A Pause for Maintenance

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. It 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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