|John Faunce's garage, the best bike shop in Bozeman|
John, my host and patient mechanic, in Bozeman, had helped me fine-tune my breaks and true my back wheel so that I was all prepared. I wanted to pump up my tires with a real foot pump, but unfortunately his was out of commission. I went to use mine, which is when I noticed, that the little nozzle that attaches to the tire was missing! That would explain the funny noise I heard earlier in the week, I had disregarded it as a little rock hitting the frame. Darn, I would have to get a new pump, or find a replacement tip, but it would have to wait until Helena or Missoula. He offered to give me a gas station air adapter, but I refused, knowing I had one in my bag of spare parts, somewhere. I’d be fine until I made it to a bike store, after all, what were the chances of getting a flat tire in the next 100 miles anyway?
That night, I went to bed, but I also slept really badly. I actually haven’t been sleeping well lately, anxiously awaiting the arrival of a few friends from Barcelona. In the middle of the night, I woke rather irritable in the middle of a nightmare. The bike pump must have been on the back of my mind because I had a nightmare about a flat tire on the road and searching high and low for a bike pump. I was distraught and it took awhile to calm myself down. Melissa, it is only a nightmare, I thought. A few hours later, I woke up again, this time to the sensation of wet droplets on my face. I had been camping in John’s backyard for the last few nights and wasn’t using my rain fly. The nights were warm without a cloud in the sky, perfect sleeping weather for a tent. Obviously the weather had changed, because I it was sprinkling on my face. Thankfully, I have a freestanding tent, so I got out, picked it up, and carried it over to the carport where his truck was parked and tucked it under cover.
|Stategic tent placement when the rain came|
When my alarm rang at 6am, I was far from feeling well rested, but got up regardless, packed up my things and prepared my bags for my route. John’s dad, who was visiting, saw me off and I set out for Helena. I was expecting a gradual uphill but I was pleasantly surprised to find that I was cruising continuously at a 1% downhill. Images of Barcelona infiltrated my mind while I listened to Carlos Ruiz Zafron’s novel Angel’s Game on my ipod, helping me forget about my nightmare and my poor night sleep. With Zafron’s imagery and Montana’s blue mountains and vast sky in front of me, I was in heaven. In fact, I pedaled 50 miles effortlessly without stopping. Townsend was approaching,15 miles away, a perfect lunch stop.
|The Montana countryside, it keeps me entrained while pedaling|
All of a sudden a few miles out of town, I noticed that my bike starting to feel heavy. I looked down at the tires, still full of air. Was it just my imagination? I could see a gas station less than half a mile away and the heavy sluggish sensation was still there while I pedaled. This time when I looked down at my back wheel, I could tell the air was getting lower and lower with each revolution. No way! I had a flat tire! It had been ages since I had a flat tire. In fact, I had just made that same comment out loud to John yesterday while talking about the bike pump, hoping I wouldn’t jinx myself! I had! My dream had foreshadowed the events, however, I considered myself lucky because without a working bike pump, I needed a gas station air hose. Here I was 100 ft. from a gas station, it’s like fainting right in front of an ambulance; who does that anyway?
|I found a comfy place to work on my bike. The double fuel tanker in the background.|
All I had to do was find my gas station adapter, change the tube, and I’d rolling again in no time. Besidies, I was in need of a stop anyway to eat and by the looks of the sky ahead, a storm was about to roll through. I found a bench outside the gas station and supply store, got comfortable, and started searching for my adapter. I searched all through my bag of tools and parts and couldn’t find the little sucker. Where was it? I was beginning to regret not having taken John up on his offer. There was a truck driver filling a double fuel industrial size tank truck at the pump across the way. I asked him for a hardware store in town and he gave me the name. Townsend was not big enough to have a bike shop. I called the hardware store and the guy who answered told me they sold an adapter. I decided to change my tire, get the new tube in just using my mouth to fill it with air and then I could walk my bike down.
It was a good plan, or so I thought, until I couldn’t get enough air into the tube to get the tire to stay on the rim. I was going to have to go down to the store. The truck driver across the way offered to watch my bike and another truck driver who had overheard our conversation, also at the pump, offered to take me down. I hoped in and we went down to the store, bought the adapter, and the same pick-up actually took me back to my bike! The same truck driver was still there and so was my bike with the tire waiting for air. The adapter I bought looked different than the one I had owned, but I thought I could screw it on to the air compressor. I slowly unscrewed the valve they had on at the gas station, when a huge powerful stream of air erupted from the compressor making a horrible noise! It looked like one of the hoses in a cartoon that has a mind of it’s own spraying water, wiggling and moving in every direction possible like a snake, only this hose had air coming out. Luckily the same truck driver knew where the emergency stop botton was on the compressor, pushed it. My adapter wasn’t going to fit.
