Gitane, part 1
I sold my last "beater" fixed-gear back around 2003 or so, when I got a nice indoor parking space, ending my need for a bike I could leave locked up outside in a rack in all weather. Suddenly there was no compelling reason to own a beater anymore. I decided to reduce my holdings a little, and the first to go was Lazarus, a c.1970 Raleigh Gran Sport I plucked from a trash heap. Lazarus had gone through several incarnations before arriving at perfection as a 42x16 fixed-gear whose looks were improved when I casually sprayed all visible frame surfaces with flat black barbecue grill paint. Times had changed, and it made sense to send him on to someone else, so I did.
And regretted it not too much later. But that was okay - I soon acquired a battered Mercian Colorado racing bike to be my mad-scientist lab, little knowing that one day it would become my lone multi-geared bike. Then I was given a vintage PX-10E frameset, which I built up with roughly period parts and rode some - but it was never quite right, never quite just exactly right. And it was an unusual transitional model, which kept me from joyfully breaking out the Krylon and shooting it flat black.
So, off went the Peugeot. In the last year or so, off have gone assorted hanger queens of my fleet - the dinosaur-like Dawes Realmrider 4-speed, the beautiful but no longer ridden Rivendell Road Custom - and now I am down to my nice, daily driver fixed-gear Mercian, the afore-mentioned Colorado, and a battered Trek 950 mountain bike set up as a single-speed.
All well and good, but I found myself still lacking something. I needed a beater. I needed a bike with relatively little dollar or collector value, but still one that would be fun for me to ride. I could find a bargain on one of the zillion or so TIG-welded "fixies" on the market, but I knew that I would never be happy without some lugs.
Then I remembered an email conversation a while back about some pedals I had sold on eBay, which led to a proffered deal on a green Gitane Tour de France that had been hanging in a basement for more than a decade. One of the very few bikes I regret selling was another green TdF that I briefly owned c.1998. I pondered. I made enquiries. The project sat on the back burner. But eventually things came together, the owner was ready to move it, and here it is, now, in all its faded Gallic glory.
It's from somewhere around 1971, as it still has the pronged left rear dropout and the long-point Prugnat lugs and the seat stay bridge for the centerpull brake cable housing stop, but was fitted with the cheaper swaged seat stay cap instead of the nice willow-leaf brazed unit. It still has the nice brake bridge reinforcements, too, which is a nice touch.
In the harsh light of the sun it shows signs of a long life that has not always involved care. The paint has innumerable scrapes and scratches (though in truth, they tended to come out of the box that way!). The chrome is tired and spotted and missing in a few spots. The decals are trashed and peeling, which is also typical of these bikes. There are minor brazing holidays on a head lug and a seat stay cap. The lugs clearly came right out of the box and were brazed up without a moment's filing. In other words, it's a product of the great bike boom, and it shows it.
On the other hand, it appears to be arrow-straight. The seat and top tubes are EXACTLY the right size for me. It is metric gauge Reynolds 531, which is somehow subtly different from all other frame tubing - then again, it's a French bike, so there ya go. It has those long, long Simplex horizontal dropouts which are just ideal for single-speed and fixed-gear use. There is exactly one braze-on, an easily-ignored doodad to keep downtube shifters from slipping. Nice, stage-race-y geometry, room enough for 28mm tires without there being too much room. And I remember one of the great truths of French bikes - they were never too hung up on how a bike looked, but they were all about how it rode. In short, an ideal candidate for conversion.
Right now, I'm thinking flat black barbecue grill spray paint. We'll see.
In which I am grateful for a broken brake cable
In Tom Cuthbertson's 1971 classic Anybody's Bike Book, he opened the chapter on brake maintenance with something to the effect of, "You're screaming down the Italian Alps on your Cinelli, or maybe you're going to the market on your trusty rattletrap 3-speed. You squeeze the front brake lever and nothing happens. As you watch the ground come up to meet you, you have time to think, 'Brother, you should have serviced those brakes.'"
I had been using the same cables and housings for about a decade. Until a week or so back, the handlebars, tape, brake cables and levers, etc., had been pretty much untouched since, oh, 2003 or so. When I dismantled my Rivendell to sell it, though, I decided I would keep the lovely lugged Nitto handlebar stem and transfer it to my daily driver, Julius the Mercian Vincitore fixed-gear.
This necessitated unwinding the double-layered cotton Tressostar handlebar tape on one side, removing a bar plug and brake lever, then sliding the bars out of the stem that had been in place since, oh, 2002, and putting everything back together around the jewelry-like Nitto stem. This operation was accompanied by a most impressive dusty spray of a decade's worth of shellac coming off the tape.
