Day 24: Clemson, SC - Between the Ends of America - CycleBlaze

May 6, 2011

Day 24: Clemson, SC

I wake up and don't really feel like leaving. I still have things to catch up on and don't see a problem resting for another day before starting up into the mountains. I look at the weather where I'm headed and notice it's still 37 degrees there at 8:30 in the morning, with rain in the forecast this afternoon. My mind's made up.

In the early afternoon I ride down a funny-smelling elevator with fake wood paneling and look out the glass at the five old people bobbing slowly up and down in the small pool. It's beautiful when I step outside and walk the mile from the hotel to downtown Clemson. College Street runs right through the middle of it, with more restaurants in one place than I've seen in two weeks. Clemson Orange is everywhere as I head past bars offering dollar pizzas on Wednesdays and $4.75 pitchers of Busch Light.

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The Clemson University campus gives me exactly what I expect: beautiful old brick buildings, young guys playing frisbee on sprawling green lawns, and long lines of hundred-year-old trees shading wide pathways. It's the last day of finals week and most students already left for the summer. Nearly everyone that's still around works to clean out their dorm room and cram all of their stuff into dad's station wagon.

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It feels good to walk, to not worry for a day about the direction of the wind, finding decent food, or trying to figure out a place to stay for the night. As I head back to the hotel on the sidewalk I hear cars behind me and keep turning my eyes up and to the left, trying to look backward into a mirror attached to a helmet that isn't there.

While I write the journal entry from three days ago, thoughts about the wear in my rear wheel start to fill my head. I check the surface a few times with my eye, with my finger, and with the plastic card that acts as the key to my room, trying to see if the concave groove is deep enough to be seriously worried about. But other than a few online message board postings I have no idea what I'm looking for. I ride down the street to the nearest bike shop, just before they close, for a second opinion. They agree that I can still ride it, but that I need to take it easy and buy a replacement soon. I piss and moan to myself on the ride back. Before leaving Seattle I had my neighborhood shop specifically check the rear wheel for trueness and cracks and general condition, to make sure I wouldn't end up in a spot like this. They never mentioned a thing.

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I've never had to buy a new wheel before. It turns out that you can't get just one—at least not online, without a special order, if you live in the United States, and need a silver Mavic A319 with 36 spokes. I call a shop a few days up the road in Asheville, North Carolina, but they don't have anything in stock either.

I'm about to give up for the day when the Internet saves me. I find an incredibly talented bike mechanic in Roanoke, Virginia who's willing to sign for a pair of shipped wheels, set them aside for me, and then install them when I get to town. Not long after I come across an East Coast shop offering the exact wheel and hub combination I need. I have to buy them as a set, but I'm not in a position to complain. The shop can send the wheels on Monday, which means they'll get to Roanoke at least a few days before I roll off the Blue Ridge Parkway and into town. As long as the bike's rear wheel can give me another six or seven strong days of riding I'll be all set.

I still go to bed anxious.

Today's ride: 3 miles (5 km)
Total: 1,244 miles (2,002 km)

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