Friday, May 6, 2011

Waiting For Grace

My Economic Philosophy
At this point in my cycling  career I am like a third-world refugee picking scraps from the local land fill to piece together any two wheeled contraption I can to keep myself flying. There is majestic irony in the fact that when the winds of change blow through my life they will do so in such a way that while cycling dollars will be available cycling time will not, in that devilish inverse ratio of money-to-happiness nightmare that has plagued my soul since I hit the streets a-runnin'. The formula is fiendish: the times when I have plenty of money I am miserable.  Not because of the money but because of what I have to do to get it; while the times I am poor, with plenty of cycling, sailing, goofing off time, I am happy but my various creditors are miserable. And miserable creditors have a way of spreading that misery around until even a Dedicated Goof like me gives in and goes back to work.

On The Road Again
Not long after I got the Old Schwinn put back together I started logging miles and keeping a miles log that showed some serious effort on my part, consistently getting in two hundred mile weeks, albeit at a pace that would best be described as stately, to put it kindly. But I was riding, and gradually becoming addicted to the first healthy addiction in a long career of, well, you know...unhealthy addictions. Meanwhile, due to the poverty (that makes me so happy) my thirty year old Schwinn Super Le Tour was feeling the effects of all these miles as well as my less-than-average maintenance skills.

One day while Way Out There I was passed by a Fred-On-Carbon and while this was in no way unusual, for one reason or another this time I decided to give chase. After seven miles I caught and passed him. (I later recounted this story at The Fat Cyclist's website.) This was an unfortunate occurrence, because it caused me to start thinking about miles and speed. After that, I started pushing things a little. The happy part of the story is that with increased speed came increased daily mileage as a side effect. The downside is that after not many days of my new efforts the Old Schwinn filed a protest in the form of two broken spokes on the rear wheel and an inexplicably bent axle.

Off the Road Again
So sits I here now, grounded, as it were, too broke and inept to facilitate repairs on my poor old steed. The miles I am not riding mount up daily. My ass is beginning to take the shape of my computer chair. Anyone who rides long miles understands the pain and sacrifice of the ass-toughening period required before five or six hours in the saddle can be accomplished without excruciating pain.

This blog, ostensibly about bicycle riding and working on bikes, will now be...what?

Ya Gotta Do What Ya Gotta Do
Well, I could write about Mobile Home Rehab. The Management at the Whispering Pines Trailer Park finally had enough of my non-payment shenanigans and rather than evict me, instead gave me the opportunity to work off my rent debt. So not only am I not riding my beloved (but broken) Schwinn, I am spending my days ripping rotten, moldy wood out of trailer walls, painting over years of cigarette-smoke-stained ceilings and crawling around under dilapidated units to repair plumbing systems that look like the Little Rascals did the original installation.

Argh!  I Say...  
Well, not really Argh,  because I actually derive a certain pleasure in doing the best job I can on these trailers. I make sure that when I am through, every thing is “Clean, Dry and Serviceable” as we were trained to say in the Good Ol' United States Air Force. The ability to draw small pleasures from untenable situations is what keeps me going, sometimes. I consider it one of my few admirable traits, if not direct evidence of my mental instability.

My Guru Will Know What To Do
During a ride last week I broke two spokes.  The LBS was between me and home, so I carried the Old Schwinn there  only to receive a severe shock. Walter, the Homeless Janitor Retired Airplane Mechanic Turned Bicycle Shaman, was gone! Argh!

How can these things keep happening to me? I had weathered the storms of mistrust, witchcraft, bad communication, limited destruction and over-Indulgence In beer to finally find  my One Bicycle Guru only to learn that he had departed for a Far Country!

“Where did he go?” I asked the lady at the counter. I managed to keep the trembling out of my voice. I was looking over her shoulder to the Repair Area in back. It was dark in there.

“Uh...” she seemed reluctant to speak. The news was obviously unspeakable! Oh my God, was he dead?

“What happened/” I asked. I saw the beginning of fear in her eyes. She didn't want to tell me.

“He opened a new shop in Ormond Beach,” she said. She seemed poised for flight.

“Ormond Beach?! What's he doing up there?”   I knew I had to regain my composure before she hit the panic button under the counter. (Little Known Fact: Bike shops, like banks and liquor stores, sometimes have dangerous customers).   “Well, what are you guys doing for a mechanic these days?”

Yes,  I am  such a perfidious character that  I had already forgotten My Guru and was angling for his old job, even though I am possibly the worst mechanic in creation. She relaxed, seeming to brighten up.

“Oh, we have a great new mechanic.” Hmmm...

“Well, can I go around back to meet him?” I asked. This New Guy better be good, I was thinking.

“Oh, uh, no...” she said, regaining a little of that nervous apprehension she had exhibited moments before. “”We had to change the rules...there were to many hooligan kids hanging around so now he just comes up here. Just a minute...” 

" Oh Good Lord",    I thought. Another complete sea change in my cycling world. Now I have to WAIT to see the mechanic. I had grown accustomed to swooping up on my bike to the garage doors of Walt's little shop, where he always had some oddball Big Box bicycle in the stand, while a fidgeting kid was hanging around waiting for what I always figured was a free repair. Now that I think of it, sometimes it was me that was the fidgeting kid.


The New Guy
The New Guy emerged from the back. While he seemed a perfectly normal-looking young fellow, I Knew. Here it comes, I thought. 

Don't project, said the Voice. "Oh Yeah?"    I said.  "OK, I'll be as sweet as I can be."

“Hi!” I said brightly. “How are you?” He faked a smile. I could tell I had interrupted his work and he wasn't happy about that. I was fairly certain it wasn't a tiny tricycle or a big box bike back there in the stand.

“What's up,” he said.

“Oh, I have this old Schwinn I bought a while back and I've been trying to keep her going as best I can, but the rear wheel is wobbling and now I've busted a couple spokes. I think it's time for a new wheel, but I wanted your opinion.” He glanced at the Love of my Life. His attitude wasn't surly, but it might as well have been. Without a word, he turned to the computer and punched in some keys.

“A new wheel will be $55,” he said.  "Plus labor."

“Hey!” I said, maintaining my effort at brightness and good cheer. “That's not so bad. The hub that's on here now is a Shimano, I noticed. What will the new one be?”

“I don't know what the new one will be, but it won't be a Shimano. And you have to pay now.”

Now, was this cause for upset on my part? I don't know. Granted, the guy was no doubt busy. Who can tell? The shop area was behind a Magic Curtain. But the demeanor...well, it hit me like I was being told I had cancer by a doctor who already had his golf clubs slung over his shoulder and was heading for the door. I reached down and gave My Little Darling a pat on her top tube and started for the door myself.

“Hey, thanks. You've been really helpful. I'll figure out what I want to do and let you know.”

And then I beat It out of there.

Outside, I tried to rationalize the whole event. Hell, that kid didn't know I had carried that bike on my back the three miles to the shop. He surely wouldn't understand, or care, the significance to me of a whole $55. Was it his fault I was broke and living in a trailer park? Of course not. But all the same...

A cool breeze feathered In from the North. It felt good and I turned to face the direction from which that caress had come.

It'll be alright,  said the Voice.  

 "I know,"   I said. Somewhere in that northerly direction was Ormond Beach and Walter the Bike Guru's new shop. I smiled as I visualized  the Old Shaman fiddling with some cheap bicycle in his stand while some little kid fidgeted nearby, waiting for Grace.

Whispering Pines Trailer Park and Bicycle Emporium