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July 11, 2002: Point

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Along the back roads and the freeway ramps where I live, there is an abundance of wildlife. One plant in particular I have been admiring for weeks now, each time I pedal or drive by. In fact the little patch of land that the freeway on-ramp circles around was at one point overflowing with this whatever-it-was, sporting beautiful purplish blue flowers. I never really stopped to get a close look at the plant, but I'd admire it each time I passed. And since we've got this fairly large backyard that is still not landscaped, and since we would like to do part of it in bushes and shrubs and other sorts of greenery that's nicely drought-tolerant but still pretty, I was starting to think that one of these days I would have to find out just what it is, so that maybe we could grow a few in our back yard.

Sunday morning we were out for what was going to be a long ride. We were approaching the corner when suddenly my tire started to make that odd shushing noise that tires make when they're suddenly soft. When I put on the brakes at the stop sign, I leaned down to feel the front tire. Completely flat. And since it had gone flat relatively quickly (we'd only gone 10 miles), I knew this wasn't simply going to be fixed just by whipping out the pump and filling it back full of air.

So I sent Richard back home to get the car, and I proceeded to walk my bike in the direction of home. I didn't really pay any attention at all to the wheels themselves because I already knew the front tire was flat, so it didn't really much matter. It wasn't until Richard returned with bike rack and car in tow and he was lifting my bike onto the rack that we both gave my tires a second look.

They were covered, quite literally, in thorns. We are not talking about your wimpy little burrs here. We are talking nasty thorns with sharp little sticker points that had embedded themselves deep into my tires. I tried to pull off a few and realized that we were going to need pliers, not only because these thorns were dangerous (this realization came the instant one of the aforementioned sticker points decided to embed itself into my finger), but because some of them were so far into the tire that I couldn't pry them free.

Richard purchased a handful of new inner tubes, and Monday evening we sat on the floor of the garage and got a crash course in not only how to replace bicycle inner tubes, but also how to get the back tire off and on again without messing up the chains. And we pulled probably 30 or more of those thorns out of my tires. Very carefully, with pliers, dropping them into a box, because apparently Richard learned the hard way that when you drop them and then step on them in bare feet, they're not at all friendly.

I was telling my tale of thorn-induced woe to a coworker over lunch today, and she laughed, nodding, and to my surprise, described the plant with those pretty flowers I've been admiring for weeks. Apparently that plant was the culprit - the evil conveyor of bike-eating thorns!

I've been pretty good all through this bicycling stint so far, watching out for potholes and cars and other bikes and pedestrians who walk little yappy dogs and the occasionally spontaneously-appearing stop sign. But silly me - it never occurred to me that I also have to keep my eye out for pretty purplish blue flowers as well.

At least now I know better. Next time I'm riding my bike and I happen to see something growing on the side of the road that looks particularly innocent, I'll stay far, far away.

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