Time for plan B. I went in search of another hardware store after asking some locals. The truck driver whose tanks were yet to be filled continued to watch my bike. I went to a tire store, no luck. Another gas station, rejected again. I was turning the corner to go to the last hardware store in town when I saw a yard full of bikes. Surely a household like this was filled with kids and would have a bike pump, I thought. The door was open so I went in saying Hello, asking if anyone was home? A man in a wheel chair rolled out, I was caught off guard. I was even more surprised to see that he didn’t have any pants on in the chair and only a little gauze strip covering his you know what! I tried my hardest to look only at his eyes. In fact I was actually probably looking at the ceiling, overcompensating for the fact I didn’t want my eyes to wander down. If I weren’t so frantic and adamant about finding a bike pump, I probably would have stopped to wondered what on earth had happened to this man and why was he hanging out in his garage without pants or underwear in his wheelchair. Of course the man didn’t have a single pump, just a collection of a half dozen of bikes outside!
Back to plan B, finding a store that had a bike pump or adapter. I was right in front of the town’s trading post when I saw a women get into a mini SUV. For some reason, something told me this lady had a husband who might cycle. I had made a correct assumption. Kathy lived a few blocks down and her husband and daughter had just gotten back for a cycling trip in Italy. I knew this meant they had road bikes, and therefore a pump that would serve me well! BINGO! I got in her car and we went to her house, walking straight to the garage where she handed me a sparkling brand new bike pump.
|How lucky was I to meet Kathy, probably one of the only road cycling families in all of Townsend|
We made it back to my bike, which was still there, although the truck driver had lost patience with me. Just as I started to work on my tire, the skies opened up and it began to pore! I brought all my gear into the gas station garage, while Kathy took refuge in the car. I didn’t want her to wait while I fixed my bike, but she insisted andused a phrase that is becoming rather familiar. “Melissa, I was suppose to go to Helena today, but my appointment got canceled. I had just pulled up to the hardware store when I saw you…..I don’t really know why I was going there…..I think this was just meant to be!” She assured me she didn’t have anything else to do so I could take my time. But by then, I was out of energy, frazzled, and wanted to get my tire changed once and for all! It went smoothly until I tried to get the brakes back on and I couldn’t. What on earth was wrong? I had gotten them off, but couldn’t seem to get them back in their clip.
I asked a strong looking man in the shop for help, but he couldn’t get enough leverage either. I went out to give Kathy back her pump so she didn’t have to wait any longer. I could tell she was worried about me, not for the mechanical part, but for the weather and the simple fact of being a solo young lady out on the road. She had a daughter who was a teacher, probably around the same age as me and I’m sure it made her take my situation more to heart. She had written her phone number on a piece of paper and told me I was welcome to stay at her house to wait out the storm, or even stay the night. She also offered to help me out on the road in case I had any other further problems on my way to Helena. Kathy was so nice. She asked if I had money for lunch. When I assured her that I did, she wanted to know if I had enough money for my trip! Kathy had already been a huge help, probably the only resident of Townsend to the bike pump.
I went back to my bike and by then Erik, the strong guy, had managed to get the brake cable back in, using a wrench, no less! He also had a little tiny adapter in his fingers, he’d found it rummaging though his tool box while I was talking with Kathy. It looked different than the one I thought I had packed away, but wouldn’t you know it fit perfectly? We made a fair trade; I gave him the adapter I had bought and in return he gave me the small adapter. It was a done deal! An hour and a half after I rolled up to the gas station, my wheels were changed, brakes on and adjusted, and I was ready to pedal again…..except for the fact that buckets of water were still pouring down. I decided to enter the supply store attached to the gas station and wait out the storm a little while longer.
|Hey, I'm happy hanging out anywhere, even next to the ammo and guns!|
|This one is for me, the "Muddy Girl" model.....|
What is a supply store anyway you might ask? I had no idea! It has everything from livestock feed to Coca Cola, groceries, coffee, women’s clothing and hunting apparel, postcards and tourist knit knacks to guns and ammunition, and ham and cheese sandwiches, which, YES, I avoided! I got a coffee and ate some of the food I already had, hanging out by the only empty counter in the whole store, the gun cabinet no less! I’ve been in bait and tackle stores before for pit stops and sat next to crickets used for bait, so chilling by the guns locked away didn’t even phase me. In fact I was intrigued to read the names of the different models while I waited for the rain to let up.
|There's my mountain supply store and it aftermath of the rain storm left a lake in front of the place|
After another 30 minutes the storm dissipated and I could see sunshine in the direction of Helena. I got back on my bike and started pedaling, engrossed once again by my audio book. I had anticipated a 30-minute pit stop to change my tire and eat, but now, almost 2 hours. What an ordeal!!! If I only would have taken John up on his offer to keep his gas station adapter!
|The rest of the afternoon was gorgeous with peaceful farms dotting the countryside|
|By the time I arrived to the capital, I was hot!|
Three hours later I arrived at my warmshowers host, another John. He listened to my story about the bike pump, tires, and brakes and then commented, “Gee, that is funny, my bike has a brake release you pop out by the handle bar!” My head dropped slightly along with my bottom jaw. I starred at him in disbelief. That was it! I had forgotten to open the brake release on the handle bars. How could I have forgotten? I was so preoccupied with the tires and bike pump, I had forgotten all about the brake release……. I shook my head laughing, thinking, only you Melissa! My day had unfolded exactly as my dream had foreshadowed, or rather nightmare I should say.