I think the Dude's secret admirer said it best best when he pronounced that, "Sometimes you eat the bar, and sometimes, well, he eats you." Well today, I was the all-you-can-eat buffet.
After my night in Bonchester Bridge, I awoke to find myself coming down with a cold. Not surprising considering the mileage I had been riding in the pouring rain despicable rain. However, it looked like the sun was breaking and I was only 60 miles outside Edinburgh, then if I wanted wimp out I could jump on the train and get into St. Andrews for my first conference with time to spare.
Plan sounds feasible, right? After all what could go wrong?
As I would find out... pretty much everything.
Sun, glorious sun
As the day got going the sun broke and I was awash in the warm glow of a long forgotten friend. After a few miles the heat started to clear my chest and for the first time in the last week I was sporting a smile as I rolled across the scenic Scottish countryside.
Despite the horrendous weather I had experienced earlier, I was loving bike touring once again. There is nothing like having the miles roll effortlessly under you as the sun shines and there is not a car within what feels like a hundred miles. This is what makes Scotland ideal for cycling. Quiet, quiet rolling roads. The efficiency of the fixed gear bike just started to eat up the miles, as I flipped the wheel over to my tall gearing so I can make the most of the fast rolling roads.
My first stop was for coffee and a croissant in a small town that doesn't see many visitors. An older woman with a walker, tells me she figures I am Australian, I smile and agree. Perhaps this is one small part of the world where drunk Australians (god love em) haven't invaded. For the record I am Canadian and usually get mistaken for Americans (Ack!).
Mishap #1: Melrose Chain Smash up
Just prior to entering the town of Melrose I ran across a father sun bike touring duo. We sat and chatted a while comparing our completely different approaches to touring. Myself with my self-admitted mad 10 lbs pack and these two cordial fellows who had taken the more traditional. As an aside, on of the bikes was an amazingly nice S&M coupled frame. Beautiful!
As most other cyclists they were particularly curious how I was faring with such a light load, especially considering I had brought items to camp with. I didn't lie, I told them it was great when the weather is nice, touchier otherwise, but you can slam back the miles.
As I talked with them I didn't think much of taking the opportunity to swap my wheel to a taller gearing. I mean perfect right? because the ride into Melrose involves a very very steep hill. This would be my undoing because I apparently didn't tighten the wheel enough. As I descended into Melrose I was spinning like a mad man (perhaps a cadence of 180) to keep ahead of an uncouth car that was trying to drive directly down my ass.
Then just as I was spinning at my maximum out of no where the chain gave way, stuck in my spokes and threw me into a massive skid. While I was caught a bit off guard I did not crash and instead surfed the skid for about 50 feet, coming to rest at the entrance of the town. When I looked back and assessed what had just happened I realized that the skid was so long it actual melted a large portion of my tire!
Next I had to assess the damage on the chain. A quick look and I realize my situation didn't look good. The chain was not only wrapped into the spokes but around the hub. I tried in vain to remove the rear wheel, so that I could untangle the chain but it was a frickin' quagmire, if I had ever seen one
I knew there was only one thing I could do, break the chain. But here is the rub, I didn't have any extra links or extra pins (it was a Shimano chain). If I am lucky I might be able to reuse a pin to get me moving, but my chain tension was set so bang on that if any links were damaged I would not be able to shorten the chain.
As I took a deep breath and broke the chain, so I could untangle this mess, my worst fears were confirmed. I wasn't going anywhere unless I could get some spare links or a new chain.
Quest for the elusive chain
Melrose was a small tourist town with no cycle shop, and little interest in cycling. I asked around for quite a while until I finally learned there was a bike shop in the next town over, Galashiels.
Great, so does that mean I can throw my bike on the bus and head on over? Nope!
You see in the UK's vision of the future, bikes and buses do not mix! Can you believe it! Even in environmentally backwards North America, we can throw bikes on must public transport buses. In the UK, this is forbidden.
So that left me with one remaining option, it was looking like I was going to have to walk the distance.
With that I grabbed a drink, a bakery bun, threw my bike over my shoulder and headed west for Galashiels.
Head west young man
While walking my bike a few kilometers was never on the agenda for the day, I found a quiet walking path between the two towns and made the best of it, especially since the sun was out.
When I made it to Galashiels I quickly found the bike shop got a chain and did the swap in the town square, since the bike shop owner gave me a look of horror when I asked if I could use his stand (so much for being nice to a traveler).
By the time I finished I was really starting to feel the effects of being sick. But I shook it off as I should still be able to make Edinburgh I told myself, that is until I looked up and saw the ominous grey clouds starting to close in. Crap, I better get moving.
With that I jumped on my bike and made a B-line along a designated bike route that I thought was leaving the city. It was just starting to rain, but I was keeping ahead of it. I thought I was going to make it until I realized the route was a dead end! As I came to a stop I knew the only choice I had was to head back into the rainstorm, so I could take the correct way out of the city.
I tried to quickly backtrack so as to minimize the damage (considering I was sick and only had a jacket), but the rain just kept getting heavier and heavier as I headed back to the city and hopefully the correct bike route turnoff. At one point I even took cover and tried to wait out the rain, but this only angered the rain gods and the rain started coming down with even a stronger vengeance.
The message was clear, I was going to get thoroughly soaked. I lowered my head, accepted my fate and road straight into the rain storm.
Screw the UK and its damn rain!
The rain was probably some of the heaviest I have ridden in my life. It is no exaggeration when I say the water on the road way was at least 3 inches deep. I fought straight into the driving rain and with every pedal stroke felt the last vestiges of heat being dragged out of my body with the continual flow of water covering my body. The jacket I was wearing was supposed to be waterproof in a rainstorm, but I don't think it was ever designed to be completely submerged.
