bad day after all.
“Actually, it was fun.”
And you got a new tool. That cheap little crescent wrench is kinda cool.
“Hey, I forgot about that!”
It doesn't count as an ordeal if there is a new tool in it.
Whispering Pines Trailer Park and House of Pain
It doesn't count as an ordeal if there is a new tool in it.
Whispering Pines Trailer Park and House of Pain