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In record heat, a trail angel saves the day

Posted by on July 30th, 2009 at 12:59 pm

The hot, eerily empty
Springwater Trail yesterday.
(Photos by Erin Greeson)

Today, while commuting home midday to finish my work from an air-conditioned office, a great thing happened. Just when I thought I’d prepared smartly for the 100-degree ride — dousing my head in cold water beforehand and chugging water all morning long — my lack of preparedness on another front led to an unexpected situation.

As I rode down SE Lincoln, I noted an atypically low number of fellow cyclists on this usually busy route. The heat has kept people indoors or in their cars, I thought to myself. I made my way through Ladd’s Addition, under the Hawthorne Bridge and onto the Springwater Corridor Trail (popular bike routes, which were all sparsely populated).

Within a five-minute time span, a flash of dread on the bike path was remedied by the selflessness of a stranger, who was willing to stop in overheated conditions while hurrying toward a demanding day at work.

The relentless heat made me eager to get out of the sun and oven-like wind gusts. As I rounded a midway bend in the trail that curves with the Willamette River, I heard the dreaded “Pop!” then “Hissss”. My tire was flat.

Embarrassingly, today I had set off for my commute with all supplies necessary to fix a fouled tube, except for one essential: Air. But before I could even start to worry about the long and hot walk home, something fantastic happened.

A lone passerby clad in serious-looking cycling gear looked over his shoulder and shouted “Need help?” Mortified but elated, I replied: “I’ve got everything but my pump.”

A generous stranger
lends a hand.

My newfound friend Tim swiftly took control of the situation, fixing the flat on his own in only a couple of minutes (it would have taken me twice as long). We chatted, and ironically, he was on his way to work at Jacob’s Heating and Air Conditioning.

“Man, I’ll bet you’ve had quite a work week,” I said.

“Yeah, I had a ten-hour day yesterday and will probably do the same today,” Tim said without even a slight hint of complaint in his voice. He brushed aside my apologies for holding him up in the heat while wrapping the replacement of my punctured tube with dizzying speed.

Within a five-minute time span, a flash of dread on the bike path was remedied by the selflessness of a stranger, who was willing to stop in overheated conditions while hurrying toward a demanding day at work.

The lessons of this story are obvious, so I’ll leave them at that. My main intent in sharing my heat wave commute experience is to thank Tim and to prompt some storytelling of similar happenings in the community. Have you experienced similar instances of sudden goodwill while riding amid this record-breaking heat wave?

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Comments
  • Aaron July 30, 2009 at 1:06 pm

    I’d say what a breath of fresh air, but that’s too cliche’

    Nice work Tim!

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  • Adam July 30, 2009 at 1:36 pm

    I love people who ride bikes. How many people driving by ever stop and ask if you are okay, or do you need help? Compliments to Tim for doing the right thing!

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  • peejay July 30, 2009 at 1:37 pm

    I’ve received – and returned – that brand of positive karma more than once! It’s a great way to make friends, and to practice tire changing skills as well.

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  • Case July 30, 2009 at 1:38 pm

    If you save one Beer from heatstroke you save us all. Nice job Tim, come to Short Track on Monday and Team Beer will treat you to a cold-n-frosty.

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  • John Russell July 30, 2009 at 1:42 pm

    What a relief! My last flat was on the shoulder of I-5 north of Woodland, WA, on a five-mile-long stretch without exits. Thankfully it wasn’t all that hot, and I was able to find shade, but I certainly didn’t see any other cyclists, much less a motorist stopping to help.

    Whenever I take to the freeways, I always make sure to stop at every occupied vehicle pulled to the side of the road and check to see that everything is going well. For the past few days, I’ve seen plenty of overheating cars on the shoulder, and thankfully all of the drivers had plenty of water. You never know though, and that’s why it’s a good policy to always stop and make sure. Just think if it were you.

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  • 3-speeder July 30, 2009 at 1:47 pm

    I’ve been on both the giving and receiving end of this sort of goodwill. When I’m riding, anytime I see someone remotely looking like they might need assistance, I ask if all is OK. Usually it is, but once in a while they have a problem they are unable to deal with and I help out. Often it isn’t even as much as a flat – I’ve encountered folks whose chain came off who didn’t know how to put it back on.

    I feel this “good samaritan” attitude is widespread among those who bike routinely. Because most of us have felt the helplessness of a breakdown far away from immediate help and the relief when a selfless stranger stops and saves the day.

    For someone new to biking, experiencing this sort of good ending to a minor mishap could make all the difference in helping them to decide that trying to make their trip by bike was a good idea after all. The path to acceptance of bicycles at transportation can be won one rider at a time.

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  • BURR July 30, 2009 at 1:52 pm

    A ‘flash of dread’? Isn’t that a bit over the top?

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  • twistyaction July 30, 2009 at 1:59 pm

    @BURR:

    I think that a “flash of dread” at the thought of getting a flat yesterday without any way to fix it is entirely appropriate.

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  • Case July 30, 2009 at 2:11 pm

    It’s a very long 3 mile walk back to Sellwood when it’s 107 outside. I would have dreaded it all the way home.

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  • Serviceburo July 30, 2009 at 2:26 pm

    Last summer I was out for a training ride and blew out the sidewall on my tire – nothing you can do about that one. After about 5 miles of walking barefoot (concrete will ruin a good pair of cleats) I was fortunate enough the have a very kindhearted woman stop and stuff me and my bike into the back of her car and give me a lift home. It was just too bad that about 40-50 other people just drove right past me despite my obviously needing some help.

