Not every day is easy, but every day out here is a gift. I'm writing in reflection of yesterday, March 2nd. God Bless You Highway 41. And you four recumbent bicyclists who led us so astray. Bless you too.
George had broken a spoke riding into Cape Coral the night before and needed to get it fixed at the local bike shop. I, having never seen a spoke repaired, decided to stick back with Geo and troll with him over to the shop. The rest of the gang rolled on north towards our host in Sarasota, a cool sixty miles from Cape Coral.
The plan was this: slip in, spoke out, and boogie woogie to the beat of the road.
Well, it turns out fixing a spoke on a touring bicycle takes some time. We hung out with our friend Shawna as she replaced Geo's blasted spoke. I watched her work and from everything I saw, this is what goes into spoke repair.
You roll into the bike shop and look somewhat desperate. Explaining what's going on, begin to remove the hundred pounds of luggage from your system. Ask if there's any way the mechanic can squeeze in a quick repair. By no means back them into a corner ... but make it clear that this needs to happen now. They'll agree to take a look and when they do, roll your bike on back. Leave your bags in a heap by some cruisers and pay little mind to the mildew smell coming from your wet tent tarp. From there the mechanic takes over. They'll lift your bike onto the stand, remove your wheel, mumble over the broken spoke, stick a finger in the gaping nipple hole that once held said spoke, mumble more, and yank your cassette off with a chain wench and large wrench. Off next comes your disc breaks. Dick breaks. Whatever you want to call it, they come off too.
Then you're with your naked wheel with its sad nippless hole. Off comes your tire and tube. Then the rim tape separating tube from nipple bottom. The mechanic brings out a spoke and threads it into the empty space. They play around with the spoke sizing. Some complicated utensils are used to screw and unscrew nipple from spoke as tension is adjusted and you wonder, Huh. I sure hope I'm around another bike shop if another one of my spokes breaks. Because they're using specialized equipment, and you have a little diddy multitool.
So the spoke is fixed, nipple nippled. Everything goes back on - rim tape, tube, tire, disc brake, cassette. Time to true the wheel, tweak the nipples, and put the tire back on the bike. And now it's time to roll.
But wait! There's a hole in Geo's tire from a monster piece of glass picked up the other day! So what is there to do but sing a song ...
We roll. It's already 11, and the group is texting us about all the cool things they're up to. Smoothies, pretty sights, etc. We're hauling exhaust on some crappy parkway when I see a McDonald's. I have to pee. I signal to Geo, yell 'I have to Pee!' and we stop.
First thing I do is nail a recumbent bicycle that's parked next to the restaurant. And I'm serious - I creamed it. Knocked it over so hard that it skidded a foot before stopping in some shrubs separating walkway from parking lot. I feel bad. And embarrassed. I right it, hope nobody saw, and walk inside. There are four cyclists inside, three of whom are proud owners of recumbent bicycles. We begin a conversation.
They don't mention the collision. I'm thankful for this.
What they do tell us, in nicer terms than this, that our route is shit. They suggest a more friendly route. We blindly follow their advice and backtrack all the way to where we began.
Moral of the story? Either don't hit a recumbent bicyclist's recumbent bicycle, or don't trust the rider's advice after you do.
So we're thirty miles into our day and we're only five miles closer to Sarasota than when we'd started. That's about the time thunderstorms start building on the horizon and George gets a flat.
Our next four hours are on the historic Tamiami Trail, aka Highway 41, aka 65 mph semi-laden shoulderless pock-holed roadway burdened with prickled and sun-pickled motorists. It's a tough go. Geo and I take turns leading against the headwind every ten minutes, passing the concrete strip malls and walled-in, disillusioned-living retiree golf communities with a singular focus: Sarasota. It's on the mind. Whatever distopian hellhole we're pedaling through - this impermeable bubble of hypertaxed infrastructure - will end and soon we'll be in riding into the Sarasota sunset.
Till then, we need a Taco Bell break.
Geo gets a burrito. I talk with a couple of RVers from Ontario. They're stoked about our trip. As I chat George routes our final ten miles. We discover that there's a true rails-to-trails bike path called the Legacy Trail a mile from the Taco Bell. Even better? It'll dump us out a mile from our host.
Those final miles on the bike path bring Dicky V out of the woodworks and into the heart of Sarasota.
So we make it. Just in time for sunset. There's a pool. I swim. I splash. I giggle and scream. It's been a good day - a great day. Even when nothing goes right it's all still great. What we're doing, and where we're going, will never be perfect, or easy, or smooth. There are bumps. It's what makes this fun. My time with Geo yesterday was important, and I wouldn't have changed the experience if given the option to rewind and go with the other four from Cape Coral.
Sometimes life throws you curveballs. Sit back and knock those mother fuckers out of the park.
I kept telling myself this yesterday: The road is a teacher, if you'll be its student. Listen, and you might learn something.