Gwd-96-Gwd, frogs and flats
Friday morning I slept in, sort of - I got out of bed after 6:00, ate, dressed, and was on the road by 6:45. I felt energetic, and I saw a way to get in a longer ride and still accomplish the long list of things I had ahead of me for the day.
My first indication that it might not be quite as smooth as I hoped came when I arrived downtown to find Main Street barricaded for the Festival of Discovery BBQ and Blues bacchanal. As in, blocked off. Of course, on a fixed-gear, barricades mean nothing, and I zipped between the barrels and rolled past many of the RVs and trailer-mounted cookers and generators to take my usual turns. Guess what - those were barricaded, too. As in, how does one navigate around all of these blocked streets, anyway? I started to mutter to myself about someone making sub-genius decisions regarding traffic flow before reminding myself I could be grateful that a bunch of people would hopefully have a good time over the next couple of days. Besides, I was on a bike and could maneuver around the stuff, and really, wasn't being on a bike at all enough to be grateful for?
I concluded it was, passed the last orange barrels and aimed the Gitane for the Heritage Trail. No wildlife sightings there, for a change, though I did see Our Lady of the Golf Club at Port Arms. I turned onto Florida Avenue, then into the Wisewood subdivision and worked my way 'round to 221 South and thence to the 225 bypass, doing the reverse of what had once been a loop I did with the old Greenwood Cycling Club at least once a week. I crossed 25 South with a truck at my heels and headed down Scotch Cross Road with a plan to actually reach Ninety Six, which might not be the gem of the upstate, but it at least qualifies as a semi-precious stone.
I haven't been paying attention on this road, and I haven't ridden it all that much the last few years, so it came as a shock to me to realize that someone has clear cut the woods near Norris Road
, leaving only small scrub brush on the Greenwood side. Huh. I rolled on, readjusting landmarks in my head, keeping a weather eye out for Hitching Post Road (same as always) and Pembroke, which is the warning for the steepest descent on Scotch Cross.
When I was riding a first-issue Bianchi Pista in 2000, I had once hit 36 mph on that descent, turning a 48x18 at way too high a cadence for me to be comfortable. It took me a while to feel human again after that. And last month when Ainsley and I had come down this way, I had hit the pothole near the bottom just right while riding 31 or 32 mph, and had felt the Gitane's back end leave the ground in a reminder that endo happens. All of this flashed through my head, along with a conscious decision to slow the bike down with a little gentle, passive resistance pedal action. I kept the bike to 25 mph AND was able to take the inside line that skirted the big lumpy spot.
I went straight through the intersection for the first time in years, as Scotch Cross became Golf Course Road. I swung up out of the saddle and crested the hill and felt pretty good. The road narrows some, and in the stretch where there were once bike-chasing pitbulls that were always good for an adrenaline rush, today there was yard art sculpture that demanded photographic tribute. From there it was a short hop to the last rise into town, where the town's walking trail, Gold Course Road and Highway 34 all converge. I passed the now-shuttered and for sale Bakery 96
and made the turn onto Highway 246. I pulled over and took the requisite documentary photo of Gitane, 96 Fountain, clock and flag to prove I had been there with that bike in July before mounting up and heading out of town.
It has been several years since I had ridden this way, and I had forgotten that first one turns onto Old Highway 246 before making the left turn onto Oregon Farm Road. I was once again struck by how there is a back driveway leading to an EMT station right at the intersection, something that eluded my associates when I crashed my Bianchi in 2000 - they elected to cycle back to Greenwood, get a car and come back to pick me up, which was probably not the best idea. On the other hand, at least the driver vetoed the proposed lunch stop on the way to pick me up, so I should be grateful for that - and in my way, I am.
Onto Oregon Farm Road, then, site of my worse bike wreck, part of the route I once turned in my fastest ride ever (Jim Cox, Ken Beale and I, 25 miles and I cannot remember the time, but it was fast for me!). It was foggy over in the fields bordering the road, and there was more traffic than I would have expected, but then as it got closer to 8:00, the folks taking a shortcut to work thinned out.
Years ago, Jim Cox had pointed out a roadside cross and suggested it was the memorial for my wreck. It wasn't, but it was very close to where I landed that day. Friday I saw how much that memorial has been added to over the last decade or so and wondered how often the deceased's loved ones showed up, and how long he's been gone. R.I.P., I thought, and headed on up to Siloam Church Road.