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  • carlos July 30, 2009 at 2:46 pm

    It’s the few kind souls in this world, willing to go out of their way to help others, that restores my faith in our human condition. One small act of generosity goes so much farther than the act itself.

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  • Meghan H July 30, 2009 at 3:09 pm

    I’ve had two opportunities to do the right thing recently and was glad that I stopped to help. I am hoping that someone will return the favor if I ever drop my wallet while biking or have a mechanical issue.

    I’d like to believe the world is that fair. The one time I had a major crash, cars drove right around me on SE Woodstock as I struggled to get myself and my bike out of the traffic lane.

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  • fredlf July 30, 2009 at 3:09 pm

    Good Sams come in all flavors and vehicles. When I wrapped a derailleur due to a broken chain up on Skyline this last Spring, no fewer than three drivers stopped to ask if I needed a ride, including a single woman.

    Granted a middle-age guy walking in lycra and carrying his bike in one hand and a wheel in the other is a pretty obvious charity case.

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  • chad July 30, 2009 at 3:10 pm

    Not to compare and contrast the bike rider compared to the car driver “goodwill” but this makes me think of the one time I ran out of gas on N Mississippi on the bottom of Killer Hill when I still drove a car to work. I sat for nearly an hour waiting for my wife to arrive with a gas can, but only one person stopped to ask if I needed help.

    Contrast that with the almost annoyingly (I know, terrible problem to have) amount of times one is asked by fellow bike riders anytime one gets a flat.

    Just another reason to love riding bike :)

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  • chelsea July 30, 2009 at 3:54 pm

    yay! i love stories about people being nice, they are so much better than the ones that make me doubt humanity.

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  • Jebus July 30, 2009 at 4:32 pm

    I have stopped more than once to help people out on the side of the road, but the one that comes to mind is a good friend of mine in the airforce stopped to help a guy get out of his car after a wreck and ended up helping get his baby out of the car as well before the car caught fire… No explosions or anything like that, just way too hot and something sparked a fire!

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  • Jim and Sarah July 30, 2009 at 4:43 pm

    Tim’s parents are very proud of him.
    We always have been, and expect to continue to be in the future.

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  • Scott E July 30, 2009 at 4:50 pm

    On Monday I was stopped on the side of Clinton street waiting for a call back on my phone and 2 people stopped to ask if I needed help: 1 fellow on a bike and 1 woman in a car.

    Fortunately I haven’t ever been stuck on the side of the road actually -needing- help but it’s nice to know people do still care.

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  • ggw July 30, 2009 at 6:02 pm

    Whenever you’re out riding and see a fellow cyclist to the side of the road or trail, always ask if they need any help. The offer of a patch, pump or a cell phone is always welcome. Play it forward.

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  • Pete July 30, 2009 at 7:24 pm

    Kudos Tim! I always carry pump, tube, levers, and multi-tool, even a foldable spare tire on long unsupported rides, but one day I broke a chain while on a trail I frequent (Mosier twin tunnels). Almost instantly a couple on a tandem stopped and asked if I had everything I needed. No, it hadn’t occurred to me the chain might break, but they pulled out a quick-link (Wipperman?) and chain tool and had me pedaling back in minutes!

    Incidentally they were from California riding from PDX out to The Dalles for a weekend trip. They had seen the “Oregon – The State Bikes Love” ad campaign and wound up falling in love and said they flew up about every other weekend to tour a region. That weekend turned to relentless rain and I had given them my number and offered to pick them up if the weather turned out as forecast (I’ve got a cargo van for bikes/camping), but I never heard from them so they must have soldiered it out (or my number got too wet to read ;).

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  • Steve Bozz July 31, 2009 at 12:21 am

    I’ve actually enjoyed this same goodwill while bike touring. Pull into a campsite without enough food? Just talk to folks and you’ll end up with a bounty of food, new friends, and stories to share.

    The moments of extreme vulnerability, the points where everything goes wrong, are the times you remember more than anything. Anyone who comes to assist you in these times will forever be remembered.

    GO TEAM!

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  • rider July 31, 2009 at 9:40 am

    That was cool that someone at least stopped for you to make sure all was (or not) well. Last summer on one of the hotter days I set out unprepared (due to a lack of money)for a short 30 mile rural ride out in the Willamette Valley from Salem to Mt. Angel – Silverton – and then back to Salem. I was out on Hazelgreen Rd riding East bound when my back tire went flat. Just one bottle of water and walking in clipless pedal shoes, I managed to walk 10 miles back to the downtown Salem core. Along the way many drivers riding solo in pickup trucks and SUV’s passed me by while I was trodding along carrying my bike. Not one person stopped to see if I needed any help. Now, whenever I ride, I carry all the tools necessary and enough water to last me 24 hours, no matter how long or short my ride is. The Co2 mini pumps are what I roll with now-a-days.

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  • SkidMark August 1, 2009 at 1:57 am

    +1 on Co2 pumps, I have yet to use mine to pump up my own tire.

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  • james August 1, 2009 at 7:20 am

    bike riders are a wonderful breed of humans… what makes us so laid back? great job tim!

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  • Dan August 2, 2009 at 12:04 am

    You rode out with no pump? (Boy were you lucky!)

    I know what you mean about the twilight zone absence of living things on those days. On Wednesday I noticed that all cows and horses and goats and sheep and dogs and everything that I usually see were all gone (in the shade of the barn, undoubtedly :-)

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  • suburban August 2, 2009 at 8:25 pm

    Happens every day, Roadies know about karma

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