Every vacation comes with that one day when Nothing Really Goes As Planned.
For me, that day was Thursday.
I got up early, psyched and ready for a great day. The plan? Throw my bike on a bus and do an extensive cycling tour of Kelowna for my last day in town. I’d pick up some ingredients to make a good dinner, and would have some Me Time around the water. Good stuff, I figgered. Easily done!
Or was it?
Well, the bus thing didn’t go so well. I went to the stop I was supposed to go to, according to Those Who Supposedly Knew, but when the bus blew past me, I ate an ugly roaming fee and called the transit system. Turns out my earlier assessment was right: That the only thing worse than transit in Vancouver is transit in Kelowna, who has a system which only makes sense to the fucking people who work for the company. Next thing you know, I’m cycling three kilometres away to catch a “local” bus.
I get downtown, only an hour later than planned. I start taking in the sites, but then head to my breakfast joint I’ve been lusting after. Instead of the happy, fun service I was expecting at a hippy joint called The Grateful Fed, I get the surly pissy “We’re So Fucking Hot” service you find at “it” joints that don’t need to cater to clientele because you’re just fucking lucky they let degenerates like you through the door in the first place. The food was good, but the service needs to pull their arrogant heads from their uppity asses.
I take my leave after digesting some 60 pages of my book. It’s sweltering, but, hey, I dig that shit. I head south along the inimitable Okanagan lakeshore, figuring, “Well, I’ll take pictures on my way back. Just soak in the sights for now.”
And then I reach the bridge, which was gonna be my Break Time divider. “Just on the other side,” I think, “I’ll chow down on another heavy section of the book, take a breather, then carry on my merry cyclist way.”
I come off the gravel of the bridge’s underpass, thinking my bike feels weird. I peer down between my legs — the back tire’s as flat as they get.
“FUCK. Fine. FUCK. Fine, fine, fine. Fuckety-fuckety FUCK.”
So, I drop the bitch in some shade on some overpriced house’s front lawn, and proceed to wrangle the back tire off, fighting with the chain-and-sprocket dealie. My hands are schmeared already with grease and dirt, don’t even ask about my thighs. I grab the patching kit and the multitool, and try to pry the tire off the rim.
“WAIT! Is there any point?”
So, I turn the tire, only to discover — by way of schmushing my hand into it — that there’s some post-nuclear green sludge embedded all over the middle of the tire… and now my hand’s covered in the slime. What is the post-nuclear sludge? Never did find out. Would YOU investigate? My god. Ew.
Oh, and then I notice: The whole tire wall’s fucking shredded. I mean a 6-inch rip and a few other little tear holes. No point patching that bitch of a tube, the hour would never be regained and I’d still need to wait on some shop to swap my knobby tire out.
So I pack my shit and scrub my hands all over that unfortunate patch of grass, trying to get them degreased as much as I’m able after I struggle to getthe back tire mounted back into the frame. My thigh now has a tire-print crescent-mooning down my thighs, and sprocket prints are on my calves.
I am now the original dirty girl, filth covers me from head to toe.
I gulp my pride, suck it up, hoist the bike, and head up toward Pandosy Street, on which I remember seeing a bike shop in the ride home after the cheese-factory tour a few days before. A rollerblader careens around the corner.
“HEY! Are you a local?”
She halts. “Yeah, I am. What’s up?”
“I blew out a tire and I need a bike shop. Is there one nearby?”
“Oh, Kelowna Cycle! Yeah, just turn right on Pandosy.”
“Awesome! Is it near?”
She furrows her brows, ponders a moment. “Yeah, you know, I think, if you turn, it’s pretty much right there, or shortly after?”
Her uncertainty wasn’t too convincing, but I decided to drink the Kool-aid. “OH! AWESOME! Okay, thanks.”
So, I start pushing my wobbly weighted-down-already flat-tire bike. Okay, it’s not around the corner. I’ve already walked 1/2 a kilometre after cycling 12k beforehand.
Another five or six blocks passes. Nothing. Hmm. Another block or two, and this sexy fella’s headed my way — clearly a boarding/biking type with that body and hair.
“Excuse me? Can I ask you something?” Insert adorable smile and appeasing head-nod from pretty as-I’m-about-to-discover Aussie boy. “I was told there’s a bike shop down here? But they said I would’ve passed it already? Kelowna Cycle or something?”
“Oh! It’s still a way’s down. Not too far… maybe 6 or 8 blocks? If I was riding, it’d maybe take me five min — ”
“I’ve blown out my tire.” Insert Steff-pout here.
Boy laughs. “So you have! Pretty nice one there!” [laughs some more] “Well, okay, keep walking. There’s actually three shops, but Kelowna Cycle — ”
The conversation continues for a minute or two, and he keeps chuckling empathetically about the Really Fucking Badly Timed Vacation Tire Blow-out, then I saunter on my not-so-merry way, as the blistering Okanagan heat continues beating down on me — about 33 Celcius, or 100 Fahrenheit.
On I go. And on. And on. And on. In the end, I walked for about 45 minutes, or about 5 kilometres. The bike shop had a chuckle and snuck my bike ahead of queue — it’d be done within the hour.
A coffee shop let me do a cleanup of my now-grease/dirt-covered arms & legs, and salvage a little pride.
I never did make it for more photographs. I also never rode along the water again that day. The new $43 tire was awesome, but in the heat, it was all I could do to finish my shopping and journeying.
I finally get to the meat specialty shop I’d been so excited about visiting for some sausages. And what happens? No chicken, no turkey. Sigh. I bought things that weren’t gonna go with my dinner. And I tuck my insulated Les Amis Du Fromage bag under my sunscreen-obliterated arm, pay my bill, pull the bag out to pack the meat in, and now my arm’s covered in the brown and orange dye of the bag.
“Aww, shit! I just got all my flat tire grease and dirt off my arms and now I’m covered in dye? ARGH!”
The clerk laughs. “Wow, it’s not your day!”
“Yeah, the universe is telling me I ain’t meant to be pretty today, I tell ya.”
“I’d cancel any dates for tonight,” the clerk jokes. We both had a pretty big laugh.
But then the suffering ended. My day began to cooperate. I got my bike onto the bus, got home with the minimum of difficulty after cycling another 7-8 kilometres.
At day’s end, though, I’d walked more than 5 kilometres (while pushing a flat-tire bike with a saddlebag and rackpack on it) and cycled more than 27 kilometres.
After all that was said and done?
My back felt fucking awesome.
All in all… looks like I’m back, and in more ways than one. Viva le adventure. Even during the whole sordid experience, I had a good time. It amused me — but when my back was feeling good during all the walking, never experiencing any fatigue, I found myself enjoying this surprising onslaught of knowledge that my injured, frail back after 8 months of stupid fucking injury could now handle this kind of all-out insult-to-injury day.
Because that’s how we like to roll: With resilience.
Here’s to doing it the hard way and surviving. Because every adventure needs a story.