I’m having a breakdown, squared

I’ve had a bad run of transportation luck lately. (I know, cue the violins).

It all came to a head on Thursday morning, proving once again nothing good — and everything bad — happens before noon.

It started in the wee hours.

Heading home after yet another stimulating and emotionally fulfilling night on the Journal-World sports desk, I started up the only semi-serious hill on my regular commute and heard a strange clicking sound emanating from my bike’s drivetrain.

It was loud and unnerving and regular, but, curiously, not on every pedal stroke.

The sound wouldn’t go away, and I ticked over the possible causes over the final (loud) couple of miles home.

I narrowed it down to a couple of causes, but put the final diagnosis off a few days.

After a couple of blissful hours of sleep and several minutes of frantic last-minute packing, my son and I hopped in my car to make a quick trip to the local Hy-Vee, where we were to meet several other parents to make up a caravan on the way to a two-night Scout camp in Kansas City.

My car had been making a — and excuse me if I get too technical here — loud THUNK from the (more jargon) rear end. I thought maybe my bike rack had worked loose and was banging around, so I dismissed the noise.

But just as we came within sight of our meet-up, I heard a (pardon the esoterica) dragging sound, which I immediately knew was my whatchamawhosis dragging the ground. I rounded the corner into the parking lot and my thingamawhich broke free and skidded to a halt behind me in a shower of sparks in the middle of the street.

And my engine thing (or whatever it’s called) suddenly sounded like a muscle car.

After a panicked call to my dad, who assured me my son and I wouldn’t spontaneously combust and would, in fact, probably — probably? — be safe to drive the throaty clunker to and from Kansas City, we headed off to camp.

Two days later, I popped into the bike shop.

I told the shop guy I needed a new chain.

“What kind?”


“One-eighth inch, with a quick link?”


It cost 15 bucks and took all of 10 minutes to shorten and install. Five more minutes and a couple of nearly silent trips around the block later, my bike was good as new.

In contrast, today I’ll have to haul my sorry car(cass) around to at least a couple of mechanics, who no doubt will inform me gravely that my whosawhatsit is shot and it’ll cost a couple hundred dollars just to make it runnable, and while they were in there, they happened to see something else was about to go and maybe I should think about replacing it, too, and … well, you get the idea.

I have a funny feeling 15 bucks isn’t going to cut it.