As I started to hit the perimeter of Galashiels another roadie was heading into the storm. We gave each other a passing glance, no words needed to be exchanged to communicate how ridiculous the rain storm was. After that I just put my head down and rode as hard as possible. I had only one goal, ride fast enough to get out of the rain storm.
By about 10 km or so outside of Galashiels I was starting to outrun the rain storm, things were looking up. Looking up until I decided to flip my wheel and get a higher gearing. As I was fiddling with rear wheel, I noticed it didn't roll as smoothly as it normally does. Somewhere along the line it had developed some added resistance.
I shrugged it off and headed the rest of the way to Innerleithen. By the time I arrived it was getting close to dinner, but the weather was so nice I decided to just get the next 28 miles out of the way and get into Edinburgh. It is a bit of a climb as you head North up the B709.
When the bar eats you, you know it!
Sure I was hungry, but my logic was indisputable. So far the day had been complete crap, but I was making progress despite the mishaps. Now all that stood in my way are a measly 28 miles. I figured should be over in after a couple hours of riding at most. Then I would be in Edinburgh, where I could get my eats on, then grab a late train making it to my conference just in the nick of time. Clearly the open road awaits.
This plan was solid except it assumes that I could ride 28 miles would without too much calamity. This was so far from the truth I can't stop laughing. But I am foreshadowing, of course it was crap. I wouldn't be writing anything here if it was sunshine and roses.
At first it seemed like my decision was pure genius. It was evening, it was sunny, and the lush countryside was awash in warm light (see left). Perfect for putting in the last few miles of the day. For a while I even was able to relax and enjoy the scenery and the climb.
Well I was sort of enjoying the climb. You see I had try and put out of my mind the fact my rear wheel continually getting more difficult to make turn over. I am sure the combination of gravity and an upward slope didn't help matters any, but by about 45 minutes into the climb I notice that it was getting noticeably harder to climb. At first denial kicked in as I convinced myself it was I was just getting weaker in my old age, but then every so often I would get off the bike and check the rear wheel.
"Hmm... much harder to roll than 10 minutes ago. Oh well."
I would tell myself as I continued on oblivious to the fact I was in the middle of nowhere. My ambivalence (or denial depending on who you talk to) was so strong I even waved to a couple pro-wanna be cyclists (the only people I had seen since Innerleithen) who were heading in the opposite direction, rather than ask for some help.
Clearly, I had no idea of the impeding doom that was about to bestow me. Then At about the half-way point between Innerleithen and Edinburgh (a place called Midlothian) the rear wheel bearings finally gave out causing my wheel to jam sending me into yet another unexpected rear wheel skid.
Yes you read right, this is the SECOND time in one day that the rear wheel spontaneously locked up without any input from yours truly!
This time it was however it was worse. When the rear wheel bearings ceased the wheel was still driven forward by my motion, this caused some of the wheel nuts to loosen off. That wasn't too bad, but the real kicker was the fact the right side cone nut was forced to loosen off by the forward rotation of the axel, caused by the wheel rotating with the ceased bearings. Since the cone nut is on the inside of the frame, as it loosed off it caused the rear triangle to be pulled apart by at least 2 inches (pictured right). The left side (not pictured) looks normal while the huge gap has formed on the right side of the hub.
Great! Now not only am I screwed as far as getting into Edinburgh in some sort of decent time, but my frame is also tweaked! WTF!!!
Everyone do the ceased wheel rant!
So what did I do, what ever other self-respecting dope would do... walk. Now walking with a bike with a ceased wheel sucks ass x2, because first you are walking (YAWN) and second to add insult to injury you must carry the bike on your shoulder to get anywhere. Recall, the wheel is ceased. Carrying a bike is fine for the first 30 minutes or so, but after an hour + you start to go a little squirrelly.
Adding to the insanity the few cars I saw weaved around me and my out laid thumb. HOLY FUCK, what is wrong with you people? To document this stupidity, I decided to shoot a video of myself in the moment. It is funny... I think.
After about another hour after the video, as it was getting dark I stumbled into this small village called Middleton. By the road signs I realized I was still 14 miles or so outside of Edinburgh. I was considering walking the final 14 miles until I did the math. 14 miles = 22 kilometers at a walking pace of 4 km/hr = 5+ FRICKIN hours!
Just one more epic
I would be getting in well after midnight! This would not due, so I started knocking on houses, waving down vehicles anything I could do to get some help. I got nothing.
Then after walking a bit more I stumbled onto a house with some people who were actually home and were very kind. They took me in, feed me tea and even gave me a ride part way to Edinburgh (Dalkieth), however the rub was they had to take their kids along so there was no room for my bike. That was fine by me because I was sick at looking at it.
When I arrived in Dalkieth, I was exhausted, tired, grumpy and hungry. All I wanted to do was find a room, eat a meal and go to sleep. I found a room no problem, but getting some food, turned into yet another epic, in a day of epics.
You see, before I could get some food into me I was accosted by some drunk Scotsmen. They offered me a beer for my story. Being a good red blooded fixie rider I gave them one hell of a story. Beer gone and story over I tried to get on with finding some eats... no go, as I was told I had to sit and have another free beer.
Before I knew it there were telling me their life story and I had another couple pints on a stomach that hadn't eaten since lunch time... I was a wreck (recall I also started the day sick).
By about midnight final call was on and I was out the door trying to find the only place left in Dalkieth that was open and selling food. Luckily I found a greasy fish and chips place. I stuffed my face and crashed hard once I hit my overpriced lumpy bed.