Once again, I laid in bed wondering: Do I really wanted to get up and go for a long ride on my bike or stay horizontal for a bit longer? The truth was, I wanted to have already ridden, have it behind me, be proud of my accomplishment, relish bragging rights, and like that. I just didn’t want to get started.
But I knew I was good for at least thirty miles, so why not go now. Most of my long rides start out this way – commit to the first half and see how I feel while I’m riding.
I rolled away from my house at 8:30 am, surprised how cool it felt. The temperature was in the low 70s, unheard of for August. Even the wind was minimal. Why did it take me so long when this was perfect summertime riding weather?
For the first two miles I was king of the road. I was amazing. I expected a call from Team Sky. But then I noticed more pebbles and ridges from the pavement than I should have. Flat tire. I slowed down and pulled into a paved alley where I could work without being in the street and seen by too many who might want to help.
I quickly flipped my bike over onto handlebars and saddle, pulled the back wheel trying to avoid the grease and grime from my chain. I unzipped my under-seat bike bag and everything fell out. A new tube, a CO2 canister and pistol-grip, my small tool kit, some spare change, a pair of folding reading glasses, and something else I don’t remember.
The tube went in perfectly and quickly, and I was proud of my dexterity, now wishing someone was there to observe and report. But when I tried to inflate the tube and tire, the plastic pistol-grip broke and the CO2 canister emptied explosively in my hand. (I used the word explosively as dramatic effect. It was a loud and surprising release, but not dangerous or as scary as I would’ve thought.) Luckily, I had my small six-inch back-up hand pump with me, and I used it to put in just enough air to ride back home.
Back in the garage I used my floor pump to put 90 psi in the tire and tube, made a quick pit stop, reset my bike computer, put a new tube inside my bike bag, took a photo of my broken inflator and texted it to Cyndi since nothing in the 21st-Century goes undocumented, and rolled away again. It was 9:07 am.
I didn’t have my second flat on the same wheel until four miles from home, somewhere along Mockingbird. I used my hand pump to add about 20 psi hoping I could get back home again, but as soon as I crossed the street and turned east I was flat again. I knew I had to change the tube. I was slowing down looking for a safe place when another rider pulled up behind me. “Looks like you’ve got a flat!”
“Afraid I do.”
“Well, pull over and we’ll fix it right now,” he said as he pulled over in front of me leaving me no choice but to stop immediately. I barely had time to unclip my shoe and avoid tumbling over into the barrow ditch. He was determined to rescue me. I don’t know if he thought I couldn’t do it myself, or if I was too lazy or too old, or if he was just the sort of guy who helps everyone with everything whether or not they want or need it. At least with two of us standing beside the road we made a larger image for passing motorists and decreased the likelihood of being swiped by a car.
I ran my fingers through the tire and discovered a very small yet persistent thorn that I’d picked up somewhere, an unusual occurrence for me. It had probably caused both flats. I should have found it the first time. I extracted the thorn, installed the new tube, he pumped up my tire with the small hand-pump, and I was back on the road to my house. When I got home this time I put my bike away. I was mentally disengaged. Done. Ready to move on to the next task of the day.
Back when I was in high school band and playing for football games, we’d play through our entire catalogue during the first two quarters, challenging the opposing band to better us, helping the cheerleaders with their cheers (when we weren’t making fun of them for not having rhythm). We worked hard at our job, which was to entertain our own fans and influence the outcome of the game by playing loudly whenever the other team had the ball.
And then during halftime when most people left the stands to get a drink and a snack and go to the bathroom, we went down to the field and marched our halftime show that we’d been working on for weeks.
But the band director usually gave us the third quarter off. He released us to go below the stands and enjoy a break. We’d earned it. We’d played well and loud and hard during the first part of the evening and now it was our time to relax.
I’ve been working on my next book, and thinking about living in the third quarter of life, which is most-often defined as ages 50-75. I’m now at the midpoint of that interval, and happy about it. It’s a good place to live. But unlike my marching band days, I want to spend my third quarter playing instead of going below to relax.
In his book, The Well-Played Life, Leonard Sweet proposes the big questions for each phase of life, and his third quarter questions are: “How can I become a master player and world changer? How can I be a coach to others? How can I be a healing presence for Christ in the world?” That’s where I want to play – within those questions.
I’m not sure how that fits with my Saturday morning ride and series of flat tires, but I should expect more mornings like that if I intend to keep moving. And I’m sorry for being such a grouch when I got help with my flat. I would apologize to my helper for my crankiness if I knew his name. One of the biggest third quarter lessons I have to learn is to let other people into my life more often.
“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32