Internal Detours
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
  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 sink, 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 house, 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 patch 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.
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Location: Greenwood, South Carolina, United States
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