Of course I chose the left side, which holds the front brake lever, which meant that the cable probably got tweaked somehow. I got it all back together somehow, and applied multiple layers of shellac on the tape and almost
matched the right side. Another coupla years and no one will ever know, right?
Friday afternoon, I was mounting up to ride back to work after lunch, and in proper fixed-gear mounting fashion I put my right foot in the toe strap, squeezed the brake lever and pivoted the front wheel a millimeter to allow rotation of crank, pedal and rear wheel to allow me to cinch the toe strap. Note that this is all faster than thought, describing the process takes forever. At any rate, when I released the brake lever, for the first time ever, it stuck in a partially depressed position. Hmmm, I thought, and rolled on down the driveway.
Now, I know I used the front brake for speed modulation on the way back to work, but it was gentle pressure at most. But something nagged at the back of my brain, and when I rolled up to the loading dock and stopped, loosened the toe straps and put both feet flat on the ground, something possessed me to squeeze the brake lever HARD. I was rewarded with a pop and a flopping lever.
When are we thankful for a broken brake cable? When it breaks while standing still in a parking lot, that's when. Thank you, LORD.
the 7th annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day ride
Ainsley had posted to Facebook (remember a time before Facebook? Or blogs, for that matter?) that he would be leading this year's MLK Jr. Day ride. For those who aren't former GCC riders or long-term followers of this blog, that's our little ride from scenic blink-and-you'll-miss-it Hodges, SC to Abbeville via the old route between those two bustling metropolises. After a leisurely lunch at Theo's, the route comes back via SC 20 to Central Shiloh Church Road to Gilgal Church Road to 185 before turning onto 203 for the climb up Dead Rooster Hill and on up to Hodges once more.
It's a fun ride, and most years it's pretty laid back. The first year it was me, Ainsley and his mother Vonona. I had my heart attack a couple of months later. In '05 Ainsley and I were the only ones out there, riding in brutally cold temperatures. The photos taken that day show me wearing a scarf wrapped around my head in full Mother Russia pattern under my helmet, while Ainsley wore his bio-hazard gloves for added warmth. In '06 we had a dozen or more riders. I missed '09 due to having a new baby in the house, and apart from my wife's really needing me there, who can ride when you never get more than two hours of sleep at a time?
I knew I needed to prep for the ride. Ha. So Ainsley and I met on Saturday for a ramble. I had adjusted my saddle again, trying to fix the problems c
reated when my saddle nose suddenly started slipping the week before. I figured, hey, I can just kinda set it back by eye and go with it.
So off we went, and while I felt like I was slipping forward just a hair, it was basically all right. We went out the trail and down Florida and off through Wisewood, just like old times. Out onto Scotch Cross Road, and then hooking left onto Norris for my first dirt road of the year. We turned right on the Canadian Mist Highway (so-named for the zillions of empty pint bottles that once lined the road's edge) and then right again onto Hitching Post Road (because you can never get enough dirt roads in on a Russ & Ainsley fixed-gear ride). We came back in on the trail and I had 20.73 miles, the longest single ride I'd done since August '08.
I felt like I was sliding off the nose of my saddle, so when I got home I went down into the basement and made my next compounding mistake - I just raised the nose of the saddle until I thought it looked right. Hunh. Then I went back upstairs and took a rest day.
Monday came, and my fabulous, loving, wonderfully patient wife Annie took the babies for the day while I loaded up the bike and my wool-clad self into the pickup truck and drove out to Hodges.
Ainsley had already arrived - he had ridden to the ride, and for the fourth time or so I thought, "Next year I need to do that." Bill Thompson was there, Dave Strawhorn was there, and Dan from the Laurens club. That was it, but it was enough. Nobody felt like hammering, we were all in a laid-back mood, a
nd after waiting a few minutes more to make certain no one else was coming, we set off down the hill.
The saddle angle change had lowered my effective saddle height. Finally, I called a mechanical halt and we stopped long enough for me to raise the saddle maybe 6mm or so. Hmm. Okay, I thought, and we set off again.
This was NOT like the Saturday ride. I felt very slow and sluggish climbing up the hill to Klugh Road, and the long descent down to the bridge near the church on Old Abbeville-Hodges Road was a spin-fest I wasn't ready for. I still managed to hit 29 mph, and this with a 67-in gear, so it was my fastest spinning in years. Needless to say, the climb that followed was almost a relief.
