I accompanied a friend on a highway ride out to the west side of Atlanta, to the bleak wilds of Mableton. I don’t know who Mable was, but her namesake is fairly grim. But we weren’t going sightseeing; he was running an errand and it was an excuse for a ride. I shoved my earplugs in my ears, and we hit the interstate. My last experience on an interstate hadn’t been fun — it felt like my head was being batted by those giant padded batons you see on stupid game shows like American Gladiator. But with the earplugs, that was hugely diminished. I don’t know why. Don’t care. But it wasn’t bad at all. It was a nice milestone: now interstates won’t bother me, and I won’t take convoluted itineraries just to avoid them.
But on the way back, the highways were quickly becoming packed with holiday travelers leaving town, so we decided to take surface streets. My friend, riding a bit ahead, pointed at a large wandering sheet of plastic, floating across the lane we were in. I saw it too, and after he dodged it, I followed his path as it seemed to be on a trajectory to miss me. But, like an enormous, predatory jellyfish of the road, it whirled back toward me. I veered more, but caught its tail under my front tire. I looked in my rearview mirrors, hoping to see it pinned to the road, but it was gone. And I knew where it had gone: wrapped up in my chain.
I pulled up next to my friend, since my anemic clown-car horn didn’t get his attention, and pointed at my sprocket, wound up with yards of plastic. We pulled into a parking lot and he pulled out his Swiss army knife to dig out as much as he could. I don’t know what it was, but it was much heavier than a dry-cleaning bag, and had some kind of heavy twine component. The asphalt was brutally hot under the sun, and I was getting lightheaded. I took off my helmet, then my jacket and gloves (in retrospect, maybe not the best idea). Just when I thought I’d fall over, he determined that he’d gotten enough of the mess removed that I could make it home. There was still a tight ribbon wound around the wheel next to the axle, but the sprocket and chain were clear.
Later that night, I used right-angle needle-nosed pliers, wirecutters, and some salty language to get the rest of it out, hoping to avoid having to remove the wheel. Seems OK now. I should re-lube the chain to make up for the scrubbing action of the wad of plastic.