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Herman and the Broken Down Bike

My 20-some-year-old Trek mountain bike barely survived Michigan’s icy winters and spring rains.  It’s old metal bones leaned against a shed for a few brutal seasons and was never tuned-up afterwards.   I’ve been clunking along on it well enough for a while now.

The chain is rusty; the seat cover is ripped so a tuft of stuffing pokes through; and the brakes haven’t been tended to since God-only-knows-when, which squeak and squeal loud enough that I don’t use a bell to signal others that I’m coming up behind them.  When I grip the lever, an awful sound peels out and pedestrians lurch to one side of the walk, or seek safety in the grass.

The bike was strapped to the rack on the back of my Subaru as I drove from Florida to Oregon and back across the country a couple years ago.  Over 6,000 miles, through the dust storms in Kansas to the Portland rains and Florida humidity and sun, the bike hung in there.  It was tied down with the ends of the straps, a bike lock, and bungee cords.

After the journey was over, I noticed the blue straps on the rack were worn down through the winds and rain.  I noted blue shavings all over the back of my car and examined the material.  The straps were still sturdy but frayed.  I wrapped the excessive material around and around the rack.  It held together and I rarely checked it.

Unbeknownst to me, the rack, with the bike attached to it, fell off my car tonight as I was driving.

I had driven down a paver-stone covered street along the water’s edge and parked about a block away from where it dropped, completely unaware.  I had decided to go for a walk on this lovely spring evening in Florida.  I got out of the car and had a funny feeling as I walked away.  A man turned his car into the same area where I parked.  It was dark.  Small light posts lit the pathway along one of the richest neighborhoods in the area.  I felt comforted only slightly that I was in a “good part of town.”  My stomach tightened a little when I figured that no one in any of the mansions would hear me if I was attacked, and surely not if I fell into the bay.

Two women jogged by discussing the resource center at their school and how the teacher was rotating out of that position.  A dog kept pace next to them and wore a blinking red light on its collar.  I noted a biker ahead.  He passed me and had a bike helmet with a blinking light, also.  I relaxed knowing that others were out.

I walked along the dimly lit path and looked up as a cloud shifted to uncover a nearly full moon.  No one was around so I spoke my prayer of gratitude out-loud to the moon goddess Ix-Chel.

“Thank you for this wonderful day.  I am grateful for the chance to grow and learn in my Improv class.  I am thankful for my job and the great people I work with.  I give thanks for living in a beautiful place, close to the water.  I ask that you, Ix-Chel continue to work through me and be with me.  I ask to be open and allow the Greatest Version of the Grandest Vision of myself to shine through.” I relaxed further.

Sliding back into my car, I cranked the air-conditioning on and headed home.  I pulled in the drive and hopped out to put my bike into the garage.  The only things remaining, though, were the hooks that secured the previously-existing rack in place.  A few inches of shredded blue straps were left dangling.

Shit! Someone cut the straps and stole my bike….rack and all.

Damn it!  It must have been the guy that turned in and gave me a funny feeling.

Should I call the non-emergency police line and report it? 

Ugh, I’m sure they’ll never recover a measly, old bike.  They have bigger things to worry about.

Well, that’s it.  I’ll just go back and see.

See what?  What if he’s actually around?  What the hell am I going to do?  Pull the bike out of the back-end of his truck? In the dark? With no one around?

Well, I’ll at least drive by.  If he’s around, I’ll snap a picture and report him.

I fired my car up again and drove off.  I turned onto the bay-side street and saw a man standing next to a heap of bike and rack.  My eyes adjusted to the image in the dark.

What the hell?!  It’s my bike! Did someone get spooked and just dump my bike?

It was the man I passed earlier on his bike.  His helmet was still sending out red flashes.

I pulled over, hit my safety hazard lights and leaped out of my car.

“Oh my God! It’s my bike!”  I clasped my hands to my cheeks.

“I thought it was surely stolen.”

“Is this your bike?” The man asked.

“Can you prove it by taking the lock off?” He smiled

“Yes, yes!” I walked over to the pile. “What….? Where….?  What happened?”

“I was biking by and saw this sitting here on the sidewalk.  I called the non-emergency police line,” He explained.

“Oh, my, thank you, thank you for guarding it and calling the police! I was going to do the same thing but figured it was stolen and didn’t bother.”

He leaned down and took hold of the remnants of strap.  “Looks like it broke off your car. And someone must have set it on the sidewalk.”

“I’m so grateful no one was hurt by this.  I’m so happy to have my bike back!”  I gushed again, undoing the lock and standing the bike up.

“Do you need help with it?” He asked.

“Oh…” I looked to my car and back to him.  “Well, I can’t put the rack back on,” and chuckled.

“It will fit in the back end,” I said.

I popped open the trunk and tried to fit the bike in.  It wouldn’t fit in easily.

“Let’s take off the front tire,” the man said. “Do you know how?”

“It’s been a long time, but I think you just unhinge these cables and unscrew the pin.” As I am explaining what I remembered, he did just that.

Headlights came up behind us just then.  I looked up and saw the patrol car.  The officer climbed out and I waved to him.

“Did someone call about a bike?” He asked.

“Yes, I did,” the biker replied, “and here’s the owner.”

“Thanks officer!” I called out.

“Ok, have a good night,” the officer replied and headed off.

I grabbed the hatch to close the trunk.

“What’s your name?” I asked.


“Nice to meet you, Herman. I’m Sara.  Thank you again for your help.  May good fortune shine down upon you now.”

I scurried into my car to get out of the way as another car was approaching.  As I pulled away from the curb, I saw Herman still standing there next to his bicycle.  Once I was safely on the road, he peddled off into the night with his beacon of light blinking.

Subaru with bike rack and cargo carrier

*Here’s the old rack and bike during my cross-country adventure in 2014.  It’s amazing it held up as long as it did 🙂

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