|trapped in a hotel room, poor dears|
That was my first hurdle. I am a Very Very Nervous Flyer. It was mostly smooth, though, with an especially painless (as in lees pain, not pain-free) takeoff. I like to think it's because we had a woman pilot. Nicely done, Captain Karen. Nicely done indeed.
Once we got in, drove an hour to the hotel, checked in, and had a snack, it was off to pick up our bikes. Pedals on, pump up the tires, reattach the bags - then strapped on my helmet and gave it a quick test ride around the parking lot. It felt perfectly fine, except the gears were very very far from where I'd left them. Seemed a bit strange, but entirely harmless.
It was only when I was getting ready to stop that I noticed something wrong - the back brake didn't work at all. I got off and we saw that the brake itself wasn't attached. Basically, the brakes are held in place and operated by a very simple set of cables, and the cable had become unattached. Which is odd, because it's really really hard to unattach that thing. I have to undo it every time I get a flat (as you know, that's about once a week at this point) and I always rip up my fingertips and spend several minutes on it.
|Look! Mechanical stuff!|
See how it's supposed to slip out? Anyway, that was unattached, so we did it back up and yet the tire was still rubbing against the brake. It's always been a little tight, and I've had it adjusted a couple of times. But it's been an Issue, so I figured for whatever reason, it needs more adjustment. Fine.
Luckily TNT sees to it there's a mechanic on site. He's free, too, but of course I put several dollars in his tip jar, because (a) he's a sweetheart, and (b) he took good care of Pepe. He noticed that the wheel was quite crooked - hence the rubbing. He also immediately saw (funny how none of us did) that a spoke was broken, Gasp! Such SCANDAL.
Okay, it's not really scandalous at all, these things happen when you put hundred of bikes in a truck together and drive them across the country. It's not dire. It's just that Pepe's never had any problems despite my carelessness, so I naturally clutched at my pearls a bit. And I know Pepe and I have had our differences, and I know that he's [whispering] not exactly an awesome bike, he's actually cheap and sorta crappy (ssshhh! don't hurt his feelings, he's got a big day coming up), but he's mine and we've been through a lot together. Pepe is my trusty steed, my comrade in arms - we have looked into the abyss together, okay, and I will not have him being wounded, you hear me? I Will Not Have It. So I'm very happy the lovely mechanic took the time to fix the spoke, true the wheel, and adjust the brake cables so that the tire-rubbing business is a thing of the past. Bless him. God loves a good mechanic, let me tell you, and his reward is in heaven. (Actually, his reward is in the tip jar.)
|Fixed up good and proper, there's a dear.|
So everything is fine and we are seaworthy again. Tomorrow morning, we'll go for a short ride to acclimatize ourselves to the altitude.
As of right now, I am not nervous or scared or anything like that. A little worried now that I've seen the hills - dear lord, I might even have terrible nightmares about some of them tonight. I am from the flatlands, remember, so moving oneself across this topography without a motor seems entirely unnatural. Plus - I mean, dudes: they are some big futhermucking hills, okay? This is scary as all hell. We drove over a bit of the course on our way into town and I thought Well shit. That's scary. I should really, really be scared. But I'm not. Yet, anyway.
You know why I'm not? Because even though it was just those few minutes back on the bike, they were the best minutes of my whole week. I've missed you, Pepe darling. It's funny, how something clicks after a certain amount of bike-riding. Like a switch gets flipped and suddenly you need it the same way you need to walk, to get out, to not lay in bed all day. And for me, there's the moment when I get just enough speed to where the wind starts to rush in my ears a little. Doesn't take much, just a slight downhill, like I got in the parking lot today. In the second that the wind starts to sound in my ears, I can't stop the smile spreading on my face or the way my heart lifts up. There's nothing left in the world except the feeling of being gloriously alive. No wonder it's addictive.
Of course, it's not all joyous slight downhills. There are also uphills. Many of them. Steep ones. In mountainous terrain. So I expect Sunday to be a full-on love/hate relationship with cycling kind of day. I bet if you could interview me around mile 60 - or god forbid, mile 86 or so (I will explain more about the course tomorrow) - then I would tell you it's all a load of bull-feathers, as my dad would say, and there's nothing good about a bicycle besides getting the hell off it. But for now let's just bask in the joy of a functioning bike and a reunion with a beloved activity, shall we?
Off I go to hyper-hydrate myself, in hopes of avoiding altitude sickness. Look at me, being all careful and stuff!