Monday, July 4, 2016

On the Road Again

After last year's success, I really wanted to go on the road again this year. Abel and I started planning a road trip, but broke up before it could happen. That same week, my friend Cider had posted a picture of his new bike all kitted out for touring in preparation for his yearly adventure to the West.

"Wish I was going with you!" I commented.

The reply came back, "So come along."

I laughed. Six days' notice to go on a cross-country road trip? "And if you're doing those crazy 800-mile days, I can't handle that," I said. Then I forgot about it.

The next evening, he messaged me to say hi, and picked up on the fact that I wasn't doing too well.

"You should come with me," he said.

"Are you serious?"

"Yeah, why not?"

I dismissed the idea, and five minutes later was figuring out what I'd need to pack.

I saw him the next day at one of our games, and he asked, "So how serious are you?"

"Yes," I answered. "Please. I need to get the hell out of Dodge." And with that I joined the adventure.

He asked if I wanted to borrow his extra bike, expressing some concern about the state of Hades. "I'd hate to leave you stranded in the middle of the country if yours breaks down," he said. "But, ya know, I will if I have to."

"Does this extra bike have a windshield?"

It turned out this extra bike not only has a windshield, but is brand new, with only 2000 miles on it, gets 50mpg in a 6.3 gallon tank, and has giant locking hard bags. I met up with him in the middle of the week to take it for a test ride.

"Why aren't you riding it?" I asked.

He looked sheepish. "Cuz it'll get me in trouble."

I was puzzled by that, at least until I drove it home. It wasn't until I saw blue lights that I realized I was doing 80 in a 50, down a twisty, hilly state route where I'd normally stick to 60. When I got home, I texted him: "I get it now. I'm gonna get in so much trouble on this thing."

It also has a very high seat and center of gravity, a long fork travel, and touchy brakes. I nearly dumped it while parking at work the next morning, but managed not to. I figured that with a little more time, the bike and I would become good friends.

Thursday night I packed, finding that all my things fit in the hard bags with room to spare (made easier by the fact that we weren't planning to camp). Friday morning at 6:15, he showed up in my driveway, as I was realizing that I'd misplaced my dog tag, the one I always wear while biking that has my emergency contact info on it. I gave up on it, locked the house, and realized my house keys were missing, too. I decided I'd worry about it when I returned. By 6:30 we were rolling out.

I noticed after I left the driveway that there wasn't as much gas in the tank as I thought, so I gestured at the gas station and pulled in. I was excited, jittery, and not focused, and I pulled up to the pump too fast and grabbed at the brakes. The next thing I knew, the bike was leaning hard left. I fought it with everything I had, but my leverage was wrong and down she went.

Cursing, I hit the kill switch and immediately started trying to walk her upright. Cider pulled in next to me and was parking when a stranger came running over from somewhere, grabbed the bike, and helped me pull it upright. I didn't even have time to thank him before he disappeared again.

"Fuck," I said to Cider, who was now standing next to me, grinning.

"You're okay," he said.

"Yup. I got that out of the way," I said, trying to hide how hard I was shaking. "We're done with that, now things can go right. Every jam is a new jam."

"Yup," he agreed.

"I swear I haven't done that before!" I said.

"It's okay," he told me.

I stopped blathering and put gas in the tank, then gave him directions to the highway. We pulled back into the street while I tried to ignore the voice in my head calling me a clueless, clumsy idiot.

We got on 91 and then 90, and he wedged himself into traffic in front of a tractor trailer. I saw the truck's brake lights come on and immediately lost him in traffic.

Well, I thought, Now we've each had our stupid moment. Hopefully we've used them up.

I darted around the cars clogging the entrance ramp area - that bike really does dart quite well - sped up, and found Cider ahead of the mess. I fell into formation behind him, and we were off into the great wide open.

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