Wednesday, September 22, 2010

My Bike Saga Continues

It's been a while since I updated the world on my journey to learn to ride a bike.  If you are new, please read "35-Year-Old Learns To Ride A Bike or Dies Trying" first or re-read it if you've forgotten what an idiot I am.

I'm sorry for the lapse in my story but there is a very good reason.  This story is a long and winding road and I was waiting to see where it lead before I shared the details of the tale.

I'd like to start by saying that I'm fairly certain that sh*t like this only happens to me.

You may recall that I was practicing on my old heavy bike that I so lovingly named "Two-Ton Tessie".   Well, I locked Tessie up at my workplace on one of the many available bike racks.   Then my summer got very busy, with work of all things.  The nerve!  I didn't have nearly as much time to practice as I'd originally hoped.

One day, as I was rushing from one place to the next, I rushed by the rack where Tess should have been.  SHOULD HAVE been... but wasn't.  As a matter of fact, the whole RACK was gone.  At least, I thought the rack was gone.  I am not known for my keen powers of observation and I'm embarrassed to say that I wasn't 100% sure.  I asked my friend to go by and confirm that there did, in fact, used to be a rack where I thought there should have been a rack.   Thankfully, I was right.  Whew!  Turns out I'm not a complete space cadet.

That brings me back to Tess.  The old girl was missing in action.   Or inaction as the case was.   I doubted that she was stolen because (a) she wasn't that pretty and (2) as the wrought iron rack was gone as well, the suspect would be hulking, green, wearing torn clothes and yelling "Hulk Smash!".  He should be easy to spot.

I called the folks in charge of moving, removing and fixing things.   For 2 weeks, I didn't get a response.

Finally, I got the following message:
"Hi.  Ummmm, yeah....  give me a call back.  I want to tell you what I was told about your bike."

That couldn't mean anything good.  I wanted to hear  "Hi.  Oh, your bike?  We've got it right here!  We tuned it up and painted it for you.  We also added a little bell and some tassels for your trouble!"  But, alas, that was not to be.   I returned the call.   They had needed to move the rack.  Clearly.  So they had someone cut the locks (I just BOUGHT that lock) with the intention of tagging and storing the bikes.   The locks were cut.  The bikes, somehow, never tagged or stored.   Ouch.

I was told there would be reparations.   Reparations!  COOL!  Now we were talking!  Maybe I would get the money to go buy a brand NEW (and hopefully much lighter) version of Tess!  I was told to contact someone.  Again, I made contact.   Again, I got no response for 2 weeks.

I was talking to colleague about my bike woes and she decided to make a few calls.  Someone contacted me about my reparations.   Apparently, they had decided it would be acceptable to offer me a suitable replacement from some bike graveyard housed in a basement somewhere.   Still, I had a chance of getting a suitable, if not better replacement.  Only, they didn't deem me worthy to go visit the graveyard and pick out a replacement, lest I pick one of the more treasured and valuable discarded old bikes.  No.  They would choose one for me.

A few days later, I got an email with a picture of what was chosen as a suitable replacement.  I really didn't think there could be a rustier old piece of crap than Tess but, low and behold, I was looking at it!

Really?!?  Let's revisit, shall we?   My bike wasn't STOLEN.  I didn't leave it UNLOCKED.  "The Man" cut my bike lock, purposefully removed my bike from its place and left her to meet some awful, untold fate!   How is offering me some busted up POS an acceptable solution?!?

The same colleague was as incensed as I was.  She made a few more calls and they cut me a check for a modest but acceptable amount.  It's not like I was looking to upgrade to a $3,000 road bike.  

My good friend and ex-bike instructor (you remember him?  the patient and kind one that I relieved from his duties to save some dignity) went with me to pick out a bike.

I got a neat little mountain bike.   She's pretty, too, and much lighter than Tess.

It had now been nearly 3 months since my last practice.  I was a bit apprehensive but confident that with my new bike, I'd be able to master this skill in no time flat...  and I did it!    I got on and peddled and the bike moved forward and I stayed upright blowing right past my previous 30-foot distance record!

Whooo Hooo!  That's right folks!  This 35-year-old... ummm, correction... now 36-year-old, can ride a bike!

