"Who is that? Kevin?"
"No, that's Josh. Look how he puts his head down."
"Is that Cassie?
"Nah, it's Rachel, see how she stops spinning?"
Each of us have our own quirks that make us identifiable. Marcus has a smooth and steady spin, his legs always moving. Austin's pink handlebar tape gives him away every time. Emma has a little teddy bear dangling from her camelback. Brian looks like a tree riding his bike. It doesn't take much to set you apart.
I started off with Austin this morning and we eventually caught up with Cindy and Amanda who latched on to our paceline. There crop lands were mowed down and there were no hills to block the wind. It swept across the desert plains and hit us as a stiff crosswind. There is not too much you can do in a paceline to combat a crosswind. When the wind is blowing in from the side, you can form a diagonal paceline called an echelon, but due to the amount of traffic on the road, it was unreasonable to ride in an echelon because we'd have to keep falling back into a line every minute.
Somehow the time passed quickly as we navigated sketchy California roads. We arrived at lunch near a beautiful state park and watched the waves roll in on a lake while eating goodies DMed from Whole Foods.
Brian, Austin, Cindy, Amanda, and I took off after lunch together but our paceline soon dissolved after the shoulder of the road started splitting into giant crevices. The holes were big enough to throw a rider off their bike and most likely ruin their wheel. I swerved onto the rumble strips to avoid riding headlong into a crack the size of the Grand Canyon, and I looked up to see everyone else in the paceline going in all different directions. The road was probaby so damaged due to earthquakes. Lucikly, everybody managed to avoid the holes. After that incident, Brian and Austin took off because the road was too dangerous for a long paceline.
Once Amanda, Cindy, and I were alone, the chaos started. The debris in the shoulder of the road was atrocious. We should have known the flats were coming. Soon, Amanda's tire went flat. We pulled off to change it. Less than 10 miles later, Cindy went flat and she'd already had one today. We had 25 miles left and we were already growing short on tubes. We fixed Cindy's flag and tarted off again but in less than a few miles, her back tire was completely flat again. We reluctantly pulled over, frustrated because we still had 20 miles to ride.
When you change a flat, you need to remove the wheel from your bike and pull out the broken tube. It is important to inflate the blown tube in order to find the leak and to determine what caused the flat. Sometimes, the flat is because your tubes weren't inflated enough. Other times, it may be due to debris poking through your tires.
I could not find the leak in Cindy's tube. I accused her of forgetting to inflate her tire when she'd changed it a few miles back. She swore to me that she had but I found it hard to believe she'd gone flat so fast without a noticeable tear in her tube. I started pumping up a patched tube that Austin had given me days ago. As I pumped, I hear the unmistakable sound of air escaping. "PSST-pssst-PSST-psst," the sound was punctuated with each stroke of the pump. The tube was leaking out the patch. "Arghhh, Austin!" I cursed, laughing even through my frustration. There are a few members of the team notorious for accidentally giving people ruined tubes and Austin is one of them. I put a second patch on the tube and stowed it in my bag for later use.
The only usable tubes we had left were the blown ones from earlier that we had patched with our patch kits. "This is sketchy," said Cindy as she fixed her third flat. "Pump n' pray!!" she said, gritting her teeth as she inflated the tube. I threatened to throw her wheel like a frisbee into the bushes if she got another flat. We all laughed nervously and, once the tube was inflated, took off again, praying our tires would stay true.
Less than five miles later, my bike unexpectedly began fish tailing right and left and I heard the flapping of a loose tire. I looked between my legs at my back wheel to confirm my fears. Now, I was flat!!
"AHHHHH!" I yelled in frustration as we pulled over yet again. I knew there was something seriously wrong because my
tire went flat so quickly. What I though was a staple in my tire turned out to be a boomerang-shaped metal shard sticking through both sides of my tube. It looked like a toenail clipping from the Devil.
It ripped a hole in my tire which we booted up with a dollar bill. Paper money and Clif bar wrappers work great to temporarily mend tire tears. I was forced to use Austin's doubly-patched tube. "Pump n' pray!!!" I said, really praying that this time we'd get in.
A surprise mountain pass later, we descended into Livermore, CA. I had flat-anoia the entire time, constantly looking at my back tire to make sure it stayed inflated. But we made it in without any more flats!
We had our last mail drop and our last family meeting. I got a lot of goodies from home for my birthday. It is awesome to get some new clothes!! All of us on the trip pretty much wear the same outfit every day, so everyone knows when you get new clothes. I got many compliments for my new Califonia t-shirt.
The last family meeting was surreal. We went around the circle and did our "highs, lows, and shoutouts," which is what we do every meeting. We laughed a lot and cried a little. Most of us are in disbelief that this trip is almost over. Maybe it will hit us in a few days, after we taste the salt of the Pacific.