Sometime in the afternoon, that cold gray shroud gave way to sunshine. The temperature edged into the upper fifties and the wind eased off to a slight breeze. It was such a fine evening I decided a bike ride would be just about a perfect transition from the work day to an evening of small home projects. Having ridden a few hundred miles over the past couple of years without any significant complications, I decided to leave my cell phone at home. Randa was a couple hundred miles away in Oklahoma anyway, so what difference would it make?
I made it up the big hill bordering Highland Avenue without any warning signs of a heart attack. That was so encouraging I pedaled on over to Summit and headed north toward Hackney. Just past the light at Skyline, I planned to hit the wide shoulder that makes US-77 such a good route to ride. I noticed the pavement was almost completely covered with sand and gravel and attributed that to snow treatments a month or so earlier.
Sand and gravel over asphalt doth not a biker’s haven make. It is more the stuff of crashing slides and road rash.
On the other hand, I had no intention of riding in the lane where the speed limit would soon shift to seventy miles an hour. So, I drifted over onto the shoulder and watched carefully for larger bits of gravel and stone. Within a minute, I head the telltale clicking that indicated I had a piece of gravel stuck in the tread of the tire.
A couple miles later, just before 242nd Road, I decided I’d heard enough of that clicking. I stopped and rolled forward a few more inches until the offending bit of limestone was easily accessible. I leaned over the handlebars and tried to pluck it out. Easy plucking wasn’t an option, so I gripped and pulled a bit harder. “Man, that thing is really wedged in there!” I thought.
Taking a tighter grip, I pulled and twisted to leverage the piece out of the tread. At the very instant I realized “Hey, if this thing is stuck in that tight maybe it’s not just stuck in the tread,” I managed to pull it loose. In that same micro-second of realization, I wished I hadn’t.
A sickening sound of hissing air and an almost instantaneous slumping of the tire assured me that I had indeed given myself the opportunity to test out my little trouble kit. From the small zippered bag hung under the seat, I pulled out the can of instant tire repair that I’d been saving for a few hundred miles of riding on the backroads of Cowley County.
The directions, which I followed carefully, assured me that the Wonderful Inflating Foam would seal the leak, pressurize the tire and send me happily on my way. After a half-dozen attempts accomplished nothing more than a mess of foam on the outside of the tire, and also on the spokes, grass and my hands, I gave up.
It was a lovely evening and I was truly grateful that I was only three miles from home. Although I wished I’d just left the rock alone and headed back at that point, I was glad this hadn’t happened when I was eight or nine miles from home.
Sometimes our idea of intervention doesn’t work out quite as well as we had hoped. Sometimes fixing what we think is the problem creates a bigger problem. Even though it might be quite true that we have to pop the rock out of the tire, some moments are better than others for rock popping. Sometimes our ability to do one thing or another may exceed the wisdom that we exercise in the choosing of the thing.
On the other hand, there are certainly worse consequences than walking three miles on a beautiful spring evening.