Dr. Carbon

Out of Half Moon Bay with a full sunrise tailwind, that’s how the day began. I took Cameron’s advice and went through the Devil’s Slide; it was spectacular as promised. There wasn’t much I could do about the cracked seat stays but pedal on.

In San Francisco I got lost trying to find the Golden Gate Bridge, but when I did find it and pedal across, it was magnificent. The sun was out, the anti-suicide monitors on the bridge were in fine spirits, and I zipped across.

The moment got into Marin County, which is basically the South Bay of NorCal, a profamateur zoomed by, shouting, “Put on your fucking mask you fucking asshole!”

I stopped in Sausalito and enjoyed eggs, bacon, and toast, and unlimited hot cups of coffee. I planned to hole up somewhere near Fairfax but didn’t know where. After I got going I saw Mike’s Bikes. It is a big shop with a fast road racing team; I knew the name and figured I’d stop by and get a second opinion about my cracked frame. It was worrying me.

As I wheeled up a masked man said, “Seth! Is that you?”

“It is!”

“Ethan. Ethan Frankel!”

I’d never have recognized him with the mask; Ethan is a UCLA student who is pandemicking back home in Mill Valley, where he’s from. What are the chances?

We talked about options but there weren’t any good ones. They didn’t have any touring bikes and I wasn’t keen on dropping $3k even if they had. “Hey,” Ethan said. “Let me call a buddy. He’s a roadie but originally a tourist; he’s toured Central Asia on his bike; he rode the length of Chile in like two months. He makes his own bike carbon bike frames and might be able to help.”

The guy’s name was Bryan Kevan, and when I finally connected with him by text asking for help, he texted back: “My purpose in life is to help tourists with broken carbon frames get back on the road asap. It’s my dream, actually.”

I thought he was kidding …

He lives in Berkeley, which I learned is like everything else in the Bay Area, that is, it’s nowhere near where you actually want to go. The Bay Area is not a conglomeration of cities in a single area, contrary to popular belief. Rather, it is an ocean that separates everywhere you want to go with bridges and traffic jams.

It was a solid 20-mile ride from Mill Valley to Berkley but I got to cross the Richmond Bridge, which had only opened to bikes in November. I had a huge tailwind and felt sorry for the Oakland area to which the bridge led. Whereas the Golden Gate has all the jumpers, crisis hotline placards, and anti-suicide monitors in golf carts, the Richmond Bridge has nothing. It’s kind of like, “Go ahead, jump. We DGAF.”

Bryan welcomed me into his 3rd floor Claremont loft and immediately began stripping the paint off the seat stays. He worked on it for three hours straight before the two patches had been affixed. “They will be beefier than they ever were at the factory.”

Best of all, Bryan taught me a neat trick. When you are cycling, every time you see an RV, put the word “anal” in front of the name for endless amusement. Anal Airstream, Anal Bounder, Anal Freedom, Anal Open Road, Anal Road Master, Anal Winnebago, and my favorite, Anal Cruiser.

Bryan also is a sourdough baker, so he fed me, then insisted I stay at his place overnight since I was clearly without lodging because, bike tourist. I wondered what the chances were that I’d happen into a bike shop, meet someone I know, and then magically be led to a carbon frame expert whose dream was to patch a stranded tourist’s carbon bike.

Bryan didn’t think it unusual. “Happens all the time when you tour,” he said. “I spent five months in Central Asia and had the most unusual coincidental meetings. Or in Patagonia, where I met the same person multiple times. There is something about being on the road. These happenings aren’t as rare as you think.”

It turned out that Bryan and I had friends in common, notably Head Down James and Leo Rusaitis. Again, he wasn’t too struck. “It’s a small community. We all know each other.”

But still … the first bike shop I go into, I get recognized by a friend and get hooked up with someone who’s dream is to repair broken tourist bike frames?

“Nah,” Bryan said. “You’ll see.”

I wasn’t going to argue with a guy who’d ridden through most of Southeast Asia in flip flops, who rebuilt my rear triangle and refused payment, who gave me a place to stay, fed me, and let me take a hot shower. No. I wasn’t going to argue with him at all.

END


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17 thoughts on “Dr. Carbon”

  1. I’ll sleep better tonight. At some point, you’re gonna have to make some more deposits in the Bank of Karma after that kind of assistance. Ride on!

  2. Seth… this is what the world is about. I cannot tell you how many “coincidences” I’ve had traveling around the world. It’s a beautiful thing. Enjoy the open doors, you never know who you’ll meet!
    Bob (who you don’t know, but we do share some acquaintances from So Cal. So there!).

    PS… your cynicism is failing you as you head north. Write when you get to Tucson. We’ll grab a coffee and serve up whatever you need.

    1. Bob, I rode with Seth for a couple of hours on Saturday morning (or at least it felt like a couple of hours), and let me assure you that his cynicism is in outstanding form.

  3. There we go. NOW you’re in my world. Be sure to ride a super-bright-orange bike tomorrow so we can find you on the coast.

  4. Two things: One, Nobody tours on carbon. Two, anal ___ has been a thing for RVs and trailers for years. Where have you been?

    Bringing tomatoes and basil tomorrow for your late breakfast. Tomorrow WILL be a great day!

  5. David Shulman

    Bryan Kevan for president!
    Loving the stories. When will you be heading east?

  6. This brings me to a realization. I have experienced a tiny bit of this kind of magic on my rides into the Santa Monicas when during my ride I’ve felt detached from my home world, and then some amazing coincidence happens that is just exactly what I need at the time.

    What I realize is — the world is magic. When we glom onto possessions and situations, for some reason that separates us from the magic that fills the world. As living beings we have a central nervous system network in which every cell responds in some measure to everything that happens in the body. That network continues beyond our skin to the entire universe. We can see it if we let ourselves.

    “In the dime stores and bus stations

    People talk of situations

    Read books, repeat quotations

    Draw conclusions on the wall

    Some speak of the future

    My love she speaks softly

    She knows there’s no success like failure

    And that failure’s no success at all”

    Bob Dylan – “Love Minus Zero”

  7. The world is smaller than you think when coincidence strikes. For me it was Rt 395 halfway between the Ca border and Rt 20 that cuts across Oregon. The high desert, that spelled out MIDDLE OF NOWHERE very clearly. In the Mojave there was something every 10 miles. A small town, a road crossing with life. There in Oregon there was nothing except a pull-off with a picnic table which we pulled into on our journey. There happened to be a car there with some folks who were just finishing up a meal before continuing their journey. We started chatting, and when we they asked “Where you from?”, and I replied “Montclair in NJ”, they said they used to live in Montclair. When I inquired where, it turns out they lived around the corner from me when I was younger. A block and half. They gave us some food, we said our farewells, and they were off.

    That night, after midnight, I could hear footsteps on the road. They were faint at first, but continued to get louder until I opened my mouth “Hello?” and the footsteps stopped. The moon was bright, and when I unzipped out of my bag and say up, I could see someone standing there. We chatted a bit, and he found someplace to lay his head.

    In the morning, we fed him, as he didn’t have much with him, but what he did have was a wooden nickel that was good for a cup of coffee at some place down 395. He was walking to get that coffee. We gave him all the food we could spare, as we were more than a day from Route 20, so at least he’d have some food for the next couple of days, and we parted ways. I do not remember his name. I might have taken a picture of that wooden nickel though.

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