It’s really hard to tell in the distance, but the building way back there is the old Mansfield Reformatory where they shot “The Shawshank Redemption.” Really spooky coincidence? I’d finished all of my podcasts from Mike McConnell and Car Talk and had just put the “Shawshank” audiobook on as I was passing the place. (Truly didn’t know it was there. Just saw a sign about the existing reformatory and realized the old one was literally next to the new one.)

Been a loooooooooooooooong day so far. The hills have finally subsided (thank God), but I’ve contended with rain for the last 10 miles or so. I’m currently camped out at a McDonald’s in Shelby, Ohio. I’m making incredibly lousy time. I swear, the next camp has been “40 miles away” since about 11 this morning. Here it is, 3:30PM and it’s still 40 miles away.

As predicted, I had another flat. Right past the Reformatory. (Where the hell was Andy and Red when you needed ’em?) This was nearly a blowout. I seem to remember hitting a rock, a pop, and the back end of the bike started seriously fish tailing. I suppose I should be thankful that I wasn’t really booking it down hill or something.

I (once again) unloaded all the gear from the back tire. Flipped the bike over, and changed the inner tube again. I had the good sense to pedal over from Cracker Barrel this morning to Wal Mart where I’d picked up two more tubes. They unfortunately had no CO2 cartridges. I was down to one.

Which I completely screwed up. Or maybe it screwed up. No matter what, it didn’t work so I was left with my trusty hand pump. Bicycle shops will sell you one of those things and tell you, “Sure, you can get a tire inflated all the way with one of these!” Maybe if you really are from Krypton, perhaps. I got it up as well as I can, but I didn’t like the look of it. I spun it around on the axis and it wasn’t “true.” It was wobbling and “bouncing” and . . . well, I just couldn’t take a chance of going another 50 miles on this thing. Especially with no more CO2 cartridges (that I keep screwing up). And maybe a damaged tired.

I got on the iPhone and looked up bike shops. Was one 5.2 miles back the way I’d just ridden. Called them up. Their name was “Bike Shop.” But I felt I better ask if it was BIcycles or MOTORcycles they worked on. Yes, it was bicycles.

“But we’re so busy we don’t do repairs on Saturdays.”

“I’m sorry, ma’am, but I’m kind of stuck here. I’ve ridden here from Columbus. If you don’t do repairs, might you have a suggestion?”

She talked to someone in the background who got on the phone. I made my same pitch. With a huge exasperated sigh he asked, “Can you bring in just the tire?”

“Umm, no. I’m on the bicycle. It’s my only form of transportation. I can bring the tire in, but the rest of the bike will be attached to it.”

Huge exasperated sigh again. “Bring it in. We’ll see what we can do.”

“Busy on a Saturday”? Well, I suppose if you consider the gent I spoke to (probably in his late 40s) playing solitaire on a 1980’s era computer (most likely running on Windows 1.0) and his great-grandmother who was using the tire compressor to fill up her oxygen tank “busy” then they were slammed.

Sorry — that sounded damned snarky, didn’t it?

Anyway, long story short, he trued up the wheel. I asked for a couple of CO2 cartridges. He had to actually break open a case that came with the “pump” it came in. Then he didn’t want to charge me for looking / working on the tire. I told him that was nonsense. He did me a great favor and provided me with a little peace of mind. He relented and said, “Well, fine, how about a total of $10?” I gave him $15 and thanked him for getting me in. We talked a bit about Obama’s policies, about the demise of American bicycle manufacturers (Schwinn made the last all-American built bike in 1965 he said), how the town and county of Mansfield was nearly in receivership, a couple of nice trails to ride, and he tweaked my directions accordingly. I’m willing to bet that $15 I handed him was half his revenue today.

I’m going to alter my return path. I’ve dropped a dime on the KOA place that I’m scheduled to stay tomorrow night (the place I stayed last night.) I’m not in any shape to do those hills again. Oh, I can do ’em. (Obviously because I did them already.) But that’s not fun. That’s too much like work. I ride for pleasure, not to get my heart racing to the point where I believe I’m going to have a heart attack. Their cancellation policy is 48 hours so I’ve probably blown $30, but, well, it is what it is. I left them a message asking for any consideration they might offer, but prepared to lose the entire fee.

I’m going to leave Sandusky tomorrow (that is, if I ever get to it tonight!) and go south on State Route 4 to Upper Sandusky. (Only Ohio could put Upper Sandusky south of Sandusky. :: shakes my head :: ) SR4 intersects with US 23. Both of these road are, well, damned dangerous for bicycles. (23 is a major highway for crying out loud. Lots of trucks zipping by at 65 miles an hour.) But I’ve ridden 23 quite a bit. I’m not that worried about it. 4 is a little more worrisome as it’s only 2 lane the whole way and there’s a LOT of traffic up and down that road. We’ll see.

Just got to find a place to stay in Upper Sandusky tomorrow night.

Oh, additional fun: It’s taken me so damned long to get where I’m going today, I’ve nearly drained my phone’s power. One of the advantages of McDonald’s is, for the last 45 minutes, I’ve had it charged. It’s back to up to 86%. When I plugged it in, it had dropped to 45%. 85% to 90% ought to get me to Sandusky just fine, I hope.