Monday, March 26, 2012

It's Smarter to be Lucky Than It's Lucky to be Smart

Thursday and Friday of last week, I tested my the new touring rig by riding it up to Sebring, FL, about 150 miles from our house in Naples.This was kind of a long way to go on a new touring bike, but RandoGirl and I were meeting friends there for a tandem rally that weekend.

Overall, the bike performed great. I'm moving the front rack a little further back to better center the load over the wheel, as it tends to fight me a bit, and I had to make a few saddle adjustments to alleviate pressure in a bad spot, but I think that this setup will work well for me on my west coast tour in September.

Thursday morning about 10, I started my trip by going up Hwy 41to Coconut Point for lunch. Normally, I prefer to use quieter roads further inland, but wanted to see how the bike lane felt on a busier road, since much of my west coast tour will be on Hwy 101. The scenery wasn't pretty, but the bike handled well and traffic behaved.

After lunch, I headed east into the headwind for a bit before turning back towards the north. I could see storm clouds gathering when I passed Florida Gulf Coast University, but hoped that they would wait and dump their rain at the beach.

The wind was pretty steady out of the southeast, giving me a crosswind most of the trip. The bike handled well nonetheless, and I could just about maintain 15 mph going into the wind, taking it up to over 16 off the wind. Not exactly Max Watzz speed, but good enough for touring.

I took the usual bypasses through Gateway to Lehigh Acres, stopping to refill my bottles at a convenience store there. As part of my effort to fight my calcium deficit, I'm staying away from soft drinks with phosphoric acid. Instead, I had a cream soda -- definitely not sugar-free -- and it was delicious.

I took some quieter roads through Buckingham, going past the palace ...

... which is right down from Cowboy Lane.

Then, I zipped down Orange River Boulevard and slogged back into the wind on Hwy 80. It was just after 3 pm, and at this pace would easily get to my campsite by 4 pm. With the time change, this gave me more than three more hours of daylight, so I decided not to stop at Publix and pick up something for dinner, and instead go out to eat in Alva. It was with this plan in mind that I started up 31, and heard a tire blow.

"I hope that's not the front," I said, thinking what a pain it would be to pull the tire with the Old Man Mountain rack attached. It was the back, however, so I found a place to lay the bike down, pulled off the rear panniers, took the wheel off, and got to work.

That's when I remembered that I had meant to take the good frame pump off the Lynskey and bring it with me this trip. And then I remembered that the CO2 inflator that I carried on the Salsa was crummy, and that I didn't have any spare cartridges. Finally, as I pulled the tube out, I remembered that the tubes that I carry are normally for 700x23-25C tires ... and I was running 700x35Cs.

Adapt or die, as they say. I pulled out my patch kit and fixed the blown tube, then hooked up the CO2 inflator and started it. It made an ugly fizzling noise, and sputtered to a sad end. My tire was still flat, and I had no frame pump or more cartridges.

I pulled out my phone, thinking that I was going to have to call RandoGirl for help. On a whim, I decided to let my smart phone make up for my stupidity by seeing where the closest bike shop was. According to the phone, it was 1.4 miles away. Incredulous, I called the shop and the owner confirmed their location. It took me another half hour to walk the bike there.

He fixed my flat, sold me two spare tubes that would fit, and even had a decent frame pump. I bought it, as well as another patch kit. You can't be too careful.

All of this cost me over an hour, but I got to the campground right at 5 pm. I paid my $12 and got the same camp site that I had used the first time I stayed there.

By setting up my tent close to the table, I was even able to keep the front of the bike in my tent. This turned out handy later.

I grabbed a quick shower, and then rode my bike in street clothes about three miles east to the Alva Diner.

The place was pretty busy for after 6 pm on a Thursday night. I got a seat at the counter, and enjoyed an excellent meal while I read some magazines. As I headed out just after 7 pm, with about 20 minutes of daylight left, it was just starting to rain. I rode as quickly as I could back to my campsite, but still got pretty wet. I stripped off my wet things and hung them up to dry inside my little tent, then called RandoGirl to tell her about my trip. She could hear the rain drumming on the tent, but it stopped after about 15 more minutes. Since it had been somewhat under the rain fly, the front half of my bike had stayed dry throughout.

In tomorrow's post, I'll tell you about the second day of the trip.