Dangerspouse Rides Again

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Garage - Track

Jul. 27, 2004 - 5:24 a.m.

"Mule!" "Nag!"


Oh yeah, gotta love unplanned vacations.

NewWifey(tm) and I had races the past two weekends, and while we were at the first one we decided that rather than drive home, unload the bikes at 2am, eat leftover coldcuts and drink flat Fresca until Thursday, then pack up and leave again Friday, we'd just as soon stay up in New England between events and be a bit more rested hopefully. So I called my boss and told him I had leukemia.

"Oh my GOD! Jesus, Tom, I can't believe it! What...I mean, is there anything I can do?"

"Well yeah actually, there is. I'm up here at the Boston Leukemia Institute and they want me to come back next weekend for some confirmation tests. But with the gridlock from the big Democratic Party party, and how exhausting long distance travel is for me now, I was wondering if..."

"Oh hey listen, take the week off and more, if you need it. Don't even worry - we'll cover your shift. And if you need anything special when you get back, maybe have one of the other guys handle some of your stations or something, just let me know."

"Gee thanks boss, that's real swell of you. I'll let you know when I get back. Bye."


Since NewWifey(tm) is the supervisor of her department now, one of perks of the position is apparently just calling your peons and saying "I won't be in next week. Get the work done or you're all fired."

So we had the week off.

Unfortunately since we hadn't planned to take the week off, we had nowhere to stay. And summertime in New England is heavy tourist season, so every place we called was booked solid. We were almost resolved to sleeping in the SUV in McDonalds parking lots again, when one of our fellow racers offered to put us up AND feed us, gratis.

Foolish man! I guess he'd never hosted an Italian before.

Well of course we took him up on it, and it was a very pleasant stay. I even hacked into his computer and managed to leave a few harassing notes at some other diaries before he got wise and pulled the plug on me. I didn't care - that just meant more time raiding his fridge.

We took a few day trips here and there. NewWifey(tm) loves Mystic Seaport, on the south eastern tip of Connecticut. It's a really neat recreation of an Old Timey whaling village, one of those living museum things. But the real reason she likes going there is because she loves Mystic Pizza. Yes, THE Mystic Pizza, where they filmed that godawful Julia Roberts' movie. However regardless what I think of Chick Flicks in general, and this one in particular (why CAN'T they add more topless car chase scenes??), they do make an exceptional pizza. We often stop there on our way back from races in Rhode Island or Massechucetts to grab a pie, and pitcher or two of Sam Adams for the road. (Those MADD bitches can kiss our ass. They obviously don't know what it's like to be bruised and parched after a grueling motorcycle race across New England rocks. Facing a 5 hour drive to New Jersey sober after that is a prospect no one should have to face. So hammered we get, and sing along to our cheesey "Best of ABBA" 4-cd set the entire way home.)

Anyway the Monday through Friday stretch went quite smoothly, with day trips and free eats at our gracious - if increasingly agitated - host's abode. Then on Saturday we prepped our bikes for Sunday's race.

"Prepping the bikes" is really a misnomer for what I actually do: Scrape just enough mud off my number plate so that I'm not disqualified, and pack enough duct tape should anything (like a frame) fall off. Then I load the bike on the trailer.

By comparison, NewWifey(tm) is much more meticulous. She's one of those racers who for some reason believes the bike must be "safe" and "operational" before being flung about at breakneck speeds over a field of boulders. So she lubes the cables, cleans the chain, checks that BOTH footpegs are still attached (pussy), the handlebars are tight, and she has enough gas. *sigh* You can always spot the rookies.

One of the items on her checklist is "Inspect the tires". To quote Jean Shepherd in A Christmas Story once again: MY tires "...were tires only in the academic sense. They were round, and had once been made of rubber...." As long as I see a ribbon of black around the rim, I hop on and go. NewWifey(tm) seems to have something called "standards" however.

NW: "I think I should change my rear tire for tomorrow's race."

DS: "Why? Has your old one fallen off?

NW: "No. But the knobs are looking worn and I want to make sure I have enough traction."

DS: "Hey, YOUR knobs are looking more worn than when I married you but you don't hear ME complaining that they should be replaced."

Not a heartbeat went by before the 10mm wrench she was carrying went whistling past my right ear.

NW: "The next one won't miss. Now are you gonna change my tire or not?"

DS: "....ok."

I made the mistake about a month ago of purchasing a huge steel contraption that allows one to change tires on these bikes by oneself. See, they're tubless tires. And tubless tires are an order of magnitude harder to change than the old tube types. I won't get into why, but as an indication, we pay around a hundred bucks for the tire and an additional THIRTY for the mounting fee. So I figured...we each go through about three rear tires and one front tire per season (minimum). At $130 per tire, that's $1040 just in rubber. BUT, if I purchased the tire changing machine for a hundred bucks, I could save the mounting fees - on 8 tires, that's 240 dollars a year. I patted myself heartily on my back and crowed to NewWifey(tm) about what a fiscally responsible spouse I am.

