Wipeout Number Three

Today, bike wipeout number three. I’m starting to get tired of this and I’m considering taking up drinking – at least then, people would expect me to fall down all the time. A new hobby is born.

I don’t know that I ever wrote about wipeout number two, but I’ll save that for another time. Right now, I must tell a story that will be funny to me sometime in the future. So here you go future me, have a laugh.

I started the day feeling good. The typhoon had passed in the night and I was confident I would have the opportunity to get outside and take some pictures. The weather was still a bit gloomy, sure, but it wasn’t raining, that’s all that counted. After a few chores completed, I was ready to set off. I was thinking I would head in the direction of Gembi. I could stop there for some photos of the gorge or I could continue up that road towards Hondera. Alternatively, I could have turned at Gembi and headed toward Hiraizumi, perhaps catching that cave temple along the way.

Things looked promising as I began my journey. A real estate company was holding a showing of their homes in the area and a man dressed as a Japanese cartoon robot crossed paths with me. I had time enough to stop and get my camera out for a few snaps of this awkward, silver automaton whose metallic lobster claws were certainly capable of pinching their way through whole automobiles. The Jaws of Life were no match for him.

After bidding adieu to robo-lobster-man, I headed West along the main road. There’s one section that heads down into a small valley, then back up an incline the other side. No problem, I have a mountain bike. Gearing down, I ascended with relative ease.

Reaching the top of the slope, I attempted to resume my course in a higher gear. One set of gears didn’t agree that this was the proper course of action. I was able to get back into second gear, but third was out of reach. If I knew the names for any of the parts involved with switching gears on a bike, I would elaborate, but the best I can do is to say that the metal guide thingy wouldn’t move far enough for the chain to slip from second to third.

I stopped and manually switched the chain to third. My hope was that if I moved the chain to third, then switched down to second and back again, the problem might be solved. Really, I was being optimistic that a bicycle could develop muscle memory. Not so. Down to second and that was where it stayed. I twiddled around some more with any of the devices that seemed to be related to shifting gears and soon learned that I couldn’t even shift to first anymore.

I decided to ride along a while frantically wrenching the gear shift up and down in a desperate attempt to have the chain move to a new gear, any gear. Hell, a non-existent fourth gear would have been a welcome change. No luck. I pedaled along while staring down at the chain, willing it to switch.

Now, looking down at your chain while riding a bike poses an obvious difficulty when it comes to successful navigation: you can’t really do it. At least I can’t. My balance is not such that if I stare directly below myself while riding, I will continue to go in a perfectly straight line. Maybe this will come with more biking practice, but it certainly was not with me on this day.

In the top of my peripheral vision loomed a fast-approaching object. I hit the brakes while looking up to see a bush waiting with open arms to give me a prickly embrace. My brakes could only do so much to slow my appointment with leafy destiny. I was launched over the handlebars, through the bush and onto the pavement, skidding along on my side.

I rose, covered in the top few layers of dirt that once covered the sidewalk, and inspected myself. My Dad would always jokingly make the sign of the cross while chuckling, ‘Spectacles, testicles, wallet, watch,’ as though making sure all his parts were in place. While I made a similar self-examination, I discovered that much of my body was covered by the barbs formerly attached to the bush. I plucked a few from my clothes and a few more from my skin where I soon learned that I was slightly allergic to them. Small welts started appearing where I had removed the barbs from my skin.

Just then, it started to rain. I conceded defeat to the day, turned around and rode home, wet, dirty and swollen.

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