Tuesday, June 23

Bike Trouble and a Dilemma

I rode into Kentucky Sunday afternoon, reaching the 1000 mile mark.  In fact, it was exactly 1002 miles from New York City to the boarder of Virginia and Kentucky via my route (and a few wrong turns).  On the way into Kentucky however, there were a number of hills and bits of the Appalachians that got the best of me and my steed.

Not sure if I posted it, but late last week I broke another spoke.  Earlier in my trip I had broken a spoke in Pennsylvania but was able to ride a bit further before getting it fixed in D.C. so when my second broke late last week, I figured I could make it to the nearest bike shop before anything else would go wrong.  And I did.  Well, sort of.
The day I was riding on US 11, I got into Abingdon, VA and found a bike shop.  I told the fellas working what my problem was and
 they took a look at it.  Apparently their mechanic was at a wedding and the spokes they did have were the wrong size... so they sent me on my way.  Next bike shop on route?  Danville Kentucky, 200 miles before me, or Damascus Virginia, nearly 100 miles in the other directions.  Not wanting to backtrack, I pressed on.
The area between Virginia and Kentucky, still mountainous, was beating me up with it's seemingly pointless up and down.  Somewhere in Breaks Interstate Park I broke my third spoke, which meant at the time I had two broken spokes.  Now a bit of science.
Spokes are what connect the outer circle of the wheel, that which connects with the road, to the inner circle of the wheel, that which connects with my bike frame.  If a spoke is missing, the proper tension is not present c
ausing the two circles to be unbalanced, resulting in a wobbly ride.  If two spokes are missing, you get a super wobbly ride and the outside circle, that which connects with the ground, begins to connect with the frame of your bike as it rubs against the inside of the fork of the frame.
Imagine this scenario.  You're riding up a mountain on a bike at a slow speed (it's steep).  Attached to your seat post is a rope trailing behind you with a person holding the other end, walking up the hill at your pace (it's steep).  Every two pedals you make, the person holding the rope give you a tug backwards.  That's what it felt like with two broken spokes.  Every time the wobbled section of the tire came through my fork, it rubbed on the frame so hard that momentum nearly came to a standstill.  After a few miles of this, you can see how it might get a little old.
I stopped in Elkhorn City, KY, about 5 miles into Kentucky.  The town itself was pretty quiet - Main Street looked like an abandoned parking lot with grass growing through cracks, shops were out of business, and the only hopping spot seemed to be The Rusty Fork Cafe, a restaurant at the intersection of SR 80 and 197.  It was just after noon so I was needing to take my afternoon break anyway, so I walked the bike to a nearby park to make some food and figure out what I was going to do with this spoke problem.

(A softball game I caught in Elkhorn City, KY.  Good folks in Elkhorn - John sent me away with a couple Reese's Cups.)

