by Dwayne Phillips
I used a bicycle for a good part of the walk (see here for details). Two times I had a flat tire on my bicycle.
Let me start by writing that I am not a mechanic. I am not good at this; I have had little interest in it my entire life; I don’t practice it much, and I guess those things contribute to me not being good at it.
I prepared myself for flat tires on a bicycle. I watched a few YouTube videos on how to repair a flat tire on a bike while out on the road. I bought the right tools for the job. I carried those tools in my backpack which was always on my back. I was prepared, well…
I was prepared as a mechanic, but I was not prepared for the fatigue. That was a major oversight.
(1) South of Chattanooga, Tennessee – This was the first morning that I was walking alone with my bicycle. It was warm, cloudy, extremely humid, and the road was probably the worst section for walking that I encountered the entire walk. I felt like I was going down into a basement. The trees where close to the road and hanging over it. It was dark. I was soaked with perspiration after 15 minutes.
I walked four miles to the spot that I had planned to stop, hop on the bicycle, and ride back to my van. As soon as I sat on the bike, I noticed that the front tire was flat. And then it started raining.
I carried the bicycle a half mile in the rain to a church that had a covered porch. I went to work on the flat. The problem was that the spare inner tube I had also had a hole in it. I don’t know how a new inner tube has a hole in it, but … I locked the bicycle to a nearby telephone pole and walked the four miles back to my van. Back up that awful road. I drove to the bike, loaded it, and thought a while.
I was too tired and wet (perspiration) to wrestle with the bike. I searched for a bicycle shop on my iPhone. I found several back up in the city of Chattanooga. Sigh, I drove into the city and stopped at River City Bicycles. They took care of me. I mean they really took care of me. It was a great relief. The weight of the world fell from my shoulders. Calmed, reassured, rested – I drove back down to the spot I left. I ate lunch at a bar-b-que place at the Interstate exit and continued.
(2) Springville, Alabama – I had just finished eating lunch in a diner in this town. I had walked a mile from my van when I noticed a flat on my rear tire. It was hot. It was in the middle of the afternoon. I was again soaked with perspiration, and I was tired.
I sat in the grass under a shade tree and again used my iPhone to find a bicycle shop. I was surprised and delighted to find one ten miles down the road in Trussville – a northern suburb of Birmingham.
I carried the bike back to the van, loaded it, and drove into Trussvile to Cahaba Cycles. They also took great care of me. I was hot, soaked with perspiration, and tired. Once again, the weight of the world fell from my shoulders.
Instead of going back to Springville, I walked a few miles north and south of Cahaba Cycles. I returned to walk at Springville the next morning.
Notes about the flats: In both instances, the kind folks at the bike shops examined my wheels and the tires that had holes in them. They couldn’t find anything that would have caused the flats. No nails, thorns, cuts, spurs, nothing. I guess that sometimes you just have a flat, but then I am not a mechanic. I know that I had two flats and they were both in about the best location that they could have occurred.