I was considering an article about confused hurricane winds and the problems of upwind vs.downwind travel on the ride home…


First thought was that rear fender that’s been coming loose had finally let go and was rattling the spokes. Then I looked closer. The back tire was going flat.

And I was in Eatonville, a not so nice place (the residents have confirmed this over time by glaring at me, stepping pointedly in front of me, and shouting things). And it was Friday, 5:30pm.

Didn’t know how bad it was and tried to press on to get outside city limits but the tube was flapping now. Further down was a bar – not the place to touch down. To my right, the old school with an after-hours gym. Parents taking their kids inside. Best place. Turned into the lot and dismounted. The front entry was flat, clean and shaded. It would do.

And why, I silently asked the heavens, is it always the rear tire?

First step, get the bags, bottle and lights off, then draw my cannister of Liquid Knuckles (you know what I mean) from my hip. Give it a shake and set it to my right, amongst my equipment. Just in case.

Unhook the back wheel and fuss it out past the chain (I hate working around the chain). Got a little greasy. Then I realize that I should have dug the tools out from under my towel and underwear before I’d lubed my hands. Another fact to add to my step-by-step. Always learning.

As I zipped the tube out, puffed the replacement and fed it into place, it reminded me of the time I’d landed my pontooned ultralight in a lake. Suddenly the engine had dropped to idle and I’d been forced down. Coming in with a wobbly luff, I missed wires and gator, coasting into the weeds on the far end.

And that is the aviator’s thing, putting a plane down in a less-than-perfect spot and figuring out the next move.

Back then, I’d thought about that plug-fouling problem I’d heard about. Popped the cables off, unscrewed the plugs, cleaned them in my t-shirt. Black greasy stains. Popped them in, took hold of the pull-start, paused… then backed the throttle to idle before yanking the cord. Step-by-step.

Moments later, I was lifting clear of the soupy pond, nipping out through the treeline, climbing, free.

The parallels hit me as I puffed the tire up to 80 lbs – low, but it would do. A bit of a struggle to get the wheel back on – popped the brakes to give me room. Spun it, noted the rub, adjusted, spun again. Clear. Good. Left my stuff after a discrete look around and ran the bike once around the parking lot, just to get the feel. The chain rattled about, finding its setting. If there was a foreign object still in the tire, I’d find out now. It held.

Back around, quick stop, litter and trash into the bags, bags onto the rack, headlamp clipped on, quick drink of water. Slip on the gloves, clip on the helmet, push off. Swing back into the bike lane and accelerate up to spin. The wind crackles around my glasses, the breeze is cooling, everything’s fine.

I index up to high gear.