Bike Lock Adventure

Please forgive this brief interruption in the series of Alaska recaps. We will return to the normally scheduled programming later tonight…I have most of Ketchikan and part of Victoria in the hopper.)

So, as some of you may know, I bought a new bike this past weekend:
My new bike! on Twitpic

Tonight, I planned to bike to Old Navy, shop for some clothes, and then go somewhere for dinner, followed by a leisurely ride through the neighborhood to home. First, I had to dig out my bike lock. I knew I had put it in some closet in the house during a fit of organization, but I couldn’t remember which one. I spotted it in the hall closet after about 20 minutes of searching. It was buried under some other items on the top shelf, so I caused a minor avalanche getting it down. Nonetheless, I was not daunted. I grabbed my lock, helmet, a shopping bag, and a bungee cord. I downloaded the My Tracks app to my phone (my favorite way to keep up with where I’ve gone…but I hadn’t used it since I got my new phone), started up some tunes (one ear only for safety’s sake), strapped everything to the bike’s rack, and headed out.

The first part of the trip was largely uneventful. I locked the bike up to a bench outside of Old Navy (no bike racks at that shopping center, but I locked it unobtrusively). I bought some summer cardigans (primarily for the purpose of being able to wear sleeveless shirts to work without freezing to death when the AC starts pumping in the afternoon) as well as a long patterned scarf that I thought would go well with one of my dresses. They also had some of my favorite sundresses, in colors I don’t have, on the clearance rack, so I grabbed one in brown and one in sapphire blue. I had brought my own shopping bag (the Target one that I got while I was in DC), both to stow my helmet and such while in the store and to have a sturdy bag to bungee to the back of the bike for the subsequent rides. Happily, everything fit in the shopping bag (woot for careful shopping…and woot for biking keeping me from doing too much shopping!). I unlocked my bike, packed lock and shopping into my bag, bungeed it to the rack, and headed out.

I decided to go to Noodles & Company for dinner. So, I repeated the procedure of locking my bike up and whatnot. I took my shopping bag, helmet in hand, into N&Co with me. I ended up having a small spaghetti and meatballs, which I’d never had from them before. It was quite tasty, and the meatballs satisfied the meat craving I was having nicely, plus I added spinach to the dish to get some extra veggies. I’m in the middle of re-reading a Sookie Stackhouse novel on my Kindle app for Android, so I was enjoying that while I ate. (Side note: Amazon releasing the Kindle app for Android saved me from spending $189 on a second Kindle. Now, I keep my Kindle at home on the bedside table and use my phone for “quick” reading when I’m out and about.)

I finished dinner and checked my work e-mail before heading back out to my bike. When I went to unlock my bike, the lock wouldn’t come undone. I tried several variations on my combination with no luck. Then, I remembered something very important.

As implied by the search for the lock, I hadn’t used this lock in awhile, which is my excuse for why I had forgotten that the lock’s combination gets reset every time you lock the lock. It isn’t a fixed combination. Whatever the numbers are set to when you push the lock closed is your combination. When I’d locked the bike up at N&Co, I’d had some trouble getting the lock pushed in because of the position it was in, and I realized that I had probably spun some number of the reels while locking it up. I had forgotten until this moment how the lock worked and so wasn’t careful about making sure I kept the reels still while pushing the lock together. And, of course, like a diligent secure person, I had twisted all of them to 0000 before going into the restaurant. So, aside from the combination being something vaguely close to my usual combination, I had no way to know what the combination currently was.

I tried a few logical things immediately…one number up on all reels, one number up on each reel on its own, one number down on all reels, etc. No luck. I Googled for a default or master reset online, figuring there probably wasn’t one but couldn’t hurt to try. No luck. I called my Dad just in case he (a frequent cyclist) knew of some trick…again, I figured it was probably a fruitless effort, but I had to try. No luck. Finally, after hanging up with my Dad and noticing the sun getting lower in the sky, I called the Gurnee Police department’s non-emergency line. I explained the situation, and after a few moments, they said they’d send a car over from the Fire Department with some tools to try to break the cable of my lock mechanism. (The Gurnee Fire Department is right around the corner from where I was…it was actually on my planned route home.) They took my name and cellphone number down, and then we hung up.

I decided there was no sense in just waiting aimlessly, so I started trying some other variants of my combination on the lock. On the third attempt, bam, it opened. Of course, right?!?! So, no more than five minutes after hanging up, I called the police back again, got the same guy, and explained that I’d tried a random combination successfully. He said he’d try to radio the Fire Department, but they were probably already nearby. I dawdled putting my bag back on the rack and such just in case, but I didn’t see them. I’m guessing he got in touch with them.

Next, I zoomed home on the most direct route, switching to sidewalk from road as soon as it was an option. Both sidewalk and road biking are legal here. I normally bike in the road, but it was very nearly dark out (~9:10pm) and I didn’t have a headlamp with me because I hadn’t planned to be out that late. I got home safe and all was well. Whew.

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