Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Love

"The most important word in our language is love. The second most important word in our language is balance."

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Deflated

For most bikers there is at some point an evolution that takes place, whereby one day we realize that flats happen, and they rarely happen in the confines of one's home.  I came to this point kicking and screaming like a spoiled rotten baby.  In prior years, when I'd flat in the middle of nowhere, I leaned on these guys, these guys, this guy, and a host of others to save me from my plight.

Then I went and fell in love with one of these three guys.   After he mowed me flat over with his massive hugs and quick wit, he sweetened the deal (among many other notable virtues) with a few lightening fast tube changes, tune ups, and some astoundingly beautiful ass whippings by bike.

Then one lovely day as we enjoyed a ride together on a rural northwest Washington Indian Reservation...I flatted.

When I looked over the top of my shades sweetly towards my lover for assistance, he shrugged his shoulders, raised a blonde eyebrow, looked me dead in the eyes and said: fix it.

I pled my case as he turned towards the sun, surely soas not to catch the daggers I threw his direction.  I'd stood in his shop and watched him change flats, but this would be my first time giving it a go alone.  I'd long since learned to carry the proper supplies, he ingrained that into my mind many moons prior, but this was a whole new challenge.  

He sat silently on the side of the road in the weeds and trash, swatting an occasional fly, patiently watching me struggle, cuss, and try to wrestle the tube inside my tire.  I had to look like a blindfolded drunk.  To his credit and good fortune, he never laughed and he didn't leave me there, although he probably wanted to and likely should have given my tantrum.

A long while later, when I couldn't muscle the last bit of rubber over the rim, he helped me finish and lent a few pointers. 

I didn't listen. I was pissed. Pissed that he chose that moment, pissed at my own exhaustion, pissed that there were black flies biting my legs.  And most of all I was pissed that I allowed myself to travel this many miles by bike, and had never taken the time to teach myself how to do this.  I was...OMG the horror of it all in that moment, wholly DEPENDENT.

Safely home, blood pressure returned to normal, and a few days under my wounded belt, my man appeared from his shop one afternoon with a spare wheel in hand.  He held it in front of him and flatted it.  He then tossed me a wedge, and the wheel, and told me to get to work.  I sat on the floor in our spare bedroom: cussing, sweating, sputtering my way through.

When I proudly shoved my first victory in his face nearly forty-five minutes later, he took a quick look and replied: tire's on backwards.  I wanted to punch his lights out.

I've changed many tubes since then...but I admittedly rely on the help of the guys I ride with far too often.  To my own credit, I always ride prepared.  Somewhere in my seat bag there are always a couple spare tubes, CO2 cartridges and a wedge, there for the taking by anyone who needs them. Lord knows it's the least I could do to repay the kindness of these fine fellows who have cared for me along the way.

It's something all these guys taught me: if you can, you help.  

***  

When my buddy M showed up at my house a couple weekends ago and we set off on our first ride together, I surveyed his set up and noted that he had no supplies. I'd just repacked my seat bag and figured we'd be fine.  When he flatted about 15 miles outside of town, I got to work.  

It felt good to finally be on the other side of this ordeal. I actually knew what I was doing, and changed his flat with a surprising amount of efficiency.  A kindly, concerned farmer stopped by in the most gigantic tractor I've ever seen offering shade, a ride, the run of his farm if we needed.

Disaster averted, we pressed on.  Except within two miles of the change, he flatted again.  My second tube was shot.  I still had some air.  Suddenly short on supplies, I weighed our options.  I used the remainder of the air, and we pointed ourselves in the direction of the closest town, but there was also a rural gas station a mile or so up the road.  Within seconds, he flatted again.  He made a call for a pick up from a buddy, and we hoofed it up the road towards the gas station. 

I figured I'd send M off with his buddy, and I'd pedal back to town to retool, reembark.  When I saw two bikes pedaling towards us, I was amazed at our good fortune and filled with hope that they'd lend me minimal supplies so I could hammer out a few more miles.  

When I realized one of them was one of my oldest (and always prepared) friends, I waved and hollered.  Except in that moment he chose not to stop, instead lowering his head, disobeying the most important of all unwritten biking rules: if you can, you help.  

It was in the subsequent miles of pedaling in solitude that day, after shock turned to anger and many miles passed, that I reflected back with great gratitude all those times I found myself in similar situations when others had helped me, and I remembered for the first time, that day, years ago, in all my stubborn anger when that man gave me the priceless gift I took from him so begrudgingly on the side of that Washington road: independence.  

Because he insisted that I learn how to fix my bike at that precise moment, I realize now, that only under the most extreme of circumstances do I need even ponder the potential risk of asking for help.  This is why, I know now, he insisted on my learning.   

It likely never occurred to either of us, that in my moment of need, one of the people I thought to be my greatest friends might not choose to help.  That too, was blissful ignorance while it lasted, and for the many years it did, I am grateful.

There is safety and power in knowing now what I didn't know then, albeit exceptionally deflated.