I have been using Craigslist to sell a mountain bike purchased from my brother. So far, buyers have not ventured across the Sound to inspect this pristine marvel of Univega engineering. While giving it a tune, my machinist son suggested that I look for a frame that fit me (the Univega is way too small) and maybe we could swap parts. So I began searching for a Specialized Hardrock.
The classic, old school hardrock, built around the turn of the century appeals to me. If I were directing a movie set on a college campus, my protagonist would ride that bike. If I were within six miles of school I would pedal it to class each day (weather permitting, of course). So, in checking the ads, one popped up in Gig Harbor described "in very good condition" so I bit.
Having a busy schedule I didn’t see the bike until dusk. And it wasn't in Gig Harbor, but about 15 miles away. Navigating by phone I found myself driving down a desolate road -- few houses, no pavement, and few utility improvements. The driveway with the black mailbox was finally located. The only light originated from Christmas lights illuminating an out building. The house – a darkened trailer – had a sinister flavor. After a brief knock a cheery elf of a man came to the door. He was falling over himself with excitement about the bicycle. We drug it into the drive; I took a few pedals. It was exactly what I wanted: old and abused, kind of crusty and very comfortable. I paid full price which wasn’t much. I wanted to get my newly adopted friend free of this seedy environment but I did not have a car that could haul the new purchase.
I mentioned I had a cousin, Robert, in the area who might be able to get the bike that night. The seller agreed and I took him to get pizza. Turns out he is a coder. We had a fascinating conversation about his work. He was developing a program to read rss feeds to count how many people die each day in the world. I asked him why and all he could think was…."nobody has ever done that. I want to be the first."
I found my cousin who followed me to the dark path and the bike. The stranger pushed it out of the dusky trailer and we loaded it. Robert judged the area as being sketchy and thought the seller would probably sell it four times if he had the chance, so it was probably good that we had it in our posession.
I won’t go over the defects that came to light the next day, or the uneasiness of my wife in knowing I had ventured off the grid. Suffice to say I felt like Robert and I were 17 again on a crazy youthful adventure.... and I found it satisfying, enervating and totally wonderful. Love my new friend whom I will get to know much more intimately as it goes though a substantial rebuild process.
John Alfred Riebli