NewWifey(tm) had serious reservations about making the initial purchase, arguing that I am so irresponsible with things mechanical that it was well worth the 30 dollar mounting fee just to insure that one of our bikes didn't explode from shoddy workmanship. MY shoddy workmanship. I laughed and waved her off, and bought the thing anyway. Now it was time for me to put up or shut up. This was to be the inaugural run.

Lo and behold, the contraption worked! I almost couldn't believe it myself, and NewWifey(tm) was certainly stunned when I showed her the rim and old tire, each in a seperate hand after less than 10 minutes. (Reminds me of a bumper sticker I once saw: "Behind every succesful man is a very suprised woman".) I crowed some more and got the new tire.

Now, the huge steel contraption thingy only takes the tire OFF. Putting the new tire ON was a whole 'nother animal, as I was about to find out.

Warning! Mangled Mechanical Explanation Ahead:

For any of you who have ever changed a bicycle tire with a tube, you know that it's a fairly straightforward affair. You slide one side of the tire over the rim, scrunch the tube in there, then use tire irons to ease the other half of the tire on. Presto, just add air and off you go.

With a tubeless tire, the procedure is markedly different. And much, much more difficult. You have to literally hammer both beads of the tire onto the rim, since the tire has to be much tighter than a tubed version (no air can escape the bead). In order to seat that doggie, a perfect seal has to be made while adding air. To facilitate this, some sort of pinching device - either a strap or rubber donut - is wrapped around the tire, forcing the side walls into the rim so air can be added without simultaneously leaking out the edges. We were given a donut to use when we purchased the steel contraption. Once that is applied, you add lots and lots of air pressure until the tire seats with an audible "pop!" and the donut rolls off. That's how you know everything is hunky-dory, and then you just bleed off the excess pressure to the desired ammount.

**end mangled mechanical explanation**

Well, I got the stiff new tire onto the rim, finally. It was quite a chore, but didn't really result in the loss of blood I was expecting. Then I stretched the donut over the outside of the tire and grabbed my little portable air compressor.

That's where I ran into the first minor snag. The compressor was not strong enough to pump the tire up to anywhere near what was required to seat the bead. The little plastic motor was starting to vibrate alarmingly as it strained to push out more than 10psi. The donut wasn't budging at all. After about 15 minutes, when billowing smoke indicated a full on electrical fire was imminent, I shut her down. This was gonna require Serious Power.

We asked our gracious host where the nearest filling station was, and he was only too happy to point us some miles down the road, far from his kitchen. I tossed the wheel assembly in the back of the Ford and NewWifey(tm) and I motored on down to their industrial air pump at the Sunoco station. NewWifey(tm) stayed in the car while I did the dirty work.

It's funny how quickly one can get lulled into a false sense of security when things seem to be working out for even just a few minutes, and you let your guard down. I was humming along happily at that point. My new tire removal machine had worked splendidly, squashing NewWifey(tm)'s initial objections. The installation of the new tire was going along just as swimmingly, after some brief gruntwork. In a few minutes I would have the new tire securely mounted and back on her bike, and at the same time I was 30 dollars richer.

While I squatted there adding air I was daydreaming of the perfect zinger to throw at NewWifey(tm) for having the insolence to question my abilities back when I bought the contraption.

After a few minutes she interrupted my reverie with, "Uh, honey? The air guage on the pump says you're up around a hundred fifteen psi. Don't you think the donut should have rolled off by now? I mean, we only usually run FOUR AND A HALF psi in the back...."

I looked up at the pump, then down at the donut. Sure enough, the guage dial was reaching its limit, and the donut still was solidly wrapped around the tread.

I told her, "Ah, don't worry. The guy who sold me the machine said it took a lot of pressure to seat these things, and the donut would roll off on its own. You'll see."

"Yeah but, it's looking pretty...." she began again.

"Honey, give me SOME credit for once, willya? I got the old tire off, right? You didn't think I could even handle that. Now let me do this my way, and you can apologise in a few minutes when I have everything -"


Without warning, the tire exploded. Just completely disintigrated with the force of a Palestinian bomb belt. I actually didn't hear it. I was forming the words of my sentence when the absolute next thing I knew I was lying down next to a green Chevy Caprice some 20 feet away that was waiting for an oil change.

NewWifey(tm) came running across the lot to me. I could see her mouth moving, but all I heard was ".........". Nothing, not even a ringing in my ears. She helped me up and her lips were still going, until I motioned that I couldn't hear a thing. She made some gestures then, and gently touched my face.


