Short Stories
Entry No. 15   July 28, 2004

The Legend of Two Flat Tom

Bellingham, Washington, USA July 26th
Miles: 1622
Clifbars: 96
Days on the Road: 42
Jars of Peanut Butter: 3
Flat Tires: 0
That's right - zero, zilch, none, nothing. Not one. This definitely deserves an "Ode to my Panaracers". I had worked 7 hard days with Mattseiu, my French Canadian friend, and then 11 solo days from Prince George to get to Bellingham for my first planned riding pal. Mr. Tom Griga, son of my PWI Energy boss, Bernie, who I adore has agreed to meet up with me. Now I don't want to take away from Stephan and Tamara or Mattseiu the French Canadian, but they all were already going that way. Tom was taking the train up from Bellingham, taking vacation days, and biking 110 miles to Seattle with me. I was starting to wonder if Bernie put Tom up to this. I could hear it now in his British accent:

"Tom, I know she can be exhausting, but do what you can to get her to stay in Washington. Find her a job, whatever. Her maps are piss and her hair is just too blonde for Mexico."

Either way, Tom was here in Bellingham and unfortunately for Tom and unbeknownst to him, now that I was with someone I knew and could trust, my brain turned off and my bantering and monkeying around had begun. After meeting up at the train station on the west side of town, I barely got us across town to our destination with complaints about the hills peppered in. A fellow Adventure Cycling Association club member, Mark Wheatley, graciously invited us to his home even though he wasn't going to be there. His two children, Colin (15) and Sarah (17), took care of us. Really. Tom and I were welcomed with homemade pepper and olive pizza with fresh greens from the garden followed by blackberry cobbler all made by these two teenagers. Yes, teenagers. I am 27 and if I tried that, my guests would have been greeted with pepper and olive cobbler and blackberry pizza with soggy greens forgotten in the fridge. They were amazing. It was great hanging out with them and we were very impressed with their maturity and interest in such issues as the environment.

After dinner, it was time to set up the tent and it was looking like my 1.5 MSR Zoid tent wasn't going to cut it for 6'4" Tom. The Wheatley's lent us their tent and we settled in for the night, catching up on Griga dirt. I was excited to talk more to Tom about his family, as he was the last link for full infiltration into the Griga family. I started with Bernie a few years ago, and slowly worked my way in.

As we gathered our gear the next morning, Sarah suggested we have breakfast where she works at the Old Town Cafe. As we headed down the hills into town, just four measly miles along, it happened. Two Flat Tom met his first flat. Now Tom, who rides to work every day, hadn't had a flat in quite a long time. I started getting nervous, thinking that I was like a carrier of the disease, but couldn't get the disease. I thought back to the Mattseiu, the French Canadian and the Vancouver Avalanche Physicist, Chris B, who escorted me to the border from Vancouver who both got flats as well.

As Tom looked at me in disbelief that I could have traveled so far without a flat and here he was with one just a few miles into our trip, he mumbled something about inferior equipment and got to work on changing the tire. I thought about how to change a tire and had almost forgotten it had been so long. He looked like he knew what he was doing and so, knowing the routine by now, I just hung around, trying to seem helpful, but ecstatic to be lollygagging and putzing around. I had nowhere to be today, according to my agenda.

We made it to the diner, and ate breakfast compliments of the Wheatleys and shoved off nice and early - about noon. I am not sure why, but I had the map. I hadn't let Tom in on my mind set just yet - I don't think I was really aware of my lack of sensibility myself - and we were on the wrong road within an hour. We transferred my "control center", as Tom called it, over to his bike and I continued to pick my nose and pay little attention to mileage or anything important.

We rode for a while, stopping for some drinks, food and pictures and continued on. At 7 pm, Tom kindly told me that he still wanted to cover 17 miles. I was astonished that we still had that far to go, but as I thought about it, and realized what a pain in the ass I must have been, I said let's DO IT (remember? if not, read Europeans Everywhere). Tom was also very apologetic of any hills especially towards the end of the day. I guess I get pretty cranky about end-of-the-day hills. I felt like such a dork for complaining the first time and tried to tell him that I really didn't mind hills all that much, but somehow, my cranky behavior still shined as the sun
went down.

Just before our destination, Fort Ebey State Park, we stopped for some supplies at the last grocery store before the campground. I also suggested a six pack and, with raised eyebrows, Tom obliged. I hadn't had a beer since Prince George and had been thinking about the beer and 7Up trick I had learned from Tamara. After I find out that Tom was not really a cook either, together we concocted a crazy carbohydrate meal including macaroni, corn, and salsa and enjoyed our beers. We caught up on some more Griga dirt and I provided a few snipits about the Cirque de Sullivan. We said our goodnights and we were fast asleep, I in my tent, and Tom under
his tarp.

The next morning, with an unsuccessful attempt at an early start, we were on our way to Clinton to the ferry over to the north of Seattle. As we passed thought Coupville, it happened again. A second flat for Tom. I was indeed a carrier of Flat Tire Syndrome also known as FTS. Although Tom seemed to like riding over broken glass and such, this time, it was a nail that went through both the tread and the side wall of the tire. This meant two big holes that the tube would easily be at risk for another puncture. I really tried to help this time, and we pulled in next to a mechanic shop and decided to patch the tire up. During the process, we were kindly asked to leave the shade of the side of the building because it was a "private establishment". This infuriated me because this mechanic was not overly helpful as the rest of the world had been to me the last few months. I was definitely spoiled. I got over it after a bit and I made some lunch - (can you guess what it was?) and we continued.

I think I was a little better today and more respectful of Tom's wish to get me to Seattle safely and within a reasonable amount of time. We switched bikes for a while and he rode to the ferry, up the hill from the ferry once we got off, and then some more through the busy streets. After a while, we changed the seat so he was a bit more comfortable for he looked like those kids on the really small electric mini mini mini bikes.

We stopped for more drinks, watched some crazy parade, and then made it to Dayton Avenue in Fremont. We were warmly greeted with smiles and hugs from his roommates along with a welcome banner. It was a wonderful two days and I was looking forward to my rest in Seattle
with this crew!

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