But Dave was nice and hung out with me, and we rode with Bill Thompson, making sure we were all in sight of each other. And we were, and Ainsley and Dan stopped at the top of almost all hills and waited. We even had a nice long rest at the next to last intersection before Abbeville proper, right before the fastest descent and the climb up Cambridge Street. The final ascent into the town square found me riding at 5 mph. But I didn't get off and walk, because the old Scottish warning (I think courtesy Bob Reid) "Only lassies get off and walk!" was thundering in my ears along with the pulse hammering in my temples.
Over the brick streets then and down to Theo's, where food awaited us. I had a massive sandwich that couldn't be beat, we sat and peeled off layers of road clot
hes and generally brought property values down and had a great lunch discussion of what makes a good bike club and how to destroy one vs. how to nourish one.
The ride back involved more looking up ahead and watching friends wait for me. S'all right, they were really nice about it. Somewhere on Hwy 20, before we got to Central Shiloh, I felt my shoulders and arms and upper back really start complaining about my saddle height vs. my handlebar height. I hung on until we got to Hwy 185, then called yet another mechanical and rotated my bars up, making the ramps and hoods comfortable and stopping my forward slide, but at the cost of being able to use the drops. Sound crazy? Well, a couple of millimeters make a huge difference for me, alas.
So in we came, and I limped up Dead Rooster Hill and settled in for a slogfest. Bill wasn't too far ahead of me on the climb, and I caught him on the outskirts of town and we rolled in within a few meters of each other. I had something over 27 miles for the day, and I still felt it Wednesday.
And yes, I went back into the
basement and dug out a measuring tape and a long spirit level and set my saddle just exactly so. So there.
I emailed Ainsley and said, "Hey, are you up for a painfully slow, probably very short ride with a very out-of-shape cyclist?" And being the generous, kind, thoughtful friend he is, Ainsley allowed that he was - but family schedules meant we would be riding at 9:00 a.m. on Saturday.
Friends - we's in the midst of a cold snap. A very serious cold snap. All the good descriptors of just how cold it is are alas unsuitable for use by this recently minted family man, but take my word for it - it's bloody cold. How folks up North deal with this is beyond me.
At any rate, Ainsley and I hashed out the details. He proposed a ride to the bakery in Ninety Six, and I had to break the news to him that I am just not quite up to that yet. So we finally agreed I'd ride over to his house and we'd set off for whatever we could manage.
It was a balmy 21 degrees or thereabouts when I left the house, wrapped up in some serious wool - to wit, wool undershirts (plural!), wool jersey, cycle shorts, wool leg warmers, lycra tights over top of the lot, windbreaker, brown fleece balaclava, thinsulate gloves purchased for wear in Russia ... and it still wasn't enough. I stopped us at one point so I could don my fleecy ear-band thingy under the balaclava, because of all things, my forehead was freezing cold. Sheesh.
I rode Julius, the first time my dear old fixed-gear Mercian has been out on the open road for a fun ride in eons. I had the presence of mind to flip the rear wheel over to the 18T cog, a nod to my knees and low temperatures. A lower gear is good - my mileage for 2009 was something like 550 miles or so.
I found Ainsley in good spirits, and we chatted a moment while he added the final layers of clothes before we rolled off down Grace Street. It's been probably 18 months since I last rode with him, but I fell right in behind his wheel, then alongside, and we made our way downtown.
"Look, [name redacted] and his crew aren't out riding," he said.
"Nope. Wimps. Maybe they'll be out later," I said. "Of course, we are like the anti-racing set today."
We looked at each other. "You know, no one can see you grin when you wear a balaclava," I said.
Ah, be-fendered English fixed-gear bikes in winter. It's just so, so, so hopelessly British Isles, right out of a Patterson engraving - a very cold looking Patterson engraving. We stopped for my freezing forehead fix, then stopped again a moment later because I discovered I can't refasten my helmet straps while riding along wearing the Russia gloves. Ainsley showed pity on me and kept the pace down.
By the end of the good old rail-trail, I realized that two layers of wool socks in my normal cycling shoes wasn't really doing it for me.
"How about we go down the Canadian Mist highway and cut back in on Norris," Ainsley said. "We can get in some dirt that way."
I had to disillusion him. "I just don't have it today," I said. So we decided to take Florida Avenue across 34 and work our way back via New Market. We caught the light at 34 just right and cruised on across, and I settled in for the spin down the hill, my now ice-cube-like pedal extremities spinning the pedals around madly. I made it up the first part of the hill okay, then settled in, climbing while sitting on the rivet, hands down in the drops.
