Of Innertubes & Angels

At 8 a.m. this morning I climbed aboard The Phoenix and commenced riding in to work the long way in from Silver Lake to Lafayette Park down Hoover to USC and from there across Jefferson. At Hoover across Washington something’s not right: is my rear tire low? Kinda, but it seems to be holding and so I keep going under the 10 Freeway and past 24th Street, where I finally and frustratingly come to a stop because indeed my rear tire is flat.

I have conflicted feelings about flats. On one hand fixing them and getting back on the road is cool in a self-sufficient way, but on the other hand they can’t help but be pains in the ass.

Certainly they’re a simple fact of bicycling life and decidedly surmountable if properly prepared for them — which I am, what with my yeeeeeeears of experience changing them along with the two spare tubes, patch kit, and pump that I’m never without when I ride (or so I thought). And a moment later I had the bike belly up on the sidewalk and was pulling off the rear wheel. The leaking tube was out a minute later and examination of the tire revealed the tiniest sliver of metal that had shivved itself between the treads just enough at some point to put the tiniest puncture into the tube and commence a slow leak. After extracting the foreign matter and making sure nothing damaging remained inside the tire I pulled out a fresh spare and installed it.

But in pumping it up, it wouldn’t hold the air. I tried again and again with no success. Dammit! So off it came and apparently in my haste I’d pinched it while fitting the tire back onto the rim so out comes the second spare and onto the tire it goes and wouldn’t you know when I pump it up all I get is ssssssssssssssssss. I yank it off; I’ve pinched a hole into this one, too.

I’m incredulous. Apopleptic. I’m storming up and down the sidewalk making big hand gestures. Then to make matters worse, there’s no patch kit in my seatpack, because I asshattedly took it out and put it in my road bike for the RIDE-Arc ride a couple weeks ago, but never transferred it back. So now I’m screwed in that I can’t even patch any of the dead tubes and I act out my frustration by disposing of the one, two, three! breached things into a nearby trashcan the way a wide receiver might spike a football in the endzone… except entirely in anger. Then out comes the cell phone to call work because now it’s clear I’m going to reeeeeally late since I’ll need to walk over to Vermont to catch whichever northbound bus will get me up to the No. 201 line at 6th Street and back home so that I could then change clothes and drive in. I manage to do so without swearing.

And so I hang a right onto 25th and march it to Vermont, where I hang another right and head north looking for the next bus stop. A little more than half a block later between a barbershop and market I’m surprised to be passing by The Bike Shop. Yes, that’s it’s name: The. Bike. Shop. At 2417 Vermont Avenue.

Minor miracle that that is, I say to myself that there’s no way in hell the place is open at this hour and sure enough it isn’t. But as I pass and look in, the hell if there isn’t somebody inside. I debate for a split second on whether to just accept my fate and not disturb whoever’s there. But then I realize that miracles are miracles big or small and had I stopped at Washington or 24th over on Hoover I wouldn’t be walking by this place. So I drop the kickstand and I move close to the glass and when the guy doesn’t see me I give the door a tentative rap. It startles him and I have expect him to wave me off while mouthing “clooooooosed!” but dang if he doesn’t drop whatever he’s doing and come over and open the door.

Of half a mind to hit my knees and sing his praises as an angel of mercy, instead I stammer out what I’ve been through and tell him how sorry I am to bother him but thank goodness he was here and that I would gladly give him twenty bucks for his trouble and be on my way if he had a 700 x 28 tube in stock.

He smiled and told me to wait while he went into the back, soon emerging with a 700 x 32. “Last one I have, but this should work,” he said, and I almost cried. Taking the $20 from my hand I thanked him again and turned to get busy and he told me to hold on, again moving into the guts of the shop and returning with $16 change.

All I could say was “Awesome!” All he said was “Glad to help,” and he was gone, the door closing behind him.

Needless to say I installed this miracle tube very carefully and very successfully and got to work around 10 a.m. feeling both blessed and proud that I didn’t have to bus it home and drive in. Thanks to a conspiracy of miracles.

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Will Campbell arrived in town via the maternity ward at Good Sam Hospital way back in OneNineSixFour and has never stopped calling Los Angeles home. Presently he lives in Silver Lake with his wife Susan, their cat Rocky, dogs Terra and Hazel, and a red-eared slider turtle named Mater. Blogging since 2001, Will's web endeavors extend back to 1995 with laonstage.com, a comprehensive theater site that was well received but ever-short on capital (or a business model). The pinnacle of his online success (which speaks volumes) arrived in 1997, when much to his surprise, a hobby site he'd built called VisuaL.A. was named "best website" in Los Angeles magazine's annual "Best of L.A." issue. He enjoys experiencing (and writing about) pretty much anything creative, explorational and/or adventurous, loves his ebike, is a better tennis player than he is horr golfer, and a lover of all creatures great and small -- emphasis on "all."