Deflated Thanksgiving

I decided to take a short ride before going to my parents’ house for Thanksgiving “linner” (late lunch, early dinner). I was only going to go 15 miles. The weather was nice–about 45 degrees under partly sunny skies–and I was really in the mood to take a spin. Unfortunately, I got up late (around 10am) and then I bummed around the house too long so I didn’t get on the road until about 12pm. I had to be at my parents’ house at 2pm. 15 miles would take less than an hour for me. It would be cutting it close, but it could be done.

I started out at a really good pace. The last two times I’d ridden, it had been on Beau so my Giant felt incredibly light in my hands. I had chosen a simple rolling route through Hudson and Franklin Township along some quiet roads that I really enjoy. Since the ride was destined to be short, I was hitting the pavement hard–climbing the small rollers out of my seat in a sprint–and I was feeling great. I passed a few other cyclists who probably all had the same idea of getting some exercise in before gorging on turkey, all the fixings, and beer.

I went down Seasons Road in the outskirts of Streetsburo and I took the cut-off on Ferguson so that I wouldn’t hit Route 43 (since, actually, that route would give me 20 miles). When I got to the end of Ferguson at Ravenna Road, I contemplated going left towards Kent and rounding a few extra miles by going up Rockwell to Lake. But when I looked at my watch, I realized I was cutting it close, so I turned right instead to head back towards home. Which may or may not have been a good move depending on how you look at it.

I was soaring down the big hill right before Hudson Road (where I was going to turn) when I felt that “extra bouncy” feeling off my back tire that told me I probably had a flat. I dismounted my bike and, sure enough, flat. Now, I have to admit, my gatorskins have been getting awfully thin. And I knew I probably needed new tires. But I’ve managed to eek out a few months since the last flat so I guess I was just assuming I’d make it through the rest of the season.

Normally a flat is not a huge problem. I can change the tube out and all. I was slightly frustrated, though, because I really suck at changing a flat. I take way longer than I should and sometimes I take apart the tire in fear that I won’t be able to put it all back. So I tend to be slightly impatient about the process.

This was the case on Thanksgiving because I knew I was cutting it close on time. And now my well-timed ride was going to put me in the late zone for getting to my parents’  house. I reluctantly moved my bike to a wide area along the side of the road and began to work on removing the tire and changing out the tube. Unlike in the valley, no one pulled over to ask if I needed help. Which suited me fine because I don’t want anyone changing my tire for me, ‘else I’ll never learn how to do it myself. I suspect often I get asked if I need help simply because I’m female and that really makes me mad too–that people assume just because I’m a girl I need help with mechanical things.

Anyway, because I was in such a hurry, I was fumbling like crazy with the tube. And I guess I wasn’t thinking right. The normal way I put the new tube in is, after pumping the tube up every so slightly, I stick it into the tire. Then, I start with the side that the valve goes in and I try to work the tire back into the wheel well. For some dumb reason, this time I put the tube in the wheel well first, and then started working the tire over the tube, making it awfully hard to put the sidewalls of the tire back into place. And, um, squeezing the tube. Yeah, can we say “pinch flat”? Not only that, but the first time I had gotten the entire wheel in except for the last bit when I realized that the last bit included the side with the valve! I actually tried to shove the valve into place at that point, which may have weakened the tube a little as I pushed the valve into it. I did end up starting over at that point, but I was still putting the tube on the wheel well first.

So, finally, I had almost the whole thing done right. I don’t remember why I did this, but I pushed the valve again, thinking it was sticking too far out. I think that’s when I broke the spare tube. I had completely pumped the tire back up to pressure when I heard a “pop” and “hisssss”!

Talk about sinking feelings. I felt like I was on the Titanic. I was about five miles from my house without my cell phone (I hadn’t brought it because I didn’t want to be bothered while riding) with two broken tubes and no patch kit. I looked helplessly at the first discarded tube and saw that it seemed to be holding air better than the tube I just broke that had a huge gaping hole on the side of the tube opposite the valve. So I hastily installed the first tube hoping that I could maybe just pump it up enough to not be flat and, if I had to, I could stop every mile or so pump it up.

So once I got the wheel back on the bike, I rode off down Hudson Road for about half a mile and up a small hill before I felt that tell-tale flat feeling in the back. I got off, pumped the tube, and headed off again. This time, I only got a quarter of a mile before I felt my rear wheel sliding. I tried to pump again and ride. But it was no use; this tire was not going to stay inflated long enough for me to limp home on my bike. I was going to have to, I realized, walk the bike back home. I didn’t want to damage my wheel (and I hoped to heck that I hadn’t already damaged it).

So I walked down the rest of Hudson to the Franklin Connector at Judson Road. I walked the Franklin Connector to Young Road, and down Young Road I walked to the Stow Bikeway. All the while, I marveled at the people in the passing cars who did not wonder why someone dressed as a hardcore cyclist was walking her bike down a road. On Thanksgiving, no one had the fortitude to ask if I needed help. For once, I would have taken a ride back to my house offered from a stranger. I have no patience for walking these kind of distances while towing a bike. But that’s what I did.

Along the Stow Bikeway, about a mile and a half from my house, a guy on a road bike past me going at speed down one of the little rollers in a nice area behind people’s backyards. I shouted to him well in advance of his passing me, asking if he had a spare tube I could use. He totally ignored me! His companion passed me on her hybrid going the same direction, smiling and mute. Nice support network of cyclists!

I did make it home around 2:45. I called my parents to tell them I was going to be a little late. I was annoyed to learn that I had no spare tubes in my garage so I’ll have to take a trip to Century Cycles sometime this week. I probably should just buy the new tires now too since I noticed that the sidewalls of the tire is starting to unravel. At least I have a 20% off coupon.

I guess I got my holiday workout in. Needless to say, I was very hungry when I arrived at my parents’ house at about 4pm. Fortunately, linner was served later than they had expected and everyone else had just finished eating when I arrived. I washed linner down with a nice dry apple wine I had brought from Myrddin Winery–a winery owned and run by a couple at my church. My adventure certainly did not ruin my Thanksgiving, but it did teach me two valuable lessons: 1) Don’t try to grab a short ride so close to the time you’re supposed to go somewhere and 2) Don’t be so impatient while changing a flat… especially when you’re by yourself with no other spare tubes around.

Oh well. At least my adventures kept me from thinking about the ghosts of Thanksgivings past. It was a pretty low key day… once I got to my parents’ house.

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