By 6:00pm, I was beginning to worry.  I had made some phone calls and all signs pointed to no closer shop than Danville, again 200 miles away.  I called my former roommate Rob, to brainstorm.  He's good at that.
Back in 2007, Rob, my other friend Mark, and I walked the Camino de Santiago in Spain.  There was a moment right before we started of which we had to make some serious decisions concerning the walk.  I remember sitting on the ground at a train station in Germany as Rob led us through every option we had, discovering new ones as we thought it all out, in an attempt to solve the dilemma we had found ourselves in.
Similar to that day in the train station, Rob helped me think through the options.  Finally we settled on a solution both were happy with.  Rob would leave 30 minutes later, making the nearly 4 hour ride to Elkhorn City to pick me up and drive me to Danville, KY in order to have the bike serviced.  We got into DanVegas (as the kids call it...) around 2:30am.  What a road trip.  The whole time we conversed about my trip, the time he and Mark walked the Appalachian Trail, and whether or not this sort of break from the journey was 'legal'.
The next morning, I dropped the bike off at Ernst's shop, Danville Bike and Footwear, and made an early appearance at The Hub, the favorite Danville coffee shop and my place of work for just over a year while studying at Centre.  All the usuals were there and I enjoyed catching up with everyone.  Besides catching up with friends, I spent the day discussing with Rob what would happen from this point forward.
Allow me outline my options and then provide a brief pro and con afterwards.
The Purest - Rob drives another 400 miles to drop me off where I left off, 200 miles from Danville.
The Compromise - I ride 100 miles east of Danville and then back into Danville, amounting to the 200 miles I missed.
The Justified Excuse - Ride on from Danville.
Game Over - I'll explain below.
The Purist option requires a lot from Rob.  That's a con; but believe it or not, he's actually a purist when it comes to these long distance journeys (having hiked the AT) and favors this, despite having a full week of work ahead of him.  I could do this.
The Compromise option makes the same distance, but still leaves a portion of the trip untraversed.  It seems most likely as it's least troublesome for all.
The Justified Excuse option doesn't seem likely.  It derives its name from the 350+ miles I put in before actually heading westward - the portion from New York to Virginia - of which wasn't riding across the country so much as getting me to the place to ride across the country.  I suppose it even comes from the idea that when I get to the Pacific at San Diego, I plan on riding along the coast for another 250+ miles to Santa Barbara.  I'm not really feeling this option.
And now, the Game Over option. I haven't mentioned this before, mostly because I'm not really a fan, but it needs mentioning. If anything, for those faithfully following my journey.
Part of the adventure of this trip has been the fact that it's been on a low budget.  Correction: Very low budget.  I've learned however, that this sort of thing needs to be a fully funded endeavor.  High milage means huge appetite.  The longer I ride, the hungrier I get - one burns a bit more calories riding this sort of thing than simply walking in New York.  Also, high milage means high wear and tear on the bike.  I've already had to dish out a couple hundred dollars on repairs and maintenance - and at 1000 miles with about 3000 to go, the need for maintenance will not go away anytime soon.  Hence I find myself in a tough place as I have a quickly diminishing source of funds (Ok, so seeing the same movie twice didn't help either, but it was still cheaper than one movie in New York).
Consider it this way: I'm not at E just yet, but I'm getting close.  And as I get close, it's the old decision of whether or not you want to run out on the interstate or on an exit.  You have enough gas t get you further down the road, but if you do go further, you risk running out between exits rather than on an exit, which usually has gas stations.
Does my analogy make sense?  The exit is Danville, a short drive from my hometown in Indiana.  I'd have enough 'gas' to get a start there or back in New York.  The interstate is somewhere in the middle of Western Kentucky or Illinois, still a short drive from the hometown, but then literally I'll be at empty and the options for what I do after that point are severely limited.
Did I see it coming?  Well, I was aware of the amount I began with and have been following it since starting the ride.  So... yeah.  Did I care?  Not really.  Did I expect bicycle maintenance to be as expensive?  No.
This is the dilemma I find myself in. Overall, not favorable.  But at the same time, I cannot complain an ounce about the three weeks I have had.  1000 miles.  Several beds, showers, breakfasts, lunches, dinners.  Popsicles, cakes, pies, and ice cream.  Countless handshakes, smiles, and warm welcomings.  I have experienced what others call the American Spirit - something referred to as no longer with us, but very much alive.
Keep in mind: Game over is not the same as quitting.  One chooses to quit ( Q).  One is forced to stop when it's game over (frozen screen...? Not familiar with this analogy since I have a Mac).

After 1008 miles, even a Bud Light tasted good.


Kelly said...

Obviously you're the only one who can decide what to do, but like I said the other night- it's the journey, not the destination.
Regardless, I think you should keep blogging, if only for my entertainment.

Diane said...

Nate, I've really enjoyed reading and hearing about your journey so far... you've experienced so much in your first 1000 miles and your stories are truly inspirtional. You're in good hands when it comes to plotting and dilemma-solving and I know you'll figure out what's best for you.

(For what it's worth, I'm a bit of a purest, myself... but I fully support The Compromise when the time comes. :) )

Ashley said...

Game over will not sit well with you. You'll just have to start over some other time!

Just focus on one mile at a time :)

If you're still going in August, I'm doing a cross country drive then--I'll buy you a burger!

Nate Crimmins said...

Ashley - the burger is on!

Anonymous said...


I just commented on your last blog posted 3 days ago... I've been seriously enjoying your stories. You're awesome. If you were playing a nintendo, you've just hit the select button or something and it can be looked as a serious game-pause and not game-over...

Wanda (and Barb) said...

Great titties, what a pity.

Nate Crimmins said...

I just laughed out loud in a library!