Suddenly, I found out why the guys riding fixed between the wars so often had the funky secondary pillar holding the nose of the saddle up from the top tube - my saddle slipped.
"Uh, mechanical," I said. So we limped across Marshall and pulled up onto the sidewalk. A few minutes later I had the multi-tool out and was cinching the seat clamp down as tight as I could manage it. The next hill, it slipped again.
"It's all right, Ainsley," I said. "I think I paid, like, $1 for this seatpost, with a saddle attached."
"Yeah, you got your money's worth," he said. I smacked the top of the saddle back into alignment and we limped on into town. A black cat dashed across the width of Main Street, dodging traffic and making it alive to the other side.
"I don't see [cyclist's name redacted]'s car over there," I
said. "They're really not riding today?"
"It's only 24 degrees," Ainsley said, and we laughed inside our balaclavas.
I had a little more than 10 miles for the day. My feet needed a full half hour indoors before they felt normal again. My legs felt pretty decent, though, and I felt like I could do it again, depending on the weather.
Later Saturday, I discovered the seatpost was fine after all, and cinched it down hard. Last night, Ana said, "Hey, Ainsley's posted the MLK Jr. ride for this year. Are you going to ride it?"
Yes. This could be a lot of fun.
many months later
Not much to report, cycling-wise, but much has happened in my life. I pretty much stopped riding anywhere but to work and back in early August, so I could help take care of young Eli. As we hit the last stages of Ana's pregnancy, I really couldn't go too far from home. So I rode Julius the Mercian fixed-gear to work and back each day and that was it.
Our daughter Claire was born in early December. It was a difficult labor, and Ana's recovery was long, slow and painful. Everyone is doing quite nicely now, but there was no time for anything other than babies and work. During the weekends and the long Christmas holidays I got a better understanding of what Ana does all day. With both a toddler AND a newborn, you get a break when both of them are asleep. What to do? Instead of Tom Ritchey's cycling choice - light, cheap or strong, choose two - you get the multiple babies choice - eat, sleep or shower, choose ONE. But be quick about it, because the babies are gonna wake up any minute now.
Then one day it's Spring Break, and you're home with the family ... and the weather's nice ... and your wonderful, loving, gracious spouse says, "Go ride."
So I did. Last Friday it was a short hop, my first pleasure ride in seven months. I wiped the dust off Belle the Rivendell and lubed the chain and pumped up the tires and headed out, taking the rail trail to Wisewood, then looping around to 225 and riding Florida Avenue end to end before working my way home past Sunnyside on Dargan Street. It was a whopping 12.9 miles at a blistering 13.8 mph, but it beats nothing anyday. I had mixed feelings - yeah, I'm slow and out of shape, but it still felt really good to be on a bike again.
Later that afternoon we took the kids to Cambridge Park, where I encountered Tom Austin and his family. He was busy helping his daughters with the swingset, but he took time to talk with me about bikes gathering dust while us aging guys with babies need to stay young. We agreed that they don't get any lighter as they get older, either. It was good to see him again, and reflect back on his concern over my mountain biking when I first started riding again after the heart attack.
Saturday the babies were spending the day with their grandmother and Ana was going out of town to go shopping. I wanted to ride, but not by myself - Ana had the cell in the car with her. A few emails later I learned there was a benefit ride leaving the hospital at 11:00. Violating my rule of always riding to the ride, I drove down to Food Lion and bought some canned goods for the food drive, then ferried them and my bike to Self Regional's parking lot.
I had time to chill out and socialize some with folks I used to ride with all the time - Donnis, Jim Cox, Tom, Jeff "Pepe" Ronan, Dieter, John Lake, Mark the Engineer ... even good old Ernest, astride his magnificent old Polchlopek. I raved about it as always - an Italianate racing bike in its original stars and stripes paint job built in France by a Polish emigre is not something you see everyday. especially in South Carolina. Jackie showed up astride the '69 Mercian Olympic that Mike Melton rebuilt back in '72 or so, before I got it and had CyclArt powdercoat it and fitted it with good, retro parts.
Finally, it was time to take off. It was a leisurely, sociable ride, so we rolled out of the lot and went down Spring Street. We had police officers wave us through a couple of intersections before we turned off onto the rail trail. I rode briefly with a couple of different groups before settling in with the bunch that included Jackie and Donnis.
There was a loud report ahead of me. A second later, Ernest was slowing and pulling off with a blowout. I slowed long enough to learn he and his companions had all they needed to make repairs and headed on to catch back up with the others.
