Cracks and Crashes

The nicely lighted streetcar barn was a convenient place to fix my flat tire   It turned out to be a complicated week for training. I hadn’t been planning anything out of the ordinary – just the usual weekday morning routine. On Monday morning I did a nice solo ride on the levee as usual, with plans for a faster ride on Tuesday. I didn’t go in to work on Monday because the air-conditioner had stopped working and I had to wait for the repair guys to show up. Fortunately, we keep a couple of win The nicely lighted streetcar barn was a convenient place to fix my flat tire   It turned out to be a complicated week for training. I hadn’t been planning anything out of the ordinary – just the usual weekday morning routine. On Monday morning I did a nice solo ride on the levee as usual, with plans for a faster ride on Tuesday. I didn’t go in to work on Monday because the air-conditioner had stopped working and I had to wait for the repair guys to show up. Fortunately, we keep a couple of window units down in the basement for just such an occasion. They also come in handy after hurricanes, assuming you can get hold of a generator. We lugged them upstairs and stuck them into the bedroom windows, so it was fine. When the repair guys arrived I explained the symptom, which was essentially that there was power to the shut-off, but apparently no power to the  unit. I’d looked inside but hadn’t noticed the tiny little DC fuse. It took the guy about thirty seconds to pinpoint that problem. While he was there, I had him check the rest of the system and ended up having him clean the condenser unit which was pretty clogged up with dirt and gunk, but decided to hold off on re-charging the refrigerant which was just a bit low. I felt lucky to get off with a $250 bill. This bypass around the pipes is a complete disaster So on Tuesday I headed out to meet the group on the levee and, just as I rounded the turn from Carrollton onto Willow, heard air escaping rapidly from my rear tire. I rolled to a stop in front of the nicely lit streetcar barn (it was still a bit dark) and had to pull out my pocket knife to pull the packing staple out of the tire. Glancing at my watch, I knew I would miss the group. So once I got patched up and out onto the levee I settled into a nice steady pace, planning on meeting the group out near the turnaround. I figured I’d be about five minutes behind them, and since they take a little bit of a break out at Ormond, I wasn’t expecting to miss out on more than a couple of miles at the worst. So I was surprised to see them coming toward me much earlier than I’d expected. Turns out the bike path was closed off at the grain elevator, apparently because they are removing the odd little crossover they had constructed about a year ago when they started building something out there. That evening as I was riding the commuter bike back home from work I again heard the sound of air rushing out of my rear tire. I was only a mile and a half from home, and it was hot, and I didn’t feel like dealing with the dirt and fender and single speed and pannier, so I just leaned forward more and rode the rest of the way on the flat tire. Later that evening I pulled off the rear wheel and discovered that I’d worn completely through the tire in one place and then also worn completely through the Mr. Tuffy that I’d apparently been riding on for a while. Guess I got my money’s worth anyway. I threw it all in the trash and ordered a replacement tire for the antique 27″ wheel with 7-speed spacing that’s crammed into a frame made for 26″ 3-speed wheels. I pulled a tire off of my rain bike, which also sports old 27″ wheels, to use in the meantime. On Wednesday Chris called to say he had a crew nearby and could come over to the house in the afternoon to do some badly needed tree-trimming that I’d gotten him to give me a price on a couple of weeks ago, so I rushed home just in time for a thunderstorm which of course cancelled any possibility of tree work for the day. Crash precipitated by another sinkhole on the levee bike path On Thursday I again met the group up on the levee for the long ride. There were some big clouds around but it looked like we had a good chance of missing the scattered thunderstorms that have been the routine around here lately. We carefully negotiated the broken-up asphalt bypass around the Jefferson Parish “pump to the river” pipes. That section was built no more than four months ago and is already a complete and utter disaster. The asphalt is cracking, the roadbed below it is sinking, there’s always mud and water washing over it, and it’s generally gotten really sketchy. It’s a real marvel of bad engineering and sloppy work. A few miles past that we go around the pipes at Florida Street. My turn at the front came up right after that and I had my head down a bit as I pulled us back up to speed when I heard Rich, who was on my wheel, say “look out.” This one caused the crash on Thursday I looked up and saw the other big section of sinking, broken-up asphalt right ahead of me and curved around it to the left. A moment later I heard Rich say something and realized there’d been a crash somewhere behind me. Apparently the group had gotten a little strung out going around the pipes, which always happens, and the guys toward the back were pushing it to close up the gap when someone hit the broken asphalt, or swerved to avoid it, or something like that. The result was three or four people hitting the ground pretty hard. David banged up his elbow pretty badly (ended up with a few stitches after a visit to the ER) and also broke his carbon seatpost. Tom, whose son Ben was on the ride, also went down pretty hard with a little gash above his eye, probably from his glasses. One rider tumbled down the concrete side of the levee and was pretty slow to get up. I think they all called for extraction, and after the JP police patrol guy showed up and started filling out paperwork, the rest of us continued on with a plan to turn around at The Dip. So I turn around and we’re heading back and we see Ben standing on the side of the bike path. He’d broken a spoke on his carbon wheel – the kind that has maybe six spokes on the non-drive side. The tire was hitting the frame, the rim was hitting the brake, and it wasn’t looking very promising. After much fiddling around, we finally got it seated in the dropout just off-center enough that the tire, after letting out a substantial amount of pressure, was barely clearing the chainstay. By now we were half an hour behind schedule, at least, so the rest of the group continued on while I rode back with Ben at an easy pace in case things got worse. Somehow it all held together and he made it all the way back.

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