Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Of Pilgrims and Patch-Kits

So I had something of a misadventure today.

Remember my bicycle? Whose praises I have been singing (or, at least, sang that one time)? Well, I went out for another ride today. I got kind of a late start, because the weather was iffy until mid-afternoon, so shortly after I hit mile 7 I decided to turn back. And not two minutes after I did so, I began to feel that something was...off...too bouncy, or something.... Lo and behold, I had a flat.

I was pretty sure that I didn't have a patch-kit.

I looked through my little under-the-seat pouch, and hey! I did have a patch-kit. Look at that! I took it out and rummaged through its contents for the directions. Okay, I'll need to take off the tube, and find the hole, and rough up the rubber with this piece of metal, and then use this glue.... Hm. The glue seems kind of empty. I tested it and, yes, it was all dried up (or the tube was empty; not sure which). So the patch-kit wasn't going to help me.

In fact, nothing was going to help me. I walked the seven miles home. In bike shorts.

Lest you fail to understand the impact of that last sentence, let me spell it out for you here: Bike shorts are meant for biking. They have a large padded area that, well, protects one's nethers from the hard, uncomfortable bike seat. I wouldn't bike without them. But somehow when you walk--well, the best I can figure it is that the legs-to-pelvis relationship changes in such a way that those helpful pads become abrasive. It's the backs of the thighs that suffer most. I was also wearing these spandex leggings things which you're supposed to wear over the bike shorts, to keep your legs warm (it was a chilly day), and I'm quite sure that the extra constriction didn't help. I fully expected to be bleeding by the time I got home (I wasn't. In fact, I'm pretty much fine now. But don't let that stop your pity!).

Anyway, it was a 2-hour-plus walk, and so for a while, to pass the time, I pretended that I was a pilgrim leading my faithful yet slightly injured donkey and wearing some kind of haircloth undergarment. This made the trip more exciting, because I could imagine that I had to look out for thieves, and pretend that my suffering had some meaning or intention or whatever behind it, instead of just being a bit of bad luck. And this reminded me of the fifth book of the Codex Calixtinus, a twelfth-century guide for (French) pilgrims on the road to Santiago de Compostella. This isn't a terribly easy book to come by, I don't think, but if you do stumble upon a copy (I have the Confratenity of St. James translation), it's a lot of fun. Pilgrims had a lot to worry about in the old days. Take this, for example:
The Gascons are loud-mouthed, talkative, given to mockery, libidinous, drunken, greedy eaters, clad in rags and poverty-stricken; but they are skilled fighters and notable for their hospitality to the poor.
Okay, so the Gascons aren't so bad. But just when you're getting comortable, watch out! For here come the Basque toll-collectors:
They come out to meet pilgrims with two or three cudgels to exact tribute by improper use of their force; and if any traveller refuses to give the money they demand they strike him with their cudgels and take the money, abusing him and rummaging in his very breeches.
In his very breeches! But the toll-collectors are nothing to the Navarrese:
Watching them eat, you are reminded of dogs or pigs greedily gulping down their food; and when you hear them speaking it is like the barking of dogs.... This is a barbarous people...ugly of face, debauched, perverse, faithless, dishonourable, corrupt, lustful, drunken, skilled in all forms of violence, fierce and savage, dishonest and false, impious and coarse, cruel and quarrelsome, incapable of any good impulses, past masters of all vices and iniquities.... In some parts of the region...when the Navarrese are warming themselves [becoming aroused?], men show their private parts to women and women to men. The Navarrese fornicate shamelessly with their beasts, and it is said that a Navarrese will put a padlock on his she-mule and his mare lest another man should get at them. He also libidinously kisses the vulva of a woman or a she-mule.
So, okay, such colorful characters don't actually populate the bike path. I did, however, see a rabbit.


squadratomagico said...

What a fun post! I'm glad you didn't encounter any Navarrese trying to make off with your "donkey."

Bardiac said...

I dread the first flat. I have a kit, but I haven't changed a bike flat in 30 years, probably...

I sympathize with the walking in bike shorts part! I like the idea of going through pilgrimage lit, though. Maybe you could think of it as a sort of preparatory flagellation? Eww, never mind.