Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Come to the right place

How, in the space of a few minutes, can you go from needing nothing and no one to wishing for so many things? There's a certain violence to it.

A pack of four riders speeds by. The guys from under the tree on the climb to Beechworth. The Waterford lies on its side, front wheel off, tools flung everywhere. From this angle, they seem infinitely fast. I wish I could go with them. I wish they would stop.

Bending over the bike, my lower back has stiffened up in an alarming way. It's rigid, like a board. Aching with every move. All that pushing yesterday, and today has not been flat either. This feels like a spasm in the making. I wish my back were whole and true. It's a constant reminder that I'm not calling the shots.

Need help? One of the riders calls out as he spins past, drafting his buddies. People really don't want to stop. They don't want to share your problems. They want to be let off the hook. Heck, I'd like that too!

Hope not!! I call out, instantly regretting it. That was petty. Thirty meters down the road at this point. The bum tube is not their fault. What exactly can they do? What good is it, if someone else feels guilty? No taking it back. The cicadas sing on.

One of the riders circles back to check on me. He sees the jerky beam of the headlamp, lighting up the crime scene. Tire levers on the ground. The soft tube draped over the frame. My right hand, moving along the inside of the tire half on the rim.

Ah you seem experienced, he says. And damn it, he's right. As soon as we have root cause, this turns into a familiar exercise. Everything required is right here; nothing missing.

Voila! A piece of glass. I fling it far and wide, away from the road and this whole scene, the mayhem  it created. Sorry I'm cranky I say; my back is really hurting. Wishing he'd stick around. Though frankly I know better. With a pack waiting, nobody in their right mind would stay. He takes off.

Another rider approaches and pulls over. There's no shoulder to speak of. You don't have to stop I say. I'm fine, just cranky. With the pump clamped down on the valve, air is going in. Slowly. This is the part my back really hates.

It helps to have company, even just standing there for a minute facing away (oh right, peeing). He's David, that's easy to remember. The first guy was David as well. And David from yesterday is somewhere up ahead. Australia's a big country; they need more names.

I call out the beauty of this particular spot, and how I love the cicadas.

David used to catch them to sell to the other kids at school. All different kinds. Green ones and gold ones (the loud Green Grocer), black ones (the Black Prince?). They're slow-moving, easy to catch. Put them in a big coffee can, like our grasshoppers. Who got the highest price? Oh, the black ones did...

He reaches over, lifting up the frame so I can position the front wheel in the fork. Perfect timing, the one right and needed thing. I tighten down the skewer, reattaching the leads for the Edelux. He notices the hub and its light. The tire is not exactly firm—the limiting factor being my back—but it should get us to Whitfield.

Those last 8km, pushing with all remaining strength, I'm militant about keeping his red taillight in view. Nothing else matters. As the moon rises, I just don't want to be out here alone.

Against a dark hillside, at the edge of a dark town, the control blazes with light. Outside, I spot a floor pump and make a beeline for it. A volunteer comes up, asks gently about my needs. Ever so nice.

I say "besides air, food, coffee, a place to wash my hands". Like I've been rehearsing in my head the last 8 km.

They've got all that here.

1 comment :

  1. :) I am belatedly cheering you on from here. I hope you post more about the rest of the ride!