A Pause for Maintenance (Day 79)

He pulled over to the edge of the paved path and stepped off his bike. Yes, the rear tire had gone flat again; he had really hoped this would stop happening since he had fixed that protruding spoke head, but here he was again. I had been a while since he had had to perform a tube change away from the comforts of home. All summer and fall flats had happened but he had either been close enough to walk the bike home or (once) the wife had come with the car to retrieve him and his steed. Neither option was practical here, so it was time to take things apart. At least he had finally gotten around to buying a spare tube, after making this trip daily for more than a month without a backup on hand.

The afternoon wasn’t too bad, he thought: a bit cool, but the sun still had some warmth in mid-October, and he was glad of it as he laid his panniers on the grassy verge and dug out his wrenches. The aroma of dozens of students smoking weed just up the path made him smile, as it did every day. Honestly, it amazed him that none of the letters in spliff were require to spell Canada. They seemed to observe 4:20 not as a day but as an hour.

A couple of mallards swam up to inspect his progress as he got the wheel off and began levering the tire over the battered rim. If this had happened a mile further along he could have had the cows at the Experimental Farm for an audience. Commuting on this forty-year-old Schwinn was great, but he was probably going to have to put some real money into it one of these days. The crankset squeaked so loudly he hardly needed to use his bell to warn pedestrians, and the wheels were far from true. But it still got him there, and even out of tip-top shape this bike could coast like no other bike he had ever ridden.

The new tube in place, he inflated it as fully as he could with his little hand pump. He never seemed to be able to get a firm tire with it anymore: the pump probably needed maintenance, too, just like everything else he took for granted. Oh, well, hopefully it could get him and his load of schoolwork home without further incident. He packed up, re-slung the panniers, and looked across the Canal at a pair of joggers as he took a sip of water from his bottle. Then, gingerly, he got back in the saddle and pushed off up the trail again, toward the locks, and home.

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