Silly me! I forgot I was involved. And where I am, mayhem is surely not far behind.
I rolled along Pacific Coast Highway, made it through Corona del Mar without nearly running over any elderly people (which cannot be said of all my bike rides, unfortunately), and coasted downhill to the bike trail that leads to the Back Bay.
So far so good.
There I was, tooling along, blithely ignoring the fleets of tight-shorted, hunchbacked cyclists that whipped past me (also the elderly man on rollerblades who left me in the dust). And then I heard a noise. “Wow,” says I to myself, “that must have been some pointy pebble I just rolled over.”
And I kept pedaling.
After a while I was aware that pedaling was becoming significantly more work than it had been at first. Naturally I ascribed this to the fact that I had not stopped for coffee on the way to the Back Bay, as I was planning to stop for it after.
So I kept pedaling. Harder.
Then I glanced down and noticed a strange phenomenon: the shadow of my bike tire seemed significantly thinner than the bit of tire that was actually on the pavement.
You may see where I’m going with this, but believe me when I tell you that it took a surprisingly long time (okay, not surprising if you actually know me) to realize I had a flat.
A flat! On my two-day-old bike!
Fortunately, one of the many cycling fleets had left some guy out on the sidewalk to hand out water and pump up flats. He generously offered me some air—enough to get me back to PCH, he said. And so it was. Only also on PCH is the coffee place I like, and the library where I had planned to return books.
“Well,” says I to myself, “if it’s pumped up now, surely the tire will still be pumped up when I have refreshed myself with a delicious coffee beverage.”
You may see where this is going, but believe me when I tell you that after my break, I was mightily surprised to see my tire even flatter than it had been before the kind pump-man helped me out.
So I began to walk along PCH. Pushing my lovely new bike (which insisted on kicking me in the shin with one pedal. As if it were all my fault!).
Then I saw a gas station. “Aha!” says I to myself. “At gas stations, they have those air machine thingies. I shall simply put some air in my tire, just like that guy did, and then I will whip through Corona del Mar, climb that gruesome hill to the beach, and be at the car in no time flat.”
It did occur to me at the time that I have never had a good experience with an air machine thingy. But those experiences were all car-related, so I was sure I would be fine.
I continued to be sure of my fineness until the loud and unexpected noise that indicated I had somehow managed to explode my tire.
A friendly old man rolled down his window as my bike and I strolled past, specially to tell me the explosion had scared him. His wife laughed. Nice people.
Now: roughly 1.73 trillion people cycle along Pacific Coast Highway every hour. You would think there would be a bike store somewhere along the populous stretch I was hiking. But you would be wrong.
Three miles later, Nessie and I were back at the car. Twenty minutes after that, N was laid up at a bike shop, getting a new thorn-free front tire (apparently we had motored right through a field of thorns without even noticing).
Nessie came through the surgery with no ill effects, and is now resting peacefully in the garage. I can only hope there will be no hard feelings the next time I ask to go for a ride.
So—you think I can’t connect my tale of woe to writing? Ah, ye of little faith.
It occurred to me—at various points during the three-mile hike—that this is exactly the kind of thing that happens to me All The Time, and yet I am so reluctant to do it to my characters:
Through a combination of faulty luck, faultier logic, and general silliness, I get in trouble.
Then I get out of trouble.
But trouble likes me, and doesn’t take no for an answer. It comes a-knockin’.
Through a combination of fortuitousness, cleverness, and common sense, I get myself out of trouble.
Only, actually, I end up in worse trouble than I was before.
But everything turns out fine in the end!
I have a feeling this bicycle incident is going to greatly impact the finalfinalREALLYfinal re-write of my MG fantasy novel. So there’s no such thing as bikes in my fictional universe--minor setback. I'll make it work!