The beauty of cycling the Sentier du Coeur d’Alènes cannot be overstated.
Within 10 miles of the Medimont trailhead in Harrison, the fall colors are brilliant. Loneliness is soothing. The surrounding landscape is magnificent. It’s peaceful and perfect on a Sunday afternoon.
And then came a puncture.
Now, for a normal person, a bicycle puncture is not serious. It’s pretty routine. Change it and move on. This should take 10 minutes.
But I’m not normal.
When things go wrong, even the little things, doubt rises and panic sets in. I’m worried.
So when I got an apartment a few miles from Harrison on Sunday afternoon, literally when I was turning around because there was a lot of debris on the trail, I was very concerned.
For good reason.
I didn’t have much luck putting on the new inner tube. I had done this before, but this time I just couldn’t get it and the old tire went right on. After about 10 infuriating minutes and wondering why I was being so stupid, I thought maybe I should go back to Harrison and call for help, which would be embarrassing.
I was hoping someone could come and help me, make me feel less alone, but I had only seen two other cyclists, and they were heading towards Harrison. Chances were they were long gone.
But a few minutes later, here they are. And even better, they stopped by to see if I needed any help.
Their names, not sure of the spelling here, I believe were Bob and Carrie. They were part-time residents of Harrison. Bob tried to put the inner tube on, but had no better luck than me. Together, we were always perplexed.
“If you come back to Harrison, I can pick you up at the marina and take you back to your car,” Bob offered.
Then reinforcements arrived.
A woman named Cathy on a walk stopped to see what was going on. She knew bikes, how to change a tire and told me about it. She warned me to make sure the inner tube and tire were properly seated on the rim.
I thought I had it.
Five minutes later, I used the C02 cartridge to fill the inner tube. It worked, but Bob spotted a problem. The tire bead was not set properly and was pushing on the rim, creating a small bulge. It looked like he could explode at any moment.
I let out some air to see if it released enough pressure for me to put it on, but no. Having no other choice, I put the tire back on. It didn’t turn right, because that bulge was clinging to the brake pad. Now what?
“You will have to release the brake,” he said.
How do I do this?
He pushed a lever and the brake released. The tire could spin smoothly.
I quickly gathered my things and thanked the three of them.
“I would always try to put the tire on,” I said.
Bob and Carrie followed me to Harrison to see if the tire held. It made.
“I should be OK,” I said. “Worst case the tire would puncture and I have to race with my bike behind my car. I’m a racer. It’s something I can do.”
With a wave and another shout of thanks, I walked away. For the first kilometers, slow and careful. Then, confidence growing, I put it all the way in, pedaling furiously, relieved with each passing kilometer.
With 3 miles to go, I relaxed and stopped to take pictures, including one of a moose that didn’t have it. He walked up the embankment to the trail and stared at me. I got the message.
Finally, I got to the car. It was still a beautiful day with a setting sun. I was grateful for the moment and for the people who could have passed me by but didn’t. They stopped to make sure I was okay and got me started.
These are the kind of people who live better.
And maybe it’ll help me learn that I don’t have to worry so much.
Bill Buley is a journalist at The Press.