01 March 2009

The Six Hundred Dollar Bike Commute

Wednesday afternoon (Feb. 25), Mimi and I were exchanging emails from work and she sent one back saying the local weather forecast was saying we should expect snow. Visiting Weather Underground (www.wunderground.com) I saw that, sure enough, there were dropping temperatures and snow forecast for mid-day Thursday. That night as we were preparing for bed, I stuck my head out the front door and sure enough there were little flakes hitting the top of the car. I got up a couple times in the middle of the night and as late as 3:30, no snow covering the pavement. At 5:22 am, however, I woke up to an inch of snow on the ground. And that is where my little adventure starts.

2-26-09---ROLLING OUT

We had breakfast, considered the possibilities of either staying home, busing in to work, or simply waiting a while. We waited until a little before 8 to leave, since with this kind of storm, it usually melts off early. After getting my panniers loaded down with bike clothes for maybe riding home in the afternoon, I loaded the bike in Mimi's car .....

2-26-09---MIMI'S CAR

.....to drive her down the hill to boeing, where I was gonna drive her up to the gate, then cross back across E. Marginal Way, hop aboard the #174 bus into work, then ride my bike home. Once down the hill, I found tehre was no snow on the roads, and conditions were okay to ride. Mimi was concerned about me riding over the bridges and asked if there was a way in where I didn't have to go up over the tracks, and I said I could use my 'industrial route', which takes me over by East Marginal Way, then along the waterfront on Alaska Way. So I drove over to the coffee shop in Georgetown and she waited while I unloaded bike, panniers and got everything put together, then she drove off to work. Cool, I thought. I get to ride my bike to work after all. Life is GOOD! I had to go to the bathroom really bad, and wanted to change into my tights, bike shoes and booties, figured I'd grab a mocha to keep the core warm, too. When I went in, there was a guy was in the bathroom and after a few minutes, he didn't come out. It seemed like he was going to be there FOREVER, and there were already three other guys circling and impatiently waiting for their turn. This is gonna take a while, I figure, so I put on bike shoes, used my reflective bands to strap my levis down donned my helmet and figured I'd just ride hard to Spokane Street and Airport Way (over the railroad bridge) and stop at Tully's to have a potty break. It's only 6 miles into work from where I was. All was well with the world. My booties were on the Tubus Rack (http://www.ortliebusa.com/cartgenie/prodInfo.asp?pid=81&cid=3) and I knew I really needed them. They are secured, along with the frame pump, with a couple of small bungees. After getting them off the rack and on my feet, I headed north on Airport Way. Going over the bridge across the RR trax, one of the bungees got caught up in the rear wheel, sucked the rear derailleur and chain into the wheel, broke a spoke, broka a $250 derailleur, destroyed a $50 chain and rendered the bike not only unrideable, but not even able to roll. The bungee was wedged securely into the cassette and one of the derailleur pullies, with one end secured tightly to a spoke and the other end hook now firmly secured into one of the chain links. Life is no longer so good. And the reason the $0.25 bungee got caught in the first place is because some bozo failed to secure it when he pulled the booties off because he had to pee so bad. OK, so I'm now ON a bridge in 35 mph traffic. There's snow on the sidewalk where I have to get a 50 pound bike up and over the guard rail. I manage that task, while being overtaken by a semi and a couple of extra long Metro Busses, all spraying me with sandy road grunge. After spending a minute or two fussing with the bike, I realize there is simply no way I'm going to effect any fix. I toss the bike over my shoulder, and walk dejectedly back down off bridge to Preservative Paint's parking lot. Maybe I can at least go over and pee under the bridge. Nope, they showed up at work this morning and I'd be in plain sight of their showroom. Guess I'd better not do that. So now, I'm in the snow. In bike shoes and booties. Totally bummed. How should I play this, I wonder. I can walk a block and catch a bus that will drop me off God knows where or I can sheepishly call Mimi and have her rescue me. If I catch the bus, it's gonna be a long time before I can find a bathroom. I call Mimi. She'll be there in 5 minutes, she says. I figure more like 10. I still have to go potty, now REALLLLLLLY bad. She gets there in just over 5 minutes, and drives me to Tullys. I make a mad dash for the bathroom. Ahhhhh, much better. Come back to the car, work to disassemble the bike, remove the chain, use the offending bungee to secure the busted derailleur down to the chain stay, and I can now at least roll the bike to the bus stop and eventually to the shop. Oh yeah, and as I was getting out of the car, I caught my blackberry on something, tearing it off my belt and breaking the holster, another $10 down the proverbial crapper.

The only criticism Mimi ever made was, "I thought you weren't going to go over the bridge." I tried to explain it would have happened no matter where I would have ridden, but not sure I even believed this myself. While loading the bike onto the bus, the driver got impatient and started honking and yelling at me to hurry up because all of his "real" riders were late for work. With fenders and a front rack, it isn't always easy to pull the wheel hook far enough up to get it to stay, and I really don't ever want to watch my bike fall off the front and get run over by a 10 ton behemoth of a bus. I feebly tried to explain I was late, too, but that just further aggravated him. It didn't get any better. The bus dropped me 2 blocks from the office, and by now the sun was out. So I'm walking my bike down the street and run into my boss on the curb, then Lani and Kelly, 2 of my coworkers walk up. At least they were smiling. They're unloading about 50 cases of Girl Scout Cookies and want to know why I'm WALKING my bike. "It's been a rough morning," I say. "I'll be in about 10." By now, most of the snow melted and it was gorgeous. After getting my hands all greasy earlier, I needed to stop into the office and clean up just a little and noticed as I came off the elevator how beautiful the day was turning out....

2-26-09---THE OFFICE

...and after a quick trip to try and get at least a few layers of grit and grime off, I headed off to Elliott Bay Bikes,


where Bob Freeman spent the better part of the day undoing this MESS:


Because of a couple of late phone calls, I didn't get out of the office until almost 5:00, and as I walked in to Elliott Bay Bikes, there was Katrina, standing tall, perfectly clean and bright and shiny, along with all of the new Davidsons, Orbeas, Bianchis and other marvelous machines Bill and Bob sell. She looked so proud, with over 14,000 miles on her, there with all the newly made models who had never seen the glorious sights of the road. Ah, the stories she must have been telling all day, as Bob carefully cleaned her up, replaced the badly mangled mess I'd made and lovingly tuned her again to perfection. After a few minutes spent shelling out $595.90 for a new derailleur, new cassette (really just planned maintenance the next time I had her in, anyway), new chain, new brake pads new spoke and a whole lot of labor, I I rolled out into the early evening, and as I headed south at Pike Street Market, Mt. Rainier was seen sparkling in all of its glory over Qwest Field, although this photo really doesn't do it justice.



Shan said...

Don - sorry to read about your misfortune with that pesky bungee cord. Despite the unexpected financial outlay, your positive outlook through it all is very inspiring. I wish I had your ability to "see" the silver lining.

North Florida Randonneurs said...

::Sniff, Sniff:: I love a happy ending.

Glad it didn't take you down with it when it froze up.

Anonymous said...

don. read your story loved it have had days like that and a positive attitude always sees me thru too. great to see you love from yor bigsis