Sometimes the bike tour looses it’s luster and today, the thrill is long gone. Today Brooke and I had a bit of a setback, and we spent some time becoming acquainted with what I remember from undergrad Intro to Psych class as the five stages of grief. Remember those? Yeah, I actually don’t really remember them either. But, I do remember thinking the whole idea sounded a tad simplistic when applied to real, heart wrenching, uncontainable grief and thankfully, we weren’t dealing with that type of grief.
Today, we were merely dealing with the type of grief that accompanies a colossal mechanical failure of your bike which leaves you stranded in the woods 10 miles from Yellowstone National Park. And, I do believe this type of grief can be lumped into distinct categories beginning with our familiar friend Denial.
The Denial phase of this predicament definitely came first, and it lasted quite awhile. That part was easy, as denial can be so delightful sometimes. I went to shift my bike into an easier gear as I started to climb a hill, and my derailleur cable snapped, sending my chain flying down the rear cassette into the hardest gear I have. Well, I certainly wasn’t going up this hill any time soon, so I thought, eh, might as well turn around and sit by this beautiful lake and stare at the Tetons for awhile.
I didn’t miss a beat. I wholeheartedly embraced denial by sitting on the side of the road appreciating the beauty of the Tetons and not even glancing over at my strewn about gear and busted bike. It’s like I’d been fearing this moment for so long on this trip, that I didn’t even want to register it now that it was happening.
So, to further cement my casual coolness regarding the situation, I sent off shoulder shrugging text messages about how I wasn’t that worried at all. It was quite pleasant actually, siting there believing that the bike mechanic fairy would arrive any minute. Alas, someone did come, and he winced at my snapped derailleur cable, then he tied it in a knot and said, “well, now you have two gears, that’s better than one!” Then he merrily skipped off to his RV aptly named Intruder, and pulled away.
Hmmm. That got to me a little, and led right in the Anger stage. To be precise, I’ve entitled this stage ‘Unmitigated Anger at all RV Drivers’. It’s not pretty or rational, but they are such an easy target. Even when you aren’t experiencing the frustrations of a broken bicycle in the middle of a national forest, making fun of RVs and blaming them for ruining your day is so easy.
Life while bicycling the country gets boring sometimes, so Brooke and I had already begun entertaining each other at the end of the day by comparing the ridiculous names of the RVs that have passed us by. Usually, we just laugh. But, today I hated them all. Their lives were so simple, with their motors, air conditioning, satellite dishes, and SUVs in tow. I sat there smirking, Oh, here comes Viewfinder, followed by Endeavor, and oh look Suncatcher is pulling up towing his SUV! They all are emblazoned with stupid names suggesting their ability to conquer nature, or become one with it. But, as we know, anger rarely gets anyone anywhere. So, I moved on to the bargaining phase.
To be accurate, I like to call it ‘Bargaining with Complete Strangers’ and only as a last straw, God. All of a sudden, I had renewed strength to deal with this situation, I was going to be proactive! I took charge! First, I called some bike shops, only to find out that they were 50, 70, and 90 miles away. But, I would not be discouraged!
Next, we called a ranger, who was helpful and gave us a short 15 mile ride back the direction we came, towards the nearest bicycle shop 50 miles away. As we were unloading our gear from the ranger’s truck, and simultaneously wondering how on earth I was going to ride 35 miles in an unrideable gear to the bike shop, I made somewhat pathetic eye contact with the driver of an RV called Arctic Fox. His name was Buck, and he offered to give us a ride to the bike shop, after all, he was just out driving around, he said. I admit, after my afternoon of badmouthing all RVs I held my head in shame as I gladly accepted the ride. Buck, his sister and her husband were coming back from Sturgis, and were just killing time before heading home. They offered to drive us all the way to the bike shop!
40 miles later we arrived at the bicycle shop. I honestly thought the bicycle repair would take about 10 minutes. I was wrong. The cable broke off in a terrible place, and it fell into the shaft of my STI shifter. It was virtually impossible to fish it out. The bike mechanic cursed, muttered to himself, blatantly announced that this was his idea of a real pain in the ass as I stood beside him holding the flashlight, trying my best to show my appreciation and support. When it was all said and done, the mechanic was able to fish out the piece of cable and fix the bike, all for $12! Brooke and I loaded up the bikes, and set off to find a place to camp. We were back where we set off from two days before, which was discouraging but at least the bike was fixed!