I didn't realize it at the time, but in hindsight something told me to go on up. I told Jackie I was on her left and accelerated. I want to say a couple of other riders were behind me, but I'm not sure, now. Anyway, a moment later I was about 30 to 50 yards ahead of that bunch when I heard the unmistakable sounds of people and bikes colliding and hitting the ground.
I turned and headed back. The first thing I saw was the distinctive forks of the old Mercian Olympic, holding up a dramatically taco'ed front wheel. Jackie was down on the left side of the trail in a near fetal position, while a lady I would later learn was named Amy was down with what emerged to be a couple of broken ribs. My understanding was that a rider in front and to the right of Jackie had merged inward on the trail, striking her front wheel and putting her down, whereupon Amy slammed into her.
Jim by this point was winging his way back to the crash site. After a moment, he headed back to fetch a car, while John Lake escorted the wounded to the trail head. I rode with a bunch of folks up to the end of the trail, where we waited for everyone to arrive. The ride leader (who I never got around to meeting) announced that he would take everyone back on in, as the ride was pretty much over. I told Dieter I would be riding on, and he volunteered to join me. Jim and Caroline Dennis, who had been well back of the action, caught up to us, and there was some discussion of different routes. It was decided that John would do a short ride with the Dennises, and Dieter and I would do a variant of the old Wednesday evening ride.
We waited until Jim had returned, all bikes were loaded up, and both Amy and Jackie were seated and en route to the emergency room before we set off. We wound up doing a slow little ride along the lines of 18 miles or so at 13 mph average speed, about what I expected. The route was a version of the old Wednesday night ride, I struggled up Scotch Cross road, thanked Dieter for the ride and loaded up and went home.
Sunday afternoon I snuck out for a sub-one-hour ride, taking Belle the Rivendell out the length of the trail before working in a loop that got me home in time to get cleaned up and take the whole family out to the park again. All in all, a good day.
See you out there on the road, with any kinda luck at all.
of Rivendells and rain
So Eli went down for his nap and it was time to go ride. I went down into the basement and looked around at the bikes. It was Belle's turn in the rotation, I decided, so I pumped up the tires and headed out.
I was rolling into downtown when I noticed just how dark the sky was getting. Hmm. Still, I pushed on, because I wanted to ride. I shifted up onto the large chainring and settled into a rhythm, rolling down the rail-trail conversion. For the zillionth time, I noticed how stable and steady the Rivendell runs and thanked Grant Petersen for designing it.
I have moments when I think, "I'll never get to ride brevets, and Paris-Brest-Paris isn't going to happen for me. I don't need this bike." Then I ride it and think, "I really, really like this bike. How crazy it would be to let go of it."
I was turning onto Florida Avenue when the rain started, first as a drizzle, then picking up in intensity as I cut through Wisewood subdivision. I wound up taking shelter on a church's front porch. After about five minutes, it slowed down to a slight drizzle again, and I headed on out.
Water sprayed off my tires and all over my ankles and throughout the drivetrain. I have fenders for this bike, and for a couple of years they stayed on it constantly. I took them off so I could get ready to ride out West, though. Those lovely fenders are sitting hanging on a rod in the basement as I write this, and isn't that a foolish place for them to be?
I shivered a bit initially - I got cold waiting on the church's porch in wet cycling togs, even in July, but once I got back up to speed I warmed up. I left the chain on the big ring and kept switching back and forth between the 19 and the 21T cogs, occasionally dropping onto the 17T for the gentle descents. The sun started playing peek-a-boo with the rain. By the time I reached Highway 248 the sun was shining steadily. I did the old loop out past the high school -
But why am I writing about the route? It's the same route I do over and over again, because time is tight these days. It's bare maintenance mileage, and if I was one of those humorless geeks who takes Bicycling magazine seriously, I'd probably call it garbage miles. But any ride is a good ride, and this was a good ride by that measure, rain and all.
It started clouding up again as I got closer to Greenwood, flagging a bit on the climb up Lebanon Church Road, then picking up the pace again on the Canadian Mist Highway. The rain started again about the time I crossed Main Street and headed down Florida Avenue towards the rail-trail. I gingerly picked my way through the gravel in the turn onto the trail, then accelerated as well as I could. At one point, I startled what looked like a Disney scene - eight birds exploded into flight, while two squirrels AND a bunny rabbit raced off into the woods.
The rain slacked off again. I rolled home with 30 miles for the day - and an opportunity to clean road grit from the Rivendell.
