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The Kindness of Strangers

So I will finally break the silence... it's been several months since I've posted, and I know it's likely I've lost my entire readership.. all 4 of you.

It's been a crazy few months, and though I haven't been writing, I've been doing a lot of thinking, analyzing and processing. A short recap: My father died on August 8th, and I have a pretty long blog entry coming up about that. I went to Burning Man, but not by bike, and that will take up another entry. Just this last week I went to Seattle & Portland and picked up a bicycle AND a vehicle. Today's entry will center around an experience I had while out riding my new bike... away we go.

I rode my son to school on the new Azor Oma this morning, a whole new bicycling experience. The Dutch make smart, comfortable and highly sociable bicycles. The sociable part will come in to play in just a minute. I noticed quite a few double takes from people driving in cars and from a from pedestrians as well. The Azor Oma is a beautiful bike and reminds most baby-boomers of bicycles they grew up riding. I bought one because I wanted a simple, durable, comfortable, LOW-maintenance bicycle that I could do nearly everything on. For the things it CAN'T do, I still have SuperVato, but I've spent a LOT of money trying to turn SuperVato into what the Oma does right out the gate. Ok.. back to the story. Upon leaving my son's preschool, I took a "shortcut", otherwise known as a multi-use pathway the bisects the neighborhood where my son goes to preschool. Unfortunately, the city of Novato has neglected to care for one particular section of this path. On either side of the concrete is a NASTY infestation of Goatheads, aka. PunctureVine or Tribulus terrestris L. However you refer to them, they are a tire killer. There is no direct shot at the path via an ADA curb drop, so when I hopped up the curb, I veered ever so slightly off the paved path and RIGHT through the oh-so-dry and thorny thorn drifts that cling to the edge of the path. My front and rear tires were immediately FILLED with goatheads. I got off almost immediately, but the damage was done almost immediately. I started pulling them out of the front tire, managing not to snap off many of the thorns in the rubber, but upon removal of the final goathead thorn in the front wheel, the familiar rush of air indicated that one had made it through. Just then 3 people on foot passed me, and the male of the group felt motivated to remark that I shouldn't pull the goatheads out as it would just flat the tire and that I was going to need a new tire likely. Great... thanks for the help buddy. I stood up and debated what to do. Obviously, riding home was out of the question: it was nearly 5 miles home and I had no pump, no patch kit, no spare tubes. Mind you, I normally travel with a full tool kit, but the downside to the Oma is that servicing the tubes/tires is a lengthy process and it usually requires tools (of which I had none on me, not yet having had time to put together a good tool kit for this bike). Normally one doesn't need to patch the tubes very often, as the stock tires are very nice Schwalbe Marathons and they have a decent amount of puncture resistance while being pretty low on the rolling resistance. They are NOT however the Marathon Plus tires and I will likely be putting one of those (along with some slime filled tubes) on the rear of the bike to ensure I never have this problem again.

While staring at the rear tire and musing over how I was going to get home, a woman and her dog came by. She stopped to talk to me as it appeared that my child payload had disappeared. It turns out she had seem me riding with my son on the back and had been charmed by the sight of a man on a "woman's" dutch city bike hauling his kid to school (daycare). We ended up talking about what had just happened, and she offered to give me a ride home. I was frankly stunned: in my experience, people are rarely that helpful to strangers. The only place I've experienced regular random kindness is at Burning Man.

She told me she'd be right back but it didn't occur to me to ask what kind of vehicle she had until she had been gone for nearly 2 minutes: DUH! So I waited around, and she came back in a Ford Expedition. She offered to put the bike in the back, but I declined, as I didn't want to mess up her seats, and the neighborhood is pretty safe. I locked the bike to a streetlight pole and hopped in her car. It turns our she's a dental assistant for a local dental surgeon who had been recommended to me when I had my wisdom teeth removed, but I had ended up using another surgeon. We chatted about being parents, bicycles vs. cars and climate change, as well as being Novato-ites. I had introduced myself right after she offered to give me a ride home, but I'm terrible at remembering names, so I promptly forgot. If I remembered her name, I would have mentioned it, but alas, I'll have to go by the dentists office and thank her again.

