Monday, August 16, 2010

Adventuring in London

Day One

Of course, while the weather has been lovely in the UK all summer, now that I’m here, it’s rain rain rain. And cold. Naturally. Stacey and I plan to go riding, but first we need to pick up my bike, NOT from the “Tri ‘N Run” people where we rented the clown bike from last time. That was the one that didn’t shift, didn’t brake, and had an unstable seat clamp so my saddle would suddenly go lurching into a rather severe and precarious backward tilt.

We have breakfast – I have yogurt, planning to stick to my stringent nutrition plan even while on vacation – and off we go. And amazingly enough, the bike from this We Ride Bikes place is, in fact, only a semi-clown bike. Sweet! The brakes at least seem to work, the seat doesn’t shift around, and the shifters, well, they suck, but at least they kind of work. Better than last time at least.

Today’s highlights:

· My almost falling in front of a car, in heavy London traffic. Oops. Luckily I managed to clip out in time – thank god for all the riding I did this summer, where that’s second nature by now. Otherwise I’d be looking like a pancake at the moment - or a flapjack, as they call it here. I think.

· Stacey and I riding to Windsor, getting stuck in the rain, it starting to get dark, and then having the following conversation:

Me: Aren’t you hungry? It’s 5:30. We haven’t eaten since breakfast.

Stacey: But we haven’t even been riding hard, just toodling along.

Me: Okay, let’s ignore the fact that my heart rate has been through the roof all along due to weaving and dodging in and out of cars. But even if we were just standing around all day, we’d still need more calories than that. Or at least I would. You’re about a third the size of me.

Stacey: But ^&*hakjdhY&*&#$^*IUFE*&hmph…….

Somehow Stacey suddenly wound up with a sock in her mouth, though I have no idea how that happened. Odd. I was busy eating an oatcake, so what do I know?

· The letter I composed to Shimano in my head, which started out thusly: “To the good folks at Shimano: I’m not quite sure where your fine engineers got the idea that people who buy inexpensive bikes deserve shifters that don’t quite work properly and that clink and whine and clunk horribly once they do deign to shift, curmudgeonly at that. In other words: how dare you make such pieces of crap as these horrible Sora shifters, that deserve a special rung in hell for all the misery they’ve caused?” It went on, but you get the general idea.

· I suddenly and inexplicably start speaking with a British accent, on Titchfield Rd. Somehow that kind of road calls for it. Bloody hell and all that.

Day Two

We have to return my bike today, so to “simplify” things, Stacey is going to use one of the new rental bikes around the city, and we’ll bike to the shop and return the rental bike there. The only problem with this is the following: the thing weighs about 100 pounds, is clunky and unwieldy, and Stacey looks like the Wicked Witch of the West on it as she rides in front of me. Okay, that last part isn’t a problem – it’s actually kind of funny, as I keep cracking up and humming the WWotW tune to her: da da de de daaa da…..

The other big problem with it is that it takes a lot of effort for Stacey to get it going, and just about as much effort to get it to stop. Oh, and surprise, the shifters don’t work very well. Which is why when we’re riding along, Stacey ahead of me, and she goes in between cars up an on-ramp and gets to the red light – she keeps going, turning to the left. And because I don’t know what the hell I’m doing, I just follow her, as I’ve been doing all along.

Which is when the police pull up beside us and ask us to stop up ahead. Oops.

Police Officer/Gendarme (I like that word): Do you know why we stopped you?

Stacey: No.

POG: You ran the red light.

Stacey: Do you have any idea how horrible cars are in this city to cyclists? I ride my bike to work every day and I see so many of them breaking laws and I’ve been hit twice….

POG: BE that as it may, the city has assembled a task force to crack down on cyclists, so I’m afraid we’ll have to fine you and write you a ticket. It’s dangerous, what you just did. Just a few days ago I had to deal with an accident where a woman on a bike was crushed by a lorry.

Me: That’s horrible. But how do we pay the fine?

POG: You can’t pay now, you have to go to court and pay it.

Stacey: But we’re leaving for France tomorrow!

POG: When do you get back?

Me: We get back the 25th, and I go back to the US on the 26th.

Things aren’t looking good, Stacey is about to start arguing with them again, so I figure the time for action is now. And somehow I don’t think explaining how we got this horrible rental bike that means Stacey is trying to not stop at all……well, let’s just say I don’t think that would go over too well.

Me, earnestly: And I just want to say, I had no idea about the no left turn on red rule – in the US, you can turn right on red, which is the equivalent.

POG: Cyclists have to follow the same rules as cars…

Me, totally sucking up: Oh, I know! Absolutely! I just mean I thought we were, with the whole right turn on red rule that I thought was okay here.

This is where they start playing Good Cop Bad Cop.

POG 1: Well, what I’m going to have to do is make you both go to court tomorrow morning to take care of this…….except I’ll leave that decision to my partner here.

I turn my repentant yet pleading, beseeching yet conciliatory, Sad Cancer Face to POG #2.

POG 2: Lecture lecture lecture etc. and so on……… “… I won’t make you go to court this time, but consider this a warning.”

Whew! They were actually quite nice about the whole thing, and I guess if you’re stupid enough to – right in front of police officers - break a traffic law you didn’t know about (at least in my case) or are trying to pilot a tank-like bike through the streets of London (Stacey), then you at least deserve to be chastised.

Next up: Getting out of London while the getting is good, to start our awesome Alp Cycles trip! Oh yeah, and my bike crash on day one. Five miles in. No, really. No lie.

No comments: