05 May 2010

Get it into gear...

Yes, this IS what I have been saying to myself for the last four days since I decided to stay up all night to ring in May Day, which is commemorated by a choir singing from the top of a tower at the ungodly hour of 6am (clearly, you have to stay up all night because who can get up in time to be someplace at the obscene hour of 6 am?) and a days worth of street-performances. The staying-up-all-night itself was well worth it, however, the reason for staying up all night was, well, underwhelming. And I can't really speak to the street performances, because I was only awake for about 9 hours of May Day itself and 6 of those came before the celebrations officially began (midnight-6 am for those of you who are struggling with the math).

24 hours after my all-nighter, my freshly-minted theory of the "balanced sleep accounts" was looking strong. I had recently decided that whenever I got less than my nightly allotment of sleep (which is at least 8 hours), my body kept track of the deficit until it was eventually made up. This was confirmed by my sleep performance--most of May Day and then after a few hours awake, a full nights sleep the next night. But since that time it is beginning to look like in addition to my body's commitment to getting a full-night's sleep, it has been confused into thinking that it deserves a full-day's sleep as well. Despite banking full-sleep payments the past few days I seem to be craving sleep at a level beyond normal.

Honestly, that is neither here nor there. Because while I have been telling myself to get it into gear, and this saying has been appropriate for my abysmal blogging performance over the last few weeks, it really has taken on a whole new meaning with ACE (my good old green bicycle). Therein lies the story. (Sorry for the rambling set-up. If you need to take a break and come back, I understand.)

So, on Tuesday in what must have been a moment of recklessness, mischief, or carelessness, my bike went from a sturdy 18-speed 1996 Gold Toyota Camry (maybe its door-handle is broken, maybe it requires some seat-covers, but it still runs and has been pretty reliable over the years)--not pretty but gets you where you need to go--to a 1989 Ford Tempo. And no, I don't mean a 1989 Ford Tempo when I was driving one in 2002, I mean whatever a 1989 Ford Tempo would run like if you could still find one on the road in 2010. You see, my formerly 18-speed ugly but effective bike is now a 1.5 speed death trap. Ok, it has two speeds....kind of.

I suppose it depends on how you define speeds. Two days ago, I approached my bike--right where I had left it locked to a pole--unlocked it, and tried to pedal away to dinner. However, I discovered that the chain was off. No big deal. That has happened before, and I knew that I could get my hands dirty, get it fixed, and still make it to dinner on time. But then I discovered that the gears had been bent ever-so-not-so-slightly so that the chain was lodged and unmovable. After trying to hammer out the bent gears with an umbrella handle (the hardest object I could find in reach), I realized that I was doomed to walk. I brooded all the way to dinner--which was far away--about how ridiculous I was going to look "iron-manning" it and throwing my bike over my shoulder to try to get it somewhere to get repaired. I mean, I get dirty looks for wearing workout clothes and exercising in public.

But my concerns ended up being exaggerated as one of our friendly porters at Rhodes House is apparently a bike expert and my bike will still roll, the pedals just won't turn. (Don't worry, I still made it a sight to be seen. In an effort towards efficiency I determined that it would be quicker to sit on the bike and scoot along than to walk beside it. When studying for exams, every little bit helps). Thanks to Colin, my bike is operational again. He worked miracles to save the bike, but it DID lose 22-23 gears in the process.

You see, now, I have two gears. One is the 2.6 gear (1-3 on the left, 1-8 on the left). When the bike is locked in here, things are pretty good. Sometimes, going up hills, things get tough, but the good news is that the bike is maintaining forward momentum. The other gear that I have is basically the lowest one on the bike. You know, the one that you feel like shouldn't count as a gear because you will never be able to use it. I mean, the only time when you would think about using it is if you were pedalling up a mountain, like directly up the side of a mountain. In that situation, this gear is the only one that you would be strong enough to keep using, but the only trick is that despite your pedalling, the bike would start rolling backwards. So you still wouldn't use it. That is my second gear.

To make matters worse, I don't actually get to pick which gear I use. The re-straightened gears still have a bit of a "wobble" in them, so from time to time, the chain just shifts between the two--often at very inopportune times. Like when riding down-hill. Or passing a bus. Or anytime that it isn't convenient for your feet to fly off your bike--which is pretty much all the time. So, now my bike has developed a mind of its own. I should probably call it Herby. Which I kind of like because it reminds me of my long-gone VW Beetle (I am sad when I think that it won't greet me when I get home...) which was treating me to "lights shows" in the interior due to some electrical short. My modes of transportation just have a lot of personality. And the good news is that I think I can make this thing work for another year and avoid buying another one. And that is what really matters.

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