First time troubleshooting on the road

Today I started riding at 9 am in order to take advantage of the less windy morning time. However, the wind picked up quickly and soon exceeded my expectation. Even the reckless RVs seemed merciful in comparison with the wind that blew exactly opposite to my direction.

It took me nearly two and half hours to ride 12 miles. Right after I took a break and started pedaling again, I heard a loud popping sound. I moved to the side and found the back wheel out of true. I unloaded the bike and flipped it over. As I went through each spoke, I let out a “F***”: a spoke was broken.

I didn’t have any extra spokes nor did I know how to replace one. The closest town with a bike shop was 15 miles south, where I biked through two days ago. The next civilization in the north was 90 miles away. The shoulder was too narrow for cars to pull over and the road too winding for drivers to react to my SOS before passing by. I pulled out my phone and checked Uber: $40-$60. I bit my lips: sure. But after 10 minutes of waiting, no one picked up my ride. Ok. I took a deep breath and started talking to myself:”Worst scenario, if no one stops and helps, the ground off the highway seems flat enough to pitch a tent. I have enough food and water to survive for at least three days. But it won’t be that bad because my phone still has signals and I can always make calls. Thank you Google for the mighty Project Fi cell service when most folks don’t have signals. And better yet, it’s 11.30 am on a sunny day, leaving me at least 8 hours of daylight and no risk of rain to solve the problem. And only one spoke was broken I can still push the bike!”

After this “conversation”, I became much more thankful for the situation. I crossed the highway to the southbound side and walked the bike until I reached a less winding stretch with a relatively wider shoulder. I started waving to incoming cars with both arms, but no one stopped. So I flipped the bike to make the problem more visible. This worked like magic. Within seconds, a couple kindly pulled over and decided to go 10 miles out of their way to help me. It turned out that they are both touring cyclists themselves and are preparing for a tour from Pittsburgh to DC in June. How I love the bikers’ community where people watch out for each other!

I arrived at the Cambria Bike Kitchen, a volunteer-run community bike repair space. There was no one there, but a few volunteers’ numbers were posted on the door. I called the first one, Jim, and he showed up in ten minutes. He jumped right in: replaced the spoke and taught me how to, trued the wheel, re-adjusted the brakes, tightened the gear cable and installed a flash trail light for me. “I often see touring cyclists walking in with broken spokes. A lot of kids just pull a bike out of their garage, install a rear rack and load everything in the back instead of using front panniers.” “Yeah, that’s me.” I answered with a self-mocking smile, “but it’s been fun!”

Jim told me about an affordable hostel down the street. It’s not easy to find a private room for under $50 in this touristy town. After camping for three days with no shower and backtracking 15 miles, all that I want is a hot shower, some dark leafy greens for dinner and to wake up tomorrow morning with a determined mind to bike 40 miles into Big Sur.

What a journey!

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