Mechanical trouble… and a musical interlude


Today was sunny here in LA, and the next two days are forecast to be rainy, so I thought I’d jump on the opportunity to grab a few more groceries at the market at the bottom of the hill. Heck, maybe go back to the vegan doughnut place again too, farther away. Yes… after a very lazy and slow morning, I decided around 1:00 it was time to go outside and get a bit of exercise.

First, though, I took care of a few errands. Yesterday I had taken out the trash and recycling. This is the first time I’ve stayed anywhere long enough to do things like needing to replenish groceries, or take out trash. But this time of rest in LA is an opportunity to take care of all kinds of errands, such as the various medical appointments I’ve managed here as well.

Today I needed to clean out the bladder of my hydration pack. I hadn’t had to do so yet, amazingly; the water had continued tasting reasonably fresh this whole time, since September. But yesterday I started tasting some mold. Yuck!

I can get so nervous about doing any kind of physical chore. I’m always afraid I’m going to screw things up. How was I going to clean this bladder? I’d never even taken it fully out of the pack. I pictured that I would put it back in wrong, and not be able to figure out how to get it right. That’s assuming I could even clean it effectively.

These are the kinds of stressors that catch me on this trip. As long as things are going smoothly, there is no problem. But when something starts to go wrong, I realize just how crucial these things are, and worry that they will be somehow ruined. I need that hydration pack on a daily basis! I supposed that in a worst-case scenario, I could simply pitch the bladder and buy a new one. But of course I didn’t want to do that.

Anyway, I Googled how to do it, and I was pleased to discover that I was indeed capable of this minor feat. I used some bleach and warm water, and took several photos of how the bladder and its tube are threaded within the pack, so that I could reassemble it OK.

Mission accomplished! I was feeling good.

Another task I had been putting off for a few weeks, but knew I wanted to do before leaving LA, was to inflate all my tires: the two on the bike and the two on the trailer.

This, of course, I have done many times on this trip. It’s not difficult; it just takes a few minutes. Today I decided to do this before leaving the house.

But I hit a snafu this time. (Oh, the irony: cleaning the pack was easier than I thought. Pumping up the tires turned into a thing.)

I got the trailer tires just fine. Also the front tire of the bike. But then on the rear tire, as soon as I attached the pump and began inflating, I heard a big hiss. I thought maybe I hadn’t attached the pump well enough. As I pulled it off to try to reattach it to the valve, all the air hissed out of the tube. The gauge read zero.


I’ll make a long story as short as possible: I tried several times, and got nowhere.

Reluctantly, I decided to drive the bike to a shop that handles Bromptons. The closest one I could find was in Pasadena. I had considered trying to just replace the tube myself, but I found the prospect too intimidating. (I had watched a how-to YouTube video several times before embarking on this journey, and it had intimidated me. I watched a different one today, and it also intimidated me. There are a lot of steps involved. I pictured myself flubbing several of them, and ending up with a broken-down bike and a pile of parts sitting next to it. Then, of course, I judged myself—and anticipated others judging me if they knew of my reluctance to learn and practice to do this chore myself—which added to my anxiety.)

But then I decided, guess what? I’m not going to let shame and embarrassment affect my decision making. I get to make my own choices. I can choose to make things easy on myself if I want. And I happen to be in a metro area with several Brompton-certified bike shops. (Turns out there are more than the two the guy had told me about the other day.) I happen to have access to a car to transport the bike. I’m grateful (always, always!) that this particular bike folds up so small, so that if I do have mechanical trouble, I can transport it in a car—whether I’m driving or someone else is, like a host or a Lyft driver—to a bike shop.

So, yes: once again, I chose to lean into the support I have around me, rather than berating myself for not being “good enough”/tough enough/mechanically savvy enough to do everything myself. I find it a poignant lesson, and it’s one I’m continually learning on this trip. Maybe later there will come a time when I really do need to figure out this stuff for myself. But that’s the hypothetical future. In the actual present, I’m choosing to be gentle with myself.

So. I packed up the bike and took it to Pasadena Cyclery. They were willing to work on it, but told me it might take an hour. I was initially disappointed that it wouldn’t be instantaneous, but then decided to check out a highly rated vegan Asian-fusion restaurant in Pasadena, Naughty Vegan. I dropped off the bike and headed over to the restaurant.

I was quickly reminded again how much I don’t enjoy driving. Finding the restaurant was pretty easy, but finding parking was a trial, and I had to pay for it, and it was complicated to pay for it as well: I had to find the pay station before returning to the car, and insert my ticket and then my credit card to pay, before then getting back in the car and driving out of the garage.

The meal was nice, and although it was not exactly toasty to eat outside (low 50s) at least it wasn’t raining.

I returned to the shop. The mechanics had replaced the tube, although even they were stymied as to what the problem had been. Many of my Facebook friends had speculated—based on my “help” post earlier, when I had thought of trying to fix it myself—that it was a problem with the valve. But the mechanics visually went over the old tube in front of me, and couldn’t find a puncture in the tube, nor any apparent mechanical problem with the valve. It was odd, and I’m a bit concerned that the problem might recur somehow, but I did do a test ride once I left the shop, and the new tube seemed to be working fine. (It’s still fully inflated now; I just checked.)

Meanwhile, I had asked them to give the bike a quick once-over to see if there were any other adjustments or safety issues I should be aware of before I get on the road again. They did find some gearing adjustments—on both shifters—and tuned them up for me, at no additional cost, which I appreciated. (I did notice that they had quoted and charged me $25 labor for the flat repair, rather than the $15 they advertised on their sign, which I assume is because it’s trickier to change a Brompton tire—especially the rear one—than a regular bike’s tire. I was happy to pay it, for the peace of mind of having knowledgeable mechanics do the work—plus some extra—to get me back on the road.)

So… this was not how I had hoped to spend this sunny day. But in addition to trying the new-to-me restaurant, I decided to indeed stop again at Donut Friend on the way home. They were almost sold out for the day, but I did manage to nab the last jelly doughnut they had, which I thoroughly enjoyed consuming after I got home.

I don’t like mechanical snafus. But I am so grateful that all of this infrastructure was in place for me today—as well as plentiful time to handle the issue—and no rain to navigate while driving today. The situation could have been a lot worse.

I’ve got at least a couple more days in LA, both of which I expect to be rainy. I’ll be doing some laundry and cleaning. Perhaps some phone calls or Zooms with friends and/or clients.

One other thing I’ve been exploring during all this rainy down-time here is creative expression, and music in particular. On Christmas day, it spontaneously occurred to me to record a “duet” of myself with myself, singing one of my favorite winter songs (which I learned in 8th grade chorus class, and still remember both the soprano and baritone parts). It is by no means polished, but I would like to share it here, in case you’d like to listen.

I’m thinking a lot lately about music and singing, including some of my original songs from years ago. Maybe I’ll do more… we’ll see.

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