Day Eleven: Troy to St. Louis (but not by bike)

We ended yesterday by showering and walking across a busy highway to a Mexican restaurant where margaritas were half price. Strangely, given all the calories we are burning – about 4,000 during the biking portion of the day – our appetites aren’t great. We had good meals but didn’t finish them and I didn’t finish my cheap margarita.

We got a great night’s rest and woke at 6:00. I checked Lisa’s tire and found it pancake flat, which I actually was expecting.

This trip, maybe typical of adventures like this, has been a series of problems to solve. Here’s the situation, what are the options and the possibilities? We knew there wasn’t a bike shop in Troy, but there was one in a town 40 miles away on our planned course, so I could replace the tube again and we could limp there and hope they could replace the tire, which we now, slightly too late, realized was what we had to do.

We also knew there was a small car rental agency in Troy. Could we rent a car, drive to Cape Girardeau, fix the bike and catch up on our trip? We knew there was a good bike shop there and it is only two hours away.

We started to make calls and realized that no rental cars anywhere were available for a one way rental.

Then Lisa wondered if maybe there was an REI in St. Louis, and bingo, there was. We’d been on the phone last night with the bike team in Seattle (Lisa’s riding an REI bike). Now we decided to get to an REI where they’d have an expert mechanic. But how, without a one way rental?

By playing rental car leapfrog, that’s how. Rent a car in Troy that is big enough for one bike, take that bike to REI and get them started on it. (Bonus, lunch at the Whole Foods next door.) Then drive to the St. Louis airport and rent a car big enough for two bikes. Drive both cars back to Troy, return the first car and pick up the other bike. Drive back to REI and take care of business, and go to a hotel. Tomorrow, we’ll drive all our gear to Cape Girardeau in the big car and unload at our AirBnB. Then we’ll drive to the Cape Girardeau airport, rent the cheapest car available and drive both cars back to the St. Louis airport and return the big car. Then drive back to CG and return the little car and Uber to our rental cottage with everything ready to roll the next morning.

Our experience at the St. Louis REI’s bike department put all the other mechanics we’ve seen (quite a few) to shame. They are the Mayo Clinic of bike illnesses. While everyone else had told us there was no problem with the rim or the tire, these guys dig deeper (there is a trick involving panty hose for finding tire piercings we can share sometime.) It turns out, Lisa had picked up numerous metal shards which eventually worked their way into the tubes and pierced them. Should we have just replaced the apparently fine tire sooner? Yup. But we listened to people who were troubleshooting at a shallower level.

In any case, we were in very good hands with Rob and Jake at REI St. Louis and they comped all the work on Lisa’s bike. If you are not a customer yet, become one. We both left with new chains, me with a new cassette (the series of chain rings on the back wheel) and Lisa with a tough new tire.

Lisa once suggested that we apply for the Amazing Race TV show. I think we’re on it but with no chance of winning millions.

So, how are our spirits? Mine were low mid-afternoon, waiting while mechanics were telling me our chains were likely to fail and did we have spares (no, and could I replace one if I had to…no) and I was thinking that we are heading into places where they don’t have REI and Whole Foods – I mean, not even close…I was just thinking how can we do this (and why.)

I even looked at the train schedule, that’s how low I was. Meanwhile, Lisa was upstairs looking at hats. When she came down to ask if I liked the gray one or the black one better, I told her how I was feeling and she said “I’m optimistic, let’s just go for it.”

Then, when we were checking into our bargain, past-its-prime hotel down by the Cardinals’ stadium, I looked up and saw a promotional banner which read “going the extra mile for adventure is always worth it.”

And I guess, in the end, that is the truth. I may not pass this way again, I believe someone once said.