First Tuesday is the monthly collective meeting for Yellow Bike. I always look forward to these days. It usually means a leisurely bicycle ride followed by meeting with my fellow bicycle subversives. Sometimes the meetings are fun. Sometimes they are tedious. But I never feel like I’ve wasted my time. Tonight’s meeting included creating a “book club.”
Lately the meetings have been followed by a post-meeting. Time for fellowship, beer and interesting discussions. This evening we debated the impact of 3D printing and the relative merits of nail guns versus manual hammering. There were several side discussions about wheel building, whiskey and scotch, various beers. Then there was wide-ranging banter about employment selection and management.
Bonus: I got to drink beer in yet another bar I’ve never been to.
Said my good nights and headed off into the moonless night. Quiet streets of late night Austin. A nice tailwind. I love riding during late night. Sparse traffic, well-behaved. Arrived tired but energized. Sipping a beer, listening to tunes, struggling with a way to describe what it’s like to ride late at night in this town.
On my ride down to the shop this afternoon I observed at least 4 cars sitting on the side of the road, emergency blinkers on, driver standing on the curb cell phone in hand desperately seeking assistance. Broken down.
The car is without a doubt very convenient method of transportation. If you can overlook the death, injury, environmental mayhem and debt. But when the car stops working…With my bicycle there is very little in the way of failure or breakdown that I can’t remedy with a little work. At the very least I can walk the damn thing home. Most cars these days require rescue and tow truck transfer to a repair bay. Fortunately, these individuals were safely within the confines of an urban center.
The sight of these broken machines reminded me of two occasions when my car broke down literally in the middle of nowhere.
Was driving from Spokane to Missoula in my Datsun pickup. It was late December night in a blinding snowstorm. I had just crossed the pass between Idaho and Montana and pulled into a rest stop. Unknown to me the idiot light for the alternator had burned out, so my vehicle couldn’t tell me that I had been running down my battery. After warming myself in the restroom I ran out to my truck, jumped in and turned the key. Click. Not the sound of a starter motor struggling to turn over the engine. Just the simple click of the key. It was then that I noticed that none of the lights on the instrument panel were working. Dead battery. And I mean dead.
It’s late at night on a remote stretch of interstate highway. Nearest town is 20 miles away. It’s -10 F and snowing. Not looking good. As I was pulling out my camping equipment and preparing to settle in for the night (and maybe longer) a trucker pulled in to relieve himself. I asked him for a jump but his electrical system was incompatible with mine. We did manage to wrestle my truck in front of his and he gently pushed me so I could pop the clutch and get the engine started. Drove straight through and parked in front of an auto parts store so I could buy a new battery in the morning.
I had just finished attending a mapping and mission planning conference at China Lake, CA. I decided that I could drive straight through and get home to Yuma that night. I was on I-10 just west of Blythe, CA when blam! Tire blowout. Pull over and change the tire. My car had a full sized spare. After getting back on the road I began a little mental debate. One voice was telling me to stop in Blythe and get the tire repaired. The other voice was calling me a wimp and saying I could make it no problem. What are the odds of another tire failure anyway. The voice of caution lost the argument and I pressed on.
There was a brief repeat of the debate as I exited I-10 at Quartzite to head south on 95 to Yuma. It was almost midnight and the voice of caution was not happy. But it lost again and I pressed on. You can see where this is going.
Twenty miles south of Quartzite BLAM! Another tire failure. Oops. Now I’m screwed. This is a remote stretch of highway. When I got out of the car the only sound was a soft desert wind and the baying of coyotes in the distance (at least I hope it was distant).
My luck turned when a north bound car stopped and offered me a ride back to Quartzite. After waking the local on-call repair guy (it was now almost 2 AM), we headed in his tow truck, got my car and back to his shop where I bought two used tires.
Somehow I just can’t complain that much about throwing a chain or having a flat on my bike in the middle of a city.