Unbalanced Load

Recently our mornings have been taken up by lawn mowing, weeding and other landscaping projects that involved the moving and expansion of a couple of beds. On Saturday these tasks made it necessary for me to spend a good part of the day digging up rocks with a potato rake and pitching them around the yard1. What I really wanted to do that day, was put in some serious miles in on the bike. Searching desperately for a way out of the onerous chore of yard work, it dawned on me that I had a minor financial errand to run that would be on the way to work and would provide me with ample excuse to leave the house early.

Setting aside the rake and work gloves I packed my panniers2, checked my tires and brought the bike around to the front of the house; I climbed up on the saddle turned on my tracking app and pedaled down the driveway. Soon I was leaving the residential circle I live on and entered into the traffic of the local highway. I was keeping a good pace and was engaged on the inadvisable practice of riding with my ear-buds in and listening to AC/DC3. By the time the first mile was complete I had my route planned out; providing me with several miles of pedaling with plenty of time to run my errands and make it to work on time. I shot past the street that would take me the direct route to my first stop, heading east to the next major intersection where I would turn and then double back after about two miles to stop and pay the couple of bills that I used as my rationale for getting out of the house thirty minutes early. When I finally reached my destination I hopped off, picked up my bike, set it next to the rack and went to reach into my bag for my lock.

That was when I noticed that the pannier that I keep my lock in had fallen off my bike. I must not have heard it hit the ground with the music playing and all the traffic noise.

Okay, don’t panic, take a deep breath. You’re already here. The bike will be clearly visible from the lobby of the store, you’ll only be in there for a minute. So, take care of your business and go back and look for the bag.

I entered the all-in-one financial services store, removing my helmet, ear-buds, and shades. I was happy to see that there is only one person in line in front of me, a tall, lean, dark-haired man who was trying to both cash a check and get a money order filled in the same transaction. Based on the expression on her face, the woman behind the counter seems to find his mannerisms somewhat rude; it is obvious that she is taking a deliberately inordinate amount of time dealing with him. I could tell that he was a discourteous fool because he still has his sunglasses on while indoors and attempting to do business with her4. I find myself getting angry with him and whatever he did to offend her prior to my arrival. I spend the time waiting behind him glancing over my shoulder to make sure my bicycle is safe.

That old homeless guy with the brace on his arm is eyeballing my ride. He’s walking towards it. Oh good, he sees me watching him. That’s right buddy keep walking. Look lady if you’re that mad at this guy just finish up and get rid of him.

I could hear a fictional clock ticking as the woman behind the bullet proof glass slowly tapped away at her computer screen, her fingers splayed to protect her acrylic nails; I could hear him getting frustrated as he repeated how much he wanted the money order made out for. Finally, after what seemed an eternity, she finished with the young man in front of me and asked me to step forward. We exchanged brief greetings and I quickly explained what I needed to do. Much to the previous customers added irritation we were done with our transaction before he could reach the door. After thanking her and hurried outside and back on to my bike.

I began to retrace my route, eyes peeled looking for the black nylon bag anywhere it might have come off of my bike. In my mind I felt off balance with only the one pack hanging off the cargo rack behind me.

Alright, it’s cool, it probably just came unhooked when I hopped the curb a couple of blocks back to hit the cross walk signal.

Maybe it fell off when I made the left turn off of twenty-third avenue.

When I came around the corner of that gas station.

I stopped at the bottom of that hill to fiddle with the fitness tracking app on my phone, maybe it got jostled off when I started cranking again.

Could have come off when I hit the bump at the end of the road out of my neighborhood.

Every time I was certain I would find it around the next bend or over the next hill I was disappointed but I kept searching. It just had to be there somewhere. I refused to give up hope. Eventually my path led me all the way back up my driveway. I unlatched the gate to my backyard and all the way back to the rear of the house where I keep my bicycle parked, in a disused flowerbed right up against the bedroom window. You know how people always say you’ll find something in the last place you look…5

I never did find it, not even after getting in the truck and driving back through the route one more time. I can only guess that someone saw it lying on the side of the road and grabbed it. That person is now the proud owner of a thirteen foot cable that is padlocked to itself in a tightly wound loop, a sweaty, brown button-down shirt, and a granola bar. I consider myself lucky that it was the bag with the twenty-dollar lock and cable and not the one that held the ninety-dollar set of kitchen clogs that I need for work. I have since replaced the cable with a more reasonable seven footer and bought a new padlock. The panniers have been temporarily replaced by a trunk bag mounted to the top of my cargo rack and by a very nice shoulder bag I got at a thrift shop on the cheap; I plan on replacing them sometime after the first of the year, hopefully.

So that was my weekend. How was yours?


  1. This is good upper body exercise and quite a lot of fun as it turns out. 
  2. It seems that when I say “panniers” to most people they just smile and nod in a polite, bewildered fashion. If you are one of these people please click here
  3. I mean I can’t in good conscience advise riding with ear-buds in, it’s too dangerous. By all means listen to AC/DC. 
  4. Seriously, you’re not that cool. Take your shades off when you are talking to someone. 
  5. Those people are idiots. 
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