Saturday, August 19, 2017

Colorado Mike

Made a swoop around the shelter to the sidewalk leading to it from the south.  Still shy of the sidewall gash that ruined an $80 tire a month ago.  Someone was there but the shade hid the details.

"Do you know anything about gears? he queried as I was dismounting my bike.  "Yes," I replied thinking that I have cabled my share of derailleurs and fixed shifting on another share of bikes and the Rule #1: NEVER TAKE A SCREW DRIVER TO A DERAILLEUR UNLESS YOU ARE ABSOLUTELY SURE OF WHAT YOU ARE DOING.

Once in the shelter I could see.  He's got a Denali road bike pulling a trailer, two large duffel bags and assorted stuff spread on the tables and a Husky.  "I'm riding to Colorado and I only have two gears." Mountains come to mind.  Then the hills of Iowa which he cannot avoid from here to Winterset. Once he reaches Winterset it will be flat for most of the way to the Loess Hills and border.  Yeah, he's gonna need some gears.  Time to assess his situation further.

Basic Shimano 3x7 with GripShift.  Sure enough, someone took a screwdriver to the front derailleur and messed with the High or the Low setting screw.  I pick it up and crank it and try to shift the front.  No joy, stuck in granny.  Adjust the barrel at the shifter but no improvement.  Shift the rear and get some shifting.  "Do you have any tools?"

"Nothing but a 15 mm wrench to take the trailer on and off and a knife."

That ain't gonna work.  Need to adjust that screw and take out the slack in the cable for the front derailleur.

"I rode here from Ames last night.  Stopped at the cafe in Prole and waiting for them to open then they told me about this place so I came here and slept."

"You did into take the trail into Des Moines?

"There's a trail?  I took Highway 69.  I could not find this trail last night."

He would have rode right by us at Orlando's.  515 fest would have blocked his way unless he could have found the gravel path.  "The homeless in Des Moines really liked my trailer.  They wanted me to give them this.  No way."

"Gonna ride to Winterset and then head west.  I've ridden from Colorado to Ames on a MTB but some FaceBook friends gave me this new bike when i got there.  A lot of people follow me on FaceBook."  I tried to find him on FB, no luck.

"Well, Mary and I have no tools except stuff to fix a flat tire.  You need to go to the gas station down the hill and purchase a screwdriver and either a 10 mm wrench or a pair of pliers or something."  The derailleur's cable uses a nut and and a flat bolt instead of a hex bolt.  I would not have been carrying the required tools.  "We'll watch your dog."

Lena is his Husky.  She rides in the trailer.  Until this moment she was quietly laying down in the shade.  Mike handed Mary the leash and he was on his way.  Lena sat next to me and allowed me to pet her and never made a whimper or sound noting that her master rode away.  Then she laid down.  Mike was not gone long and returned with a Philips head screwdriver and a pair of pliers.  Time to work.

Adjust the High and Low screws up front and got some positive movement but still needed to pull the cable through.  Either cable stretch or poor assembly.  "Yeah, they tried to adjust it for me yesterday."  Soon I could get the chain to the big ring.  Front done.  The rear just required adjustment to the Low screw.  I was able to get it to the next to last cog.  Lacking a proper bike stand and expertise I felt that he was much better off than he was last night.  Seriously, I ain't the best wrench but I can get a bike moving in emergencies.  I had no issues going to the cog on the far right.  Check the front again and make a few more adjustments.  "You got more gears now.  I don't guarantee my work but you have the tools.  You should be able to climb up the hills now without killing yourself."

Mike told us a little more about himself.  Wounded by a IED over in the Sandbox he's had trouble maintaining full employment.  Seizures and memory issues.  In Colorado he will go to the VA and seek help.  He said he works 6 months out of the year excavating then the other 6 months going on adventures such as this.  He lived in Des Moines but moved to Colorado when or after he was a freshman at East HS.  He is friends with someone who works at Barr Bicycle in Clive.  Then he became another victim of the never ending war in the Middle East.

We kinda envied him for a bit, the lack of schedule and the ability to travel and explore the US on bicycle albeit not the best machine.  "I walked from Portland to Tacoma [or something like that I forgot the exact locations] but I'll never do that again.  Large cats and bears.  Scary."  Yep, I was spotted by a mountain lion once and got within 25 yards of it.  Cats think about what they are going to do, how they are going to attack prey.  Hate being on a critter's menu.

It was time for us to head north for 21 miles to the comfort of our air conditioned home and stable employment and all the creature comforts we have acquired in the safety of our normal lives. We shook hands and wished him safe travels.  I wished I had one of the dozen maps that I have at home to give him and a set of tools.  But he should be fine.  Said it took him two weeks to ride from Colorado to Ames.  He's young.  He has been through hell and back.  Some of us wait until we are old to do that adventure. Long may he ride!

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