Bikes, Art, Fun and Flats.

Bikes, Art, Fun is what the sign said, but to me it read salvation. For the last six or seven miles my wheel had been thumping. I was slowly making my way toward Port Townsend where I hoped to fill up on espresso and pastries. That was until my rear tire failed, and before I saw the sign and made a right onto a street I’ll never remember the name of.

Outside was the type of bike art that I hate. It always involves pieces parts of destroyed frames shoddily welded into sculpture, in this case it was little people riding little bikes. In normal circumstances this would be enough to keep me away from a shop but I needed to get this thumping taken care of.

I’d already spent enough time fixing a flat, only to find the wheel thumping, and letting the air back out, fixing the tube and slipped rim strip. After filling the tube for a second time I somehow managed to remove the valve core from my tube while unscrewing the pump head of my hand pump. Two people stopped and asked if I need help.

One guy in a van, who tried his best to help me without having to actually get out of his van. The second, appeared to be a skinhead driving a modded out white impreza, rally style, not the hatchback variety. I’m not sure of his bigotry, or where he planned to put my bike, but I was happy that he at least stopped to ask if I needed help.

Once the tire was refilled I noticed that the rim strip had once again slipped and the thump was still in the wheel. With no other choice I got back on the bike and started the long ride toward Port Townsend. Understandably, to me at least the good feelings the four and half miles of logging road had brought on were now gone.

I’d lost track of how many miles I had left into town. The last sign told me it was twelve, but that wasn’t counting the miles I’d ridden down center to meet up with HWY 19 in Chimacum, which as far as I could tell was made up of a drive through coffee stand, a gas station and one or two other businesses that weren’t bike shops.

I had just enough money on me to get a wheel true, but nothing else. There was a check for a few hundred dollars in my wallet, but I’d neglected to deposit it before catching the ferry. I’d made it part of my plan to deposit it before the espresso and pastries.

The door to the shop is a mostly screen affair with hand carved handles and a small wooden latch to keep it in place when it is closed. To my right was a small counter with cash register, to my left was park truing stand, a repair stand mounted to a beam supporting the roof. There were few bikes in the darkened room, the sorts of old converted twenty-seven inch wheeled fixies that make up the inventory of bike co-ops.

There was a small wood burning stove with three rickety wooden rockers and a stool in front of it. Two cats curled up as two separate, but touching balls of fur occupied one of the chairs. When the owner came out from some room wearing a baggy pair of jeans and white sweatshirt and reading glasses with the price tag still stuck to the right side lens. I explained what had happened as I held the bike and he spun the spun the cranks.

It wasn’t a hop in the wheel, but a deformation in the tire that was causing the thump. I was lucky that the slipped rim strip hadn’t punctured the one spare tube I had. A new Panaracer wire bead fixed the tire problem, a velox rim strip – which I probably should have used in the first place – fixed the chance of the spoke hole puncturing my tube. That work and those parts with tax came to forty dollars, about ten more than I had.

He agreed to hang onto my Garmin while I rode into town to cash the checks so I could pay him.

Back on the road toward the bank anger seethed inside of me. I’m mad at myself for having less cash than a junior, all because I was lazy about depositing money I’d earned and because I’m not good at hanging onto the money I have. Then I directed my anger at other people and real or imagined slights. That anger was easier than being pissed at myself for once falling short of getting my shit together.

In town I find a bank, finally have my espresso shot eat half my pastry, shoving the rest into my left side jersey pocket. I hammer back to the shop. Hand the guy forty bucks, thanking him multiple times and left.

It was 3:40 pm. I was less than thirty miles, but more than twenty-four miles from the ferry back home. I was, smartly, wearing all black, with no blinkies.

Again the anger welled up and I mashed the pedals, instead of spinning them smoothly. Sometimes angry about the backpack. Mad about my job. Mad about having to move to Seattle. Mad at myself, for allowing myself to accept less than I’m capable of. Again I wondered if my constant disappointment in people has to do with a near constant disappointment in myself.


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