As part of another grand experiment, we have decided to dump cable television and rely on Netflix and Hulu Plus (viewing suggestions welcome). This was a relatively painless process (for me anyways - KT is the one who spent hours on the phone explaining that no, we aren't interested in merely downgrading, despite the fabulous deals you can offer us). However, one of the stipulations of canceling is you must return your cable equipment to a Comcast office within a week of canceling. Conveniently enough, our week deadline was on Saturday. Even more conveniently, KT was working so the duty fell to me. Turns out we actually had quite a bit of equipment to turn in. A DVR (which was about the size and weight of Guam), five (yes, five, shame upon us) converter boxes, 47 miles of cords and five remotes. My cute little Sierra Club (look at me! look at me!) backpack wasn't going to cut it. Neither was Audrey's old, considerably larger, school backpack. In fact, the only thing large enough to haul the 34 pounds (I weighed it) of equipment was my gigantic hiking backpack, purchased about 12 years ago when I was going to hike the world and used exactly twice since. So, I loaded the pack up, strapped in on my back, snapped it secure around my chest and waist and prepared to hit the road. One problem - I failed to have the foresight to realize that strapping this gigantic pack on my back would make mounting my ride a challenge. As the pack reached a considerable ways down my body, it made raising a leg over the bar of my bike impossible. After four or five futile attempts and two near tip-overs, I finally figured out I needed to tilt my bike nearly parallel to the ground, put one leg over and then, with a quick thrust, kick myself upright. I accomplished it on my first attempt, but probably should have charged admission to the several vehicles driving by who witnessed the slapstick.
Despite the problems, I was ready to roll now. Or so I thought. Turns out giant freakin' backpack causes another problem. Not only does it extend low down my body, but it also tends to ride high, up past my neck. Which would be fine except for the fact that riding that high causes it to interfere with my helmet, pushing my head to a position where I am able to only look down. With extreme effort and severe strain, I am able to roll my eyeballs skyward just enough to command a view of the road three feet in front of me. Off I go.
Saturday was an incredibly windy day in Minneapolis. Winds were steady in the 20-25mph range, gusting to near 40. This sucks on a bike. Add a 35 pound sail on your back and it becomes downright ebola-shitty. My one saving grace was the Comcast station was five miles East and one mile South from home. So, as luck would have it, I would be traveling with the wind while lugging the gear. Despite nearly being thrown into the path of a car when a gale force wind struck me on the highway overpass, I made it to Comcast in good time and unloaded the cable burden. Feeling cocky now that I was free of the weight and only had to stop for toliet paper on my way home, I contacted my brother to meet for lunch. He was game and so I foolishly pedaled further East and further South to meet him halfway between where I was and his St. Paul home. We met, had a few beers and a pizza, and got set for our journeys home. I was fully aware that my ride would be difficult as I would now be bucking the wind but I was confident I could handle it. My bike, however, had other ideas. As I went to unlock it, I noticed my front tire was completely flat. Luckily, I was prepared. I had a spare tube in my backpack and a cheap pump I had just purchased at The Walmart for just such emergencies. My brother (a much more seasoned rider than I) helped as we quickly got the new tube in place and began pumping. And then we continued pumping. And pumped. And pumped. Turns out the cheap Walmart pump was about as big of a piece of shit as you can imagine a $10 air pump from Walmart would be. At one point my brother held the pump up against his face to see if he could feel any air coming out. Not even the scraggly, pathetic attempt at a beard he has moved from the resulting effort. Luckily, my brother had another solution. Being the experienced biker he is, he had recently purchased an ingenious contraption which held a small canister of pressurized air that will quickly inflate a tire. The canister is small, so it will work for one tire only before needing to be replaced. He had never used it before, so began examining it, figuring out how to operate it. Soon, I hear a giant PFFFTTTTTTT and see him violently shaking his hand. Turns out the air comes out at a pretty violent clip and it is not advised to test it by blowing it onto your hand. Lesson learned, he hooked it up to my tire and prepared to let it rip. With an even louder PFFFFFFFTTTTTTTTTTT! the canister shot about 20 feet across the parking lot and my tire remained hopelessly flat. Ok, lesson number two learned. We have to fully secure the canister to the tire before activating, not merely hold it on. So, we retrieve the canister, fully secure it to my tire and let it rip again. This time, I was fully prepared for the loud gush of air and was instantly dismayed by asthmatic pfft and silence that emitted from the ingenious contraption. Out of air, out of luck.
So, now I am faced with a dilemma. I am eight miles from home with a flat tire and the burden of a GRAND EXPERIMENT which is only in it's second day. To give in this early in the game would be an embarrassment. Too proud and stubborn, I begin walking my bike in the general direction of home, hoping to catch a bus (allowed) and audibly cussing my bike, the wind and anything else in the general vicinity. After walking about a mile, I noticed a group of about seven or eight men standing in a circle smoking cigarettes and chatting in a language I assumed was Somalian or other East African dialect. I also noticed that behind them was a tiny two car garage and several taxi cabs filling the parking lot. I approached them and asked if by chance they had an air pump in their garage. They stared at me politely but obviously confused. Undaunted, I squeezed my tire to show them it's flatness. At this point, they broke out in uproarious laughter and motioned me inside where they graciously filled my tire and refused anything more that a heartfelt thanks (big shout out to the taxi shop at 20th and Como near the U of M!). Energized, I hop on my bike and head for home.
My new-found enthusiasm lasted exactly one block, when wind and gravity reared their ugly heads. I live in Columbia Heights, which I love, but the key word in this instance is Heights (geography nerd trivia - the highest elevation in the metro area is about six blocks north of my home). So, I am inevitably pedaling uphill when returning home, no matter where I am coming from. Combining uphill climbs and the winds of Hell made for a treacherous journey. On one of the few gently sloped downward stretches I encountered on the way home, I conducted a brief experiment, stopping pedaling to let gravity guide me. Wind 1, Gravity 0. The wind not only stopped forward motion, but began pushing me backward. I did make it home eventually, but my legs were a gelatinous mess and my mood was considerably dour. My cantankerous outlook only dimmed when I realized I had neglected to get toliet paper, one of the exactly two errands I was tasked with. Grumbling, but realizing I couldn't neglect the obligation, I rolled off the couch, told my bike to go to hell and walked to the store, my legs screaming at me each step of the way.
On the bright side, I did survive and after a day of relative rest (only one quick two mile trip), I made it to work without much difficulty today. I have apologized to my bike (I really should name her as she is becoming such a close aquaintance. Again, suggestions welcome) for saying some things I didn't really mean on Saturday and we are back on good terms. As for the wind, it will be a while before I speak to it again.