THAT was an Adventure…
There are three expressions that come to mind that can each be taken as either exceptionally positive, or dourly and cynically negative. One is, “Well, you learned something from that.” The classic, of course, is the curse “May you live in interesting times”. And then there is the badge worn with pride and chagrin “THAT was an adventure”.
If you are tired of reading about my bicycle trips and the revelations that occur during them, I do not apologize, but recommend you skip this post, as it is all about my recent adventure, which has revealed to me a few key truths.
- we must develop with truly multi-modal access
- a tough journey can be made tougher or easier by the people you encounter
- home is never so far away as when it is close, but hard to get to
Part 1 – the flat tire.
I biked to Troy, as I’ve been trying to do each Saturday, to the market. I never plan to spend money, but ultimately do, and this time, between some stormy skies and raindrops, I found some wine for a neighbor who is moving away soon, some chocolate for me, and some apple cider doughnuts I couldn’t resist for my son. I admired some gorgeous cookies at Placid Baker, and bought a baguette. I chatted with the Troy Bike Rescue folks and plan to visit their location! What a great resource. After dancing a bit to a local band and avoiding a political discussion with a perfect stranger, I packed up my saddlebag and headed back home, deciding to ride through the streets of the local towns rather than use the bike path along the river.
Best choice I ever made.
The thunderstorms had oddly respected the city line between Watervliet and Menands. After riding through some wicked puddles, splashing road grit all over my legs, back and saddlebag, I felt an odd wobble and pulled over to see what was what. Had the wine shifted? Was my really cool Dutch saddlebag loose and awry? Nope – my rear tire was an oddly awkward pancake. The sun was out, the puddles and wet road were steaming, and my chocolate was melting. BUT I was only about two blocks from a bus stop, and CDTA has bike racks on every bus. Every one.
A scant wait of about 10 minutes and my bike was mounted in the front of the bus, and I was inside in the air conditioning, again mobile and on my way to Albany. If I had been on the trail, I would have had to walk my bike for at least two miles before connecting with any other resources. No bus lines on the trail. No Uber access, even if an Uber would carry a bike for you. No place to pull in a car for a convenient rescue. This experience has helped me to realize that a multi-modal city is more resilient, more equitable, safer, and certainly more convenient for all, especially when things go wrong.
Part 2 – the kindness of strangers
The bus driver was great, and filled me in on where the last stop would be: at the Empire State Plaza. From there I gathered my bike and bags and started walking up the hill, aiming for the Downtube, which is our local bike store. We used to also have Broadway Bicycles, in the warehouse district, but they seem to be closed. I wonder: Did too many people bike the trail rather than the streets, and the business perished due to lack of drop-ins?
At the Downtube they fixed my flat while I enjoyed a quick lunch at their cafe (avocado toast and coffee – yes we’re turning into that kind of city, way up here in Albany). It was relaxing, and baking hot in the back courtyard in the sun under the wet trees. I edited an article on my I-pad while I ate, so the time was not lost. I watched a test photo shoot for what was maybe a pending wedding. I walked by the half-dozen totally connected and lap-top focused patrons as I went up to pay for lunch. I then invested in a bike-mounted travel pump and an extra tube for future protection on long trips, chatted with the repair guys, commiserated about the weather, paid my repair bill, reloaded my slightly worse for wear doughnuts, chocolate, baguette, and cherries alongside the more durable items such as the wine, some knitting needles, my glasses case, and purse, and went on my merry way.
Part 3 – home is JUST over there…there.
And then I discovered, maybe a mile up the road and still more than 1/2 mile from home, that my rear tire was again…flat.
Sigh. “Hey, kiddo, I’m on my way back to the Downtube with another flat. Yup. It’ll be a bit longer before I get home. Yeah – I got all the way to Quail. OK. See ya soon-ish.”
I turned around and walked my bike for the 15 minutes or so back to the Downtube, hoping that their busy Saturday had room for me and my bike for a second time. Maybe my bike likes the repair guys? I can’t blame it if so. Even though they were surprised to see me again so soon, they quickly shifted into extra kindness and empathy. They immediately checked the tire and found a large piece of glass wedged between the tire and tube, and this had caused the punctured. They said they couldn’t imagine they had missed that the first time, and Albany roads are full of glass (it’s true) but also that they would not charge me for the repair or new tube – it was tough enough I had to come back. This was so very appreciated. They even oiled my bike chain as it had also gotten a bit grimy from the puddles.
Success came at last when I arrived home about two and a half hours later than I intended, but luckily with all foodstuffs still intact, and bike tires full and ready for my next ride, even if I was a bit flat, myself. I had ridden a few roads twice, and walked a couple of stretches as well, ridden my bike, visited the market, been rescued by a bus, gathered foodstuffs and fun stuffs, enjoyed the rain and sun, sweltering heat, and even puddle-splashed mud. I contributed to my knowledge of the community and to the coffers of several businesses. And all of this was possible because of my living in a place that has many ways of getting hither, thither, and yon, and because I choose to be familiar with those options. Just in case.
THAT was an adventure.