Big Fat Failure

Well, I’m alive. But that’s about it. <whine>My back hurts, my tummy hurts, my neck hurts, my left arm hurts, but not my right.</whine> The good part is that I took a muscle relaxer about an hour ago and I’m starting to feel a bit mellow. Whee!

Yesterday’s ride started out well enough – rolling hills, not too hot, lots of club cyclists going way faster than me. My first stop was at the 16 mile mark to get a drink and check the rear wheel, which had more loose spokes. Grrr. So I tightened those, took a few snaps and rode on. Next stop was at 27 miles at some little park just east of King’s Gap. Still doing alright, just thirsty. And more loose spokes.

5 miles later I passed a little general store that looked cute, so I pulled in and refilled the bottles. More loose spokes. This time I tightened every freaking spoke on that rear wheel. The clouds had abandoned me by this time and the humidity was quickly becoming oppressive. Nevertheless, I pressed on. And up. Since leaving that little park it had all been uphill into a hot headwind. And it wore me down, mile by mile.

About 40 miles out, after at least one more stop and some walking, I swung left into Merv’s Bike Shop. Merv trued my rear wheel for $16 while I poked around his air-conditioned store. I rode the next 6 miles, uphill, into Shippensburg, locked Betty to the fence in front of McD’s and called my wife. “Uncle”, I said. “Be there in 45”, said she.

I was not prepared for this and the bike and the wind and the earth let me know it.

46 miles and change, the last 20 more uphill than down. I was spent, kaput, bonked, against the wall. Legs cramping, stomach cramping, unable to push the machine past 10mph. So I sat in McDonald’s, sweating and soaking up the A/C, while I waited for Christie.

When I was a teenager, maybe 14 or 15, Dad decided to build a garage to house the mower, tools, 8N and whatever else Mom didn’t want to see when she looked out the window. Mom’s Dad is a carpenter. My Dad called said carpenter and said “help”. The reply was the smartest reply I ever heard. “Once you get the foundation poured, give me a call.” So a few weeks later Grampa rolls up in his pick-up, and while Gramma makes her way into the house, he simply retrieved his tool belt from behind the seat and told me to get a hammer.

Get one I did. The biggest, nastiest framing maul imaginable. Grampa, who’s name is Vernell, looked at it, said something like “Put that worthless piece of crap down”, and handed me a much smaller hammer. Then he laid out the walls and told me what to do. “You start here and I’ll start over there. Lemme know when you’re ready to stand this one up.” So I got started nailing, and the more I worked at it the more I realized I enjoyed it. Once finished, I turned around to tell Grampa and saw the most amazing thing ever. 3 walls. “Holy crap!” This old man, who never moves fast, framed 3 walls in less time than it took me to frame one.

I’ve had a few opportunities to work along side of him since, and I have observed a model of efficiency. No movement wasted and every step calculated. I, on the other hand, will spend five minutes looking for my hammer because I sat it down on the deck instead of putting it back on the belt.

Merv, who trued my wheel, is Pennsylvania Dutch, I think. He spoke some odd Germanic dialect to his kids as they flitted in and out of the shop. And while I waited for him to get to my wheel – “I think I can fit you in” – Merv helped customers, made minor repairs and adjustments, and worked the cash register. I wasn’t in his shop for more than 5 minutes before I realized that this guy, probably not much older than me, was a lot like Vernell. He never hurried and he never made a mistake. Fluid, efficient, patient.

And that’s how I fail.

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0 Responses to Big Fat Failure

  1. cog says:

    best post you’ve written yet.

    Keep it up.

  2. heather says:

    guys like that are artists. i’ve met a couple myself.

  3. heather says:

    oh and, someone else’s expertise doesn’t make your lack of the same a failure.

    (sorry, nurturing mommy speak)