One Monday, I got a flat tire on my bike on the way to work. I cursed and walked the bike the rest of the way. I had too much stuff to do to fix that day, so I parked it in the office and walked home.
I walked to work for a week before I finally got around to changing the tire. Tire off, replace the inner tube, tire back on, pump up. I started riding home, and... the tire immediately went flat again. A brand-new inner tube! I walked the bike the rest of the way home, severely frustrated and agitated.
Of course I had checked the inside of the tire and the outside of the rim for pointy foreign objects before replacing the inner tube. I'm not dumb, I know you're supposed to do that. So what went wrong? I didn't want to replace the inner tube again just to have it fail again. Hmmm.
Finally I took out the second failed inner tube and tried pumping it up. I didn't even have to put it underwater to find the hole -- the air stream shooting out was very obvious. I checked the first failed inner tube. Yup. Hole in exactly the same place. The same thing killed both tubes!
I found the matching part on the tire and examined it very very closely. There was a tiny shard of glass embedded completely inside the rubber of the tire. Invisible from the outside, and didn't protrude far enough in to be noticed when I checked the inside. Lurking, invisibly. That's why the inner tube was fine when I put it on -- but as soon as I put weight on that part of the tire, it forced the glass shard inward to stab the inner tube.
It was like a puzzle from an adventure game. Or like debugging a physical object.
I miss riding my bike
Despite the fact that I have installed new kevlar puncture-resistant tires, I've had my back tire go flat 3 times in a row, and it's driving me crazy!
After the first flat, I found a big industrial-sized metal staple stuck in the tire. Obvious source of puncture. OK. pulled it out, put in a brand-new inner tube, pumped up and rode home.
Everything seemed to be fine, but the next morning, the tire was flat again. Inner tube number 2 had a slow leak apparently.
I put the second inner tube in a sink of water to find the hole. I was right near the valve. I checked the inside and outside of the tire near there to see what could have caused the puncture, but couldn't find anything.
So I shrugged and put in a third inner tube. I rode to work, and everything seemed fine. At the end of the day, it was still full of air. I thought I was out of the woods.
But then I rode home, and sure enough, when I got to my door I heard a loud hiss; a few minutes later the back tire was once again completely flat.
Three punctures out of three rides. Three brand new inner tubes gone flat with no obvious common cause. Very mysterious.
Since my bike apparently can't handle being ridden more than once before needing an inner tube replacement, I've been walking to and from work all month long. This sucks because while it's a 10-minute bike ride, it's about a 35-minute walk. Multiply by 2 for there and back again and you can see that I'm losing almost an hour a day of potentially productive time.
I'm at a loss for what to do. Do I need to replace my back tire, or my whole back wheel? Buy a different brand of tubes? Switch to a mountain bike? Give up and get used to walking?
Moving to Palo Alto
We've been feeling for a while like it's about time to move out of our current apartment. It's got a lot of drawbacks - the water from the faucets is yellowish and metallic, the dishwasher has never worked, the landlord won't fix anything, and the tiny concrete slab they call a "patio" is too drippy to be usable.
Sushu's parents happen to have a spare house in Palo Alto, so they asked us if we'd like to live there and pay rent to them.
(This is how badass Sushu's parents are: When they came to this country, they owned nothing but $30 and some pans. They were smart and worked hard and started a successful business and now they have "spare" houses in Palo Alto. It's a real "American Dream" kind of success story.)
The only drawback of the new place is that it triples the length of my bike ride to and from work - from 15 minutes to 45 minutes. A 45-minute bike ride is just barely still doable. For days when it's raining, there's a bus. The bus takes just as long, if not longer, than biking, since it takes a circuitous route and stops every ten yards.
December in the bay area is very rainy and dark; just about the worst time to be trying out new long-distance bike rides. I spent last week figuring out biking routes and bus stops by trial and error, getting to work late, wet, and tired, and getting home later, wetter, and tireder. It put me in a bit of a grouchy mood, but I think I've figured it out now.
The advantages are many. There's free oranges. There's more space. Washer and dryer are inside the house and don't cost quarters. There's a jacuzzi, which seems to be broken right now, but will be nice if we can figure out how to get it working. I am already salivating at the prospect of turning the garage into my own private workshop for various mischief. There are no longer neighbors right on the other side of the wall, so I can play accordion after 9pm and not worry about the noise. The kitchen has miles and miles of counter space. All this and we'll actually be paying less in rent.
And Sushu has a much shorter drive to work; short enough that she could start biking, which is a fair trade-off for my longer ride.
Palo Alto (Spanish for "Tall Pole" or "Tall Tree") is the site of Stanford university, which makes it essentially the dark heart from which the evil blood of Silicon Valley flows. I didn't think it was possible, but Palo Alto is even more frou-frou than Mountain View. It's, like, full of "old money", or as old as money gets in California anyway. Living here will give me lots of opportunities to write snarky blog posts making fun of the snobs and yuppies.
For my friends in the area, I'd like to have a housewarming / board-game party once we're fully set up (sometime in January probably) so you can all come and enjoy the space. Stay tuned!
It was sunny when I left!
It doesn't snow here, but in the winter it rains a lot. When it's rainy I'll take the bus to work.
It was sunny when I left home, so I took my bike. But pretty soon it started misting, then drizzling. With the sun still shining - that rare combo-weather. Then the clouds came in and it was just plain raining. By the time I got to work I was drenched and had mud and road-grit splattered all the way up to my knees.
Should have checked the weather report before I left, I guess, but I hate checking weather reports. It's like reading spoilers before you see a movie. Takes all the surprises away.
Finally fixed my back wheel
I've been riding my bike hard for the last few years, and it's gotten pretty dinged up. The back wheel picked up a wobble at some point, and then started breaking spokes. Each time a spoke broke the wheel would go out of alignment and then I'd have to set my brakes really loose to stop the rim from scraping on the pads. I would have to take it in to the shop to get the spoke fixed, since I didn't have the tools to do it myself. Anyway the problem was just getting worse and worse so recently I decided to replace the whole back wheel.
The bike shop near the office (Cognition Cyclery on Castro street) didn't have the right wheel in stock, but they said they'd order it for me. They named a date. A week went by. The date passed. They said they had to cancel the first order and try again. I went to Peru for a week and came back. I started dropping by the shop every day on my way home from work just to check. Still no wheel. It finally came in on Tuesday, nearly three weeks after I first ordered it.
It seems that somehow, there was only like one of these wheels left in the country, and it was in South Carolina. (I had no idea my bike used such rare parts.)
This morning I put an inner tube and tire on it, clamped it into place, and had my first bike ride in three weeks. Felt good.