My wife’s parents live in a part of California that is not exactly what most people think of “the Bay Area”. First, they are nowhere near the San Francisco Bay and even further from the Pacific, so there are no stunning ocean views to be found on any of my rides. There are a few hills to climb, but nothing really cool. Mount Diablo (which classifies as a really cool climb) is about 40 miles away, making it out of reach for a 2-3 hour ride (I am always tempted to go out for longer rides, but the bike I have at the in-laws is a total POS and if I ride it for much more than a couple of hours, I can’t stand up straight for at least three days—besides, I should be there to help with the boys and try to at least appear social). Their town is not exactly what I would call a ‘haven’ for cyclists either. In fact, I see far more pick-up trucks with gun racks than other cyclists.
While we were there, two of my wife’s nieces both sent my mother-in-law their Flat Stanley as part of their school projects (basically, for those of you who do not have elementary age kids, Flat Stanley is a project where your kid sends off their Stanley to someone they know that lives in a cool place—they take pictures of Stanley doing cool crap in their town and then send it back to you—or something like that—my wife’s in charge of all that kind of stuff since I never did any homework as a kid). Luckily, my wife was there to help out. Or maybe unlucky. She did some crazy research on my in-laws town (googled it and ended up on Wikipedia).
Turns out it is one of the oldest towns in CA (a gold rush thing), but it was virtually wiped out by a plague shortly there after. Oh, and it is perceived to be a haven for sex offenders (although apparently other towns in CA are worse). And it is also the place where THIS happened. Great. Just great. I fear for those Flat Stanleys.
As I mentioned in the last piece, I was having some issues with my ancient, lilac, POS bike. Namely, I kept getting front wheel flats despite my best efforts to prevent them (I feel like I should state that although I do not consider myself ‘handy’ in any way, I do know my way around a bike—although my father-in-law remains unconvinced, given all the flat tires). Determined to end the string of flats, the day after I arrived, I went down to the local bike shop (LBS) to buy a wheel, tire, and a few tubes. I had called the week before and they had several in stock. I asked to reserve one and the guy said there was no need—he had plenty. When I get there, they were all out of the wheel I need. Of course. The guy was very nice and said he could get me one the following day, but it was beautiful out and I was determined to ride as much as I could while I was in CA.
So I pulled out my phone and Googled to see if there were another LBS in town. There was: ‘John’s Bicycles & Lawn Mowers.’ Oh boy. I called nonetheless.
A man on the other end answered: “Yeah?” Nothing else.
So I query: “Is this a bike shop?” “Yeah.” Again, nothing else.
Despite my inner voice telling me to hang up and move on, I decided to forge ahead—even though it was doubtful that my boy John had caller ID, given the information we had gleaned from Wikipedia, I thought it prudent not to be rude.
“Is this John?”
“Do you have any 700c wheels [the type of wheel I needed for the lilac POS]?”
“What?” Loquacious bloke, this John.
“Do you have any 700c wheels? I need a front wheel for my road bike.”
“I don’t know.”
“I haven’t the foggiest.”
“I’m pretty sure I don’t have one here in the shop.”
“Would you mind checking? I was hoping to get a wheel today.”
“Can’t check today.
“I’ll have to go and check in our warehouse.”
“Give me a call at 8:00 a.m. tomorrow morning [sic]. Make sure you call, ‘cause I’ll forget to look.”
“OK, I’ll be sure to do that….”
Now what? Ugh. As I was contemplating calling the first LBS back and tell him to get me the wheel, my lovely wife informed me that she and the boys were going to the local mall and wanted to know if I wanted anything. Like any place these days, when you are out in the middle of nowhere, you go to the mall since there is absolutely nothing else to do. Since it looked like I was not going to ride, I asked what stores they had (since I was out of the wine disaster that is PA and in the wine mecca that is CA, I thought I could do a little wine browsing, even if it was just at the Trader Joe’s). The only thing I remember hearing her saying was “There is an REI, I think.” Wait a minute—they sell bikes! So even though I was determined to buy from a LBS, a wheel in the hand is worth two lawnmowers.
My older son and I went to REI. Nothing much of interest happened there, other than I felt guilty for doing my part to put another LBS out of business. I get my wheel, tire, rimstrip, and tubes and skulk out. We rush back home and I start getting the POS together for my ride. Put on the rim strip, tire, and tube and pump up the front tire (I had pumped the rear up earlier that morning to ensure that it was holding air—it was), fill my water bottles, find my helmet and shoes I leave at my in-laws, and get out on the road. I did not plan for an epic ride, just about 90 minutes or so to get the blood flowing a bit. It was cool, but it felt good to be out. About 20 minutes into the ride, something did not feel quite right. I stop and feel the front tire. Hard as a rock (a good thing). Check the back. Uh oh, it felt a little soft, but I was not sure how much I had pumped it up that morning, so I figured I had not pumped it up all the way (trying to keep that glass half full) and I decided to keep going. Five minutes later, it seems even worse, so I stop again. Yup, it’s worse—I now have a slow leak in the rear. I turn and head back towards home, get about another mile and it’s completely flat. You have to be joking. I am convinced that this ancient, lilac, POS is cursed. Instead of changing the flat or calling my father-in-law to pick me up, I decide to walk the couple miles back up the hill home (I was just doing a couple of loops near their house, so even though I had been riding for about 30 minutes, I was close).
Maybe I should take up golf.