Monday, March 19, 2012

Ode to Joy

We've been riding for about 45 minutes. Across the fields outside of Davis the usual clear vistas to the horizon are gone. This morning everything is hidden in a low, dense fog. Even in a pack of cyclists my legs are working hard and the bike is slowing down. My rear wheel feels wiggly, not right.

There's a bulge in the tire. I signal and pull off. The pack rolls on toward Stevenson Bridge Road.

In the last 24 hours it has rained cats and dogs here. There's no shoulder, not even a white line, only a wide median of brown mud between me and the fields on either side.

In the fog, drivers won't be able to see. Must get off the road now.

10 minutes later the sticky mud is everywhere - a brake lever, the rear tire, between a few chain links, the pedals, and especially my shoes. It sticks to itself and has turned my feet into massive, heavy flippers. I flop around in despair. Everything I do seems to make the situation worse.

Out of the fog emerges a van. I wave my arms wildly above my head and after a few dicey moments Lee Mitchell hits the brakes hard. The van comes to a stop in the middle of the road. Working quickly we get me and the bike into the van and Lee finds a driveway 100 feet further where it's safe to pull off.

The scene that follows should be a routine flat-fixing exercise, but it's not. The tire doesn't want to come  off the rim. On a muddy tire, it's impossible to find root cause. Something made the tube lose air, where is that thing? No choice now - if I want to stay in the ride, in goes a new tube and back on goes the tire.

The new tube has a short stem but the Waterford's wheels need the long stems. Lee holds the pump head on the valve. I pump furiously. The air seems to hold. 

Meanwhile, a furry ball of a puppy has wandered down the driveway, attracted by all the fuss. He tries to engage us, to no avail. He absconds with the tube box and my sunglasses in his mouth, spits out the glasses and chews the box. Bored, he then wanders into the road where a passing car just manages to stop in time. There is a lot of honking and the puppy reluctantly wanders back into the driveway. Not car smart. Each time he approaches the road I throw rocks at him, heart breaking.

Lube (thanks to Lee) goes on the chain and I use a stick to poke the mud between links. Finally, progress. Lee gifts a replacement tube with a long valve, just in case. Mud-crusted and nearly beaten, I'm back on the road alone, heading toward Winters. 

Pre-TBI on unsupported brevets this would have been completely my own nightmare to fix. Lee's support (and his counterpart Elinor's) are part of the reason I come here to Davis. Somehow I manage to feel sorry for myself anyway, left by the pack, bringing up the rear alone. 

To pass the time I come up with various scenarios of how to quit this ride with the least amount of fuss. Turn around in Pope Valley, we know that's 200k. Ride to the turnaround and back just to Pope Valley, 200k. Do the ride but go up an easier climb out of Middletown, Big Canyon. Tell the rest stop workers so they don't wait for me.

Heck why not move to Winters today, right now?
The notch in the ridge up there is Cardiac.
In a few minutes I'm joined by a couple of friends out for a Saturday ride. After a few minutes of their chatter I'd trade anything for some quiet. Riding faster is the answer...

Lee passes and leans out the window to make sure I'm all right. He happens to mention there's a rider just a couple of miles up ahead. The red-winged blackbirds flit and cheer along the road.

My thoughts turn to motivation. It seems like there's at least two kinds: motivation to move away from something, like mud or talkative cyclists. And there's motivation to move toward something, like that rider who is allegedly 2 miles up ahead. I'm no expert but out here I can tell myself whatever. No one can argue.

Anyway, I've got both kinds of motivation working for me now. The next time the van passes, Lee blares Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" from his loudspeakers! By this time of course I'm totally enjoying being out here on my bike. In Pope Valley, a few riders are still at the Farm Center, gathering their stuff...

Tough love: Laurie says, you can quit at the top of Cobb (but not here).
The weather is actually pretty good, especially compared with the forecast. The creeks are rushing with new water.
Top of Honey Hill, entrance to Butts Canyon.
At the base of Cobb Mountain that soft feeling in the rear tire returns. A small piece of wire has worked  through the rubber of the rear tire. So at least now we have root cause. 

In the shoulder while forcing air into a new tube, the cymbals of Ode to Joy crash in my head. Every second beat, one pump. The music has an incredible encouraging effect - just the right thing at the right time! Unfortunately the air in the tube is not encouraged in the same way. At the top of Cobb we find only 40 pounds of pressure...easily fixed.
Dave Leonard boosts the rear tire to 100 psi.
Hey, the tire is finally good to ride at the turnaround. My luck might just be on the way back...


  1. It's not Beethoven, but I'm compiling for you a list of Route 66 performances (which just might morph into a more beefy playlist), and here's the first:

    1. Thanks Mary!!!! Very thoughtful! Love the Manhattan Transfer; they're so smooth.

    2. Could we include this version as well? LOVE Depeche Mode....

  2. "move to Winters" made me laugh! :) I would be frustrated, too. Changing a tire is frustrating for me in and of itself, let alone in a mud field. Good on you for sticking (ha) it out and pushing onward.
    I do the same pep talk on hills - I can't breathe, but I can certainly think marvelous things. Like how those chatty, chatty cyclists who are spinning up the hill like it's nothing - well, clearly, they're aliens. I am doing quite well for a human. Maybe one day I'll be an alien too.
    Wait, you climbed a mountain at 40psi??

  3. Yeah, for some reason the tire seemed firm enough! Cobb is not just any old hill - it's like Montebello but is steeper as you go up (not steeper at the bottom). Might be more trained than I thought....