The fenders might have to go back on that bike.
of pretentious restrooms and ungovernable mules
Still living the life of a man with a very young son and a very pregnant wife - which, as a cyclist, means Saturday morning rides after Eli goes down for his nap and not much else.
A couple of Saturdays back, Ainsley and I met up and rode down to Ninety Six. I wasn't sure if
anyone else would show, or if Ainsley would be there or not - but his sweetie was taking care of his daughter, freeing him up for a ride. Had I known he would have been there, I'd have ridden fixed, but I wound up riding Belle the Rivendell because it was her turn in the rotation.
I soon found myself grateful for gears. Ainsley's been getting in his week night rides, and even turning a 65-in fixed-gear with 35 mm tires, he made me work to hang with him. We did the usual route, because that's about all I do these days.
I foolishly suggested we try the new coffee house in Ninety Six. Mistake. When you show up at a coffee house at 11:00 a.m., and they don't have ANY coffee brewed yet - just flee, just flee. But no, we persisted, and wound up ordering coffee. Unfortunately, we discovered it was both weak and some sort of hazelnut flavored crap that overpowered what real coffee flavor was there. Most disappointing.
Before leaving I went to visit the loo. I wound up taking photos of it, because it was the most pretentious public toilet I'd seen in my life - and they screwed that up, too. Oh, yeah, fancy clear glass bowl si
nk, but it's right next to the same old funky gas station toilet that's been there since 1968 or whenever.
I meant it when I said pretentious - even more so than the men's room at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta, so rococo and Arabian nights in its look that I had to bite my tongue to keep from asking the attendant to point the way to Mecca, please.
Anyhoo, we rode on back in, getting me home by 1:00 with about 30 miles.
The following Saturday I rode downtown to meet Donnis and Connie and Vonona - only to discover they had already left. I was aboard Django the Peugeot, and grateful for gears and sewups and metric gauge Reynolds 531 that "planed" beneath me. You know, the whole "planing" effect, wherein the natural springiness of a lively steel bike works with the rider, as opposed to the brutal, unforgiving rigidity of modern bikes in which stiffness is equated with performance - and then people need carbon fibre and gel to absorb road shock. I gave chase about as well as an out-of-shape guy on a 40-year-old bike gives chase, i.e., I didn't catch up until the very end, when I saw them ahead of me turning into a parking lot. Still, I got in something like 25-28 miles - Django has no electronics still, and I wore no watch, for that matter. Not bad, and I'll take any miles I can get.
Last weekend I met Ainsley at his ho
use, this time astride Julius the Mercian fixed-gear. We had high hopes as we set out for Ninety Six - but it was not to be. Before we got downtown, I was hearing a squeak I couldn't name, coming from somewhere behind me. It got louder as we went along, until finally we could stand it no longer. At the end of the rail trail, we stopped and discovered one of the cones in Ainsley's rear hub had migrated in, away from the locknut. Eek.
I leaned Julius against a post, noting the feral shopping cart guarding the trail's end. It was a Piggly Wiggly cart, from the store that was no longer there, a grocery conveyance with no parking lot to call its own, no place to call home. A sad and lonely existence, as Ainsley and I have noted before.
This time, though, we were out of luck. A pack of speedier guys (well, speedier than I am these days) rolled up.
"Look, homeless people," one said.
After noting our mechanical difficulty, one wag said, "well, you've got that book bag full of tools on your bike, Russ. Can I borrow a truing stand to fix my wheel while we're standing around here?"
"I'm sorry, it's behind the frame alignment table, and I don't think I'd ever get it back in place," I said.
After a moment, they sped off. Ainsley decided he needed to go back home to fix his bike, so I set off for Ninety Six alone. It was the usual thing, I suppose, down the long hill to Lowden Road, and then slogging up to Star Fort. After doing the usual route past the high school, up 246, then down the main drag, I headed for home.
On Lebanon Church Road, I looked to the left and realized that (1) there as a mule staring at me and (2) said mule was standing in someone's front yard, rather than in a fenced pasture. He was in a generous pat
ch of shade, which he had doubtless gone to great lengths to get to. As I rolled up the hill pushing a 72-in gear slower than I wished to, I concluded he was onto something. As I sweated while doing same, I also suspected the mule was smarter than I am.
The rest of the ride in was anticlimactic, except for a final moment when it looked like I might meet my end at the wheels of a whole pack of feral shopping carts on Mineral Avenue - but no, I eluded them successfully. I wound up with 30.3 miles for the day.