Friday, August 1, 2014

Miles of Exploration on Two Wheels

For part of this summer while my Raleigh Sports was in pieces being restored, I rode my mountain bike all over the place, finally getting to explore the town that I grew up in for the last fifteen years. In relation to that and the anticipated completion of the Raleigh, I started to think about all of the times I cruised (or bolted) around Ann Arbor during the school year trying to discover new places and the specific riding experience that the rough, unrestored bike provided.

On one evening right after the term had ended, I was ridiculously bored and felt the urge to hop on my bike.  I decided to see if I could reach Gallup Park which was pretty much a few miles down the street, to the southeast of my dorm.  I turned the corner, noticing the red, white, and blue lights at the top of the VA healthcare building that are sadly blocked by the stoplight pole in the above photo.

I headed east along Fuller on a poorly-maintained sidewalk, passing Ann Arbor's Huron High School.  My front fork clattered loudly for a reason unknown at the time, but I know now that it was because the bearings were a bit loose.  The nice, green '76 Plymouth Valiant in the other photo resides at an apartment north of central campus and seems to have the venerable slant-six engine.

A few days earlier, I had fried my incandescent Dynohub headlight bulb by going to fast so I looped this tiny flashlight onto the brake cables, thinking it would make me at least somewhat visible to drivers.  I don't think it worked well at all.

I passed under the bridge that carried Huron Parkway and civilization slowly faded away ... sort of.

As expected, night progressed as I was passing through the unlit path of the park.  I started feeling uneasy, a feeling compounded by the fact that my headlight wasn't functional at the time.

I still used the opportunity to capture some photos and it took my inexperienced self some time to get the camera settings right.  Although streetlights are visible in the distance, the path was still dark.  Maybe I'm lucky to have gotten out safely.

I passed under the Huron Parkway bridge again, this time on the opposite side of the river.  I decided it was time to head home and I'd come back to explore tomorrow.  The photo above shows the VA hospital lights a bit more clearly.

Upon returning to the campus that night, I grabbed a steel Wald basket from a bike that was disintegrating into the ground.  I initially tied it to the rack with pieces of a metal coat hanger and wound a piece of denim on the frame to protect it.  On my trip back down to the park the next day, it rattled loose on Fuller's sidewalk as I had predicted and I pulled over for a roadside repair.  The duct tape would serve well for the next two months.

The park was a little less interesting in the daylight, but it still offered miles of nice trails to ride or run on.

I retraced my path from the previous night, wondering if bicycles were actually allowed on some parts of the trail.

I've always loved travelling on boardwalks for some reason.  It was nice to find a bit of it in the park.

It turns out they did label parts of the trails that did not allow bikes so I stayed off of those.  I rode east along the Huron River for a couple miles and eventually came to the other end of the park, called Parker Mill County Park.

My bike was not very well-suited to the often-uneven and choppy pavement, forcing me to ride much slower than people on mountain bikes.  Actually, it probably would have been fine but the noise of the basket made the whole bike seem weaker.

I headed back west and encountered this beast of a Ford F-650 with some kind of strange, extended nose.  It might be an experimental vehicle or something custom made.  I'm guessing there's a large, non-Ford straight six diesel under the hood that necessitated the extension.

Passing the entrance of the park, I figured I'd explore toward the west.  I encountered a friend along the way who was out for a jog.  I rode down the path and suddenly found myself on the back side of Mitchell Field, part of the campus that I was familiar with.  I didn't know until this point that Gallup Park was so accessible and now I won't have to put my bike through that torture on Fuller Road's sidewalk if I am to come again.

As I made my way up to my dorm, I noticed that the front tire was a bit lower than I'd remembered and that it was getting flatter and flatter, gradually.  When I finally parked, it was almost unfit to ride.  I didn't find any thorns sticking out so I tried to think back to any places where I could have gotten a pinch flat.  It could have been when I was getting on one of the many bridges.  The bridges have cement squares at both ends and I remember carefully easing my bike over a particularly tall square, feeling a second thump as my rim squished the tire all the way down onto the edge of the square.  The rim probably pinched the tube through the tire and cut a hole.  I didn't fill my tires before the trip so that was my fault.  I walked to the bike shop and brought an inner tube back to replace but the new tube also became flat after a couple hours.  I figured I must either have something in my tire or I could have broken the tube myself so I carried my bike all the way to the shop to have the pro install the new tube.  Once again, that tire became flat overnight and I carried the bike back for a second time.  The shop owner Joel was nice enough not to charge me because he didn't find anything sharp in the tire and figured he must have accidentally pinched the tube while installing it.  I haven't had any problems since.