I got to Canberra early enough to make a detour to the Green Shed, a side business attached to the local rubbish dump. I appreciate that they save them from the landfill, but most of the bikes in there were crap. I found one wheel, though, whose rim might replace mine. I bought it for five bucks and strapped it down on top of the pile.
That night Nic helped me celebrate with a couple cold beers. This time it was much more than simply completing another leg of the bike tour. I wonâ€™t argue that doesnâ€™t merit a couple beers too, of course, but I had really seen through something new that day, something I wasnâ€™t sure I could even do.
It was a proud night for me. I knew I would have to let that wheel go soon, if I wanted to make it to Sydney. But right then I wasnâ€™t eager to be rid of it. I was happy just to revel in that warm feeling of an obstacle overcome. And Nic was the perfect companion for the moment; head over heels into bikes, down to earth, with the experience to appreciate what Iâ€™d done â€“ not to mention heaps of stories of his own.
And when Nicâ€™s buddy Dan came over with another sixer, I had not just one but two interested bike dudes to show the wheel to. We geeked out about it in the garage as I explained how I had done it.
Suddenly Dan said, â€œIâ€™ve got a wild idea!â€
Alright, bring it on!
He was the manager of a brew pub in town, named â€“ and I shit you not â€“ The Bent Spoke Brewery. Actually Nic had already told me about the pub and its bike theme, and about their high tech insulated growlers, and then I realized â€“ I had passed this place on my way through town! I saw the sign and gave it a double-take, thinking it was a bike shop, but didnâ€™t stop in.
Something was stirring. The fates were awake, energy buzzing. The breeze of coincidence promised something to come.
Maybe, just maybe, he might be able to finance a new wheel for me, he reckoned, if I would agree to let them mount my storied bush-biker wheel in their pub. Up on the wallâ€¦ like a proper piece of artâ€¦!
I was humbled. I truly could not think of a better resting place for my now quite beloved rear wheel. He promised to look into it at work tomorrow.
Nic and I didnâ€™t just twiddle our thumbs though. The next day he took me to another Green Shed with a huge bike shop area; now wouldnâ€™t that be a noble place for a grungy grease-ball bike mechanic to donate his time. Think of the improvised repairs you would have to do with only junk at hand!
But they didnâ€™t seem to have an appropriate replacement.
At the Monkey Wrench bike shop in Nicâ€™s neighbourhood, though, we struck gold. After listening to my story, the mechanic on duty there scrounged up a really decent hybrid wheel.
â€œFella while back upgraded his wheel and just left this here,â€ he told us. I guess itâ€™s been waiting for someone like you â€“ I donâ€™t sell used parts, so you can have that.â€
He held out the wheel towards me. Both our hands touched the wheel, and in that moment, fate smiled.
I was stunned. It even came with a fresh gear cluster! I should have bought that man some beer. Instead I gave him my custom, and bought a chain to match the gears. Smick-o!
Just like that, I had what I needed to get to Sydney; our next stop was The Bent Spoke to deliver a piece of art.
Dan set us up with some Crankshafts straight out of the tap and we told him the news. â€œWhat, you already got a wheel! Great!â€ Danâ€™s an enthusiastic guy!
He gave me a little tour, up the stairs past the gigantic stainless steel fermentation and wort vats, following the handrail that doubles as a beer delivery system, under the chandeliers made of bike chains and cogs, to the second floor where a wheel hung against an elegant mirror.
Dan pulled it down rudely. Just some broken cast-off from a local bike shop. It didnâ€™t even have any bent spokes!
Then, with some small amount of ceremony, we hung my wheel in its place.
He was home. Never again would he need to carry a load, only float there and be examined, perhaps admired, and maybe spin a bit â€“ slow and true — on their clever axle-skewer wall mount.
Iâ€™d never retired a wheel before. It felt good.
Standing there with Dan and Nic and the owner of the brewery, I wondered aloud if there was some small memento I might take with me, to remember this occasion by. I was thinking a tee-shirt or a Bent Spoke patch or something, but the owner suggested a growler.
How could I refuse? Perhaps itâ€™s not the most streamlined thing for a bike tour, especially filled with two litres of craft beer. But that wonâ€™t last long, now will it? Just strap it down on top of the pile!
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Someone once said to me, when youâ€™re faced with fear or indecision, when youâ€™re up against an obstacle, that maybe itâ€™s okay to imagine your future self, looking back on the moment at hand, and ask yourself, â€œHow do I want this story to end?â€
Would you look back and regret making the comfortable, safe decisions? Would you even remember, if you had never taken the risk? Would that bygone chance for success slip into the ether, forever lost?
Or would you nod in satisfaction, remembering the courage that brought you through, one way or another, to help mold you into who you are today?
Three days ago, on the road to Canberra wondering what to do, I knew how I wanted this story to end.
But I never dreamed it would reach beyond my hopes, to lay down such rich rewards.
Thank you Universe.