Wednesday, July 22, 2009

"Western Kansas is so refreshing!"

(Note: If you've read yesterday's post How Strangers Go out of Their Way to Help a Bicyclist, you might want to know what happened next to Bob's bad wheel. The story continues below; at the beginning of this log he was some 1900 miles from home. – Xujun)

Garden City KS to Lamar CO 102 miles

by Bob Eberlein

Garden City, KS – Knowing full well that I won’t be able to do anything till the bike shop opens at 10, I decide to sleep in and don’t wake up till quarter past 5. Oh well, some habits just won’t go away.

The pause is useful as it allows me to catch up on email. This is one big difference from 25 years ago – communication. Even riding across the US back then the most one could hope for was a pay phone once in a while. And of course this is the first time I have ridden when I actually had a job and a family. Life changes, but the good news is I can still get up in the morning and keep on riding.

I show up at the bike shop about 20 minutes before 10. Five minutes later a man about my age shows up and unloads his bike from his car. He is from a town some 30 miles away and is dropping his bike off to be tuned up for an upcoming event in Colorado. It is a really nice bike, also a Trek, but a modern one with top of the line components. It probably retails for four to five thousand and he asks me to watch it till the shop opens so they can take it in. Ah, western Kansas is so refreshing.

As we are talking another person shows up. He is from Dodge City and has to come here for anything related to his bikes. A good decision back in Jetmore not to go to Dodge it seems. He actually used to live in the Boston area back in the 70s but left when the local economy went south. That was slightly before I moved to Boston, but it is interesting how economic fortunes fluctuate. Soon afterward another man shows up with a bike. When the doors finally open at 10 we converge on the shop. But the convergence is not in a Wal-Mart crush, the last man holds the door for everyone else to go into the shop.

The shop is run by one man with two young women working for him. The man is on the phone and I speak with one of the women and tell her I need a 27” rear wheel. After a while she comes back with two choices and the man, off the phone at this point, recommends one as slightly stronger saying that neither is really designed to stand up to use on a packed touring bike. I am nearing making a choice when I notice that both are actually 700c wheels, like yesterday, so ask again if they have a 27” wheel. This time the man disappears into the back and returns with one.

It looks like I am in business, I ask him to change the freewheel, which he does by putting on rubber gloves and then pulling it off the old wheel and carefully putting it on the new. After that I take the wheels outside to swap the tires and the tape over the spokes. As I do this I study the rim and I know that it will only be a matter of a few weeks before it disintegrates under load, something that has happened to me a couple of times before. My current wheels, on the other hand, have stood up to everything I have done to them with no complaint. I actually had an extra rim that I carried everywhere in South America over two decades ago expecting something to break, but it never did.

I decide to keep my old wheel, and try to replace the bearings and axel when I return to Boston. Whether I will do this, or just let it gather dust, is an unknown.

With the new wheel in place and I am back on the road before 11. Now it feels like I am riding a bicycle, and not some torture device. Life is sweet. I race some earth movers that are building a new road, apparently doubling the highway near Garden City, and then just start to ride. The winds start from the north, which means a crosswind going west, but slowly shift to be out of the east. A real bicycle and a tail wind to boot. Life could not be sweeter.

I stop for lunch about 1 at a little café. I am either invisible of look too much like a vagrant to be of interest to the waitress so after about 10 minutes I leave and go to a Subway where they take my order (I am the only one there) and I have lunch. I have observed this before. People at fast food style places are invariably nice and respectful. Waitresses, and waiters presumably, clearly do not see me as a desirable customer. This is probably training, the fast food servers are told to be always polite. The people with more judgment are not so consistent.

After lunch I get back to my tail wind and just make miles. I stop after a while with a flat front tire and eat some raisins and peanut butter. My seemingly lost raisins had reappeared somehow, and now I finally finish them off. All this under the shade of a tree in another cemetery. Again the grass is well mown, though everything is brown from lack of water.

I ride on, then stop for some chocolate milk and to get another jar of peanut butter (never leave town without it). After that it is clear sailing to the Colorado border. Though I left at 11, I have made good time and think I will be able to make Lamar, the first place that appears to have any accommodation. I ride on, pass through Granada (where I thought I would make it to) and get to Lamar. The time has changes to it is only 7 local time. I find a motel that is run by people speaking Mandarin. I ask them where they are from in Chinese and we chat a little bit in Chinglish. There are three of them and they are amused by me. The room is small, but there is a bed and a desk so I am content.

102 miles today.

1 comment:

Scott W. Galer said...

I'm glad Bob resolved his wheel problem and made it to Colorado! Looking forward to the next installment.