I blaze a trail across Kansas en-route to St. Louis where another friend is putting me up for the night. I plan on ridding throughout the night with a full moon keeping me company on the deserted roads. The sun sets and dusk is fading. I stand up on my foot-pegs to stretch my legs and notice my headlight is out. So much for riding throughout the night. In 20 minutes I will be riding blind. I ditch my plans for a late night ride. Maybe this is a sign to call it quits after a long 400 mile day. I pull off onto a dirt road to look for places to camp. Between two wheat fields, who’s crops already were harvested, is some tall grass and a couple of trees. It will have to do. After setting up camp I diagnose my faulty headlight down to a simple blown fuse. I scold myself for not checking it right away on the side of the road. I could have made it to St. Louis that night. Lesson learned. Curling up in my bivy sack sounds pretty good at the moment anyways. Sufficiently safe in the obscurity of the brush I fall asleep to the raucous sounds of a tavern in the distance.
After a short stay in St. Louis I head north to Chicago. The first sign I see for Chicago gives me goosebumps. I am happy to see family and friends, but I begin seeing the stop as the final one before Mexico, which I am anxiously waiting to enter.
After a week and a half in Chicago I get too comfortable. Beth urges me to hit the road, insisting I’ll never get this stupid thing over with if I keep “dicking around” with my friends. I say my goodbyes to everyone and most feel like they are giving me a last goodbye. “I’ll be fine,” I insist, especially to my Mom.
Violence along the Mexico border from drug trafficking is surging and commonplace in the news. Stories of civilian decapitations and images of vehicles riddled with bullet holes is what comes to mind to most Americas when they think of Mexico. Here I am heading straight for it. Their worry is no surprise. “Be safe”, most would say as if I am going into a war zone. With futility attempt to switch the perspective on some.
“Oh I’ll be fine. It’s you I worry about. Chicago’s crime rate is the fastest rising in the nation. I just hope to make it out of here alive!”
I’m the only one who finds this funny.
On the way to St. Louis I stop at my sister’s who I had not seen in a while. Two miles from her doorstep the rear tire starts to feel squishy and my handlebars begin to wobble. I pull in my clutch and slowly come to a stop on the side of the road. I have a flat rear tire. Great way to start the day. I take this as an opportunity to test my roadside tire changing skills. The valve stem is ripped off so the tube can’t be patched. I rest Jenny on her side as I begin to wrestle the rear rim free. It is a Sunday morning in the countryside and naturally there are a lot of bikers out for a ride. It takes me about 90 minutes before I fix up Jenny, but 30 of those minutes are spent with people stoping to see if they could help. Jenny is tipped over, most thought I crashed. A caravan of bikers with rubber necks whipping towards the spectacle that is me and Jenny almost caused an actual crash when one rider brakes and another doesn’t notice. He locks up his rear wheel and screeches down the road. Most who stop to chit chat could not believe that it was possible to perform this kind of repair. “Nah, I’m good. I do this all the time” I lie.
In St. Louis shipments are waiting for me. Once again, two miles from a doorstep I have another mechanical problem. After I exited the expressway I make a sharp turn and the chain rolls off the rear sprocket. “Aww c’mon!” I cursed. I am so close to the end of a ten hour day on the road. I unkink the chain and seated it back on the rear sprocket while rolling the bike forward. “C’mon Jenny, just a couple more miles…” I plead with her. The chain rolls off every couple blocks on side streets and the last two miles take me an hour.
I rip into the packages like a kid at Christmas. “Four millimeter tubes, knobby tires, new chain and sprockets! Oh my!” I install all the new parts over the next couple of days. Knowing that these are the last familiar faces I will see for a long time I feel hesitant to leave. Eventually my rationalizations run out. I leave my friends and head south for the border.
Thanks Cycle-Parts.com for getting me all the parts I needed to continue rolling down the road.