Wednesday, December 4, 2013


Like a fish needs a bicycle
Ok, so the first thing that you should know is that sometimes I do really stupid shit.  The second thing you should know is that the sunk costs fallacy is strong with me.  Really damn strong.  And the third thing is that the tide was out, way out.

There was more land than water in the estuary and I don't know if the tide ever gets lower than it did and as I was coming to the part of the bridge overlooking the place where my hat ended up I was thinking about how much easier my hat retrieval would have been if the tide had been that far out.

This is a silly thought.  More land doesn't mean better land and the truth is that the higher above the water it sits the deeper into it you can sink.  Some of it is good solid firm ground and damned if there's a way to tell where those parts are without stepping on a lot of crap first.  Muck that's ready to suck you up.

Sea muck.

Mud, mollusks, and that salty smell.

But in itself there is no harm in a silly thought.

The universe, it seems, had prepared for my silly thought.

I looked over the bridge where my hat had ended up and there was indeed so much more land there than there had been during the whole hat incident thing.  But there was something else.  Something beyond the usual tires and occasional road thingies (like traffic cones.)

This the part where I wish I had had my camera with me because it was a fucking pristine looking bicycle and there is nothing that I can say that will communicate exactly how perfect it looked from up there.

Now I have no need of a bicycle.  I have a bicycle.  I need a tune up because it's sat in disuse for so long that it's probably all out of whack from sheer boredom, plus more air in the tires, but another bicycle... there's no way I could possibly need that.

And how did it end up there in the first place.  It was lying perfectly on its side (meaning, of course, that one handle bar was sticking straight down into the muck but that's hardly a major concern.)  How does that even happen?

Did someone throw it off the bridge?  Did it fall in upriver and then got stuck when it got to the shallows of the estuary?  If it did get thrown in, why would someone do that.  Clearly there was call for investigation.

Plus if you see a bicycle on the sometimes-seafloor/riverbed you can't just leave it there, can you.

I doubled back to where the bridge met the land, climbed down under it, tried to use the bridge-light to guide my way, was reacquainted with the fact that muck us impossible to judge on sight.  You simply cannot know.  Until you stand on it you have no idea if you're going to find it to be firm ground or sink right in.

Still, my major concern was this:

I was taking that bike.  What if someone had lost it by accident and decided it was too dark and was coming back for it as soon as low tide was during daylight.  I'd be stealing their bike.  that would be horrible.

It was when I got to the bike and saw the barnacles that I concluded that wasn't a problem.

Barnicles and all it still seemed a perfectly good bike.  I grabbed the handle bar and pulled.  The foamish fabricy guard on the handle bar came right off.  Right, bad idea.  I grabbed the frame and pulled.  (Well, first I put the handle cover back on the handle, then I did that.)  The muck did not want to let go.

But, finally, it did release the bike and that's when the problem of the bike became clear.  The front wheel was kaput.  At first I thought that maybe it had been thrown off the bridge and that was why, but that really doesn't work.  The reason that the bike -- one of the reasons that the bike had looked to be in good condition was that the wheel was exactly where it was supposed to be relative to the rest of the bike.  The only situation in which that could reasonably happen is if the wheel was still well attached when the entire thing got stuck in the muck and thus had its position fixed.  the degeneration of the spokes must have happened after that.  it had enough time for barnacles, why not have the wheel be damaged.

This, clearly, changed everything.  From all indications before this the bike could be rolled relatively easily wherever it was desired to go.  Don't get me wrong, there was no way I was going to try to ride the piece of sea-trash, but however wobbly and misaligned one might imagine them to be, unless they were fused in place and wouldn't turn at all, all appearances before the muck released the bike and the front wheel's problem became apparent were that it would be perfectly reasonable to assume that one could walk beside the bike while rolling it to wherever.

The front wheel wasn't going to be doing any rolling.

At this point any reasonable person would have abandoned the bike and moved on with their life.  Remember what I said about stupid shit and sunk costs.  I'd come that far I was carrying the bike out of there damn it.

On the way back I strayed much farther from the bridge, going to the higher and, generally, firmer ground near the railroad bridge.  It was a longer walk that didn't bring me to shore anywhere near where I wanted to be, but there was less sinking into the muck.  Also there was a reunion of sorts.  Nearing the shore the ground became very solid.  Not muck, but not rocks either, the remains of concrete.  I realized that for the first time since it was demolished, hell for the first time since it started being demolished (a process that was not all that fast) I was walking on the old bridge.

I got onto land where the old bridge had left it, but not where the old bridge had left the road.  It had needed to be elevated, you see, to allow trains under it.

