Date: March 14th 2017

From/To: Mansfield, LA/Greenwood, LA

Daily Mileage: 20 + 20 miles

Total Mileage: 830 miles

Conditions: Sunny and 60s

I woke up around 7:00 to some of the guys making coffee. The next shift was coming in at 8:00AM to relieve the previous shift, and the usual morning shenanigans was already underway. It really is like a family, everyone knows each other’s business, and people look out for each other. Roy and I had talked about this last night. Just in their crew, there’s a mechanic, electrician, plumber, handyman/craftsman, technology guy, a connection to some local restaurants in the area, among other trades. For the most part everyone comes from another profession, and they all help each other out just as any family would. I’ve really enjoyed seeing their companionship, not to mention the bond of firefighting creates and the trust they need to have with each other on that serious of a level.

The bike shop opened at 10AM, and Pat and I made it there by 9:55AM. We walked into the first shop and asked Dave, the owner, about truing a wheel. By “truing” I mean balancing the forces from the outer part of the rim to the hub, done by tightening and loosening particular spokes to find equilibrium. Dave told us he couldn’t fix the wheel himself, but he directed us to Scott over at Scooter’s, another bike shop in Shreveport. We got there around 10:30, hoping Scott would have me on my way by noon. I decided I was going to attempt the 80 mile ride to Henderson, Texas. That would prevent me from losing the day I’d made up, and keep me on track according to my planner. We walked into Scooter’s and met Scott, his wife, and their 10 month old german shepherd.

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He has an inner-tube in his mouth, I thought that was hilarious. I hope it was used because he wasn’t giving it up.
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Scott removing a broken spoke from the rim.

Scott took the wheel to the back and got to work immediately. He removed the broken spokes and replaced them. He then took the rim over to a measuring device that was able to determine any imbalance on the wheel. It’s a complex art form, truing a wheel. Watching Scott’s precision made me realize it takes years in the business to really master the skills he has. Needless to say I felt like I was in good hands. He marked the spokes he replaced with blue tape (remember that) and returned my bike to me.

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The wizard at work.

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The balancing levers on the truing device.

All was well. I felt like nothing could stop me now. I made my way out of Shreveport, happy that I wasn’t losing a day due to this incident. I zig zagged down to Buncombe Road, which would’ve linked me up with 79, taking me all the way to Henderson. 17 miles in, I heard a noise, not a good noise. “PING!” Another spoke. GREAT! I pulled over to the side of the road and sat there for a while. I thought about what I was going to do, I thought about how I was going to get out of yet another bind. No answers were coming to mind. I was far enough away from Scooter’s that I couldn’t just bike back and have it repaired again. But what other option did I have? I sat there a while, feeling bad about what had happened, trying to plan my next move. I stuck my thumb up in the air, and started flagging down cars. Several flew passed me without hesitation, until I saw and man and his wife driving down the road. I waved at them and they flew by me. Another failed attempt, or so I thought. Hitchhiking isn’t the safest thing to do these days, not only for the hiker but also for the drivers, and I get that. But when the going get tough, and there’s few options for the tough to get going, it may be the most rational choice aside from walking. Back to the man and his wife in the brown truck. They drove a ways down the road, until I thought they were long gone. Then I saw his rear break lights go on. He pulled off to the side, and I knew he was coming back to see what I needed. He pulled up, rolled down the window, and asked me what I was doing and where I was going. Yet another dose of luck, and I found my way out of this bind. They were heading into town, right by Scooter’s, and they were going to give me a lift there. I couldn’t believe it.

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Once more, I threw my bike into the bed of the truck, and we made our way back into town. I noticed his license plate said “Purple Heart” on it, so I had to ask him about that. He served his country and fought in the Vietnam War. He was shot twice before being sent home. I thanked him for his service and I didn’t ask anymore questions. I figured if he wanted to talk about it he would, and that was that. We drove back to Scooter’s in 20 minutes, about a quarter of the time it took me to get to where I was when I broke down. I’ve found that four is the multiplier for time when comparing biking to driving. Anywhere you want to get will take about four times as long on a bike as it will a car. Anyway, he dropped me at Scooter’s and Scott was there to save the day. I had broken a different spoke, one that he had not replaced (wasn’t marked with blue tape). This meant there were some issues with the spokes, perhaps a bad batch, or they were bent and damaged from the previous torque that had stressed the wheel to an imbalanced shape. He decided to replace all the spokes, and go from a 3 cross lace to a 4 cross lace. What that means is basically this; if you follow one spoke from start to finish, it will cross over 3 other spokes in a 3 cross, and over 4 spokes in a 4 cross. As you can see, a 4 cross requires longer spokes, that run a longer distance from the hub to the rim (I hope that wasn’t confusing). This gives stronger support and better force distribution, and hopefully it’ll prevent me from having anymore problems with my spokes, but who knows what’ll happen. It took about an hour and a half for Scott to change out the spokes. Afterwards, he sent me on my way once more, and I had to recover the ground I’d already covered, which was understandably frustrating but out of my control. I decided to shoot for the Fire Station in Greenwood LA, about 20 miles down the road from Shreveport. Pat had helped me out by contacting the local captain there, putting in a good word for me.

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I made it over there around 6:00PM, and met the three firemen and the captain on duty at the time. We sat around the living room for a while before everyone went to bed. I stayed up to catch up on my blog and other work. Tomorrow I’m planning a hull to Mineola, Texas. That should put me in range to hit Dallas by the following day, making up for lost time once more. I can only imagine what’ll attempt to hold me back next. Game on.

Enjoy The Ride,

-Matt