More from the brink of disaster - The Great North American Sticky Bun Hunt - CycleBlaze

More from the brink of disaster

Highly recommended: Spoke and Sprocket bike shop, Tacoma, Washington

IF YOU EVER go to these parts, you will find the only campsite in town is a rundown trailer park with a patch of grass to bounce a ball. The woman at the tourist office down by the ferries didn't know much about her town but she did know about this patch of grass and its surrounding Tin City.

"It's a bit..." she hesitated... "I'm supposed to recommend all our Chamber of Commerce members equally but, well, it lacks ambiance."

We stayed in a motel.

That still left the broken wheel. The one bike shop worth the name had closed for good and the other stocked as many kayaks as bikes. Time to call friends in the trade.

The first call was to Jim Couch, who runs the excellent Spoke and Sprocket shop in Tacoma, south of Seattle. His answering machine said the shop would be closed until Tuesday. This was Sunday night, remember, and there was still no guarantee he would have a Campagnolo hub. My second call was to Bill McGann, retired now from running the Torelli wholesale bike business in California and living blissfully in the Ozark mountains.

Now, I have never met either Jim or Bill. Jim is a friend of Bill's and Bill was a friend of a friend who, on the edge of Holland during the world championships, stuck his head into my tent and greeted me by name. I had never met him before, either. He still can't explain how he did it.

I was due to meet Bill and his wife Carol back in Muscatine but family health problems put a stop to that.

"Bill, do you know any Campagnolo dealers who could ship me a wheel tomorrow?"

Bill asked if I knew anything of Lil' Abner cartoons. I said I didn't, so he explained that there is an impossibly kind character who will help everyone and is loved in return. The living equivalent, Bill said, was Jim Couch.

"Let me see if I can call him at home and how he can help."

He told me to wait half an hour. I waited.

"Jim will call you," Bill said.

Jim called.

"I'll bring you a wheel by mid-day tomorrow," he said.

"But it's your day off. And you're two hours away."


"Well, why not put it in the mail?"

"Because it'll give me something to do and we'll get to meet at last. Now, where's this motel you're at..."

I nominate Jim Couch as an American saint.

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