I bent over and looked in the Chevy's mirror at my face. It looked like I was 14 again - HUGE blackheads erupting from forehead to chin!

But they weren't blackheads. When the tire exploded a large portion of tread just shredded into miniature rubber shrapnel, lodging into my face, arms and chest. I gingerly began digging them out - some required a pen knife and tweezers later. The worst of it was the stuff that was blown into my eyes. My eyes began to instantly water, and I ended up going to a local hospital that night to have the crud I couldn't dislodge removed from my cornea. The Emergency Room physician told me I was lucky none of it ruptured the orb itself, merely scratching the surface, and I should get my full vision back in a week or two. He said the same thing about my hearing loss.

Anyway, I tossed the now tire-less rim into the Ford and drove back to our friend's house. There NewWifey(tm) explained in overly glowing detail how I had fucked up the inflation, resulting in an explosion. At least, I assume it was overly glowing. I still couldn't hear anything.

By the way - did I mention that the force of the explosion blew me backwards so hard that I shattered the hubcap on the Caprice when I slammed into it? Or that people in the convenience store across the street thought a bomb had gone off and called the police and fire department? And they pointed real guns at me when I didn't hear their command to "get down on the ground" because I was deaf?

Of course the worst of it was that NewWifey(tm) now did not have a tire for her bike, and the race was the next morning. I'm sure she had plenty of choice things to say about this turn of events, but not being able to hear anything spared me that particular tirade. Luckily, there were several motorcycle shops within driving distance, each of which was eager to sell us a new hundred dollar racing tire and mount it for only thirty dollars more. I pulled out my wallet and looked down at the ground.

Not ten minutes later they rolled out NewWifey(tm)'s rim with the new tire snugly affixed. It wasn't exploded, not even a little. We drove back and installed it onto her bike. Only then would she drive me to the hospital. The next morning we got to the race on time, and she came home with a trophy as tall as her bike. Since I couldn't hear anything I couldn't tell when my bike needed to shift gears, nor could I hear officials cursing me out, the start gun, spectators screaming, etc. And my eyes began watering inside my goggles even before I started the bike. I ended somewhere, approximately, oh, last.

NewWifey(tm) sang "Waterloo" all the way home. Fortunately I didn't hear a word of it.

So let's see....

Cost of Huge Steel Tire Contraption: $100

Savings per year expected: $240

Number of uses before being given to fellow racer: 1

Saving this year as a result: $0

New tire with mounting: $130

Replacement hubcap for 1998 Chevy Caprice: $42

Emergency Room Explosion Patch-up: $610

Dinner and sheepish apology jewelry for NewWifey(tm): $230

Not being able to hear her phone all her friends for a week with the tale: Priceless.

So that was my vacation. Overall it was worth it, albeit more expensive than I'd anticipated. When I got back to work there were flowers and Get Well cards in my studio from fellow announcers and several client stations, all of whom were convinced I was gonna die sometime before the next Sweeps Period and worried it might reflect badly on their numbers. (Or maybe reflect positively, depending how they spun it. A little radio humor, there.)

When my boss called me into his office after my shift, my looks didn't exactly allay his fears.

"My god, you look terrible! I had no idea leukemia could do this to you - and so quickly! Look at you, your eyes are red and streaming, your face and arms are pockmarked, and they tell me your hearing is going, too! I hate to ask this but...have they told you how much longer you've got?"

Well, I knew I couldn't fake the symptoms of leukemia very long before having to produce something concrete, like, say, death. So I told him that great news!, the confirmation tests came up negative, and that I had been merely suffering from a mild case of anemia.

"But...but...the lesions on your face...the hearing loss...watery eyes...?

"Oh, you know how tough it is on the first day back from vacation. I'll be up to full strength in a week or two, don't worry. As long as I take my iron pills and get enough rest."

My boss looked unconvinced, but he accepted it anyway and told me to go home and get that rest.

Which is where I'm going now. Have a great day kids, and don't forget to give generously to the American Leukemia Foundation. You never know when it might strike you.




Oh, I did a CD Swap with gnomad a week or so ago. Actually it wasn't so much a "swap" as a "give". For some reason his list of Personal Values does not include the ethos "When swapping, one must GIVE, as well as recieve". So I sent him out 2 cd's and got nothing back in return. At least I was true to form and didn't waste my time burning stuff I actually like. He now has loaded in his stereo two discs of "The Best of Pink Lady and Jeff" (go ahead, Google them. I dare ya). For which he had the temerity to blast me in his diary.

Oh well, at least I unloaded some crappy cd's. Thanks for taking 'em off my hands, gnomad! Enjoy shaking those earlobe tat's to the strains of 70's Taiwanese Disco.

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