"If there’s a world here in a hundred years, it’s going to be saved by tens of millions of little things. The powers-that-be can break up any big thing they want. They can corrupt it or co-opt it from the inside, or they can attack it from the outside. But what are they going to do about 10 million little things? They break up two of them, and three more like them spring up!"
- Pete Seeger, in YES! Magazine

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Roadside Assistance for Cyclist

This weekend I spent 24 hours, that's right - EVERY DAYLIGHT HOUR, researching for my next book. Tough work, you know, scouring southern Santa Barbara County for every family-friendly nook and cranny. While it's not a job someone has to do (unlike yesterday's deed), I joyfully accept the task.

Being out and about certainly increases the chances of coming across an opportunity to help someone else.

The project: Provide roadside assistance, and eventually a much-needed ride, to Michael, a UCSB student letting off steam with a good, hard, bike ride.

5 minutes if you don't count drive time. I was headed that way (more or less) anyway.

Why bother?
While driving up one of our steep mountain roads, I passed several cyclists doggedly pumping away at the climb. On my way back down the mountain one of them was on the side of the road where his bike was perched upside down on handlebars and seat. I have some experience with bikes, so I offered to lend a hand.

Well, this college student's rear derailleur was toast! Somehow, he'd managed to bend the derailleur hanger, and while pumping up the hill the derailleur had turned into his wheel, the spokes of which grabbed it and torqued it into a...mess.

His options:
- Carry the bike (it wouldn't roll) 13 miles downhill back to civilization
- Torque the part with improper tools (and potentially cause further damage - if that's possible) and MAYBE be able to coast most of the way into town
- Hitch a ride
- Spend the night with the mountain lions.

It was 13 miles back to civilization. So I offered him a lift. (I know...don't pick up hitchhikers! I don't...usually. But he wasn't hitching, and this was no fake breakdown!) His concern? Getting bike grease on my stuff!

He loaded it greasy side up on top of my camping gear in the back of the truck and we enjoyed a peaceful, safe ride down the mountain.

Worth it?
Absolutely. A super-easy deed that saved the guy a LOT of walking time. I like to think that if I'm in need of assistance when I'm out doing my biking thing (which isn't NEARLY as often as I'd like), someone would lend a hand EVEN if it meant giving a lift to a stranger.


  1. As a sometimes-cyclist, and the wife of a cyclist, I applaud your charity to this poor guy. I had the "don't pick up a stranger" line driven into my head, too, but have picked up strays a couple times. One was a high school kid who had his car break down in front of my house and needed a ride home. The other was a sweet, young couple who were trekking in the snow near our house - we were driving past, headed to the grocery store (with chains on the van). When I asked, it turns out they were walking to the store (2 miles away, in 20+ inches of snow), so we gave them a lift. Seemed like the right thing to do. Sometimes I think these kinds of charitable deeds are the best because they directly connect the giver and receiver. It's powerful for everyone involved.

  2. I read your blogs in the morning over my coffee. Nice way to start my day.

    I thought about this post the other day. I was coming home from gymnastics and gave this woman and her two daughters a ride home out of the goodness of my heart. It was kind of cold out and I know what it is like to hoof it in the flipping cold. so, I picked them up and, through the course of conversation, found out she is a single mom with two jobs and two kids and their commute from gymnastics is a friggin' HOUR.

    I didn't do it for me, I did it because I have been there and it was not a big deal for me. But MAN....it took me about 15 minutes to drive straight to her house.

    Did I feel GREAT? I dunno about feeling great. I mean, I was really glad that I managed to make a small gesture and have someone really appreciate it. I am glad I gave her a ride, but more because it was such an unexpected good thing for her.

  3. I'm glad to see we're inspiring others to lend a hand, even if picking up hitchhikers isn't something we generally encourage. :)


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