Saturday, December 29, 2012

Trauma on the Bike Path

Whether for the love of exercise (“exercise is medicine”) or – what is perhaps more likely –whether to expiate last night’s immoderation of martinis, shrimp, wine and pousse-cafés, early this morning we climbed aboard our respective tandems not long after the sun was up. The weather was decidedly cool. We were heavily layered in undergarments, golf shirts, long-sleeved shirts, sweaters and jackets, along with woolen gloves and tuques (and for me the requisite silk scarf). Thankfully, however, it wasn’t long before we began removing some of the layers. There was no wind on the beach so we felt the full warmth of the increasingly intense sun.

The tide hadn’t been out for long and as a result the sand on the beach was still somewhat damp, making the pedaling more difficult than usual. We determined to digress onto the paved bike paths instead, particularly as our objective destination was a hotel where we planned to go to arrange massages in Palmetto Dunes, a considerable hike from our end of the Island.

It was on our return from that hotel – miles from home turf - that our fortunes precipitously altered. While it goes without saying that life is random and that no one is immune to occasional unhappy events, it is equally true that one never expects or anticipates such calamity. It is no doubt nature’s way to prevent us from dwelling upon catastrophe as possible as it may be that it might arise. This morning was no exception. Quite without warning D unwittingly rode over a fallen branch and it was the work of a moment before it splintered and caught in the chain dislodging it from the front and rear gear teeth.

Stunned by this sudden and adverse change of circumstances – as though a dark cloud were cast upon our erstwhile pleasant proceedings - we immediately arrested ourselves alongside the road to examine the débacle. Quite apart from the shock of the occurrence, getting at the chain was no easy matter. There was a metal guard which effectively blocked ready access to the dislocated cable and this of course compounded our collective hardship (for even though it was not my chain I nonetheless felt the outrageous repercussions, the more so because one couldn’t continue biking when one soldier had fallen so to speak). With the assistance of some Kleenex (in the end a useless barrier to the oily chain) we finally succeeded in pulling it back into sync with the gears. However our complications were not over. There was now a dreadful sound every time the chain was rotated. Would the tragedy never conclude! Questions of self-doubt arose, not to mention the obvious embarrassment of having to deal with such a damaged conveyance, a positive public disgrace!

D was not however prepared to capitulate to this disastrous rout. No less than three times he stopped to turn the bicycle on its head (well, actually, on its seat) to enable him better to examine the wreckage. At last, by almost microscopic scrutiny, he discovered a small piece of metal which had been bent no doubt by the culprit branch; by pushing the piece away from the chain he succeeded in eliminating the grinding noise. Once again we were on our way but not without having suffered the considerable and understandable burden of such challenges. I mean to say, is there no end!

Apparently not. For the second time in as many days disaster struck on the bike path. Even more regrettably, it was D’s bicycle once again (let’s hope the adage about things happening in threes is mere puffery). This time we were even further from home base than yesterday when without warning his bike came to an abrupt halt. The pedals quite literally would no longer turn. It was as though the cycle were perpetually locked. Needless to say there then followed – in addition to some fruity language - a good deal of banging on the pedals in an attempt to loosen whatever it was that was obstructing the movement. At last there was apparent reprieve, but it was short-lived. We were at last forced to give up and abandon ship.

Because our location was so far from home, D wisely resolved to ask the clerk of a local dry cleaning establishment to use her telephone to call the bike rental shop. After a short wait of about fifteen minutes, the bike shop attendant arrived in his truck with a replacement bicycle. Upon D’s questioning, the attendant (who was of Polish descent and who spoke French in addition to English and his mother tongue) guessed that the cause of the obstruction was a piece of sand in the braking system, not uncommon in this beach area. D said to him, “Merci beaucoup!” to which he instantly responded, “Je vous en prie!” (with a marked Parisian accent).

As you might imagine, the return to order brought about considerable relief. The remainder of our tour was thankfully unmarred by further horridness.

Later this afternoon, as the sun burned brightly on the Island, I rejoined the beach for a ride in the direction of Harbour Town. By now the wind off the Atlantic had picked up noticeably and getting to my destination was a struggle. The topical dust of the beach swarmed upon its face like wisps of horizontal grey wood smoke. However, the return trip was like sailing!

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