It’s a beautiful Sunday morning in San Diego, and there’s no better way to spend it than cruising around on my road bike. My step mom and I pumped up the tires on our bikes and hit the pavement, basking in this better-late-than-never summer weather in November. We cruised up the 101, our goal set on Carlsbad, about 30 miles from where we had started.
The miles flew past as the sun rose higher in the sky, and before we knew it we were just a few short miles from Carlsbad, and more importantly, lunch. I flew down the hill in front of me, my speedometer showing 24 mph as I let the wind whistle in my helmet. It was perfect. The perfect day, the perfect ride, and then, as the ground flattened and I slowed my speed, I heard it. The unmistakable hiss of a tire leaking air.
Every curse word in the book floated through my head and I pulled of to the side of the road.
“I’ve got a damn flat!” I yelled towards my step mom, who cruised up to me and leaned in to take a closer look at my tire. A rock had firmly wedged itself through my tire and all the way in to my bike tube, and air was hissing out quickly. It was too much to close up with a patch kit – there was no way around it, I would have to change the tire.
“Do you know how to change a tire?” asked my step mom.
“I do,” I said, unzipping my bike bag to get out my tools and spare tube. “But it’s been a few years since I’ve done one.” This might take a while. My step mom looked on patiently, but I knew that both she and I were beyond annoyed. We were only 15 minutes away from a peaceful, well-earned lunch on the coast, and this could take a long time given my rusty skills. I took off my front wheel and began to let the rest of the air out of the tube so I could more easily pull off the tire. My hands shook as I wrestled with the steel. Yes, I was thinking, this will take a very long time.
As I worked on the tire, my step mom paced along the roadside, and I saw another cyclist approaching just south of us.
“Are you guys ok?” he called out.
Bless my step mother and her unabashed personality.
“No! We need help! Can you help us change our tire? We’re not really sure what we’re doing” she yelled.
The cyclist slowed and dismounted, as he walked towards us I could see he was a middle-aged man with a kind face, weathered by many days out on his bike in the San Diego sun.
“Hi!” he said cheerfully. “Do you have tools and a new tube?”
“Yes, all right here, just a little rusty on my tire-changing these days,” I said sheepishly. I hated being the “stranded girl who can’t change a tire,” but given that this little issue was standing between me and lunch after 25 miles on the bike, I knew it was the right time to ask for a little help.
“Ok, let’s get you fixed up here! I know it’s hard to get the hang of these,” the cyclist said, then dropping to the ground and taking the tire from me. He worked away on it, chatting as he expertly handled the wheel. In 10 minutes he had a brand new tire pumped up and ready to go.
“Wow,” I said, “I cannot thank you enough. You are incredibly kind to help us. Thank you!”
“You are so welcome, I know it can be scary out here when you get a flat. I’m happy to help.”
“Do you ever do charity bike rides?” my step mom asked. Again, bless her unabashed ways. She has no shame.
“I do. Love to do those when I can” he said.
“Well my step daughter has diabetes and we do the Tour de Cure bike ride every year for her. It’s here in North County – keep it in mind for your rides next year,” she quipped.
“Diabetes. My little niece. She’s, oh, only seven I think. Just got diagnosed with it, doing insulin injections and the whole thing. The whole family is doing the walk next weekend to raise money for a cure. It’s not easy,” he said, a faraway look on his face.
“That’s so incredible that you’re all doing the walk for her though. She’s lucky to have that kind of support,” I said.
“I do what I can,” said the cyclist, smiling. “You’re all set now! Be careful out there!” he said, bounding back to his bike.
“Thank you!!” I called after him. “I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your help!”
And with a wave, just like that, he was gone.
Kindness is all around us. Sometimes we forget that the simplest acts can be the most meaningful experiences for another person. And sometimes we forget about all the kindness that there is in this world. But it has a funny way of coming out of no where to remind us that it’s out there.