The same but different, I thought, as I rode past Rush's HVAC compound at Parkland Place, then on to Marshall Road and back into town via New Market. I turned onto Phoenix and, SURPRISE - it was blocked off, too. I mean, really. Utter nonsense. I would later learn that folks at the Index-Journal had an interesting time getting out to do their jobs. I slipped through, of course, and climbed the hill and headed down towards Seaboard Coast and the light there. Someone had barricaded Pressley Street, too, which I decided was beyond nonsense and in the realm of nonsense on stilts, so I ducked on through and went home with 26.5 miles for the day.
I spent a full weekend en famille, helping my fabulous wife clean out the sunroom and children's play area, and spending time hanging out while the kids played in the lake. A nice little high point was the visit of the tree frog peeking in through the breakfast room window - hello there to you, too! The low point was when Eli slung his toy boat just a little too hard and too far - it was suddenly beyond his reach and moving outward. I dashed into the house to don trunks and grab a rake, but alas, it was too late. The little thing was bobbing out of reach, and even if I could swim, I wouldn't want to do so in Lake Greenwood - just being armpit deep in it was creepy enough. We all agreed that if it floated back we would retrieve it, because such things have happened in the past, and went in to dinner. The tiny boat kept going slowly but steadily across the lake. As the sun was going down, I used my mother-in-law's binoculars and located it, where it was on a steady course to make land at Goat Island within the hour. Bon voyage, little boat!
This morning I got out of bed without the need for a crowbar, prayed for a few minutes, and did the usual cycling togs and cereal prelude to riding. I managed to get rolling by 6:07, and generally I felt pretty good on the bike, feeling muscles loosen up and the stiffness slowly departing. I made it through the usual downtown stuff and onto the good old Heritage Trail. At the bottom of the little hill where it starts to straighten out, I made my first wildlife sighting - a deer standing at the edge, head up and watching me approach, before it wheeled and ran off down what I later saw was a nearly sheer embankment down to the bottom land below.
It was shady under the trees, and even with my regular glasses it was still a touch dark - I could see well enough to ride, but not well enough to see every detail of the trail. Suddenly I heard an unnatural "ping!" and I intuitively knew that sound - my tires had just bounced a piece of broken glass off the bike's downtube. I slowed and found myself negotiating an area where someone had broken several different bottles on the trail. I reached down and gloved the front tire and felt nothing come off, so I rolled on. I was feeling fortunate for having gotten off scot-free, even the last broken brown bottle, and then suddenly I was feeling the trail surface just a bit too much and looked down at my fast deflating rear tire.
You know the rule as well as I do. You NEVER get a flat front tire - unless you are going down hill very, very fast when it can really hurt you. No, the garden-variety flat tire is almost ALWAYS the rear, and this is such an eternal truth that even Samuel Beckett has commented on it, having Mr. Tyler express that great truth that all cyclists confronted with a flat rear tire will understand -
"Now if it were the front I should not so much mind. But the back. The back! The chain! The oil! The grease! The hub! The brakes! The gear! No! It is too much!" (Samuel Beckett, All That Fall, p. 40)
- so I pulled over and took the cyclecomputer off its mount and the bottle out of its cage and put the bike upside down on its saddle and brake hoods in the pinestraw. Out came the wrench, and I managed to remove the rear wheel without getting too much grease on me. I was deliberate, not rushing or flustered, but calmly working to make the repair and only have to do it ONCE.
Lo and behold, the tire levers in the kit I had with me worked like a perfect charm - thank you, LORD! And then I was able to slowly remove the punctured tube and actually keep it oriented correctly, pump some air into it, and locate the hole - so I could then carefully inspect the tire itself and find and remove the offending shard of glass. Perfect. In went the spare tube I had tucked into my jersey pocket, the tire went back onto the rim without tools - yay, no pinch flats! - and the ancient Zefal HP frame pump (I acquired it in a batch of stuff 15 years ago and it was old then) worked beautifully, which is why they still sell the things. The bike went back together correctly and I set off for the last quarter mile or so of the trail, having decided I didn't feel like running the gauntlet of broken glass again.
Back I came through the Matthews Mill village, taking Cross Street to its dead-end on Bolt, then on to Edgefield before working my way over to Spring Street to Mineral, thence back home the way I had come out. The rear tire felt a little ... off, like either I needed more air or I just needed to tighten my chain tension. In all likelihood, though, it was just me, my rhythm thrown off by the time spent changing a tire when I would rather have been riding.
I had 9.66 miles when I got home and I scrambled to shave, shower and dress for work. I wasn't too, too late, either, so all was well.