One thing about flat tires: they are never convenient. Somehow, they manage to happen when you're as far from home as you can be, when you're as far from a bus route as possible, and if they can contrive to happen so as to derail your evening plans, they'll do that too.
I was leaving the office this evening with every intention of joining some friends for a pint at the Royal Oak on the Canal. I wheeled Mike out of the garage, into the driveway, got on, and actually pedalled out to the street before realizing that something felt funny. Lo and behold, I looked down to see the dreaded floppy back tire. I got off, and the slow realization dawned. This was going to kind of suck.
I work out of a home office in Vanier, and I live in Ottawa South. The nearest bus routes to the office are the #5, #7, and #1. The nearest bike shop is on Saint-Laurent near Hemlock - a bit far to walk a bike that's rolling along on its rim - and it was 5:30 (and most bike shops close up at 6:00.) And - of course - I didn't have my toolkit with me, which still does contain a patch kit.
Lesson one, kids: always pack your toolkit. The day you don't will be the day you need it.
I called my boss (whose house it is) to ask where the nearest bike shop was. He told me. I realized I wouldn't get there in time. I asked if he was likely to be using his bike this weekend (I didn't think it was all that likely) and he said he wasn't, and if I needed to cannibalize it for the inner tube I could. I went back in the garage, pulled off his front wheel (hooray for quick release) and got it out to the driveway, only to wrestle with the beads for a while and realize that without my toolkit, I couldn't get the tire off to extract the inner tube. Dang.
So, I put his wheel back in the garage, put my rear wheel back on, and started wheeling the bike the four or five blocks to the bus stop, in hopes of finding a bus with a bike rack. A couple of blocks down, I gave up on trying to wheel it, worried I was further damaging the tire, and hefted it onto my shoulder (on the wrong side, as it turned out: my jacket now has a large swatch of chain grease smeared on the left flank.) When I got there, I called OC Transpo to ask if the #1 or #7 had bike racks. "Very few," said the guy at OC Transpo. "The next 7 with a bike rack will be passing at 10:30 PM."
It was a bit after 5:30. Yeah. That's a five hour wait.
"What about the #9? I could walk to Crichton," I said.
"The #9.... next one with a bike rack is at 9:40."
I almost said, "You have to be kidding." But I knew he wasn't. So, I realized that if I wanted to get my bike home, to where I have tools and a patch kit, I would either have to wait four hours, or walk it downtown to the Transitway.
Lesson two, kids: the Rack and Roll program is not for use in case of emergency. (Of course, I learned that last year on a cold March evening, when I got a flat on Montreal Road and wound up walking the bike all the way to Bank Street, only to find that the Rack and Roll program hadn't started yet and I couldn't expect racks on any buses.)
Giving up, I walked the bike back to my office, stashed it there, and headed back to the bus stop to ride home without it, hauling my unwieldy pannier with me. I'll have to go back tomorrow with my tools and patch kit to get it back on the road. (And put Sean's front wheel back on properly. I couldn't be arsed at that point.)
Lesson three? Learn that it's okay to leave the bike behind sometimes. I was so determined to bring it home with me. It was like the idea of going somewhere without it was just unimaginable. Which is kind of funny, and kind of cool. Even the idea of taking the bus, with or without the bike, felt like a last resort to me (and it was interesting how foreign the bus felt: they've changed things since I've been on one. Like that automated stop-call system. And the fare, again.)
Oh, yeah, and lesson one, again, just because it seems important - always pack your toolkit.