By Ben |

[posted to the Wheeled Migration Yahoo Group on November 16, 2004]

Hi, folks! I'm at the home of my friend Jimmy, whom I've known since preschool, and who joined this list three months ago without knowing it was mine. :-) He's been showing me the photos from his own cross-country bike ride in 1996.

It's not an accident that when I last wrote you on Sunday night I didn't say anything about Sunday: it was an awful day, and I didn't want to write until I'd had a chance to put it in perspective! I had planned to ride all the way from Lake Texoma to Wylie, near Plano, in time to meet my friend Sara and her family for dinner. But it became clear by early afternoon that I had been overly optimistic... not only are the Texas maps drawn at a much smaller scale than I'm used to, but my knees were hurting more than ever and really slowing me down. I called Sara, and we arranged to meet in McKinney, where I would get a hotel before dinner. Two hours later I called her again to say I wouldn't get into McKinney until about 8:00! Since her three-year-old son is on a strict schedule, we had to cancel our dinner plans.

Having promised myself a hotel, I passed up a number of nice-looking unofficial campsites and one crummy-looking official one and kept riding after nightfall. At one point there was a gap in traffic and i heard a flap-flap-flap noise behind me -- how long had the trailer had a flat tire? I'll never know. Over two hundred cars must have passed me while I fixed the tire, and not one stopped to ask if I needed help... I was pretty disgruntled. But I found a very nice, inexpensive hotel in McKinney, and I bought a pizza and a bottle of wine, and I gave my knees a hot soak and an ice pack and had myself a good old-fashioned pity party.

Things looked better on Monday morning. What a difference to be able to plot my progress on street maps instead of regional topographic maps! Suddenly I was covering five inches an hour instead of an inch every five hours! I slept in and was still able to meet Sara and her son for lunch in Plano. My rear tire went flat during lunch, but no sweat: Jimmy had told me about a bike "mecca" in Richardson, which was on my way into town, so I swung by and bought a durable new tire and tube, and I asked the staff whom I should see about my knee pain. They recommended one of their own part-time employees who is also a chiropractor. I was skeptical, but I left a message for him.

Monday evening I arrived at the home of my friend Chris and his wife Courtney, in Dallas proper. Last I had heard from Chris, he was active in some Republican groups at the U of Texas, but he now calls that a phase... now that he's a lawyer, he takes corporations to court for making respirator masks that aren't up to standard, and other such environmental offenses. His home is almost as "green" as Bill's in Cincinnati, which is saying something. Courtney is a grad student in social work. They have a bear-sized, one-eyed dog named Ollie and a medium-sized, overstuffed dog named Jack.

Tuesday morning everything happened at once: as Chris was leaving for work, I got calls back from the chiropractor guy and from the Texas Sports Clinic. On instinct I passed up an appointment with the clinic to meet with the chiropractor. He lived in Chris's neighborhood, so he picked me and my bike up on his way to the shop I had visited the day before. He gave me some tips about how to load the bike more evenly, then fitted me for proper shoes and insoles and pedals that clip to them. Using a special bike in the shop, he found the exact alignment of pedals I needed to prevent the harmful motions my knees had been making, and he installed my new pedals that way. Then he marked the proper seat position on my bike so that I can keep the pedals at the right distance -- fully three inches farther than I'm used to. He said there was no reason I shouldn't be able to ride out tomorrow.

So after another bike seller gave me a ride back to Chris's, I tried out the new equipment on my way to Irving, which is between Dallas and Fort Worth. Jimmy had warned me that Dallas was not a bike-friendly city, and on this stretch I could really see what he meant! In addition to heavy traffic and unreliable sidewalks and shoulders, I got two flat tires in as many hours. The new pedals will take some getting used to, but I think they're helping already.

But I did get to Jimmy's place by dark. He's a full-time grad student in developmental neuropsychology, and his wife Blythe works in physical therapy at the same university, and their 15-month-old daughter goes to daycare there as well. Come to find out, Jimmy's younger brother now practices physical therapy in Norman, Oklahoma, where I tried to find help for my knees last week! I guess I should have made more small-talk with Jimmy in advance of my visit! ;-)

Anyhow, all is well, and I'm headed out of the metro area tomorrow. I'll stop and see the dinosaur footprints and smell the flowers and rest the knees on my way into Austin, so I can't say yet just when I'll arrive there, but I'll keep you posted!

Q: You must share with us your method for shelling pecans while riding.

A: OK, then, I will! I crack the pecan by squeezing it in my fist against the metal tube of the handlebar, lengthwise. Then I rotate it on its long axis and crack it again, until the shell is shattered like a hard-boiled eggshell. I transfer it to the fingers of the hand I'm steering with, and use the free hand to pick the shell away. About 2/3 of the time, I get the nut meat out in two more-or-less intact halves; the other 1/3 of the time the meat shatters along with the shell, or the shell cracks crosswise so that the meat is nearly impossible to remove. But when I'm getting the nuts for free off the roadside, I can afford to waste a few.

Happy shelling! --Ben