On the ride back, I became acquainted with the first of her many "unique qualities". The axle holding the pedals into the frame was loose, leading to an alarming side to side rocking with each rotation of my feet. As the pedals shifted back and forth, they caused the derailer to grind into either side of the chain. I could have turned around right then, but I'm stubborn and cheap, so I ignored the cacophony of clicks and rattles. I pondered her name emblazoned in black block letters on her frame, "Houston". Maybe we did indeed have a problem.
About a week later, I was biking home from a restaurant in the dark when one of Petrolina's 10,000 potholes reared its ugly head. I popped up an then down hard on her paltry cushioning, lamenting that she couldn't even have a comfortable seat to counteract the mechanical deficiencies. My ass was the least of my worries, because immediately a horrible crunching and grinding nose screeched from beneath me. Each pedal took a Herculean effort, and at at one point it became impossible.
I coasted to the side of the road, and soon discovered the derailer had detached somewhat and the gears were now catching on it. With no tools on me (a situation I have since remedied), I figured out that 1st gear was safe, as the larger gears moved far enough away from the derailer (it's amazing how much you can learn about bike mechanics when you have one that is truly awful). I shifted into first, and plodded my way home. Making matters worse, the next morning I had been invited to go biking in the countryside with some people from work at 6:15 the next morning. And stubborn as ever, I dragged myself out of bed in the morning and clinked and clanked my way to the meetup point with one functional gear setting.
Right away it was clear the company would far exceed the equipment. Four of us in total, and two well-seasoned gentlemen who reminded me of my dad with their zest for the pleasure of just "getting out there and getting our sweat on." One was an English professor, a welcome surprise as I continued to muddle through learning Portuguese. "Are you ready to see the Brazilian bush?", he asked. "Well the countryside kind, the other kind can wait," he added with a grin. A bad dad joke in English? I had never felt more at home by a mildly inappropriate play on words.
When I had imagined this ride the night before, I had pictured an hour or two on some paved roads before returning home to a late breakfast and possibly a little nap. What I got instead was a four and half hour marathon. At the start, the professor asked it I liked single track. I said I'm up for it, but I can't promise anything for the bike. I didn't realize I said yes to 25K on twisting, sandy, rocky, paths that followed an abandoned railroad track. One-way. It would have been a tough ride on any bike, but with my temperamental and friction-filled beauty, it was a struggle. It was hot, it was dry, it was hard, but it was so fun. I coaxed my bike to keep up as best as we could. I figured out how to tease out the best locations for the derailer to reduce the awful grinding. We did the best we could with only first gear. We accepted each others flaws, and worked through them. I made it back to my apartment hours after I expected, and promptly feel asleep in the air conditioning.
Since our jaunt through the Brazilian bush, the bike and I have continued to work through our relationship. I've adjusted the derailer myself and she has rewarded me with the use of 2nd gear. 3rd is still out of reach, but hey, you have to have something to work towards. The seat now sits a little higher, and I've got more power in my pedal. We had one flat a couple days ago, but for a cool $1.50, we got that patched up at the shop. So we're making it work the best we can. And I'm not complaining.