Saturday, July 10, 2010
Trial by Fire
I tried several different arrangements, but I ended up carrying my stuff in an Army ruck sack bungeed to the top of the rack. I carry: change of clothes, towel (yes, I know where mine is), wash up stuff, shoes; file folders and my laptop (in a lightly padded sleeve, in the ruck). I guess-timate it weighs about 15-20lbs.
I also purchased a set of front and rear lights (little led $15 cheapy set) and a bell.
Getting back to my trial, my test, my odyssey. On Thursday I awoke to overcast skies. That was expected. There were drops of rain on the house windows, but the pavement was dry.
As I rode there were sprinkles, smatterings really. Mostly I got wet when the trees dripped on my or I hit a low hanging branch, until I was almost within sight of work. I have to cross the Illinois Tollway on a high bridge and I was on the far side when the sky opened up. I pedaled as hard as I could, up the hill, down, onto and around half the campus of work, across the street and into my building. I was dripping.
As soon as I got to my cubicle I unpacked my laptop, dry. I remembered my phone, hanging in its open holster on my belt. Dry. Apparently it had been in my lee at the small of my back and though my shirt, shorts, socks and shoes were soaked, everything in my bag was dry.
Ok, so I was planning on wearing the same shorts home. I called Mrs. Prop, told her I was ok, and asked her to bring a pair of shorts. I washed up and changed. No one at work had any idea I hadn't driven in.
By the end of work my shorts were as dry as moist, maybe damp (whichever you consider drier) and more importantly they were cool. I decided to put them on and enjoy the free air conditioning, as the day had turned sunny and hot (upper 80s). The trip home was uneventful.
Half way in on Friday my left heel started touching something. I looked down to see that I was brushing the frame. That was strange since I hadn't touched it the day before. When I reached the campus of work the pedal felt funny underfoot. I figured it must be loose, but I couldn't tighten it until I rode another five minutes and got to my desk.
When I got in and pulled out the crescent wrench the pedal flat just spun. The threads were stripped.
I called the shop and they said they would replace the crank, but I would have to leave it all night. My wife and any other rides weren't available so I would have to ride home, but since the crank was going to be replaced anyway I couldn't damage it anymore. I was still under warrantee (I should hope so after only two days).
The pedal was still hanging on, by a thread. Before I had gotten off campus it was so loose that I set the bike down and tried to shim the thing with duct tape. The threads just tore up the tape, but it did seem to catch the last remaining crank threads at the very limit of the pedal threads. I thought it just might hold.
I was wrong.
I pedaled out the gate and the pedal fell off. I picked it up, walked the bike up the hill over the Tollway and coasted down the other side.
The route is 9 miles, but I had found a new leg to it. I had had to travel about half a mile on St. Mary's Road, notorious for killing cyclists (no actually, I have heard that several cyclists have died on that stretch of road). I wanted to avoid that if I could so I found a leg of the Des Plaines River Trail that crosses Oak Spring Road. All I would have to do is take a dogleg of about a half block on St. Mary's to get from Atkinson Road (just off campus) to Oak Spring.
It worked like a dream (given that I only had one pedal). The new route is quiet, cool and scenic.
I managed to pedal on the left side by pushing on the crank with the toe of my shoe. I was as gentle as I could be on the right side.
Before I got to Milwaukee my left shoelace got caught on my crank. It gave me an idea. I stopped and tried to tie my shoe to the hole in the crank. I couldn’t get my shoe back on and I realized it would twist and tighten as I pedaled. In two turns I would cut off all circulation to my foot. I untied it.
When I got to Milwaukee I stopped in to a gas station to ask for duct tape. I figured that I could tape the pedal back on. It wouldn't spin that way, but I'd be able to get a better purchase to push against.
They didn't have any; back on the trail again.
It didn't work. It was actually worse. I had gotten into a rhythm and was able to rotate my foot on the end of the crank, but with the pedal on there I had to lift my foot off at each turn. It was like holding my foot up for miles. Not only that, but a few turns after I put them on, the cable ties began to stretch and loosen.
By the time I reached Mundelein the cable ties had broken altogether and the pedal fell off. I was grateful at that point.
I pedaled the last of the way home. It took me 1.5 hours, only 40 minutes more than usual and on Friday I stopped several time. Not too bad, and it averaged to 6 mph, or 10 minute miles. That's about 50% faster than walking would have been, and I could never have been able to run that far at that pace.
Still, I made it home too late to take the bike in. I'll take it in today, but I'm undaunted. I will persevere (though Mrs. Prop doesn't want me to or is dubious at best). How bad could it get? It can only get better, right?