Day 43: Esplanola to Cuba

For a change I had a good night's sleep and awoke ready to attack the day. I worked on my journal until 09:00 and then went off to get breakfast. There was a casino across the street which advertised $2 breakfasts, but I'm morally opposed to casinos so I decided to head towards the bike shop and see what I could find. I ended up at 'Cowboys' which looked to be quite popular.

The waitress was very friendly but a bit too easily confused. I ordered pancakes (the only vegetarian option) and an english muffin. She brought me the muffin and said "anything else?" -- "Yes, how about my pancakes?" She was quite embarassed and after another wait the pancakes appeared. At least they were tasty but I didn't leave a tip ...

I got the bike shop just after Randy arrived from Sante Fe with the gear. He had his youngest son Brenden with him for the day which I thought was inauspicious -- Randy had said that success depended on him not being interrupted and with a 6 year old running around interruptions were almost guaranteed. There would be even further interruptions from other customers, and Friday was one of his busiest days. Fortunately, I'm on holdiay so I just settled in and didn't worry.

While Randy removed the spokes from my wheel I uploaded my journal to the web and answered a couple of dozen e-mails (my $25 motel didn't have a phone). Randy sat outside to take advantage of the light, and the photo below shows him checking out my map once we were finished.


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With the spokes removed it was time to relace the wheel and Randy had problems with the spoke pattern. I suggested that we grab the front wheel and use it as a pattern so I sat with him calling out the spoke positions while he connected the spokes on one side of the hub. It is a complicated process, at least if you don't do it regularly, as I knew from firsthand experience: I laced a wheel once when I was a teenager and it took me several tries to get it right. With one side properly laced Randy was able to quickly lace the other side.

With the wheel laced it was time to true the wheel. This is a time consuming process since you need to get the wheel correct in two dimensions: left to right and in and out. It is a process of incremental changes and unfortunately Randy had a continuous slew of interruptions from other customers so it took quite a lot of time to get it done. There was a 1 mm in/out wobble that he just couldn't get out so in the end I told him not to bother since I was on trails so it wouldn't be that critical. A perfectionist, he didn't like that idea, but accepted it in the end.

During this time I tried to take the load off Randy by helping any way that I could. One woman dropped off two scooters with flat tyres so I changed the tubes. They had been left out in the rain and my feet got wet from the water in the tyres when I removed the tubes! I told the woman to tell her kids that they should be more careful with their equipment. Same thing my dad told me when I was that age and used a screw driver to put a tyre back on my bicycle (he had to fix quite a few punctures and refit the tyre for me).

It was quite late in the day by the time we mounted the wheel to my bicycle and we found that there was a problem: it was not in the middle of the frame. This was confusing as it was true in the rig. It seemed as though the whole wheel needed to go over to the derailleur side. Randy was stumped and I asked if there was someone we could call but he said the Sante Fe shops were closed. I had a brainwave and suggested we call Scott the master mechanic in Salida.

Randy phoned Scott who as soon as being told the problem told us that the wheel wasn't dished correctly (there is usually a tool to dish wheels but Randy didn't have one). The solution was easy. We were to measure the offset of the wheel rim from the frame and then reverse the wheel. The wheel then needed to be moved by half the difference between these two measurements.

We didn't have a tape measure so I used some plastic cable ties which I marked and then estimated half the distance. Randy loosened the spokes on one side and then tightened the derailleur side to move it over. After two goes the wheel was pretty well centred, although I was concerned about the fact that some of the spokes appeared to be overtensioned. Anyway, I took it for a run round the parking lot and it seemed fine.

Randy felt bad that it had taken all day, but there was nothing he could do. After all, as a one man shop it was impossible for him to devote all of his attention to my wheel. The important thing was that he had successfully replaced my hub which meant that I could continue my trip.

He offered to drop me off at the route and I gratefully accepted. Since I had lost two days I decided to go to Cuba. This would also allow me to break in/test the wheel on a paved section instead of an unpaved section.

His wife and two of his children decided to join us so after collecting them we headed west through Los Alamos, of nuclear bomb fame, towards Cuba. I hadn't appreciated how far or circuitous the route was. It took us through mountainous terrain which would have been great to see in the daylight. Eventually we reached Cuba and they dropped me off at the first motel. Kind and hospitable to the end, Randy said that if I have any problems to give him a call and he'll collect me.

Sockets Cyclery in Espanola definitely wins the most helpful bicycle shop award. Randy went far beyond the call of duty to help me out and I was most grateful for his kindness. I was ready to continue my trip first thing the following morning.

On to the next day ...

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