I'm currently at the Marriott in Santa Clara (speaking of fancy). We'll be taking off shortly to ride to Scotts Valley.
The remainder of the day turned out to be quite eventful. We rode off through the industrial park area around Great America, where all the streets are named after American Revolutionary icons: Stars & Stripes Dr., Old Ironsides Dr., etc. We rode past Santa Clara University, recently in the news for a "spick" theme party some of its students through. At one point, i noticed that my bottom bracket was starting to work its way out of the shell--not a big surprise considering that i had only grease and no lock-tite or teflon at the shop at 200 Folsom, where i had installed it. I resolved to find a bike shop somewhat quickly, as i didn't bring the necessary tools to remove my crank and tighten the bottom bracket cup.
Along the way, we rode past the Planned Parenthood clinic where i got my vascectomy some seven or eight years ago (my recollection is apparently faulty, given that it diverges from what friends have told me of their recollection of the occaassion). We decided to drop in and Adrienne was keen to give them a donation in return for all the birth control she was didn't have to get.
Adrienne: Can we make a donation here?
PP: A donation? Like money?
We continued on, stopped at a sporting goods store so i could get some small stuff sacks at Mel Cotton's a store i'd found in the phone book and which had a coupon in the same. It turns out the stuff sacks were too small and i forgot to use the coupon.
There was a bike shop, Slough's Bike Shoppe, that was right around the corner. Had i not looked up the address, there's no way i would have known that there was a bike shop there. It was in an old office-building looking kind of place. There was a sign on the door saying "Dad's in intensive care. Open only M-W-F." Unfortunately, it was Thursday. I sense that it would have been a great little shop(pe) and i had missed out.
Not too far away, and directly on the way to the beginning of the Los Gatos Creek bike trail, was Willow Glen Bicycles. We exchanged words about how beautiful the bike was (something that has actually become a bit tedious for me). After some time, the mechanic (sorry, i'm horrible about asking names, and am even worse about remembering them--i'll work on that throughout this travelogue) said, "uhh, i need you to come back here and look at this." He had me watch as he tightened the bottom bracket cup on the drive side and noted how it popped slightly as it was tightened and then kept turning. The threads were completely shot.
Disappointing though it was, it was not exactly a surprise. From the first day, the bottom bracket shell was a bit funky. It probably didn't help that the first BB i tried to install was a funky, one-off American Classic that had the left & right sides mislabeled. A consensus of four Bike Church mechanics (they call them deacons or something silly like that) indicated the threads on the drive side were off by a bit, causing the bottom bracket to enter the shell at a slight angle. I quickly went through that bottom bracket, and subsequently a Phil Wood BB, largely because of this problem. I finally installed a cheapo Shimano product and that worked quite well, although it also felt like i shouldn't tighten it too hard.
Last fall, i took the frame to Sycip to have them repaint it and add a few eyelets for racks and fenders and such. I also asked them to give the BB shell a once over to see if it should be replaced. It would seem that, seven or eight months later, while the paint job is wonderful, they may have re-tapped the threads on the BB shell, but this probably destroyed what integrity they had left. Or maybe it was just the bottom bracket shell's time.
Whatever the case, i was at the beginning of a long bicycle tour with a rather catastrophic problem with my rig that seemed that it had not quick fix. Replacing the bottom bracket shell seemed totally out of the question, as i had just waited eight months to get my bike repainted and was not keen to repeat that experience. After some discussion with the mechanic, it seemed like a workable solution might be to get one of those old cup and spindle assemblies and JB Weld it into the frame. In any event, biking over the hill to Scotts Valley was out of the question. I left the shop, trailed by expressions of sympathy from the mechanic.
We resolved to take the Hwy 17 bus to Santa Cruz and attempt to find a solution there. The bus station was not far away. As we came toward the freeway onramp that the bus would be taking, i began to wonder if the bus might be coming down the street the other way and kept and eye out for it. Just then, a bus with those familiar yellow and blue colors of the SCMTD (Santa Cruz Metro) came into sight and was about to stop at a bus stop. The left turn light was green at the intersection we were approaching, so i swerved over into the left turn lane, hoping Adrienne would and could follow, and rode up the sidewalk, signaling to the driver that we hoped to catch his bus. We hurriedly removed our bags, put our bikes on the rack and rushed into the bus, apologizing for the wait. Luckily, we had exact change.
The luck of catching that bus and having the exact change would continue through the rest of the day, in contradistinction to what had preceded it.
In Santa Cruz, we went to the Bike Church (only a few blocks from the station) and i went to work trying to make my plan for cobbling together an old bottom bracket and glueing it into my frame while Adrienne did some other chores. I spent hours sifting through drawers of old parts and dealing with the pleasant distraction of running into one old acquaintance after another. One of these was Hamilton, who stands out for having the social graces to pick up on the cues that i had totally forgotten his name and the courtesy to spare me the embarassment of having to explain the latter by engaging in that time-worn device of spelling out his name (as if there were many possible spellings of Hamilton) when i was taking down his contact info (thanks, Hamilton!)
Eventually, Quentin came by the shop, which was a huge relief, for Quentin, in addition to being an all-around great guy, is indisputably one of the best resources for the traveling cyclist in a fix. He had many suggestions (including advising against my earlier idea, because those old bottom brackets are rather picky about being alligned properly, which my threads certainly were not). First, he suggested lots of teflon tape. After going home to get the teflon tape and talking to Josh, who has recently taken up frame-building, they came to the conclusion that perhaps the best solution would be to drill the bottom bracket shell out slightly and tap it for Italian threads. The old Italian standard is just slightly bigger. Big enough that the old threads could be gotten rid of, but not so big that the shell would become too thin. We first tried the teflon tape, to no avail.
I then called around to see if i could find anyone who could re-tap a bottom bracket shell. Paul Sadoff, of Rock Lobster Cycles, was the first. He had built the frame in the first place, after all. He didn't answer, as i later found out, because he had a very important nice dinner to have with his wife. I next tried Tom Sullivan, a fixture of the Santa Cruz bike scene. He was very obliging and said i could bring the frame by anytime before 7:00pm (it was then shortly after 5:00pm). This was a huge relief.
I borrowed the PedX Longhaul cargo bike and took the frame over to Amsterdam Cycles, Tom Sullivan's shop. We knocked for a bit and he appeared, shirtless, out of a tiny window above the place and came down to take possession of the frame and give me a work order tag. I wasn't sure he'd remember me, but he did. All in all, a very pleasant interchange. We took our leave and Adrienne and i had a mostly pretty good dinner at Star Bene next door, kinda crappy wine (of which i drank the vast majority) and less than ideal service notwithstanding.
We went back to the Hub, dropped off the Longhaul and some of my stuff (not now having the means to carry most of it) and took the bus up to the fancy-ass Scotts Valley Hilton. I didn't want to walk in my bike shoes because i'm quite worried about my cleats (which need to be kept in pretty good condition now that i'm riding fixed again). I borrowed Adrienne's sandals and walked to the hotel from about 3/4 of mile away. That was quite painful and i eventually just went in my socks. The rest of the day was uneventful, except for some details that will not find their way onto this blog.
All in all, the day made me extremely appreciative of the bicycle community generally, but particularly of the community in Santa Cruz. It's been some time since i've felt really at home anywhere, and this was the most i'd felt at home in ages, though i have no intention of moving back to Santa Cruz. Those sorts of connections and resources and relationships can be had almost anywhere, i think, one just has to really work at them, some places one has to work more hard than others.