Sharon Hawley has finished her bicycle trip in Canada for this summer. She hopes to complete the adventure in another year. Please follow her winter adventure at

Route Map

Route Map

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Wildlife has Changed

When it comes to maintaining a bicycle, I do the basic chain oiling and adjusting of gears and brakes. If it gets a flat tire, I can fix it, or a broken spoke or snapped cable. I have the tools and knowledge to fix likely problems. But when my rear gear shifter stopped going into all the gears and when its indicator dial stopped working yesterday, I was perplexed. I oiled it and adjusted it some, but the problem persisted. I got to Drumheller and decided to get a night’s sleep take it apart this morning. Inside, I found a plastic gear with two broken teeth. The gear served only to operate the indicator dial, and I breathed easy, thinking I could just remove the gear, get the broken teeth out of the works, and do with the dial. I can look at the sprockets to know which gear I am in. When I find a bike shop I can buy a new shifter.

But putting it back together was not easy. I always try to remember where parts go, but when I had removed the casing, parts had flown away under the tension of a released spring. Now I had to learn where they go. I worked three hours, trying various seemingly logical configurations, but all failed. I decided that some part had flown away or that the broken gear was needed for some vital function besides the indicator dial. I became discouraged and angry, had given up. The nearest bike shop was five days ride, and I could not ride without this shifter.

I decided to go to breakfast, realizing that I might have a trip-stopping problem. I might have to get a ride into Calgary and find a bike shop, or try to have a new shifter sent to Drumheller. I sat long and ate much at the buffet, returned four times for more food. Buffet providers generally lose money on touring cyclists. I thought about the problem and tried to find something I’d overlooked. And something dawned on me like an epiphany, a way of rotating one of the parts that just might work.
I went back to the motel and tried the idea. Within a half hour the shifter worked.

Yesterday I was cruising the prairie near the end of the day, endless it seemed, wheatfields as far as I could see, concerned about my shifter. Then suddenly I came to the edge of the earth and fell off. I dropped into a hole in the earth called Durmheller. It is like Nevada all at once.
I suppose that tomorrow as I go to Hanna, the prairie will return, but this place is dedicated to dinosaurs. These layered rocks are filled with their bones, great animals of eons past when this place had a climate like Florida. At the Royal Tyrrell Museum, I saw them reconstructed and glaring down at me. My own bones are a bit stiff today, turning to stone I suppose where some alien might find them in another eon.


  1. Well we know we're not in Bicycler anymore... and why they put the "hell" in Drumheller! It's kind of shifty there I think but soon there will be manna from heaven on the prarie... no, no that's Hanna isn't it, you're on your way to... I hope your day tomorrow is easier than today, and your shifter is not shifty... no, no... maybe I should say I hope it IS shifty, at least in the right way. We missed you at Salon today, but at least we could talk! It is wonderful to be able to all have a go at talking to our dear friend in real time on your adventure! That dinosaur has quite a look on its face... like it had an ephiphany too! Amazing to think of those hills layered with bones. Keep yours oiled, please, and hope you feel less stoney-boned after a good sleep and sweet dreams!

  2. Awesome! How many times in one lifetime do we get the terrible opportunity to come to the edge of the earth and fall off, knowing that each time some part of us will never be the same after that? There's a courage & curiosity behind dismantling and reassembling (yes, perhaps in different ways)and moving forward. Bravo, pilgrim! Sharon R

  3. Thanks Kath, for more shifts on words and shifty shifters. I was nice to be there if only in spirit and wifi.

    Sharon, yes, moving forward like a pilgrim, I like that.

  4. I am just so damn impressed that you fixed it. Peddling is one thing but meddling with your shifty gears is another. I crown you Queen of the Road (move over Roger Miller).

    May the wind continue to fill your sails.