Friday, April 16, 2010

Like a Virgin....(April 14: Day 42--Hammond, LA)

April 14--from St Francisville to Hammond--there a several things of significance about this day that made it important.

  1. Michael, my son, was coming from New Orleans to meet me in Hammond
  2. It was a long 87 mile day.
Because of the distance, I decided I was going to put the hammer to the wall, going all out in effort to get there as quickly as I could.  The morning was wonderfully cool, and the road surface smooth and friendly.  I quickly achieved a comfortable cadence that I could maintain for a long distance and still have good speed.  The miles dropped away swiftly, and little hindered my progress, save the occasional dog.  (In those cases, I actually sped up). The first and second sag stops came and went.  At the rate I was travelling, I could possibly  be in by 1 or 2, beating the wind, afternoon heat and have more time to spend with Mike.

Leaving the second SAG stop in Zachary, I found myself on a busy thoroughfare, and having to ride on the shoulder.  Mile after mile, I zigged and zagged to avoid running over debris and damaging my tires.  To this point, I was one of the few on the trip that had not had a flat--I was a tire virgin, and determined to hold onto my V-card. I took meticulous care of my tires and where they went.

I have been very anxious about getting a flat, particularly if I was alone because I have never, ever changed a tire!  I have practiced, but always with difficulty and under a watchful eye of someone that knows how to do it.  So the fear getting a flat while riding alone was great, especially a rear tire, as it is difficult to get on and off due to the dérailleur.

As a kid, do you remember putting playing cards on your bike so they would click against the spokes as the wheels rotated.  Well, at mile 35 or so, I heard that noise.... I hoped against hope that it was just something  caught in my spokes, but saw nothing that would indicate that having occured.  I did, however, barely hearing it over all the traffic noise, a soft and gentle 'pssssss'.  First thought--I was hearing things.  Second thought--from where was the sounding coming?  By now, I knew in my heart that I had a flat...puh-lease, let it be the front tire.  Of course, it was the rear.  

Fear clenched my stomach.  Here I was alone with a flat rear....I have never changed a tire and my confidence in my ability to do so was not overwhelming.  Would I be able to get the wheel off the bike and then back on? Would I have the arm strength to get the tire off the rim?  Would I be able to put a new tube in and not pinch it?  Would I be able to get the tire seated back on the rim? Would I be able to make the CO2 cartridges dispense properly.....and on and on.  There was nothing to do but try.....

Where I was on the road was dangerous--(a small shoulder with fire ant hills in the steeply sloping grass next to it, and on a curve that was not conducive to being seen by the fast moving traffic)--so I moved to the other side of the state route, and several yards into a shaded driveway. Taking a big breath, I dove in with both feet--it was now or never.... 
  • The rear wheel came off without a hitch
  • Removing the tire was as easy as cutting through soft butter
  • Pulling the 'dead' tube out--simple
  • Finding the cause of the puncture was obvious--a two inch finishing nail
  • Inserting the tube and seating the problem
 ~~"Okay, this is just too easy and going too smoothly. Something is going to happen", said that niggling voice inside my head... I immediately shut that thought down--it was going exactly like it was supposed to be, and I was doing just great, my confidence growing.~~
  • Check the tire once more for proper seating--done
  • Put together the CO2 cartridge and nozzle, and inflate the tire....hmmm, some difficulty here, but perseverance won and the tire held the air!
Now the hard part......putting the wheel back on to the bike...gulp.  Big breath.   

About this time, I had been working about 20 minutes and sweating like a fool.  I looked up to see Pam and Mary flying down the other side of the route.  "All right", I thought, "The Mounties have arrived! They can help me with this!"  They, however, were intent on avoiding the stuff I had rolled through, and never looked up to see me.  As I watched them shrink into the distance, I took that big breath again, and declared  "I can do this", and began.  

First try....hmmm, not so good.  I can't get the bike to seat on the wheel skewers, and I seem to have gotten the tire stuck!  Deep breath--think..... Make sure the brakes are open...nope, they had closed somehow when I laid the bike down.  Open the brakes, push down on the dérailleur arm and......WOW...Voila!  The wheel slid right on !!  Woo-hoo!!  I did it!!  With no help!!  I'm a rock star!  

I tightened the skewer and was cleaning up when Rita, Mike, Alayne and JoAnn came by.  Rita did see me, and they stopped to see if I was all right!  ( I really appreciated that!!) 

Yes, I was more than all right.... I had just added a new skill to my repertoire.  But more than that, I got to experience and acknowledge how truly capable I am, despite my self doubts.  It was walking past my fear, and declaring I could do it, then just doing it.  I have had many such moments on this trip.  For me, this journey has been measured, not in miles, but in these personal victories.   

I finished the ride later than I had intended, but what I gained was worth it. 


  1. what would happen if you put helium in your tires?

  2. You are officially an independent she-biker. Congratulations!

    And @shari--you should go fill Sue's tires with helium one night while she is sleeping. I bet the next day her ride would just "fly" by. Get it :)

    -your secret friend

  3. Kathy...the un-pampered one.April 20, 2010 at 5:26 PM

    I'm so proud of you! Great are so many of your postings. Please, keep them coming!