May 31, 2006
No ghosts bothered me at the church last night, so unfortunately I had to wake up and install another new tube today. When I started riding it was a beautiful summer morning in Virginia. The only sound was the birds in the trees, and the occasional car or lawnmower.
My mind was daydreaming in “hiker mode” I suppose, because I strayed off route and got lost for about an hour asking for directions, finding my way back to the roads I was supposed be on.
In one gas station I asked two attendants for directions, but they were pretty clueless. This sharp-dressed man walked in, wearing black pants and a white dress shirt (With the buttons open), and a gold necklace showing… apparently the owner. He looked so out of place compared to the other locals I met so far and had a New York accent, reminding me of the Ray Liotta character from Goodfellas. Anyway, he gave a third set of directions, confusing me even more.
Leaving the gas station, a friendly guy in a utility van asked me if I needed directions, and gave a simple, easy route to put me back on track… after all that trouble.
Now the afternoon heat was climbing, and I noticed some really rough shifting on the rear derailleur. Some of the gears wouldn’t even stay in place. Then, all of them.
And then the chain broke.
There was no shade nearby, so I stopped in the blazing sun and got out my handy chain tool. The links were bent way out of shape and the rivet simply would not push through. I managed to bend my chain tool in the process as well.
So I started walking.
Doesn’t this seem familiar?
There was supposed to be a bike shop a few miles ahead in Mechanicsville. I don’t know exactly how far I walked, nor did I really care, because I was walking there no matter what. At least this time my tire wasn’t flat, so I had the luxury of coasting down the hills wherever it was possible. It was a long afternoon amid Richmond area traffic, the most I’d seen since starting the TransAmerica Route. At one time in the direct sunlight my thermometer read 104 degrees. I blew some money on Cokes and snacks to help keep me happy.
A van with two guys stopped and said “Hey, are you riding cross country?” Turns out one of them was Jeff Lee – he’s starting the same trip tomorrow from Yorktown. He and his friend were scouting out the route, planning where to stay on his first night. He recognized me from this journal – that’s pretty cool – to randomly meet a stranger that “knows” me.
We talked for a few minutes – it was nice to meet somebody with a lot in common to talk about, as relating to this trip. I told them all about my recent mechanical troubles, and it really lightened my mood. All I can do is laugh it off and keep going. They offered me a ride to the bike shop but I declined, because it would have felt like cheating. I’m supposed to be bicycling across America, after all.
So I walked into Mechanicsville, and it took me another long, frustrating hour of walking around town and asking for directions to find the bike shop. Finally I found the place at 7:30, half an hour before they closed at 8. There was just one guy in there, and I was lucky he wasn’t busy. He hooked me up with a new chain right away. I had him tune up and adjust a few other things, and tweak the spokes on the front wheel.
Tonight I went ahead and got a room in town to treat myself a bit, after all of my recent mechanical trouble. These last few days have been pretty stressful, but you can’t let it get to you. Every day there’s always going to be something – whether it’s a flat tire, broken chain, a hot day, too many hills, rain… whatever. Whether you’re working 9-5, or on a bicycle tour, life has its daily troubles until the day you die. And life is good.