Mind you, I'm supposed to be picking up my cousin at the Oakland train station this particular morning, so I'm insanely late now.

After retrieving my pickup truck from my house, I headed back, picked up the bike and headed straight for Oakland. Finally found my cousin (she was sleeping in the train station), got her back to Mill Valley and headed home to pick up my son.

Before picking him up, the saga of tracking down the city department responsible for maintaining the right of way that caused me so much trouble began. I started at the fire dept, as one of the only ways of destroying puncturevine thorn pods is fire (well, you can remove them, but it's hard: you have to scrape up all the dirt with them too, or you'll miss a bunch). They pointed me to the public works building next door. Talked to a nice woman there who was sympathetic but she pointed me to the public works work yard. Then off to pick up my son and then back to the corp yard to talk to the clerk. She took down a report (she seemed rather harried) but suggested that I contact the supervisor by phone, as he wasn't available then. I left him a message when I got home, but I still haven't heard back from him. Hopefully Novato will clean up this easement: it's a minefield.

Later that night when I sat down to fix the tires/tubes it took several HOURS to get all the thorns out of the tires, patch the tubes (I simply replaced the rear one so there was no question as to whether there were any problems with it) and put the bike back together. The process of removing the rear wheel was very laborious: not something that I want to do on a regular basis. Remove brake bolts, partially remove chaincase, disconnect shifter cable, remove wheel, repair tire/tube, then put it all back. Putting it all back proved trickier than I had thought: PITA for sure.


Leila said...

I'm sorry to hear about your father!

Sounds like you had an...interesting adventure in Novato. Good luck getting someone to fix that path.

todd said...

since you use expressions like et hoc genus omne and fecus reptilus, perhaps you will appreciate the following.

when many years ago i first heard the latin name of your puncture vine/goathead, tribulus terrestris immediately i heard "tribulation, earthly" and thought of John 16:33, "in the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; i have overcome the world." this is not because i am religious but because i once was, and certain things can never leave my head. anyway, i thought it was witty that the botanist responsible for naming this pernicious weed chose the latin summing up all the bummers of the earth, on a religious scale. i mean, if schwalbe marathon can't handle it, how would you like to step on it? another name is "devil's weed" according to wikipedia. alas, it appears that my armchair etymology is suspect, as the dominant latin bible translation doesn't use any cognate of "tribulation", but "pressuram" instead. according to this here internet, the tribula- part refers to an ancient defensive armament with 3 feet and an upward facing spike designed to gore enemy cavalry. "tribulus terrestris" just means "nasty spiky things on the ground"

yeah, you need marathon plus, with SatanGuard(tm)

how's oma treating you otherwise? i'm riding a 61 myself these days. 57 would be better but we have only so many and 57 is more popular. i LOVE mine.

nollij said...

Todd, the Oma is treating me oh oh oh so nicely. I ride it everyday, and I daresay the X/SM hasn't even been rebuilt since Burning Man. When I come up the hill w/ the boy on the back and groceries in the front, I wish for SuperVato, but that is the only time: the Oma is incredible: I wish I'd found it years ago, though I might have found it "dorky" when I still cared about such things. Actually, if I took the reflective geek gear off and rode in wool knickers, wool argyle sweater vest and a wool driving cap (don't forget the wool socks, argyle preferrably), I'd just get labeled as "quaint" or "dapper" or maybe just "dorky" again. I'm pretty sure my name's not Karen anymore, it's all about function, form is secondary. The thing about the Azor is, it's a beautiful, graceful bike. I rode it 25 miles out and back to the cheese factory the other night, and it performed wonderfully. I didn't take the kid seat or the basket off the front either, I just got on a rode it. I've added more front lights, as I'm doing a fair amount of night riding, more light on the road in front means I can ride faster and see better. I've also added a Flash Flag (which I sell), a bunch of reflective tape, more blinkees and flashers and even some of my decorative lighting that was previously reserved for Burning Man. I'm a freak show, but a very very happy with his Azor Oma freakshow.