It’s been an interesting couple of days.
Thursday night (a day after we originally planned to leave!) we finally had the apartment packed up, and loaded it all up into a U-Haul and drove it all to Oaks Grove, where it’s being stored in the garage of our friends Kris and Angie, along with Matt’s things. Our worldly belongings take up less space than I expected when carefully stacked, even though I definitely have too many things. At one point near the end of packing, stuff was getting stuck into boxes labeled “random stuff.”
Friday morning was spent cleaning up the apartment. So much scrubbing and sweeping and vacuuming and mopping! And Shawn wrapped my handlebars and we found out that the cycle computer (a little cheapie, tells you speed and distance) I was hoping to use was missing the battery. Oh well.
We ran some errands, including dropping off all the keys to our apartment, and got on the MAX just as the skies opened up and it really began to pour. And just as we got off the train at Expo Center, it had stopped. Hallelujah!
Our plan last night was to ride to a park called Paradise Point, near the town of La Center. However…
However. (There’s always a however.)
I had not ridden the bike fully loaded yet. Yeah, I know. As I remarked when we left the old apartment, “This is something they always tell you not to do. Too late now.” At first the load was totally uneven in front, so I moved things around a little, which helped. But the bike still felt really odd. I know I need to shuffle things around some, because I think I made the front bags the heavier ones! And just in general, the bike is heavier than anything I’ve ridden before, so it’s harder than I’m used to. And then there’s getting used to having a front load. It just feels odd. I was in the drops every second for the first, I dunno, ten miles? It just felt wobbly otherwise. Two things really did not help:
1. The front rack is slightly off-kilter. I was told this isn’t really that big a deal, but you look down and it’s crooked.
2. The stem extender that Janice in Georgia sent me? Turns out it’s not meant for riding with a front load.
We were at a light in Vancouver (Washington) and I noticed that the handlebars weren’t lined up with the wheel, and it wasn’t just the off-kilter rack. I braced the wheel, and was able to move it back…but that’s not good. Over the next bunch of miles, I had to pull it back more and more often, which was getting rather worrisome. And then, a whopping two miles short of our goal, I was going uphill in my granny, and I wobbled on the bike, and then suddenly the handlebars went several inches off kilter.
At that point I decided the bike was unrideable, ’cause the last thing I need is to be going ten or fifteen miles per hour and then have my wheel just decide to turn without asking me. I’ve gone over my handlebars spectacularly once in my life, and would like to never do it again, y’know?
We’d been in communication with our Vancouver friend Todd, who was planning to drive up to Paradise Point to hang out and make popcorn for a bit and help us celebrate our first night. Instead he had to come out and rescue us. At first we just tried tightening the extender (which involves removing the “real” stem), but it seemed like no matter how tight it was, there was still some play. It was dark by then, so Shawn and I gratefully accepted an invitation for a ride back to Vancouver and a floor to sleep on. We also went to Niche and Leah gave us each a glass of wine, which was very appreciated.
This morning the bike was taken to a shop in Vancouver, where they offered to gorilla-glue the stem in place. It’s a temporary fix, and they can’t guarantee how long it will last. (It should be okay as long as I keep the bike from falling over, as the way to dislodge it is to apply a bunch of torque separate from the wheel.) But we also bought a new (used) stem, and worst case scenario, we could replace the stem ourselves, I just wouldn’t have handlebar tape on one side. Our goal at this point is for it to last until we get to Vancouver B.C., since we’ll be there a few days and can make an appointment with a bike shop. Keep your fingers crossed (pray, think good thoughts, do a spell, whatever) for me and my stem, (and the rest of our bikes). I also think I’ll rearrange the weight, as I think there should just be less weight on the front until the stem is replaced. And it’ll give me more time to get used to how the bike handles differently with a front load.
I’m writing this post as we wait for the glue to dry, and then Todd is driving Shawn and I up to Longview, where Shawn and I will get back on our bikes with the goal of Lewis and Clark State Park near Chehalis. Yeah, it’s cheating. But Vancouver B.C. is the only place we’re going where we have a deadline, as Shawn is leading a workshop on bike touring for Velopalooza. In addition, we have Warmshowers hosts lined up in several places on the way up, and we’ve already changed our dates on them at least once.
Part of us worries that our delays and mechanical issues are some kind of omen. But at the same time, maybe we’re just getting all this stuff over with at the beginning, and it will be (relatively) smooth sailing after this. I’m trying pretty hard to be optimistic.
And in any case, if we’re going to have mechanical issues, it happened when we could easily be rescued, and that’s lucky.