Now, I just have to master the steering and stopping!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

God Bless The U.S. But I Hate My Damn Ford

We are a three-car household.

The first car is the one my husband drives to and from work. He's an engineer in the sustainable energy industry and, suitably, drives a Honda hybrid. Much more appropriate than when he used to go to work in a honkin' pick-up truck.

The second car is my Honda. I love my Honda. It's cute and reliable and get's decent gas mileage.

19-something-something Ugly-Ass Green Windstar

The third is a used mini-van.  We have two kids so, naturally, we have a mini-van. We got it so that my mom would have a reliable car with which to drop-off / pick-up my youngest at pre-school and get my oldest off the bus. "Why do you need a car to get a kid off the bus?" you say? Well, because you might be able to walk down my driveway but you would need some crampons and a few sherpas to get back up safely.

But, I digress. Did I say RELIABLE? HA! I should start by saying we bought it used from a friend and only paid a few thousand for it so I really a have no right to complain but when has that ever stopped me before?

It's a 19-something-something Ford Windstar Mini-Van in ugly-ass green. I think that is actually the name of the paint color. We've had it for just over 2 years now. Last winter, we had this vexing problem where a fuse would blow when starting the car.  Before the repeating issue was identified, it had become a compound problem because the driver would try to start the car numerous times, thereby draining the battery. The kicker was, the fuse would blow after the driver had already started it up and gone somewhere and then tried to start it again. Of course it never happened in the convenience of our own driveway.

I spent most of last winter answering calls from my mom who had gotten the kids to pre-school, only to have the car refuse to start again. I would leave work, drive there, change the fuse, jump start the car and go back to work.

We have a great mechanic. He's awesome and honest. Really. It's not a myth!

I brought the stupid van in twice and he knew that the fuel-pump fuse was blowing but couldn't find out why. I did some research on the interwebs and discovered that many of the these crappy vans, particularly the ugly-ass green ones, had a problem with the fuel-pumps sh*tting the bed, so to speak. I told my mechanic, who said he didn't want to change the fuel pump until he was absolutely sure because it was expensive (see - honest!) but decided to change it and -- YIPPEE --- it worked! For a brief moment, I thought I'd miss the mid-day, GoToWork-LeaveWork-ChangeFuse-JumpStart-ReturnToWork Game, but, alas, I didn't.

That was last winter.

It's barely September and I got that fateful call from my mom yesterday. WTF?!?! What is this car's problem with impending winter!?!? Is it a frickin' senior citizen and needs to "winter" in Boca Ratton or something?

Battery Charger Thingy
We have this battery charger thingy (I'm certain that's what it is called) at work that you could use to jump start a car. I grabbed that and a borrowed a set of jumper cables. I was explaining the fuel pump / fuse scenario of the Winter of '09 to my coworkers and I really sounded like I knew what the hell I was talking about. I felt like Marisa Tomei in My Cousin Vinny "It's a limited slip differential which distributes power equally to both the right and left tires. The '64 Skylark had a regular differential, which, anyone who's been stuck in the mud in Alabama knows, you step on the gas, one tire spins, the other tire does nothing." 

Unfortunately, I'm only an expert on this particular problem with this particular ugly-ass green Ford Windstar.

Anyways, off I went with the battery charger thingy and cables. I'm sure I was quite a sight with my manicured nails, in a skirt, stockings and black patent leather heels.

I spent the drive there thinking, 

"That is it! I am done with this damn car! IF I manage to get it started, I'm driving it straight to the Honda Dealership and getting a new car! Sure, we can't afford another car payment but I can't afford to leave work every time the car thinks it's a little chilly out!"

When I got there, I checked the fuse it was NOT blown. Phew. Not the fuel pump again. Still channeling Mona Lisa Vito, I called my husband and said "Yeah, I think it's the starter." Turns out I don't know squat about cars and it was just a dead battery. I don't know why it was dead or why it started up, let my mom drive the 10 minutes to school and then wouldn't start again but my husband bought a new battery and that will hopefully be the end of it.

Somehow I doubt it.

And if this happens again, well, God Bless the U.S. but I'm buying another Honda!