Thursday, August 4, 2011

An Open Letter to the Kindness of Strangers

Last week I got a flat tire. It's been a long time since I had a flat tire that I couldn't do anything about. As a matter of fact, I think the last one was during a triathlon that I did sometime during the summer of 2007. That's a long time.

As any veteran cyclist will tell you, at a minimum it's a good idea to carry a spare tube and something with which to pump your tire up. Last Monday, I decided to ignore this tiny tidbit of wisdom. It's not that I was blatantly shaking my fist at the gods of cycling. I just happened to have locked my saddle bag in the garage when my wife left the house for the morning and I wanted to go for a spin. I was just going to do 15-20 miles and explore a bit of the area we just moved to in Elm Grove, WI. The roads seemed lovely and not dangerous, so off I went.

A little over 8 miles later I found myself leaving Fox Brook Park and feeling a little squishy. My back tire, that is, was feeling squishy underneath me. I was just about to turn to go farther west, so I pulled off to feel the back tire. It was definitely low, and apparently sinking fast. It was safe to roll on for a little bit, so I headed back towards home. After about 2 miles I felt that I had to stop riding on it or I would risk damaging my rims. I stopped, got off my bike, took my shoes and socks off and prepared for a six mile barefoot walk home. It wasn't exactly the way I wanted the ride to go, but sometimes it happens. I had my phone, but no one to call in the middle of the day, so I plodded on.

After about a mile and a half of what had now become a mix of trudging and what probably looked like dancing/tip toeing as I tried not to step on gravel on the pavement or sticks in the boulevard, I saw a car pull a U-Turn not far in front of me. It was a nice car too. As it turns out, it was a 2003 Limited edition Dodge Viper. It looked a bit like this...

2003 Dodge Viper SRT-10 - Front Angle - Dodge Viper SRT10

only it was a nice deep copper color.

The driver was a nice fella named Scott. He asked if I wanted a ride. I told him I was only 4 or 5 miles from home, so it wasn't really that far, and I'd hate to trouble him...yeah, even I knew it was kind of dumb sounding, but it's not everyday someone pulls over in a car that's worth more than your life to offer you a ride home... I looked a little hopefully at his trunk and made what was probably a silly gesture of some sort to which he replied, "Yeah, it won't fit in there." Now it may seem ridiculous, and I don't own a million dollar speed machine of a bicycle, but I would rather walk home barefoot knowing my bike is safe than hide it in the bushes to come back for it.

To my pleasant surprise, there happened to be a girl across the street who was out mowing her lawn. I ran over to ask if I could leave my bike by her garage and come back for it after explaining what happened and that this guy who stopped on the side of the road was about to give me a ride home. She looked a little confused (can't blame her) and a little unhappy that I had caught her sweaty and in her yard-work clothes, but once she snapped out of it, was happy to let me drop off my bike. Happy enough that my ride was safe I hopped in the car, after apologizing a couple time about being sweaty in his nice leather seats, and we took off.

I got home and went back with my van for my bike which was still where I had left it, thanked the lawn-mowing girl and headed back home to fix my flat tire. Despite the misfortune of the day, I have to say I was rather lucky to have gotten a ride home. My feet would of been really raw after 6 miles of barefootness.

All this to say, if you have the chance to pick up a cyclist with a mechanical problem or offer your assistance to anyone you might need it on the side of the road, you should do it. You never know who's day you might have the opportunity to brighten. And if you're late to where you're going because of it, I think whoever is waiting for you on the other end would probably understand.