I briefly considered the possibility of taking the pedestrian route I know existed on the railroad bridge (for authorized personal only, in cases like this you don't need a sign, you know) even though I knew I'd never do it.  I carried and dragged the bike toward where the old bridge had met the road.  To trains passed me.  One was Amtrak.  The other freight.

This meant climbing up a second steep slope with the busted bike.  (First one being where the old bridge had crossed onto land.)  Again, a reasonable person would ditch the useless muck artifact here.

When I got to sidewalk I was able to make better use of the rear wheel.  Keeping the bike totally vertical allowed the weight to rest on the still quite functional rear wheel.

On the bridge three people on working bikes passed me going the other way.

No matter how I tried to hold it the bike was getting muck on me.

When I reached South Portland landfall the rear wheel started to be less reliable.  it would hang up, or stutter, or try to steer the bike in strange directions.

A reasonable person would have abandoned the piece of brackish scum their and then.

About halfway between getting off the bridge and getting onto a non-bridge access road someone asked me if this was the right way to Old Orchard Beach.  I was pretty sure it was, and said as much, but the thing is it's a fucking long way.  I make long trudges and I wouldn't trudge that trudge.  Google Maps tells me that it's a five hour walk from Portland, where the person must have started to be on that road, to Old Orchard Beach.

Mind you Google Maps first has to have it explained that if you're asking for directions from Portland to Old Orchard Beach you're asking for directions from the Portland near Old Orchard Beach and not the Portland that was named after that Portland but resides on the other fucking coast.  (Yes, Google, when I put in that I want directions to a town from [name of largest city near it] I totally mean that other city of the same name three thousand one hundred and seventy seven miles away from it.)

Anyway, he had apparently just gotten out of jail (don't know what he was in for, he didn't say, I didn't ask) and no one had let him use a phone so no one would be giving him a ride home and he'd have to walk.  I did give him directions to the nearest store where he could get directions more solid than my, "I think this is the right way," hopefully they let him use their phone when they heard his tale of woe because that's seriously a long fucking walk.

Guy who just got out of jail was the only person who passed me while I was pushing clearly busted bike from one city to another who showed genuine concern over whether or not I was all right.  (If an accident had caused the damage to the bike you'd have to expect me to be pretty banged up.)  I told him I was fine.  i was.  But moving the piece of aqua junk wasn't easy.

Between the veterinarian and the Rite Aid is the cemetery with the busted bridge which has no sidewalk.  (Also given the condition of the fence I seriously question its ability to keep the dead people inside.)

Near the end of that was another pause for reflection, another time to note that any reasonable person would just dump the estuary refuse and walk home unburdened, and another time to note that I am not said reasonable person.  After all once I passed the cemetery it was all sidewalk till I got home.  And I sure as fuck didn't carry the water debris that far just to give up then.

And, at some point, I got home.  Where the camera was.  have some pictures:

You know, from this angle it doesn't look all that bad.
Note how not one --not one-- of the spokes connects with the center of the wheel
I think I dropped the bike sea-life side down, so you can't really get a feel for it, but it's cold and dark outside
so this is what you get.
Yeah... mud side up is basically synonymous with sea-life side down.
I have a cat, by the way
Ok, so the pictures don't really do the ocean encrusted thing justice because I apparently set it interesting side down, but the point is:

Have I mentioned that I have absolutely no need for a bicycle?

I'm sure that there's some lesson to be taken from this whole ordeal, but I'm not sure what it is.

"Don't do stupid shit," is both too general and too obvious.  Everyone knows that already, we just do it anyway.

"Don't go down to retrieve a thing unless it's your hat," might be too specific.

"Don't attach yourself to a land object because a land creature might reclaim the object for the land and then you'll be screwed you bicycle attaching-to things," if you're sea life.


  1. I can't tell whether any of the front hub is left, but if it is it may be possible to re-string the spokes (look up "wheel building", there are tutorials and videos and things out there).

    My first thought is "strip for parts", I'll admit.

  2. I definitely agree with the third moral. Poor barnacles.

    I am mostly just glad you're ok.

    Clearly you should never leave home without your camera.

    And I, too, would strip it for parts.

    (Aw, kitty!)

  3. You did get a blog post and pictures out of it, at least.

    Hi, pretty kitty. (Who, in proper cat fashion, I see is more interested in a random leaf than in your strange prize.)

  4. Sea trash, muck artifact, aqua junk, water debris... Is "commending your synonyms" a sufficient reason for delurking? Because I'm impressed.


    2. Is "commending your synonyms" a sufficient reason for delurking?

      Definitely sufficient, and thank you.

    3. Splendiferous. I shall lurk more openly from now on.

  5. Also, hey, Chris:
    Remember to wash the stuff that got slimed, so you won't be all, "I left my the car...because of...reasons..."